It’s safe to say that if Mike Miles Jr. hadn’t suffered a right knee hyperextension midgame TCU would’ve won this weekend against Mississippi State.
The Frogs, absent Miles for more than a half, took the Bulldogs to overtime after trailing for a majority, but didn’t have the gas left in the tank to close it out, losing 81-74.
A loss to a 2-win SEC team is tough to stomach, especially when it seemed the Frogs had momentum towards the end. And, considering this season was the last edition of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, it may have been the last chance TCU had to beat an SEC team for a while.
Fortunately, the Big 12 won the challenge 7-3. The conference now holds bragging rights over the SEC for eternity. (TCU went 5-5 overall in the Big 12/SEC Challenge).
The Big 12’s 7-3 record this weekend is only one indicator of how tremendous the conference has been this season.
Another: the Big 12 has SIX teams ranked in the top 15 of this week’s AP Poll. SIX TEAMS! That’s over half the conference.
Absolutely insane. And it’s getting harder and harder to power rank the conference each week. 3 teams are 6-2 in conference. Another 3 are 5-3.
So, how do you differentiate between them? I try to below.
(Rankings made before Monday night’s games. Monday’s results will be reflected in next week’s Power Rankings.)
#1 Kansas State
This spot would’ve been Iowa State’s if the Cyclones hadn’t completely rolled over this weekend against Missouri.
Kansas State lost to Iowa State in Ames Tuesday, Jan. 24, after the Cyclones pulled away during one of the more exciting 2nd halves so far in the Big 12 season. The Wildcats and Cyclones combined for 92! points in the 2nd Half (ISU outscored KSU 49-43).
While exciting for us, it wasn’t fun for the Wildcats. Tuesday’s game was demonstrative of Kansas State’s defensive inconsistencies this season. Giving up 80 points (49 of them in the 2nd) isn’t what head coach Jerome Tang is looking for.
I’d suppose he’s looking for defensive performances similar to those against Texas Tech (allowed 58 points) and Oklahoma State (57), or the performance this weekend against SEC’s Florida.
The Wildcats completely locked the Gators down, controlling the entire game (on both sides of the floor), winning 64-50 in Manhattan on Saturday. The dominant win, and defensive bounce-back, is the only reason the Wildcats are still #1.
It’s not going to get any easier for Kansas State though. A grueling slate awaits the Wildcats this week, having to travel to Lawrence and Allen Fieldhouse to take on Kansas (gonna be fun), and then heading back to Manhattan to host Texas.
If the Wildcats win both these, they’re the clear-cut number one. Lose one, and things (somehow) get more interesting.
#2 Iowa State
Because of the head-to-head win over Texas, and the home win over Kansas State, I feel I must put Iowa State #2, just a notch below the Wildcats.
While Texas may be favored over the Cyclones to win the conference’s regular season based on status, the Cyclones have played better in-conference this season.
Despite the horrible 78-61 loss to Missouri over the weekend, Iowa State has shown how dominant they can be in Big 12 play. They’ve beaten TCU on the road and Texas and Kansas State in Ames. The squad’s only two losses came to Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, and Oklahoma State in Stillwater, after key-player Caleb Grill went down midgame with an injury.
This week, the Cyclones have to avoid a trap game in Lubbock against winless Texas Tech, and then host Kansas in Ames with hopes to get the Jayhawks back after losing Jan. 14.
Again - the Longhorns are the favorites to win the Big 12 regular season right now. I have reason to believe that’s all due to status.
Texas has a brutal schedule to end the Big 12 season (still has to play Kansas twice), and there really hasn’t been much in their play to inspire any confidence.
The Longhorns lost to Tennessee 82-71 on Saturday in a game in which they weren’t able to guard a parked car.
It wasn’t the first game we’ve seen Texas defensively struggle in either. The Longhorns gave up 78 to Iowa State, 75 to Oklahoma State, 75 to TCU (while needing a complete TCU meltdown to win), and 116, (yes 116), to Kansas State.
If Texas is going to win this conference’s regular season, they’ll need to button up defensively. There’s no reason to think the Longhorns will hold Kansas to less than 75 points.
Kansas was reeling for a second. A three-game losing streak had Jayhawks fans feeling as if the apocalypse may be near. Yes - a three-game losing streak for Kansas is that rare.
Granted, the Jayhawks had as tough a three-game schedule they could’ve had in that stretch. They lost to Kansas State in Manhattan in a game that came down to the wire, losing 83-82, and then had to play a hungry TCU team in Lawrence. The Frogs surprised the Jayhawks in their own building, handing Kansas a 83-60 loss.
Dejected after losing by 23 in Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks then had to turn around and travel to Waco. That didn’t end well either, as the Jayhawks lost 75-69. Again - Jayhawks’ fans were lost.
