The Big 12 continues to cannibalize each other; not a single soul is safe.
It’s almost a scene out of “The Hills Have Eyes”, but in this version, the “hill” is the climb up the Big 12 mountain, and the “eyes” are different Big 12 teams, trekking in hopes to finish atop before tournament play begins.
If a team wants to make it to the top, they’ll have to avoid the gaze of others, all while doing some cannibalizing on their own.
So - who has the bloodlust to finish the job? Who has the capacity to feed on the other members of the Big 12, all while avoiding becoming prey themselves?
We’ll see in the coming weeks, and we’re here to sort it out - for now - before the next big shakeup in the conference.
- Iowa State
This may be a scorching hot take, but Iowa State is one of two teams in the Big 12 who’s beaten Texas and Kansas at some point throughout this season. For a conference that’s continually beaten up on each other, this has to mean something. (Kansas State is the other, Iowa State beat the Wildcats 80-76 in the teams’ first matchup).
Most rankings, like KenPom or the AP, rank Texas in the conference’s top spot, with Kansas not too far behind them. Recently though, results have shown otherwise.
Iowa State clobbered Kansas last Saturday, beating them 68-53 in Ames, and then Kansas turned around, and in Lawrence, beat Texas 88-80. So - just by recent transitive property, there’s no way I can justify placing Texas above Iowa State. (The Cyclones are also the only Big 12 team undefeated at home).
Now - one could justify putting Kansas in this spot, as the Jayhawks split the season series 1-1 with the Cyclones. But - Kansas only beat Iowa State 62-60 in Lawrence, and to reiterate, only scored 53 in the loss in Ames. Clearly, the Cyclones have the Jayhawks’ number defensively, and as one of the better defensive teams in the conference, Iowa State more than deserves this spot.
They’ve got games against West Virginia and Oklahoma State this weekend. Don’t slip up and it’s safe to say they’ll be #1 back-to-back weeks.
It looks like Kansas may be back on track. But - that could also be Allen Fieldhouse playing a trick on us, an optical illusion of sorts, with the Jayhawks’ home-court advantage finding a way to manipulate our viewpoint.
As aforementioned, Kansas beat Texas 88-80 in Allen Fieldhouse Tuesday night, bouncing-back from one of their worst losses of the season.
The Jayhawks had a decent win over Kentucky a little more than a week ago, and followed it up by steamrolling Kansas State a week ago, 90-78. They were at their best that game, and when the Jayhawks are at their best, good luck beating them.
They shot 41% from three-point range, led by double digits for most of the second half, and scored 90 points for the first time since late-December. But - the game against Iowa State was the Jayhawks at the worst, and it’s why Kansas is ranked below the Cyclones this week.
Kansas shot 26% from three-point range, trailed by double digits for most of the second half, and only scored 53 points. Iowa State completely shut them down.
While Kansas bounced-back against Texas, scoring 88, the low-scoring effort against Iowa State is evidence that Kansas has more kinks to work out than usual this season.
Before Monday’s loss to Kansas, Texas had the best two-game stretch of any team in the conference, and they were primed to take the #1 spot on this week’s power rankings.
The Longhorns battled with Baylor a week ago, pulling away in the second-half, winning 76-71.
Then - on Saturday, they traveled to Manhattan, Kansas, and to Kansas State, where they stormed back from a double-digit first half deficit. It was an absolute slugfest in the final 10 minutes (Texas has been successful in “second-half slugfests” this season), and the Longhorns clamped down defensively in the final seconds to hold onto a 69-66 victory.
Beating Baylor, and Kansas State in Manhattan, is an impressive two-game stretch. But - it was ruined Tuesday in Lawrence. We’ve seen games in which Texas couldn’t stop a parked car, and this was one of them. The Longhorns allowed 88 points on Tuesday. That’s a concern.
Baylor was on a hot streak a Power-5 team couldn’t even imagine this time of year, when teams are playing so many conference opponents, with so little time in between. The Bears rallied off six-straight wins, and to quality opponents.
Baylor handled West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas, all in consecutive games. But - the hot streak came to an end, when the Bears fell 76-71 in an absolute battle against Texas.
It was back-and-forth the whole game; neither team got a double-digit lead, and it was a one-point game within the final minute.
On Saturday, Baylor looked like they’d see a similar type of game against Texas Tech, as the first half was closely contested, but the Bears pulled away with a fantastic second half, blowing Texas Tech out 89-62.
Baylor will play Oklahoma Wednesday night, where they’ll hope to continue to build momentum into Saturday afternoon’s game against TCU in Schollmaier Arena.
5. Kansas State
The Wildcats’ win over TCU Tuesday night makes this an easy spot to rank Kansas State. They haven’t quite looked the potential “juggernaut” they looked like they could be earlier this season, but it hasn’t mattered much. The Wildcats still control their own destiny.
