Conference play in the Big 12 has been a rollercoaster - the midweek slate featured four upsets, most notably West Virginia going down at home to Kansas - and there is no sign that anything will get less hectic as we go. The transitive property is more or less broken now, as OU beat Tech who beat Kansas who beat Western Virginia who beat OU. With that in mind, the power balance in the Big 12 has shifted.
Right now Kansas sits alone atop the Big 12 Standings, with Tech, OU, and WVU hovering right behind at 4-2. The Big 12 still ranks as the most efficient/best conference in basketball, with five teams in the top 25 at KenPom (welcome back, TCU), and 9 of 10 in the top 65. I am tempted to group teams into tiers this week, but I think we are still a couple upsets away from that, so for now, I am sticking with the numerical rankings.
These rankings are based on a combination of talent, resume, and who has the “mojo” right now, meaning they are entirely subjective so your criticism is invalid. Additionally, I pay no mind to prior rankings when conducting this list - these are meant to reflect “right now.”
These Teams are in Contention for the Big 12 Title:
1. Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-3 overall, 4-2 in Big 12, 8th in KenPom)
The Red Raiders have gone 2-2 in their last four games, but have wins over Nevada, West Virginia, Kansas, Baylor, and Kansas State, all top 40 KenPom teams. The Raiders have the chance to sweep Kansas, hosting them on the last week of the season, and thus are more or less control their own destiny in the Big 12. A loss to Texas in Austin is nothing to sneeze at, but the LongHorns have been playing exceptionally well the last week, especially in Austin. Tech has a relatively calm slate ahead, playing Iowa St., Oklahoma st. South Carolina, and Texas before heading to Fort Worth to take on the Frogs.
2. Kansas Jayhawks (15-3, 5-1, 10th)
The Jayhawks are just fine. yes, they dropped two stupid out of conference games to not-great teams. Yes, they got stomped by Tech at home. But, they currently sit in sole possession of first place in the Big 12, and they might be the owners now of the best win in the conference, a five point victory in Morgantown. Devonte’ Graham is remembering himself, and Udoka is playing some grown man basketball. What a program - even in a “down year”, the Jayhawks are still playing for the conference championship.
3. West Virginia Mountaineers (15-3, 4-2, 11th)
WVU had a chance to own the Big 12, and the ‘Neers let Kansas take it away from them. A one point road loss to Texas Tech is less concerning to me - I am more or less expecting teams to hold serve against elite teams in conference this year. They Mountaineers have a tricky Texas team coming to town before facing TCU in Fort Worth and hosting Kentucky. It would not surprise me if they lost two of those games.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (14-3, 4-2, 21st in KenPom)
Have one of the best wins in the conference (at #15 Wichita State), but have bad losses to an Arkansas team who is mercurial at best and got run off the dang court by a scrappy (and maybe underrated?) Kansas State team. The Sooners visit their in state rivals before hosting Kansas and traveling to Alabama. OU has a chance to secure two quality victory, but the question now stands: Did Bruce Weber find the recipe for stopping Trae Young? The Sooners are cooling off a bit, and need to find out why sooner rather than later. (Get it? Sooner?)
The following teams are playing for tournament seeds:
5. TCU Horned Frogs (14-4, 2-4, 24th)
Texas and Kansas State fans I’m sure will take exception to TCU holding on to the fifth spot, but the Frogs are literally 11 points away from being 18-0 and ranked number 1 in the nation. That’s not a lament, or a homer statement - that is just a fact. TCU has lost close games to teams ranked higher than them, and a 2OT, one point, missed layup game on the road to Texas who was playing for Andrew Jones that night. The Frogs have 3 top 40 wins and now own a transitive win over Wichita State, and the 4th most efficient offense in the nation, to boot. They travel to Manhattan before hosting West Virginia this week.
6. Kansas State Wildcats (13-5, 3-3, 40th)
Me, last week:
The Cats have their work cut out for them if they want a tournament bid, but unless something crazy happens, they are probably out.
Hey, something crazy happened! The Wildcats were a possession away from beating Kansas in Lawrence, (seriously, all they had to do was not do exactly what they did and they probably would’ve won), and they ran Oklahoma off the court. The Wildcats have only two wins in the top 100 of KenPom, but if they could manage one more upset in the Big 12 and win their SEC Challenge game, they have a strong case for a tournament bid.
7. Texas Longhorns (12-6, 3-3, 33rd)
Home Texas and Away Texas are necessary distinctions for this team. Texas has lost two home games this season, both to top 20 schools. Meanwhile, they have beaten two Top 25 teams in Austin. On the road, they have lost to Baylor and Oklahoma State. In the Baylor game, the Longhorns did not score in the last five minutes. All they had to do was score, and they watched a lead turn into a nine point deficit. A one point road loss in the Big 12 is nothing shameful, but Oklahoma State is not a very good team. Texas’s tournament resume is still strong, but losing to Oklahoma State won’t fly.
8. Scott Drew’s Basketball Team in Waco (11-5, 34th)
You lost to Iowa State. I mean, yes, it was in Hilton, and yes, that place gets weird, but you lost to Iowa State. C’mon.
Baylor’s tournament resume features a neutral court win over Creighton and not much else. They will need to win a few games they shouldn’t to ensure a single digit seed.
These teams are still out of it, but less so than I thought last week:
9. Oklahoma State (12-6, 2-4, 63rd)
Oklahoma State took care of business against Iowa State and got a solid win against Texas. Aside from that, their only other win of note is at #28 Florida State, which is a good win, but the Pokes are a stretch for the tournament at this point.
10. Iowa State (9-6, 104th)
Well, they did it. I said they’d fool around and win one! The Cyclones rose from the grave to beat Baylor by ten and avoid the Big 12 skunk. They are still not favored in any game the rest of the season - their highest win percentage is when they host Oklahoma State the last weekend of the season. I bet Allen Lazard would help their basketball team.