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Big 12 Men’s Basketball Power Rankings: Texas Back?

The Longhorns picked up a pair of wins to climb the rankings.

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman
Tyrese Hunter’s game winner over Baylor put the Texas Longhorns back on the right track
Sara Diggins/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

The third week of conference play continues to show the depth of the league with no single dominant team running away in the standings. The week featured top flight program Kansas falling at bottom-rung West Virginia, while Texas Tech finds itself alone atop the standings after a win over BYU. The conference standings remain a jumble below the Red Raiders as six ranked teams took losses this week, leading into another week where we could see big movement with some key results.


TIER 1: Big 12 Title Favorites

Although none of these top three have played another from this tier, each has suffered two losses, leaving the door open for other contenders to join this tier.

1. Houston Cougars (15-2; 2-2)

  • Previous Rank: 3
  • Last Week: W vs. UCF; W at BYU
  • NET: 1; KenPom: 1
  • Next: Jan. 27 vs. Kansas State; Jan. 29 at Texas
    Another week and another shakeup at the top as the trio of favorites continue to shuffle places and the Coogs re-take the top spot after a 2-0 week that included an elite defensive performance in dominating the Knights and a resilient fight in Provo to earn an ever elusive road victory. LJ Cryer found his form from long range, shooting 9-19 on 3FGs in the two wins this week, while the Cougars made clutch FTs down the stretch to down BYU. Houston remains in position to keep rolling atop the computer metrics and push to take home the conference crown in its first Big 12 season

2. Kansas Jayhawks (16-3; 4-2)

  • Previous Rank: 1
  • Last Week: L at WVU; W vs. Cinci
  • NET: 16; KenPom: 18
  • Next: Jan. 27 at Iowa State; Jan. 30 vs. OK State
    When this version of the Jayhawks is away from the friendly confines (and friendly whistle) of Allen Fieldhouse, life is a big time struggle. Kansas has now lost Big 12 road games at UCF and now to lowly West Virginia. KU still has to be considered a favorite in this league, the top of the roster is simply too good and now Johnny Furphy seems to have been unlocked with his season best game in the win over Cinci, dropping 23 points and 11 rebounds on the Bearcats. Getting that fifth legitimate player could spell danger for the rest of the league.

3. Baylor Bears (14-4; 3-2)

  • Previous Rank: 2
  • Last Week: L at Texas
  • NET: 15; KenPom: 14
  • Next: Jan. 27 vs. TCU; Jan. 31 at UCF
    SMH, the Bears started looking ahead to TCU too early and got caught sleeping in Austin. Jalen Bridges made a clutch three pointer to tie the game in the final seconds, but Baylor did not defend after the made shot, leaving too much time and too much space for Tyrese Hunter to run the length of the court and bury a layup at the final moment to steal the victory. Baylor got to rest up in the midweek before a date with the Horned Frogs on Saturday

TIER 2: The Contenders

While it remains likely one of the favorites will emerge from the pack, these teams remain in position to pounce if any of the above falter further

4. Iowa State Cyclones (15-4; 4-2)

  • Previous Rank: 6
  • Last Week: W at TCU; W vs, K-State
  • NET: 10; KenPom: 12
  • Next: Jan. 27 vs. Kansas
    The Cyclones are on a heater! Despite missing top scorer Tamin Lipsey, ISU picked up two massive wins last week to make a big jump in the conference standings, in a four-way tie at a half game back from the top spot. Iowa State is now 2nd overall nationally in turnovers forced per game after dominating TCU in Fort Worth in that category, forcing an absurd 27 Horned Frog turnovers. TJ Otzelberger’s squad gets a showcase opportunity on Saturday when the Jayhawks come to Ames, broadcast on CBS. A win in its only game this week would have to push ISU into consideration as a true threat to take home the league title.

5. Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-3; 4-1)

  • Previous Rank: 8
  • Last Week: W vs. BYU
  • NET: 34; KenPom: 29
  • Next: Jan. 27 at OU; Jan. 30 at TCU
    I may still be a bit skeptical on the Red Raider, but this team just keeps winning and sits atop the Big 12 standings as the only team without 2+ losses. Pop Isaacs continues to lead the team in scoring despite his off-court situations, he was dominant in the win over BYU scoring 32 points shooting 58% from the field with six made 3FGs. TTU got the midweek bye ahead of a gigantic week ahead with two road contests that could send the Raiders back to the middle of the pack.

6. Oklahoma Sooners (15-4; 3-3)

  • Previous Rank: 5
  • Last Week: W at Cincinnati; L vs. Texas
  • NET: 35; KenPom: 27
  • Next: Jan. 27 vs. Texas Tech; Jan. 30 vs. K-State
    The Sooners got a very nice 69-65 win on the road, certainly a feat in this league as road wins are hard to come by and taking down the upstart Bearcats was a critical Q1 win. OU has many winnable road games ahead that will be major boosts for its resume if it can secure those as wins, while getting its toughest remaining games at home. Getting smacked at home by the Longhorns is a bad result and sits as the Sooners lone Q2 loss. A 2-0 week ahead is certainly achievable but an 0-2 week is perhaps just as likely.

7. BYU Cougars (14-5; 2-4)

  • Previous Rank: 4
  • Last Week: L at TTU; L vs. Houston
  • NET: 5; KenPom: 9
  • Next: Jan. 27 vs. Texas
    The Cougars took a pair of seven-point Ls this past week as ranked opponents were able to handle BYU both in Provo and away. BYU has certainly proven that it can be a dangerous squad in its new league, but has not banket a signature Big 12 win over the very top of the conference and Provo has not been nearly as scary as some of the other venues in the league as BYU has already dropped three games at the Marriott Center in the first few weeks of Big 12 action. It’ll get another chance Saturday with the Longhorns coming to the town in what is not quite a must-win, given a light schedule ahead, but still a key game for both teams.

