I’ve written, unabashedly, since the opening tip of the season, that the Big 12 is the best basketball conference in the country.
A direct quote: “only one conference can say each of its members are arguably Top 50 teams in the nation. That’s the Big 12.”
Now, after watching this week’s play, it’s difficult to say a single team in the conference is outside the Top 40, maybe even Top 30! Anyone can beat everyone, anytime.
In this week’s newly released AP Poll, the Big 12 has FIVE teams in the Top 14! SIX teams ranked throughout the whole poll.
We haven’t seen a conference be this dominant in college basketball in a LONG time.
Since conference play has begun, and each team has played a few Big 12 games, these games are going to be more heavily weighted for the rankings; they just mean more.
After some early surprises, let’s look at our Big 12 Power Rankings after a few weeks of play.
This Week’s Big 12 Power Rankings
Shouldn’t have ever had Kansas #2 in any week’s power rankings. I wrote that Texas has the edge because of its defensive “prowess”. The Longhorns let up 116!! points to Kansas State. Bad take.
So, after four, close wins, and one blowout of West Virginia, to start Kansas’ Big 12 play, the Jayhawks are surely the conference’s #1 team. While they really haven’t played a consistent 40 minutes in any conference game except in Morgantown, the talent shines in certain spots.
Dajuan Harris Jr. has done a tremendous job initiating play and handling the ball, all while hitting a clutch shot at the end of the Oklahoma game, and Jalen Wilson still looks like one of the best players in the conference.
Defensively, the Jayhawks let up 67 to Oklahoma State, 72 to Texas Tech, 62 to West Virginia, and 60 to Iowa State, which is nothing to scoff at, but they’ve only won three of those four two games by a combined 9 points (OSU, TTU, ISU).
Still worries me that KU both fell behind to Oklahoma State by 15, before having one of the strongest stretches of its season to erase the deficit, and collapsed down the stretch to Texas Tech.
After leading by 10 with four minutes to play, Tech made the Jayhawks sweat it out.
The Jayhawks even needed a 10 point comeback to beat Oklahoma, as they were down 71-61 with five minutes to play.
Complacency could be an issue with this team. The Jayhawks armored feathers aren’t bulletproof.
The Longhorns answered many of the questions and concerns surrounding this team this week.
For one, it looks like Texas can be the same without Chris Beard. It looks like the Kansas State game, in which they allowed 116 points, was a blip.
When the Longhorns were down 18 in the first half to TCU earlier this week, it looked like all these questions, and more, would continue to be posed.
We - unfortunately - know how that game ended. Texas used a second half flurry to come back and beat TCU. They then needed a 12-point comeback to beat Texas Tech on Saturday.
If they’re down, never count the Longhorns out.
Marcus Carr, Timmy Allen, and Sir’Jabari Rice are still coming up big, (Allen killed the Frogs in their matchup this week) as Carr’s hit many clutch shots, Allen has been a monster under the rim, and Rice had the ball in his hands, for both comeback wins, with chances to ice the game.
While there has been plenty to worry about, after seeing Texas this week, much of the worries have been dispelled.
#3 Iowa State
The Cyclones had a SIX game winning streak coming into this week. It was snapped at Kansas on Saturday, and barely.
In a narrow, 2-point loss, in Allen Fieldhouse, the Cyclones had a chance to tie, or win, with the ball in their hands late. Just as they did against TCU.
This time, Gabe Kalschuer didn’t step back to devastate Allen Fieldhouse, but the Cyclones showed the nation that they can play with any team in the county. The message had been shown.
Kalschuer was INSANE this week, as becomes one of the Big 12’s best players. The Cyclones have always been scary on the defensive end, but now with Kalschuer, Iowa State is so much more dangerous offensively.
The transfer from Minnesota has hit double figures in seven of his last eight, has hit clutch shots in multiple (TCU included), and totaled 48 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 threes in only 2 games this week!
Not only that - in his past 7 he’s averaging 17.3 points per game, and is shooting 45.5% from 3.
TCU, at this moment, is the 4th best team in the Big 12. The 4th best team in THE best college basketball conference in the country.
I just still wish the Frogs could be a bit stronger. There’s still just a little something to be desired. And I should be the last person doubting.
After this last week, though, it’s hard not to.
The Frogs can’t shoot. At all. It’s frustrating to watch at times.
The Frogs shoot 28.8% from 3-Point range (#335 in the country), and it didn’t get much better in wins against Texas Tech and Baylor, or in losses against Iowa State and Texas. In fact it got worse. (14.3% vs Tech, 21.4% at Baylor, 26.3% at Texas).
In this day and age in this sport, this struggle seems insurmountable.
But the Frogs are just so damn good on the fastbreak. It’s ridiculous. And, compared to the team’s horrendous shooting, it’s an absolute JOY to watch. Most possessions, TCU is flying down the court.
The Fastbreak Frogs make it look way too easy on the break. In Saturday’s game against Kansas State, the Frogs’ transition offense was a key reason we saw the best 40 minutes of TCU’s season.
But - if that fast break is halted, like Iowa State was able to do, this Frogs offense can be stopped. In the half-court, this offense needs some work.
Mike Miles is still a star, and is still one of the best players in the Big 12, but he can’t do it all on his own. Emanuel Miller and Damion Baugh have stepped up recently, but they’ll need to stay consistent.