Thankfully for them, all must’ve seemed right in the world when Kansas went into Rupp Arena and beat Kentucky handily 77-68.
This isn’t the same Kentucky, but the win is a positive step in the right direction. And Jalen Wilson is still a man unleashed.
Hate having to rank Baylor above TCU here. Truly - it pains me. But, with Mike Miles Jr.’s injured and out for the next few games, it has to be done.
Since opening conference play 0-3, the Bears have rallied off six straight wins, one against Kansas, and another against SEC’s Arkansas.
Keyonte George, L.J. Cryer, and Adam Flagler have been the best three-man combo in the Big 12, and we’ve seen each one of them step up in the clutch, when needed most for the Bears.
This is a formidable group. They can, clearly, beat anyone in the conference. A massive game against Texas comes Monday night.
At the Frogs’ best, we know they’re a legitimate Final Four candidate. Unfortunately, the Frogs won’t be at their best for a significant amount of time, as Mike Miles Jr. will be out for a while with a right knee hyperextension.
It’s a tough blow for a team who was seemingly finding all the momentum at the exact right time. Already with Eddie Lampkin and Rondel Walker sidelined for an undisclosed amount of time, Miles’ knee injury carries such massive implications.
The Frogs’ depth is no longer limitless. Fatigue could creep into this squad quickly.
Without Miles, the team’s leader, and leading scorer, the Frogs look lost at times. Coach Jamie Dixon will need to show the Big 12 a masterclass in coaching if TCU wants to stay competitive in the Big 12.
#7 Oklahoma State
Man, oh, man - are the Cowboys glad Moussa Cisse is making his way back on the court in full sometime this week.
One of the best post defenders in the Big 12 had missed the last five games for Oklahoma State with a sprained ankle, and it had shown in the Cowboys’ recent performances.
The Cowboys gave up 74 points to Baylor without him, and allowed Texas to drop 89 in the teams’ second matchup after Oklahoma State held the Longhorns to 56 points with Cisse.
Oklahoma State looked fantastic in their matchup against Ole Miss this weekend as well, winning 82-60. Cisse only had to play seven minutes in his first game back.
Now - with the defense back to normal, can the Cowboys creep towards the NCAA Tournament? They’ve got Oklahoma in Norman and TCU in Stillwater this week.
If Oklahoma was playing better in the Big 12, the Sooners would easily be above Oklahoma State, and would be ranked #7 here, especially after the shocking demolition of Alabama, the then #2 team in the country.
Yet - rather to that win pointing to how good Oklahoma may be, I think it stands to demonstrate how good Big 12 basketball is.
Oklahoma is 12-9, and just beat one of the best teams in the country, yet is still 9th in the Big 12 standings.
The Sooners got dominated by TCU and Oklahoma State, and barely beat West Virginia and Texas Tech. I think it’s safe to say the Alabama win may have been an outlier.
The Sooners have an easy schedule ahead this week, hosting Oklahoma State and then visiting West Virginia, warming OU up before their trip to Waco next week. A win against Baylor could show the rest of the conference that the Alabama win wasn’t a fluke.
#9 West Virginia
The Mountaineers are still the analytics darlings of the Big 12. Supposedly, West Virginia is a top 25 team offensively, and defensively, in the country.
Unfortunately - the Big 12 doesn’t think so. The Mountaineers are still ranked 8th in the Big 12, and own a 2-6 conference record despite the analytics’ praise.
Yes, us TCU fans have seen they can be dangerous, as have Auburn fans over this past weekend, with the suffocating defensive pressure and fast(er) tempo than usual, but those two wins won’t get them anywhere.
If West Virginia still wants a chance for an invite to the NCAA Tournament, a huge opportunity awaits them this week. A Mike Miles-less TCU awaits the Mountaineers.
Without their PG, the Frogs are in a tough spot, especially since West Virginia is hunting for a postseason spot.
#10 Texas Tech
Texas Tech loved seeing a team outside the Big 12 this weekend. The Red Raiders finally got back in the win column, and had one of two Big 12 road wins in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, beating LSU 76-68 in Baton Rouge.
It was a breath of fresh air for a team who had seen nothing but losses for a whole month.
The NCAA Tournament is out of reach, barring a miracle Big 12 Tournament win, and the Red Raiders are essentially playing for pride the rest of the season.
Head coach Mark Adams could be coaching for his job,
The Red Raiders host Iowa State, and travel to Baylor this week. Not a sign of great things to come.
This Week’s Power Rankings (after 1/29):
#1 Kansas State
#2 Iowa State
#7 Oklahoma State
#9 West Virginia
#10 Texas Tech