Between the conference games during the week and the Big 12/SEC Challenge games on Saturday, we have seen considerable movement in the power rankings this week. Only the top two teams, Kansas and Baylor, are in the same spot as last Monday’s rankings, which can be found here.
In the Big 12/SEC Challenge, the conferences split the games 5-5, meaning the Big 12 holds onto the trophy because they won it last season. However, the conference as a whole probably went into the Challenge with much higher expectations. Kansas took home the marquee matchup with Kentucky, but some teams that were expected to win, such as TCU, came up short on Saturday. For a conference that has 8 teams legitimately fighting for NCAA Tournament bids, it was not the result that was wanted.
Despite the average performance in the Challenge, the Big 12 is still in a good spot as March approaches. Kansas and Baylor both have chances at earning 1-seeds and West Virginia could even work their way up into that conversation. All three of those teams are currently ranked in the top 7 of the AP Top 25, but are the only ranked teams in the conference. Eight of the ten teams are all still ranked in the top 75 of the RPI and all of them are still fighting for NCAA bids. Now, let’s see where they rank in the Big 12.
#1: Kansas Jayhawks (19-2 Overall, 7-1 Big 12, AP: #3), Previous: #1
Last Week: Lost @ #18 West Virginia 85-69, Won @ #4 Kentucky 79-73
This Week: vs. #2 Baylor (2/1), vs. Iowa State (2/4)
Kansas, despite losing at West Virginia, still showed over the past week that they are the top team in the Big 12. There’s no hiding the fact that they struggled in Morgantown, especially at the free throw line where they were 6/15. However, they did what any great and experienced team should do and bounced back on Saturday with a victory at Kentucky. The win moved them up to #3 in the RPI and has them in a position to once again be a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. All eyes will be on their matchup with #2 Baylor on Wednesday, as the winner will take the driver’s seat in the race for the Big 12 title. The Jayhawks go into the game riding a 50-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse.
#2: Baylor Bears (20-1, 7-1, AP: #2), Previous: #2
Last Week: Won vs. Texas Tech 65-61, Won @ Ole Miss 78-75
This Week: @ #3 Kansas (2/1), vs. Kansas State (2/4)
The Bears had a solid week, going 2-0, but the closeness of the games will cause some concerns. Baylor barely escaped a scrappy Red Raiders team in Waco and then narrowly got past Ole Miss on the road. However, there is no denying that this team just somehow finds ways to win, which is why they are #1 in the RPI and have a chance at a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament along with Kansas. The game in Lawrence will really test the Bears, but also gives them an opportunity to prove themselves. The battle down low between Motley and Landen Lucas for Kansas will be entertaining, but I think the Jayhawks’ guards will win the day.
#3: West Virginia Mountaineers (17-4, 5-3, AP: #7), Previous: #4
Last Week: Won vs. #2 Kansas 85-69, Won vs. Texas A&M 81-77
This Week: @ Iowa State (1/31), vs. Oklahoma State (2/4)
The Mountaineers had the best week out of any team in the Big 12 and are once again trending toward the top of the conference. If not for their home loss to Oklahoma or their two road losses, Press Virginia would have a serious case at being the best team in the Big 12 and would have a shot at winning the conference title. They still have a case for being a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, thanks to convincing wins at home over both Kansas and Baylor. These next two games could be tricky for West Virginia, but are games that they should be able to win.
#4: Iowa State Cyclones (13-7, 5-3, AP: RV), Previous: #5
Last Week: Won vs. Kansas State 70-65, Lost @ Vanderbilt 84-78
This Week: vs. #7 West Virginia (1/31), @ #3 Kansas (2/4)
Iowa State is an interesting team this year. Their record is not very impressive, but their losses have come against good teams and that is why they are still near the top of the conference. They have been competitive in every game that they have played and they have an experienced and talented backcourt which could make them dangerous in March. It’s safe to assume the Cyclones will be dancing this year, but a tough week lies ahead for them. A couple wins, or even just one, could raise their #46 RPI ranking and move them up in terms of seeding. However, a couple losses could damage their confidence as the regular season begins winding down.