Could shooting bring down TCU’s ceiling this season? I sure hope not.
Still - the Frogs are the 4th best team in the Big 12.
#5 Kansas State
Kansas State finally saw its winning ways come to an end this week in Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth. How sweet it was to see it end.
Only the Wildcats’ second loss of the campaign, they couldn’t handle the speed and defensive intensity of the Horned Frogs.
One thing that stands out - in the team’s two losses, one at Butler, the other at TCU, the Wildcats rarely got to the free throw line. On Saturday against TCU, they only shot 7 free throws, making 6, and went only 2-for-3 from the stripe against Butler.
Over the entire season, the Wildcats average more than 20 free throws a game, and make 15 of them.
If the Wildcats can’t find a way to the line, and can’t be aggressive in pressuring and frustrating the opposing team’s interiors, their chances fall drastically.
When they don’t - it forces Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson to create, and make, a lot of shots.
Those two have shown they can make these shots over the course of this season, and have truly carried this squad, but slowing the ball down, and getting them to the free throw line, raises the Wildcats chances immensely.
The Sooners are showing all: the difference between going 2-3 and 5-0 in the Big 12 is a matter of eight points.
5 of the Sooners’ 6 losses have been by four points or less. And - all of the team’s Big 12 games have been decided by five points or less. Oklahoma’s only won two of those, including a recent one-point win over West Virginia.
The problem: they’ve had difficulties closing out games, and scoring droughts have been an issue at times, as the team struggles to play a consistent 40 minutes of basketball.
Guards Grant Sherfield and Milos Uzan have stepped up big time and are even some of the team’s leading rebounders, while coach Porter Moser has said he still loves how his team plays.
This is a sneaky good team. The Sooners could be a potential trap game for some of these higher ranked teams.
The Bears had lost three in a row before this last week, losing to Iowa State, TCU, and Kansas State, but showed this week that they may not dwell in the cellar for long.
Beating West Virginia and Oklahoma State this week (not too impressive - but a win’s a win), the Bears see themselves back on the win column.
One standout for Baylor - Keyonte George, who had one of the best games any freshman player has had this season.
In the win against West Virginia, George went for 32 points and 7 rebounds. There was no way the Mountaineers could stop him.
If George, Flagler, and Cryer are all on, this could be a very hard team to beat (even for Kansas), but those three must be consistent. They haven’t yet been this year.
#8 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State had its all-around worst game of the season earlier this week against Baylor in a 74-58 loss. Coach Mike Boynton was not happy about it. His anger was evident, his frustration shined.
Right now - the Cowboys are searching for answers, as the offense continues to struggle, and the usually elite defense falters once again, as it did versus Baylor.
Oklahoma State has lost three straight games - all this week - and has lost two straight on the road. One more loss, and the Cowboys will barely own a .500 record.
To get back on track, they’ll need to start making shots. The Cowboys are shooting just 38.5% in Big 12 play, and are a miserable 29.8% from downtown.
Against Baylor, they shot only 7-for-33 from deep against the Big 12’s worst defense.
Another main concern is that the Cowboys’ best player, Kalib Boone, hasn’t been the main focal point of the offense. Too often he’s been doubled, and too often he’s been in foul trouble; he’s had a hard time getting into rhythm.
And the Cowboys’ defensive stalwart, Moussa Cisse, has been resting an ankle injury. Oklahoma State undoubtedly misses his 7’1 presence under the rim. With him, they can be one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
The Cowboys have a key Bedlam matchup later this week. Lose to bitter-rival Oklahoma, and the Cowboys could see their tournament chances begin to dwindle.
#9 Texas Tech
I have a lot of questions about Texas Tech. Namely and mainly, what in the world is going on in Lubbock?? And is Kevin Obanor OK?
One of two teams who are 0-5 in Big 12 play, the Red Raiders are in a spot no one saw them being in this season.
They lost by an egregious 34!!! points to Iowa State, and then fell just short to Texas in Austin on Saturday.
Texas Tech still has zero top-100 wins this season, and the team’s “best win” is quite embarrassing.
The Red Raiders “best win” is still their home win earlier this season over Louisiana Tech. A sub-.500 in Conference USA Louisiana Tech.
How sad. .
Baylor and Kansas State await this week.
#10 West Virginia
It might just be time to panic in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers have started Big 12 play 0-5, and I don’t see a path to redemption anytime soon. This conference is not too forgiving to slow starts.
Like Oklahoma, though, this West Virginia team could realistically be 4-1 within the conference instead.
The Mountaineers have shot 87/143 (60%!) from the free throw line in these 5 conference games, which is just a brutal number. If some of these freebies go in, West Virginia wins its close games, and they’d be at the top of the conference.
Unfortunately - free throw shooting is still a huge part of the game (TCU has also learned this the hard way), and they’ll need to make those shots if they want a chance in some of these conference games, and ultimately, at the NCAA Tournament.
Though the Mountaineers are the worst of the Big 12, they’re still a Top 40 team in the nation, and the talent and coaching is there to bring them into March.
Coach Bob Huggins is optimistic. Can West Virginia just hit its freebies?
This Week’s Power Rankings
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech
- West Virginia