Big 12 Power Rankings (through games on December 23rd)
This was not a very good week for the Big 12. Missouri, Texas, and Kansas all lost with the Longhorns and Jayhawks losing ugly. Oklahoma has made itself the class of the conference so far, but really has not proven very much itself. Nebraska, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech are winning consistently, but each team still has several weaknesses which prevent them from jumping into the mix for a conference title at this point. Colorado may have had the most disappointing loss of the week with a 20-point drubbing at home by Utah. Iowa State continues to win, but it is usually unimpressive against weak foes. Kansas State is much like Iowa State at this point. Then you have the bottom two, A&M and Baylor, who will represent the only guaranteed wins on every top team's schedule.
Top Games this week in the Big 12:
1. Missouri at Memphis – Dec. 27th 11 am on ESPN
2. Nebraska at Minnesota – Dec. 29th 7 pm on ESPN Full Court Package
3. George Washington at Texas – Dec. 29th 6 pm on ESPN
1. Oklahoma (8-0, RPI: 67; Last Week #1) – Oklahoma strengthened its hold on the top spot this week, but it was not because of the Sooners easy win over Jackson State. It was because Texas, Kansas, and Missouri all lost once. Drew Lavender, the highly touted freshman point guard, had a career-high 23 points against Jackson St. Kelvin Sampson's team is taking it easy over the holidays with only one game against UT-Pan American. Princeton could pose a slight challenge after 2004 begins, but the only real remaining non-conference challenge will be a great game: @ UConn.
2. Missouri (4-2, RPI: 49; LW #4) – The Tigers move up two spots only because their loss was nowhere near as bad as those had by Texas and Kansas. After struggling to play any defense in their 106-98 win over UNC-Greensboro, Mizzou fell to cross-state rival Illinois in the annual "Bragging Rights" game in St. Louis. The Tigers fell behind by 21 at one time, but battled back and ended up losing by only one. The Illini won despite missing their second-leading scorer, Deron Williams. Quin Snyder has another chance to prove his team still deserves all of the preseason accolades they received with a game this weekend against a talented Memphis team on the road.
3. Texas (5-2, RPI: 76; LW #2) – The Longhorns have to show why some people think they might be better a year after losing T.J. Ford. In their only two difficult games, they have failed to show up in either. Arizona handled them easily and, more recently, Duke totally dominated every aspect of the game. Maybe the problem is playing in New York because both losses have occurred at Madison Square Garden. UT looks to right the ship with three relatively easy games to finish up the non-conference schedule with the only semi-difficult one being a trip to face the Friars of Providence after New Year's.
4. Kansas (5-2, RPI: 25; LW #3) – Rewarding freshman David Padgett with a trip back to his hometown of Reno, Nevada proved to be a bad idea last week. After handling UC-Santa Barbara by 20 points, the Jayhawks laid an egg against the Wolfpack Holiday Classic host Nevada. KU was beaten by 14 as the Wolfpack played very well and taking advantage of a distinct edge in free-throw attempts, 29-16. KU has two likely wins on the docket to finish up its out of conference match-ups. Their next test comes in a revenge game at Colorado on January 5th after the Buffaloes routed Kansas last year in Boulder.
5. Nebraska (8-1, RPI: 39; LW #5) – Nebraska continues to win with blowout victories over Bethune-Cookman and Lipscomb this week. Bethune only managed to shoot 21% in the 70-26 massacre in Lincoln. Lipscomb shot an outstanding 54% in their game in Lincoln, but still lost by 23 points. A huge road test is up next for the Huskers as they go to Minnesota to take on the Gophers. A win there would put Nebraska at 10-1 heading into the Big 12 season and poised to cause a lot of problems for the top four teams.
6. Oklahoma State (6-1, RPI: 55; LW #7) – The ‘Boys picked up a nice road win over Arkansas, although the Razorbacks are hardly the team they used to be. Tony Allen is the leader of this team and is the number one priority when trying to stop the Cowboys. OSU does have more than just Allen though. Baylor transfer John Lucas is running the point very well and Ivan McFarlin is pulling down rebounds left and right in the middle. Eddie Sutton did not put together a very difficult out of conference slate, so the major question mark for this team is how they will step up when times get tough. That easy run ends with three cupcakes before Big 12 play begins at Texas Tech. Until that Tech game, Okie State will remain a talented yet unproven team.
7. Texas Tech (10-2, RPI: 18; LW #8) – Bobby Knight is complaining about poor attendance at home and in Dallas, but he should be worrying about finding somebody to help Andre Emmett shoulder the scoring burden. Emmett has been amazing with a 21.4 ppg average and is probably the early frontrunner for Player of the Year. The Red Raiders do not play until New Year's, but have a couple non-conference games left against solid competition in Minnesota and Ohio State. If things come together, this team can make a run into the top six of the conference.
8. Colorado (6-2, RPI: 62; LW #6) – Well it looks like Ricardo Patten can stop pleading for votes in the polls now after being hammered at home by Utah 77-57. Playing at home was supposed to be a strength for this team, but that was not the case against the Utes. This team has enough talent to return to the NCAA tourney, but do they have the chemistry? Ricardo has plenty of time to work on that, but right now this is an NIT team. The Buffs finish with a potentially pesky Richmond team at home on New Year's Eve before welcoming KU to start the Big 12 portion of the year.
9. Iowa State (7-0, RPI: 60; LW #9) – Unbeaten, but still unproven are the Cyclones who picked up a solid home win over Xavier last week. After the offseason they had in Ames, being unbeaten right now is extremely exciting even it is against mostly weak competition. ISU will prove itself one way or the other in its final two games before the Big 12. They go on the road to play two good teams in Virginia and San Diego State. Wayne Morgan has righted the ship so far, but it remains to be seen if he can do anything more.
10. Kansas State (7-1, RPI: 63; LW #10) – K-State had a fairly impressive 39-point win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Yes, the same TAMU-CC that beat A&M and barely lost to Baylor), but followed that up with a very poor effort against Bethune-Cookman. The same Wildcat team that only scored 26 total points against Nebraska two nights earlier had that many at halftime and was within 10 points for the vast majority of the game in Manhattan. KSU still won, but a team like Bethune should not have been so close for so long. Jim Woolridge has three remaining games outside of the Big 12 with a trip to St. Louis looming after New Year's. A win over the Billikens would be considered an upset and may spur the ‘Cats to some upsets in the Big 12.
11. Texas A&M (5-3, RPI: 252; LW #12) – The Aggies move up a spot after not losing last week and will likely remain in this location for the rest of the season. A&M is well behind Kansas State and Baylor should fall off the pace in the race for eleventh place. While they did not lose last week, Melvin Watkins' group was far from impressive. They beat UT-San Antonio on the road by 13, but then needed two, yes two, overtimes to put away Grambling State by two points at home. A road date with Houston is up next and a win could lift the spirits in College Station, but don't bet on a victory.
12. Baylor (5-6, RPI: 285; LW #11) – Welcome home Baylor!! Decorate the basement however you see fit because you will be here the rest of the year. The Bears lost last week to the Slam ‘n Jam tournament host and Division-II BYU-Hawaii and then San Jose State the next day. BU rebounded to win their last game over Northern Illinois, but that may be their last. The ranked Purdue Boilermakers come to Waco after the New Year for a likely rout and then UT-Pan American visits before Big 12 play. UTPA represents the last game Baylor will be favored in any game the rest of the season. At least at the end of the season, the Baylor players and coaches can look back and say they got to go to Hawaii for a few days!
You can reach Bobby Ludemann with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org