Another week of Big 12 play goes by and the curse of the #1 continues to prevail.
No team has been ranked #1 in back-to-back weeks. If I rank a team #1 - chances are it’s losing at least one of two games that week.
It’s not that these teams I’ve ranked #1 aren’t good, or are paper tigers; Texas and Kansas have been #1 in these power rankings, twice this season, in four separate weeks. It’s that the Big 12 is so good, and is such a grind, that going on a run and building a win streak is close to impossible.
Records reflect this. No team has less than four losses in conference. At this point of the season, that’s a shocking number.
But - this week - I feel I must reward the team in the conference that’s on the “best run”. For a conference which hasn’t seen many, this team deserves its first #1 ranking of the season.
We’ll see if the curse continues to haunt the Big 12, though - and this week - the Baylor Bears.
Before Monday night’s Big 12 action, I was prepared to slot Texas into this week’s #1 slot. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, Texas lost 74-67 to Texas Tech in Lubbock.
While Tech may not be the “worst” team in the Big 12 anymore, that’s unacceptable for a UT team which feels it’s the best in the conference.
So - the #1 spot is being rewarded to the team on the “best run” in the conference, in a conference which it’s so hard to accrue one. Baylor has won 9 out of its last 10 games - its only loss being to Texas in Austin - and the Bears are playing great basketball, specifically through its guard play.
If Adam Flagler isn’t playing well, then no worry, Keyonte George or L.J. Cryer will step up to hit the necessary buckets, as Cryer did in the first half against TCU before Flagler caught heat.
After an 0-3 start in conference, and starting Big 12 play near the bottom of these rankings, the Bears have climbed all the way up to the #1 spot. (Baylor beat Kansas 75-69 in the teams’ first matchup).
But - can Baylor defeat the curse of the #1? It’ll be near impossible. Baylor travels to Lawrence and Manhattan, Kansas this week.
The Jayhawks blew the brakes off Oklahoma 78-55 on Saturday, so there’s really no reason to drop Kansas any further than where it finished in these rankings last week.
Since its three-game losing streak, Kansas has won four out its last five (its only loss to Iowa State in Ames), and the Jayhawks have shown the ability to get the job done without Jalen Wilson.
Wilson, who’s generally one of the best players in the Big 12, has recently struggled with efficiency, and hasn’t been giving the Jayhawks the offensive production the team expects from him.
So - it’s good the Jayhawks’ bench is starting to produce before the season grinds to an end. Zuby Ejiofor, Ernest Udeh Jr., and MJ Rice are just some of the valuable bench pieces who have given Kansas efficient production when Wilson, DaJuan Harris, or Kevin McCullar Jr. are struggling.
The Jayhawks’ bench looked especially tremendous against Texas and Oklahoma; if this bench play continues throughout the end of the season, Kansas should be “favorites” to win the Big 12.
After losing 78-70 in Lawrence last Monday, Texas went back to Austin and completely demolished West Virginia by an outstanding 34 points. It’s the largest win in the Big 12 so far this season. It was a great bounce back for a team who desperately needed it.
Again - I was ready to put the Longhorns #1 here. But then - Monday night - Texas lost by 7 to bottom-feeder Texas Tech. An inexcusable loss for a team hoping for a Big 12 regular season championship.
With a game coming up Saturday against Oklahoma, it’ll be hard for the Longhorns to move up the rankings next week. Texas will have to avoid another horrible road loss.
#4 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State, like Baylor, is on a great run itself. It’s why I can’t punish the Cowboys for the home loss to Kansas on Tuesday.
Before Tuesday night’s loss, the Cowboys had won five straight games and seven of its last eight, and were doing so without star Avery Anderson III. That’s beyond impressive - and has aided in the Cowboys’ catapult up these rankings.
Bryce Thompson, Caleb Asberry, and Kalib Boone’s recent performances have demonstrated the team’s depth and balance.
Oklahoma State’s getting hot. I wouldn’t want TCU playing the Cowboys in the Big 12 Tournament.
#5 Iowa State
The curse of the #1. It was as rough a week as it could’ve been for the Cyclones. Iowa State first lost at West Virginia, 76-71. The Cyclones then came home Saturday and fell to the scorching Cowboys.
