Big 12 Softball’s Top Storylines for Conference Play: Week 3

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

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We’re heading into the third weekend of Big 12 play in the 2024 softball season, and the conference appears to have a wealth of competitive teams.

Oklahoma is the only team to start league play with a 6-0 record, while just four teams in the league have a winning record through two weeks.

Will the league’s top contenders keep their hot starts rolling? Can the others shake slow starts to keep pace in the Big 12? We discuss these and other big storylines heading into the weekend.


Bad Timing for Baylor Bounce-Back

Baylor was supposed to be a contender in 2024 and still has a chance to work themselves back into the conference race with a 17-8 overall record. However, there’s not much time for them to turn things around after a 1-5 start in Big 12 play. And, to make matters worse, Baylor is in Norman this weekend to take on top-ranked Oklahoma.

Since losing All-Big 12 centerfielder McKenzie Wilson, the Bears haven’t looked like the team that many expected them to be, and after a sweep at the hands of Kansas, there’s a chance that everything could come apart with another bad weekend.

Baylor must avoid the 1-8 start in league play if it wants to avoid a first-round matchup against OU, OSU, or Texas in the Big 12 Tournament. If they can’t, a 19-8 finish would be the best possible record they could finish with in league play, and that’s with No. 2 Texas still on the docket.


It’s Now or Never for BYU

Like Baylor, BYU has gotten off to a rough start in league play, with a 1-5 record through two weekends. And, like the Bears, BYU is in a rough spot to try to turn things around with No. 6 Oklahoma State coming to Provo.

The Pokes just dropped a midweek game at Tulsa, but I’d venture to say that’s probably not good for the Cougars coming into the weekend. BYU cannot afford to let Oklahoma State walk away with a three-game sweep, and taking just one game in the series could be huge for this team’s confidence.

The Cougars have struggled against good offenses this season, and two of the next three series that they’ll play will come against the top six scoring offenses (Houston, Oklahoma). This week, against an Oklahoma State team that’s shown a tendency to go cold at the plate, BYU will need to take advantage and try to pick up a series win.


Can Houston Close the Gap?

Houston has worked its way to a 19-9 record and 2-4 in Big 12 play, with one win over Texas and another over Iowa State. However, trading single wins for series losses isn’t a good trend for the Cougars. This week is a big chance for UH to make up some ground in the conference race, though, with Kansas coming to town.

The Jayhawks are one of four teams with a winning record in Big 12 play, bringing a 4-2 mark into Houston after a three-game sweep of Baylor. This series will be pivotal for both teams, and could play a major role in the standing heading into April. Every win that Houston can collect brings it one step closer to not just jumping KU in the rankings, but also the group of teams with a 2-4 record (more on that in a bit).

A series win over Kansas would bring them to 4-5, at worst, in conference play and would put them ahead of the Jayhawks in the standings. On the flip side, a series win for Kansas would move them to 6-3 or even 7-2 if they could pull off a sweep on the road. Either way, this series will have a big impact on how things look going into next week and will be one of the bigger storylines of the weekend.

Who Elevates from the 2-4 Group?

Four of the 10 teams in the Big 12 are currently 2-4 in Big 12 play and are nearing an important crossroads in the season. Take a look at the group and who they face this weekend:

  • Texas Tech (21-8, 2-4) vs. Iowa State
  • Houston (19-9, 2-4) vs. Kansas
  • UCF (14-11, 2-4) vs. Texas
  • Iowa State (11-16, 2-4) vs. Texas Tech

Texas Tech and Iowa State will face off with identical conference records, meaning there will be separation at the end of that series. As we discussed above, Houston has a big opportunity at home against Kansas as well. That leaves UCF, which has a momentous task as it hosts No. 2 Texas.

The Knights have played eight ranked teams to this point in the season but have yet to pick up a win, going 0-8. Can they change that against on of the nation’s best in a home stand?