#5: Kansas State Wildcats (15-6, 4-4), Previous: #3
Last Week: Lost @ Iowa State 70-65, Lost @ Tennessee 70-58
This Week: vs. TCU (2/1), @ #2 Baylor (2/4)
The Wildcats have been up and down so far this season, but are currently trending downward after losing both games last week. K-State dug themselves into a 20-point deficit against the Cyclones and nearly came back to win, but came up just short. Then against the Volunteers, they never really got going and came away with a loss in Knoxville. Now, the Wildcats enter a very important week. They have to finish with a very good Big 12 record to make up for a poor non-conference slate, which means the game with TCU on Wednesday could be a must-win. As of now, they seem to be on the good side of the bubble conversation, but K-State fans will be hoping they get at least one win this week.
#6: Oklahoma State Cowboys (13-8, 2-6), Previous: #8
Last Week: Won vs. TCU 89-76, Won vs. Arkansas 99-71
This Week: @ Oklahoma (tonight), @ #7 West Virginia (2/4)
After West Virginia, the Cowboys had the 2nd-best week of any team in the Big 12. The Cowboys have won three games in a row and over those three games, they have never trailed. This is a talented roster with a great coach that seems to finally be putting it all together. Jawun Evans is a star and seems to be finding his groove which is trouble for the rest of the conference. Thanks to a great non-conference showing, the Pokes are ranked #37 in the RPI and should find themselves in the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year. They will have to keep winning though in order to get there due to their current lackluster conference record. Bedlam tonight gives them an opportunity to showcase their talents on the road in a rivalry game.
#7: Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-6, 3-5), Previous: #6
Last Week: Lost @ #5 Baylor 65-61, Won vs. LSU 77-64
This Week: @ Texas (2/1), vs. Oklahoma (2/4)
Texas Tech is in the same boat as Kansas State with regards to a poor non-conference schedule, but a win over LSU at home should be helpful. Although the Tigers are having a poor year, an extra win over an opponent from a Power conference is always nice. Tech had a chance to get a major win over Baylor in Waco, but came up just short in the end. The week is set up nicely for the Red Raiders, getting to face the two teams at the bottom of the conference. However, they do not want to slip up this week and find themselves having to make up ground on other teams that are on the bubble with them.
#8: TCU Horned Frogs (14-7, 3-5), Previous: #7
Last Week: Lost @ Oklahoma State 89-76, Lost vs. Auburn 88-80
This Week: @ Kansas State (2/1), vs. Texas (2/4)
It was a rough week for the Frogs as their losing streak extended to four games. TCU had chances to win both games but couldn’t take advantage of second half opportunities and found themselves on the bad side of some big runs. Auburn took advantage of a 25-2 run in the middle of the second half, which gave them an 80-59 lead with just over 5 minutes to play. However, one thing TCU did show this week was resilience. Against the Cowboys, they fought back from a slow start and kept it close and against Auburn they turned that 21-point deficit into only an 8-point loss in a matter of minutes. The Frogs are trending downward, but this week provides two winnable games and a great chance to bounce back.
#9: Texas Longhorns (8-13, 2-6), Previous: #10
Last Week: Won vs. Oklahoma 84-83, Lost @ Georgia 59-57
This Week: vs. Texas Tech (2/1), @ TCU (2/4)
The Longhorns seem to finally be showing signs of competitiveness thanks to some outstanding play from a couple of their freshmen. Andrew Jones knocked down the last-second three pointer to take down the Sooners last week and he and Jarrett Allen both show a lot of promise for Texas going forward. In their game at Georgia, the Longhorns led by 9 at half, but inexperience took hold and they couldn’t hold on for the win. It will take a miracle run for them to make the NCAA Tournament at this point, especially with their #142 RPI ranking, but they could definitely spoil some of the bubble teams. The Frogs will have to be careful when the Longhorns come to Fort Worth on Saturday.
#10: Oklahoma Sooners (8-12, 2-6), Previous: #9
Last Week: Lost @ Texas 84-83, Lost vs. #25 Florida 84-52
This Week: vs. Oklahoma State (tonight), @ Texas Tech (2/4)
Although TCU has been struggling lately, I think Oklahoma had the worst week in the conference this past week. The Sooners seemed to be showing signs of life with the return of four-year starter Jordan Woodard, but an 0-2 week moves them closer and closer to the point of no return. They nearly took down Texas in Austin in a game that would’ve been huge for them and then got blown out at home by a very good Gators team. The Sooners have to start winning games now if they still have any hope of playing beyond the Big 12 Tournament.