Kansas remains on top in this week's edition of the Big 12 power rankings. The Jayhawks face our No. 2 team Kansas State on Tuesday night in a bout for Big 12 supremacy in the early stages of the conference season. OU is making a move up the list, while OSU and Texas slip as the Cowboys fight road woes and the Longhorns continue to find wins hard to find.
1. Kansas (16-1, 4-0 Big 12)
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Kansas looks to be on pace for the Big 12 title. It would be the school's ninth straight league title and 11th in 12 seasons. Even with a relatively young roster, Bill Self has transformed the team again into the best the Big 12 has to offer at this point. Since a three-point loss against Michigan State on Nov. 13, the Jayhawks have won 15 straight and freshman Ben McLemore is well on his way to postseason honors, leading the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game. Senior center Jeff Withey has become a beast in the paint, averaging 13.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and a ludicrous 4.6 blocks per game. And KU also mixes in the best role players, depth and coaching in the conference. It's going to be tough for anyone to end KU's streak this year but if anyone stands a chance it's probably K-State at this point and the two square off on Tuesday in Manhattan.
(Last week: vs. Baylor W 61-44; @ Texas W 64-59/ @ KSU; vs. OU)
2. Kansas State (15-2, 4-1 Big 12)
If you're looking for someone to end KU's near decade-long reign atop the Big 12, you might have to stay inside the Sunflower State. Kansas State is exceeding expectations under first-year coach Bruce Weber and is up to No. 11 in the country with several impressive wins to its name. The ‘Cats have already taken down No. 8 Florida, No. 22 Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Their only two losses have come against Michigan, the nation's current No. 1 team, and legit Final Four threat Gonzaga. Senior Rodney McGruder has been one of the conference's top players and the team has proven nearly unbeatable in The Octagon. KSU will really be able to test its mettle tonight against rival Kansas.
(Last week: @ TCU W 67-54; vs. OU W 69-60/ This week: vs. KU; @ ISU)
3. Baylor (13-5, 4-1 Big 12)
The Bears might not be quite what they were a season ago but they still have talent and plenty of it. The inside tandem of Corey Jefferson and Isaiah Austin is long, athletic and poses a stiff challenge to whomever attempts to pound the ball into the paint or defend it. Just look at Monday's game against OSU for example, the duo combined for 21 points, 25 rebounds and 11 blocks. Add that to the fact that Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip and A.J. Walton rain down 3's with efficiency and they can take down anyone on any given night. This team seems to be only getting better, too.
(Last week: vs. Hardin-Simmons W 107-38/ This Week: vs. OSU W 64-54; @ TCU)
4. Oklahoma (13-4, 4-1 Big 12)
The Sooners are beginning to find their stride under Lon Kruger and are off to a 4-1 conference record with Red River Rivalry and Bedlam victories already in the books. A nine-point loss at KSU is far from a bad loss, as well. Kruger has plugged players into their roles beautifully and this is clearly a team playing above its talent level, which speaks to the coaching and unity of the team. Romero Osby has been a monster for OU in league play, averaging 19.2 points in the Big 12. Osby also turned in a career-best 29-point outing against Texas on Monday. Improved play from newcomers Amath M'Baye and Buddy Hield has given the Sooners the depth it has lacked in recent seasons, as evidenced by nine players averaging at least 15 minutes per game. OU has a daunting five-game stretch ahead that will go a long way toward determining just how good this season can be. OU's next five: at No. 3 Kansas, at Baylor, vs. No. 11 Kansas State, at Iowa State and vs. Kansas again.
(Last week: vs. Tech W 81-63; @ KSU L 69-60/ This week: vs. Texas W 73-67; @ KU)
5. Iowa State (13-4, 3-1 Big 12)
Much is still to be learned about the Cyclones but two things are for sure: This team can score and rebound with the best of them. ISU ranks sixth in the NCAA in scoring at 80.5 points per game and ninth in rebounding with nearly 42 boards per outing. That type of play makes the Cyclones a tough draw and ISU has proven to be just that so far with its only loss coming at Kansas in overtime. ISU has reeled off three straight since, beating Texas, West Virginia and TCU. The backcourt duo of Utah transfer Will Clyburn and Oklahoma native Tyrus McGee combine for 27 points per game and ISU has five players averaging double figures for one of the league's most balanced teams.