Kansas State made it into the AP Poll’s Top 10 the week of Jan. 30, and had a bit of a wake-up call since then. The Wildcats were stuck playing catch-up to Kansas all night last Tuesday, losing 90-78 in Lawrence, and then on Saturday, against Texas, the Wildcats hit a jumper to take the lead with a little less than a minute to go, but followed with a missed layup, a turnover, and a missed three-pointer. Texas took the lead, and it was game over. Kansas State lost 69-66 and finished the week 0-2.
Luckily for them, Kansas State secured a bounce-back game in Manhattan Tuesday night against a shorthanded TCU team. The Wildcats were dominant defensively all game - never allowing the Frogs offense to feel comfortable. Kansas State turned TCU over 19 times.
They’ll play Texas Tech in Lubbock on Saturday. Potential trap game.
Just an absolutely ugly showing against Kansas State, leaving Frogs fans with nothing to feel confident about concerning TCU’s last couple games.
While the loss to Oklahoma State left fans with something to hang their hats on, as a second-half comeback almost sparked a Frogs win, Tuesday’s game against Kansas State left fans struggling to find any positives. TCU lost 82-61, and turned the ball over 19 times.
We knew it’d be tough without Mike Miles Jr. on the court, but I doubted the team’s offense without him would be this incapable. 61 points is the second-lowest total the Horned Frogs have scored all season. Even with Eddie Lampkin Jr. back, TCU had no answer for K-State’s offense either.
Even without Miles Jr. and Lampkin, TCU had enough to beat West Virginia in Schollmaier last week, doing so with a flurry of fast breaks and an excellent spread offense. That, ultimately, is the recipe to success without Miles, but the Frogs couldn’t take advantage of either against Oklahoma State and Kansas State.
Without Mike, it’s clear that TCU plays much better at home than on the road. Shahada, Damion, and especially the interior-post, look much more comfortable in the home arena. They’ll welcome Baylor into Schollmaier on Saturday - here’s hoping the Frogs turn it around against BU.
7. West Virginia
Still - the Mountaineers are analytics darlings. KenPom, which ranks purely off analytics, has West Virginia ranked fourth in the Big 12. I’m not KenPom though. Results and the eye test are my barometers.
West Virginia had a mixed bag of results last week. Bob Huggins’ team first went on the road, to Fort Worth, to take on a TCU team without its two best players. In what seemed like a prime opportunity to steal one on the road, the Mountaineers weren’t able to take advantage and lost 76-72.
On Saturday though, West Virginia took out their frustrations on Oklahoma, completely embarrassing the Sooners from start to finish in a 32 point blowout, winning 93-61.
Erik Stevenson, the Mountaineers’ leader, finished with his second 30+ point game in the last week, and looks as if he could be returning back to his non-conference form that saw him as an elite three-point shooter.
8. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State’s on a bit of a win streak here. The Cowboys won both games last week, and have now won five of their last six contests. They first traveled to Oklahoma and jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half, cruising to a 71-61 victory, and then routed TCU in the first half on Saturday. Though the Frogs came back, and the Cowboys had blown the lead, OSU bounced back to take the victory, 79-73.
The Cowboys have Texas Tech on Wednesday night before traveling to Ames and Iowa State on Saturday.
Oklahoma’s had a rough couple of games. The Sooners took on rival Oklahoma State last week, and couldn’t get anything going in a 71-61 loss to the Cowboys. Then, on Saturday, Oklahoma traveled to Morgantown and got boat raced 93-61.
It won’t get any easier for the Sooners either. They’ll travel to Waco to take on Baylor on Wednesday, before hosting Kansas for a Saturday matinee.
10. Texas Tech
And - the one constant in these power rankings - Texas Tech is the worst team in the Big 12. (They just beat the conference’s best. This conference is so stacked.)
The Red Raiders were incredibly streaky, and very inconsistent, in their two games this week, and the result was two wildly different results. On Wednesday, the Red Raiders fell behind to Iowa State, and were down 20 with 10 minutes to go in the game, before Tech went on a 17-3 run. The Red Raiders then went on another run in the final 29 seconds to overcome a five-point deficit within the final minute.
Once the game got to overtime, the Red Raiders took the lead and held on for a massive win, 80-77.
On Saturday, Tech looked to ride that wave of confidence into Baylor, and were playing strong; it was only a two-point game early in the second half. But - that was it for the Red Raiders. They ended up losing 89-62, completely wiping out any confidence or momentum that came from the Iowa State win.
The Red Raiders will hit the road for a game against Oklahoma State on Wednesday, then will welcome Kansas State into Lubbock on Saturday.
A couple good results this week, and the Red Raiders may finally move up from the conference’s basement.
This Week’s Rankings
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- West Virginia
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech