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This week in the Big 12: Four 10-win teams, power freshmen highlight opening games of conference play

Eight teams face off tonight to kick off Big 12 play, with this weekend bringing the openers for Kansas and Baylor.

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 24 Women’s Houston Baptist at Texas Tech
Texas Tech guard Chrislyn Carr leads all freshmen in scoring nationwide and will face two more freshmen standouts in the Red Raiders’ first two games of the season.
Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the Big 12 season opens tonight, the prevailing question will be whether Baylor can win a ninth consecutive regular-season championship, as well as their eighth tournament championship across that time span. The Lady Bears have dominated the conference since Brittney Griner’s 2010-11 sophomore season and Baylor has continued to pack its rosters with star power, led this season by senior center Kalani Brown and freshman forward NaLyssa Smith.

But a handful of other teams in the conference also have nationally-known stars: Iowa State has senior guard Bridget Carleton, while Texas Tech and Oklahoma have freshmen phenom guards Chrislyn Carr and Taylor Robertson, respectively. And even in spite of its stars, the Big 12 has upset potential among its teams as wholes, too. After all, it was just two seasons ago that tournament sixth-seeded West Virginia took down then-No. 2 Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

The remarkable thing about the 2018-19 edition of the Big 12 is that every team but one is entering the conference season with either nine or 10 wins. Only two teams — Baylor and Iowa State — have wins against top-25 teams, but putting together 10 non-conference wins is impressive, and having these teams face off against each other suggests a competitive season to come, in spite of some teams’ previous Big 12 woes.

Big 12 opening games

West Virginia Mountaineers (9-2) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (10-1)

When: Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth, TX

How to tune in: HFTV

Need to know: The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs have the top two best scoring defenses in the conference, allowing opponents to score just 46.4 and 50 points per game, respectively. More generally, TCU is hot, taking a seven-game winning streak into this meeting on a program-record 10-1 start. That said, West Virginia has the edge historically, with a 13-2 series lead and a 2-0 record in conference openers in Fort Worth.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-2) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (4-7)

When: Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, OK

How to tune in: FOX Sports Oklahoma, Sooner Sports Radio Network

Need to know: Oklahoma has won the last 15 meetings between these teams, but things are looking a little different this season. The Red Raiders have the top two scorers in the conference (freshman guard Chrislyn Carr — who also leads all freshmen in scoring nationally — and junior forward Brittany Brewer) as well as the top two rebounders (senior forward Zuri Sanders and Brewer). On the other side, however, Sooners freshman guard Taylor Robertson comes in second among freshmen in scoring and third in the conference, presenting an interesting challenge as two teams with dynamic freshmen square off.

Kansas State Wildcats (10-1) vs. No. 25 Iowa State Cyclones (10-2)

When: Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Hilton Coliseum, Ames, IA

How to tune in: Cyclones.TV

Need to know: Iowa State is 9-0 at home this season and has the most recent victory in the series, an 80-45 rout on the road in 2018. Their No. 25 ranking gives the Cyclones a more fascinating advantage because K-State may have beaten a top-25 team in each of the past 12 seasons but they’re just 1-6 against teams ranked 25th in the nation (as Iowa State is). That said, the Wildcats are 4-2 in the last six meetings against Iowa State, including a victory at Hilton Coliseum last season.

Oklahoma State Cowgirls (9-2) vs. No. 13 Texas Longhorns (10-2)

When: Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Frank Erwin Center, Austin, TX

How to tune in: Longhorn Network

Need to know: Texas has lost just four home games all-time against Oklahoma State, and has won the last eight meetings overall. But the 13th-ranked Longhorns have had an interesting season, losing to both ranked opponents they’ve faced and barely escaping with a one-point win over Quinnipiac. But the Cowgirls have two offensive threats that Texas will want to contain — sophomore forward Vivian Gray and sophomore guard Braxtin Miller, who each have five 20-point games this season. With both teams in the middle of the pack in the conference in both offensive and defensive scoring, this could be a close opener.

No. 25 Iowa State Cyclones (10-2) vs. Kansas Jayhawks (10-1)

When: Saturday, Jan. 5, at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS

How to tune in: FOX Sports Network, Jayhawk Radio Network

Need to know: Both meetings with the Cyclones last season ended in losses for the Jayhawks, albeit close ones — by two points in overtime, and by nine points as Iowa State rallied to win in Lawrence. Kansas won just three Big 12 games last season, finishing the non-conference season with a 9-2 record and finishing 3-15 in conference play, which included a 12-game losing streak. So while the Jayhawks will look to use this game to begin to turn their bad luck around in Big 12 play, the Cyclones should be ready for them, especially already having one conference game under their belts.

No. 8 Baylor Lady Bears (9-1) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-2)

When: Sunday, Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. ET

Where: United Supermarkets Arena, Lubbock, TX

How to tune in: FOX Sports Network, Texas Tech TV (radio stream)

Need to know: This will be a second consecutive matchup between two talented freshmen for Texas Tech, as their own star — Chrislyn Carr — faces off against Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith, who averages 12.1 points and 7 rebounds per game. The Lady Bears will be coming off a meeting with No. 1 UConn that could alter this meeting in their favor no matter how it ends. Either Baylor will be riding the high of taking down the nation’s top team, or they’ll be looking to take out their frustrations on their next opponent. That said, Baylor won both meetings with the Red Raiders in 2018 by an average of 47 points, so they may not need the extra momentum.

Elsewhere in the Big 12:

  • Nine of the conference’s 10 teams played during the last weekend of December, all picking up wins by 10 or more points.
  • Two teams — Baylor and Kansas — are beginning their conference seasons after everyone else. The Lady Bears play No. 1 UConn on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN), leaving the Jayhawks without a Big 12 team to play until their Saturday opponent, Iowa State, can receive sufficient rest and travel time following today’s opener.
  • West Virginia senior guard Katrina Pardee took home Player of the Week honors for the first time in her career, while Texas Tech guard Chrislyn Carr was awarded Freshman of the Week honors for the second time this season.

Big 12 schedule and results