After Cyclones loss, fair to question how good Big 12 is

It's time to be unpopular, to question one of the few certainties we've all come to agree on in this wildly unpredictable college basketball season:

Is the Big 12 really as good as we think it is -- the best conference in the land, to be exact -- or is it just a bunch of similarly decent, not exceptional, teams beating up on one another?

It's worth asking after a wacky Saturday afternoon in which West Virginia needed overtime and a whistle to beat TCU at home and Iowa State followed that up with a confounding 78-73 loss at Texas Tech.

Because here's the reality: The Big 12's big eight (Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas and West Virginia) were a pedestrian 12-11 against the RPI top 50 in nonconference play. The "signature" wins? Utah, Georgetown, Michigan State, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa (twice), Butler, Tulsa (twice) and NC State.

Of those 10 teams, only one -- Utah -- is even in the Top 25 right now.

So what exactly are we seeing? We're seeing good players with good coaches put together some entertaining games. But outside of the Big 12 bubble, how will it stack up?

That question will be answered with finality come March, but it bears considering now, as the conference continues to receive accolades and praise and rack up its own spots in said Top 25.

Look, the Cyclones might have been due. After the emotional "GameDay" win against Kansas followed by a tough game against Kansas State, it's understandable if they rolled into Lubbock, home of an 0-6 Big 12 team, and expected at least a breather. They shot horribly -- 6-of-31 from beyond the arc -- and spotted the Red Raiders 18 points before mounting a near comeback. It happens.

But here's the Cyclones' dirty little secret: They have played only four true road games this season and have lost two of them. Just how much magic is in Hilton Coliseum will be determined as the season winds down, with six games on the road coming up for Iowa State.

Here's the other reality: Iowa State's best wins outside of the league came against Alabama, Arkansas and Iowa. Alabama last week lost by 22 to Kentucky, and Iowa lost to Wisconsin by 32 -- and the Badgers didn't have their starting point guard.

And that is the Final Four company Iowa State is trying to keep.

So what does it all mean? Good question and one with no obvious answer just yet.

But the questions do need to be asked, including: Is the Big 12 as good as we think it is?