But don’t worry too much Cyclones’ fans - Iowa State was #1 last week!! This is still a very good team that can still do plenty of damage in March. Every team in the country goes through peaks and valleys on its trek to the postseason. This is “Cyclone Valley.”
Can Iowa State bounce back this week with games against TCU ( in Ames, where ISU hasn’t lost) and Kansas State? Jaren Holmes may need to have a big week…
#6 Kansas State
This may be the hardest team to read in the country, and after back-to-back losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma, it pains me to rank the Wildcats a sliver above TCU. I have to though, because before these two consecutive losses Kansas State beat TCU by 22 in Manhattan.
The Wildcats completely dominated the Frogs.
Yet - the team’s recent performances have been nothing like that 82-point showing, and for whatever reason, swaths of Kansas State fans are displeased with coach Jerome Tang. I’m here to remind these fans that this time last year, the Wildcats were not good. At all.
Tang’s turnaround job has been one of the best in the county. He should be staying in Manhattan for the time being.
Sure, there’s things the Wildcats must correct quickly, specifically its turnover problem, but this is a team that’ll still reach 20 wins, and should reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Like Iowa State, and TCU, - the Wildcats have fallen into a slump; as the beatdown of the Frogs should’ve shown you, Kansas State’s roster can easily play its way out of it.
As we all very much know - the Frogs are in a rough place. TCU’s now lost three-straight games, and let a potential win slip away at home to Baylor on Saturday.
The Horned Frogs aren’t playing as well as they could be, as Baylor’s letdown showed, even without Mike Miles Jr. in the lineup, who may be the biggest “difference-maker” in the conference.
Without him, the Frogs half-court offense clearly falters.
The Frogs have fallen to #22 in the newest edition of the AP Poll. Damion Baugh, Shahada Wells, and company must find a way to snap this losing streak, with or without Miles and Lampkin.
Tomorrow night’s game in Ames will be difficult - then the Frogs come back home to host Oklahoma State.
We’ll be keeping an eye out on Miles’ and Lampkin’s status on Wednesday.
#8 West Virginia
West Virginia fell hard to Texas on Saturday, losing by 34 points, the largest deficit so far this Big 12 season. Head coach Bob Huggins was quick to blame it on travel, but ultimately, the Longhorns are just so much better. Following that up by a loss to Baylor on Monday, and West Virginia is back to where it was early in the Big 12 season, struggling.
Mountaineers’ star Erik Stevenson’s been good, and the home win against Iowa State is recent enough, but West Virginia’s recent skid leaves its tournament chances up in the air.
If the Mountaineers can handle business at home (Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State), it should be enough to earn them an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
#9 Texas Tech
Oklahoma had a great win Tuesday night against Kansas State. Texas Tech has had two great wins, in-a-row. Granted, both were home games, and it may be a little too late, but wins over Kansas State and Texas have finally bumped Texas Tech out of the #10 spot on our power rankings.
Tech fans were calling for Mark Adams’ job at the beginning of the year - those two wins may have saved Adams’ job. Tech’s now won four out of its last six, and key player Fardaws Aimaq is back in full-participation on the court.
While the NCAA Tournament is out of reach, barring a miracle run in the Big 12 Tournament, the goal now for Texas Tech is to be at least one game over .500 after the Big 12 Tournament so that the NIT may invite them.
Quite a “lofty” goal for this program…
I kid - the players, like Kevin Obanor, deserve to play until they can’t no more.
There’s finally a team in the Big 12 worse than Texas Tech! It’s been weeks-a-comin’, but Oklahoma, welcome to the cellar!
With Tuesday’s solid 79-65 win over Kansas State, the Sooners are back to 13-13, but before that, Oklahoma became the first team in the Big 12 to slip under .500 (overall) since - well - Oklahoma after its first game of the season, a loss to Sam Houston State. Yikes.
Even with Tuesday’s win, the Sooners have lost seven of its last nine, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier. At all.
Porter Moser and the Sooners will be watching the postseason from their couches - again - barring a miracle run in the Big 12 Tournament.
This Week’s Rankings:
- Oklahoma State
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- West Virginia
- Texas Tech