(Last week: vs. WVU W 69-67; @ TCU W 63-50/ This week: @ Tech; vs. KSU)
6. Oklahoma State (12-5, 2-3 Big 12)
Oklahoma State's stock is as low as it has been this season but there is still ample opportunity to move up. With Monday's loss, the Cowboys have lost four out of their past six games and fell to 0-3 on the road in conference play. The good news? All three of those teams reside in the top half of the league. Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State are not easy road trips and the other loss, at home against then-No. 10 Gonzaga by two isn't a bad loss. OSU is clearly improved from last season but needs to start changing close losses into hard-fought wins to build on its tournament resumé. A two-game homestand will be welcomed by the Pokes, who host West Virginia and Iowa State before the most daunting road test yet – Kansas. One major positive to take away from Monday's loss to Baylor was a breakout performance from Le'Bryan Nash, who scored a season-best 24 points against a stout Baylor interior.
(Last week: vs. Tech W 79-45/ This week: @ Baylor L 64-54; vs. WVU)
7. West Virginia (8-9, 1-3 Big 12)
The Mountaineers haven't had the greatest start to their first season in the Big 12. A solid road win over a struggling, undermanned Texas team is the only win they can hang their hat on at this point. WVU has lost four of five games, including three straight, but a one-point loss against No. 18 K-State is nothing to sneeze at and neither was a two-point loss at Iowa State. However, the Mountaineers stepped back out of league play last week and got hammered by 17 at Purdue so progress is hard to gauge. This is clearly not Bob Huggins' most talented squad in Morgantown but it's still a tough opponent for most Big 12 foes. WVU will likely make an appearance back in the win column against TCU this week before a stiff test in Gallagher-Iba Arena awaits.
(Last week: @ ISU L 69-67; @ Purdue L 79-52/ This week: vs. TCU; @ OSU)
8. Texas (8-10, 0-5 Big 12)
The Red River Rivalry on Monday was pretty much the ‘Horns season in a nutshell so far. Sloppy play, turnovers and stagnant offense showcase just how much this team is missing Myck Kabongo during his 23-game NCAA suspension. The Longhorns' loss at Oklahoma dropped them to 0-5 in Big 12 play for the first time in history. Their previous outing on Saturday was equally depressing or perhaps more so for UT fans when Texas blew an 11-point halftime lead against No. 4 KU at home. Texas only plays once more this week and it will be a golden opportunity to get in the win column when it plays host to Texas Tech on Saturday.
(Last week: vs. Kansas L 64-59/ This week: @ OU L 73-67; vs. Tech)
9. Texas Tech (8-8, 1-4 Big 12)
The only thing that might prevent the Red Raiders from being in the Big 12 cellar for the second straight year is the arrival of TCU to the conference. Tech opened league play with a nine-point win against the Horned Frogs but things have spiraled ever since. The Raiders have lost their past four games by 34 against Baylor, 14 against KU, 18 at OU and 34 at OSU. Tech has been largely uncompetitive in Chris Walker's first year as head coach against quality opponents, which stems largely from a lack of depth or explosivity on offense.
(Last week: @ OU L 81-63; @ OSU L 79-45/ This week: vs. ISU; @ Texas)
10. TCU (9-9, 0-5 Big 12)
Life isn't getting any easier for the Frogs on the hardwood. TCU has shown life in the conference so far, only being truly blown out of one game in the league (63-45 at OSU) but four of the five losses have come by double figures. The Frogs will be challenged to win any conference games this year but one of those opportunities might come Wednesday night at West Virginia but a Saturday contest against Baylor could be tough sledding. Offense continues to be TCU's undoing, ranking 344th in points per game and 324th in assists.
(Last week: vs. KSU L 67-54; vs. Iowa State L 63-50/ This week: @ WVU; vs. Baylor)
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