Big 12 Power Rankings
Now that the college basketball season is in full swing, it is about time somebody ranks the teams in one of the top conferences in the country! This is the perfect time to come out with the first rankings as teams have played a good handful of games and you can get a sense where teams are right now and could finish at the end of the year (Are you listening college football polls?!?). With the conference season rapidly approaching, here is one man's opinion on who's the best, the worst, and somewhere in between in the mighty Big 12!
1. Oklahoma (7-0, RPI: 65) – The Sooners are rolling along pretty well for a team that lost its entire starting backcourt from last year's team. They are 7-0 with quality wins over a much underrated Purdue team and a masochistic Michigan State team (look at the Spartans schedule!). The most amazing win of the seven though may be the pounding they gave to Arkansas-Pine Bluff (the worst team in D-1A and maybe D-1AA, D-2, D-3, and NAIA, too). The Sooners forced 42 turnovers in a 70, yes 70!, point victory, 94-24!
2. Texas (5-1, RPI: 38) – The Longhorns lost their only tough test of the season, but Arizona looks like a team to be reckoned with this year and Texas did not lie down at all. Aside from that one loss, Rick Barnes team has destroyed everyone else by an average of 38 points! This is a very talented and extremely deep team, which should help make up for the loss of all-everything point guard T.J. Ford to the NBA. A showdown with Duke this Saturday will show what this team is made off.
3. Kansas (4-1, RPI: 9) – The argument could be made for Kansas to be the top team in the rankings with their early season win over Michigan State (told you that schedule was ridiculous!), but the loss to Stanford has them fall here. Bill Self has done a very good job taking over for the future hall-of-famer Roy Williams and coping with the loss of the best senior duo from a year ago: Kirk Heinrich and Nick Collison. It is not as if the cupboard was left bare though. Incoming freshmen David Padgett and J.R. Giddens have made an immediate impact on a team that has many parts retuning from last year's Final Four squad. Another run in the Big Dance could happen again, but staying healthy and out of trouble in the frontcourt is vital for the Jayhawks.
4. Missouri (3-1, RPI: 32) – This ranking is based mostly on potential and not how the Tigers have looked so far this year. Struggling against Oakland and Coppin St. and having to come from behind against a mediocre Indiana team is not the way this team should be playing with the type of talent they possess (How they got that talent will be left unsaid for the time being, but the NCAA is investigating). They played very well on the road against everyone's favorite mid-major Gonzaga, but fell in overtime. Tough tests for Quin's boys loom in the near future with games against Illinois and Memphis.
5. Nebraska (6-1, RPI: 19) – The surprise of the Big 12 thus far this season has been Nebraska. Picked to finish 11th in most preseason polls, the Huskers have changed their offense and rolled off three impressive wins at home: Arizona State, South Florida, and Tennessee. Their only loss came to recent NCAA tournament staple and in-state rival Creighton on the road. John Turek has drastically improved from the lanky, offensively-timid center from the previous two years. An influx of ballhandlers has helped Nebraska more than anything. Charles Richardson and Marcus Neal Jr., along with Jake Muhleisen's return to health from last year's injury, has shored up one of the major weaknesses from last year's cellar dweller in the conference. Finding a way to win on the road is the biggest task ahead for this team and a chance to do that will be a trip to Minnesota to face the Gophers on the 29th.
6. Colorado (5-1, RPI: 28) – Coming off of an NCAA tourney bid last year, the Buffaloes have started out fairly strong thus far. Decent wins over Oregon State and Cal from the Pac-10 are positives, but losing to a good, but not great, Pepperdine team by 17 points is not a performance to remember. David Harrison is back for another year of dominating the middle each and every game and is getting help from Michel Morandais and Blair "Not Tootie" Wilson. Marcus Hall is a newcomer that is excelling at the point guard position for the Buffaloes. This team will be a force at home like last year, but needs to prove it can win on the road to take another step forward.
7. Oklahoma State (4-1, RPI: 106) – The Cowboys have yet to play anybody amongst the elite teams in the country as evidenced by their RPI ranking, but do have some fine talent that may gel in time to make a run into the top 6 of the Big 12. John Lucas transferred from Baylor and gives Eddie Sutton a much needed point guard to replace the departed Victor Williams. Tony Allen, among others, is back to shoot his excellent jumper. OSU will not be tested until the Big 12 schedule comes around (excluding a possible scare at Arkansas), so this team will remain an enigma for some time.
8. Texas Tech (8-2, RPI: 25) – Bobby Knight's crew was looking like one of the best teams in the Big 12 during its run to the Preseason NIT final, but was destroyed by an excellent Georgia Tech team. The Raiders continued reeling as they fell to SMU in their next game, but have since restored order with four wins over average teams. Andre Emmett may be the best player in the conference, but he'll need more support from his teammates than he is getting at this point. Some raw talent exists in Lubbock, but Bobby Knight has his work cut out for him to turn this team into a legit NCAA tournament contender.
9. Iowa State (5-0, RPI: 61) – The Cyclones were left for dead after the Larry Eustachy scandal, along with run-ins with the law by a few players, but they have come out relatively strong and are one of only two (Oklahoma) undefeated teams in the Big 12. They are ranked this low because their competition has left much to be desired. Only Northern Iowa deserves any respect out of the five teams ISU has played thus far (all at home). Bigger tests are ahead with Xavier coming to Ames in a week and Virginia on the road the following game. If solid performances are given in those two games, then maybe this team has a chance to put together some wins in conference. It was also help if Jackson Vroman did not get into any more trouble.
10. Kansas State (5-1, RPI: 70) – One thing the Wildcats can be assured of is that they will not drop below this ranking unless something extraordinary occurs with Texas A&M or Baylor. KSU features the top recruiting class in the nation according to one publication, so talent exists in Manhattan. Whether or not Jim Woolridge can make anything of that talent this year remains to be seen. The ‘Cats biggest win so far has been over Missouri Valley favorite Wichita State by 4 at home, so that is nice, but not enough to turn any heads. Only a trip to St. Louis to face the Billikens remains as a non-conference test. If the youngsters do not improve quickly, then the Big 12 season could be a very long one for K-State.
11. Baylor (3-4, RPI: 289) – Well, somehow Baylor avoids the basement in the opening rankings, which shows you how bad Texas A&M has looked this year. The Bears have almost no talent whatsoever after a summer from hell. The scandals that rocked this program will be extremely difficult for new head coach Scott Drew to overcome this year and beyond. The Bears will not compete in postseason play at all this year and that includes the Big 12 tournament. Baylor does have one thing going its way though: they play the Aggies twice this season and that means they have two chances to win in the Big 12!
12. Texas A&M (3-3, RPI: 261) – Aggies, Aggies, Aggies. If you thought it couldn't get any worse than 77-0 to OU in football you were wrong! A&M has been beaten soundly by Tennessee (108-84) and Oakland (Yeah the same one Mizzou played, 90-58!!), and the capper is losing AT HOME to (future rival perhaps?) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi by two. The same TAMU-CC team that lost to Baylor!! The remaining non-conference schedule should be easy, but beating Corpus Christi should have been easy too, so there are no gimmies remaining on the Aggies schedule. Melvin Watkins should probably start looking for a job right now.