Think of the Frogs O'War basketball rankings as fashionably late. Or, just as a more likable selection committee. As indicated by the past two years, the Big 12 is the most well rounded--and why not, "most fun"--league in college basketball. And with teams like our very own TCU starting to make noise where it was once silent, the Big 12 should be wild this year.
1. Texas Longhorns (7-1)
If anybody has watched Texas play this year, then they know firsthand just how much of a handful this team will be for opposing teams this season. This is a team that is built around toughness, defense, and a dominant interior line. The way the Longhorns are built this season is the exact model for how Rick Barnes has always wanted his team to look.
They suffered a loss at Kentucky but made the Wildcats look as bad as they have all year. It was about as impressive as a loss could be. They have a big test is against a mature Stanford team two days before Christmas, but Texas should still be the class of the conference when Big 12 season starts. They are going to miss Isaiah Taylor, but he should at least be back for conference play, if not sooner. If somebody else can step up on the perimeter in Taylor’s absence then look out Big 12.
2. Kansas Jayhawks (6-1)
It’s looking like Jayhawks vs. Longhorns this year. Kansas had an impressive comeback win against Florida--albeit a struggling Florida team. And yes, they got annihilated against Kentucky earlier this season. But I have a little hunch that they won’t be the only one the Wildcats emasculate this year. This is still the most athletic team in the conference, and they are still coached by one of the best college coaches to ever do it in Bill Self, and they still have the possible Big 12 POY in Wayne Selden, and they, as a school, still care WAY too much to let an early spanking marr their pursuit of yet another conference championship. Make no mistake, Kansas still owns the Big 12 in basketball.
3. Iowa State Cyclones (6-1)
Yes, the Cyclones played Maryland poorly. They’re still a Top 3 team in the Big 12, however. With Georges Niang, they’re just going to be too salty in conference play to not contend with Kansas and Texas. They’ll be salty for two reasons. One, they played only okay in conference play last year. Secondly, and this piggybacks on that, they’re better than they were last year. They lost in the Sweet 16 to UConn by only 5. They have a chip on their shoulder, and I think that makes it wide open between them, Kansas, and Texas at this point.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (5-2)
This is a really good team that has, and likely will continue to fly under the radar this season. OU has actually played the toughest schedule in the conference so far this year, with its two losses coming by two points to a top 25 Creighton team and by a respectable 13 points to the nation’s second best team in Wisconsin. They have also downed top 25 Butler and UCLA squads already. The early indication with the Sooners is that they will go as junior guard Buddy Hield goes. Hield dropped 21 and 24 on Creighton and UCLA respectively, but struggled mightily against Wisconsin, shooting only 2-11.
5. West Virginia Mountaineers (8-1)
If there’s one true dark horse in the league, it’s the Mountaineers. They’ve struggled, by their normal standards, in the Big 12 thus far--but this (could be) the year they put it together on the court. The Mountaineers finally got some love in the polls and are now No. 22. Senior guard, Juwan Staten has been a lot of fun to watch thus far and is averaging a team high of 15 points a game.
6. TCU Horned Frogs (9-0)
The Frogs are off to their best start in, I don’t know...ever? Maybe, not ever technically, but all things considered, maybe it is. The last time the Horned Frogs started 9-0, they made the tournament. Which was the last time they made the tournament. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the Frogs are a darkhorse team, but they’re going to be really damn competitive this year. And as good as the Big 12 should be by the time conference play rolls around, I think it’ll be evident that its worthy of putting 5 teams in the dance and maybe TCU gets that spot.
7. Baylor Bears (8-1)
Baylor, Baylor, Baylor…. I just don’t like you very much. Not sorry about it either. The numbers are decent so far, but after watching the game against Illinois those numbers look hollow to me. It isn’t really clear where the points are going to come from in crunch time for the Bears this season. They don’t have the floor general that they have had the past four or five seasons, and while they have an impressive front line, they don’t have a lot of guys who show the ability to take over a game. An athletic and defensive squad will give teams problems this year, but the Bears need more offense before they can really be justifiable Big 12 contenders.
8. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-1)
The polarizing Marcus Smart is now a Celtic, and like their football team, the Cowboys will take a step back this year. They have a comfortable 7-1 record right now, but by the time they reach conference play, it should change.
9. Kansas State Wildcats (5-4)
Yet another Big 12 team that is suffering from a tough early season schedule. There is definitely talent on this Kansas State squad, as indicated by their close loss to the nation’s third ranked team, but that talent has a lot to prove to get out of the Big 12 basement. They will still be a hard out this year, as really any Big 12 team will be this season, but this may not be the year of the wildcat. The beat down at the hands of Pitt and the loss to a 4-4 Long Beach State team are inexcusable for a team with Marcus Foster at the helm. The Wildcats will get better.
10. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Living in Texas is sometime super unfair. You can have one of the better coaches in the history of college basketball--twice--and still not become a Powerhouse in any sense of the word. Tech has long been competitive, but this year, they get out muscled. Best of luck to our friends out in West Texas.