TIER 3: On The Bubble

The resume wins suggest these teams should clearly be NCAA Tournament bound, but the metrics and computer rankings disagree

8. Kansas State Wildcats (14-5; 4-2)

  • Previous Rank: 9
  • Last Week: W vs. OK State; L at Iowa State
  • NET: 71; KenPom: 61
  • Next: Jan. 27 at Houston; Jan. 30 vs. Oklahoma
    The Cats only have one Big 12 win away from Bramlage Coliseum and that is at WVU, so despite a solid conference record and a marquee win over Baylor in OT, it is hard to know how good this team actually is. You don’t really get credit for a home win over OSU and there’s no harm in taking a loss to Hilton Magic in Ames. Perhaps we’ll learn more with a very challenging week ahead, as K-State could take a tumble, make a leap, or continue its home-road splits and stay in this range.

9. Texas Longhorns (14-5; 3-3)

  • Previous Rank: 12
  • Last Week: W vs. Baylor; W at Oklahoma
  • NET: 44; KenPom: 36
  • Next: Jan. 27 at BYU; Jan. 29 vs. Houston
    Congrats to Rodney Terry and the Longhorns for winning the National Championship, what an inspiration! That’s the only way he could have been jumping around and celebrating a win, as he had very definitively scolded UCF players just days prior. Alas, the buzzer beating layup from Tyrese Hunter to down Baylor was simply a regular season conference game at home, yet still warranted an outpouring of jubilation from the Longhorns and their head coach. Hypocrisy aside, UT picked up two huge wins that may have the ‘Horns believing in magic again, but with a very difficult week ahead, the thrill may soon disappear again.

TIER 3: DANGER ZONE

Someone from this group is going to suffer a series of losses that knocks it out of NCAA Tournament contention. Proceed with caution.

10. TCU Horned Frogs (14-5; 3-3)

  • Previous Rank: 7
  • Last Week: L vs. ISU; W at OK State
  • NET: 38; KenPom: 25
  • Next: Jan. 27 at Baylor; Jan. 30 at Texas Tech
    This was very nearly a disastrous week for the Frogs, as major flaws were on display leading to a potential extended losing streak. TCU had a program worst 27 turnovers in the home loss to Iowa State, a truly absurd number, a game that the Frogs would end up being just a one-point loss. If the Frogs play just bad instead of historically atrocious that one may have been a win. TCU followed that up by falling into a 17 point hole at winless OSU before clawing back and thankfully escaping Stillwater with a necessary win. The Frogs have a massive opportunity this week to leap up this rankings with huge games against Top 20 foes.

11. UCF Knights (12-6; 3-3)

  • Previous Rank: 11
  • Last Week: L at Houston; W vs. WVU
  • NET: 67; KenPom: 69
  • Next: Jan. 27 at Cincinnati; Jan. 31 vs. Baylor
    The poor Knights got absolutely locked down in Houston. Losing that game against one of the nation’s best programs bears no shame, dropping an all-time conference low field goal percentage, shooting just 15.9% from the field. 33 free throw attempts kept the final score from being outrageous. Bouncing back with a cruising victory over WVU to prevent a disastrous week with a challenging week ahead.

12. Cincinnati Bearcats (13-6; 2-4)

  • Previous Rank: 12
  • Last Week: L vs. OU; L at Kansas
  • NET: 37; KenPom: 32
  • Next: Jan. 27 vs. UCF; Jan. 31 vs. WVU
    It was a brutal slate this week, as you often get in the Big 12, so one can be forgiven for losses vs. Top-15 OU and at Allen Fieldhouse. I noted last week that continued 1-1 weeks would be huge for the Bearcats and likely enough to get it into the NCAA Tournament, but now it will require a 2-0 week to keep pace, which it very well should be able to do with UCF & WVU this week.

TIER 4: DUMPSTER

These two may be likely to put a scare into anyone in the league, but are not contenders for an at-large bid and almost certainly will remain in the Big 12 play-in games for the conference Tourney.

13. West Virginia Mountaineers (7-12; 2-4)

  • Previous Rank: 13
  • Last Week: W vs. Kansas; L at UCF
  • NET: 152; KenPom: 136
  • Next: Jan. 27 at OK State; Jan. 31 vs. Cincinnati
    This WVU squad is such a cockroach, you cannot escape it and you cannot fully count on it to be dead. Its metrics are a black stain on the league, but certainly not a guaranteed W, especially in Morgantown, putting big pelts on the wall with Texas and now Kansas. This week would be WVUs best chance at a 2-0 week in league play, with a realistic chance to get to .500 in the conference.

14. Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-11; 0-6)

  • Previous Rank: 14
  • Last Week: L at K-State; L vs. TCU
  • NET: 141; KenPom: 117
  • Next: Jan. 27 vs. WVU; Jan. 30 at Kansas
    The poor Pokes just can’t catch a break. It was another week of coming up just short for OSU, taking leads deep into the 2nd half in both games, but unable to close out either as KSU & TCU each storm back to erase that deficit and keep the Cowboys winless in conference play. Saturday’s home game vs. the Mountaineers represents the best possible chance for a league win, we’ll see if OSU can seal the deal.