Big 12 Power Rankings (through games on January 5th)
After a week off for the holidays, the Big 12 rankings are back! Unfortunately, they come back to a conference that is not as powerful as many thought it would be at the start of the season. During the last two weeks, Big 12 teams have lost to the likes of Belmont at home, UMKC by 41 points, and Richmond at home. Those losses outweighed the few quality wins the conference picked up: at Minnesota, at Ohio State, at Providence, and Iowa. With the non-conference schedules almost completely wrapping up this week for Big 12 teams, there are very few remaining chances to improve the conference RPI. At this point, the Big 12 is looking at five teams in the Big Dance with a solid chance for a sixth. Let the conference season begin!!
Top Games this week:
1. Oklahoma (10-0, 0-0, RPI: 65; Last Week #1) – After a scare from the always pesky Princeton Tigers, OU can now focus on their biggest game of the non-conference with a trip to Storrs, CT to face top-ranked UConn. As mentioned above, this game would be a great lift for both the Sooners and the Big 12. A win or close game keeps Oklahoma as the top team in the Big 12, but a blowout will cause people to rethink how good OU really is this year. With DeAngelo Alexander coming into his own, expect a very close game on Sunday.
2. Kansas (9-2, 1-0, RPI: 15; LW #4) – The Jayhawks are starting to look better after recovering from their loss to Nevada. A home win over an underrated Villanova team was followed up by a fairly dominant victory over Colorado. After losing to CU last year in Boulder, KU won its 12th straight conference opener by overcoming lots of foul trouble in their frontcourt with great play from its bench and backcourt. The schedule-makers were very nice to Bill Self this year because his next five games feature two against K-State, one at Texas A&M, Colorado in Lawrence, and Richmond at home. That set of five should be a cakewalk for this team.
3. Texas (8-2, 0-0, RPI: 99; LW #3) – The Longhorns picked up a huge overtime victory at Providence Monday. Amazingly enough it was UT's first true road game of the season and featured a wild finish. Freshman P.J. Tucker showed some fantastic ballhandling skills on the final play of overtime and barely beat the red light with a fingerroll layup. This could be the win Rick Barnes has been waiting for to propel Texas upwards again. After a scrimmage with Baylor this weekend, the ‘Horns welcome highly-ranked Wake Forest to Austin for a huge game on the 13th.
4. Nebraska (9-1, 0-0, RPI: 34; LW #5) – This may be a little high for the Huskers, but arguably no team has proved more so far than Nebraska. A rout in Minnesota over the Gophers was the first true road win for Barry Collier's crew since Texas A&M in 2002, so the signs of vast improvement are evident. The next test comes in Ames on Saturday where the Cyclones have won their last five against Nebraska. A win there proves that this team can win on the road and will be among the top tier of teams throughout the season.
5. Texas Tech (12-2, 0-0, RPI: 7; LW #7) – The Red Raiders may be the hottest team in the conference right now. They have won eight consecutive games with the last three being over Big 10 teams: Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio State. Tech won at Ohio State despite giving up 26 offensive rebounds because they shot an outstanding 60% from the field. Andre Emmett got some help from his friends in the past few games and will need that to continue into the Big 12. Bobby Knight has this bunch coming into form and poised to make a run at the conference crown, but a loss at home to Oklahoma State would hinder those plans for awhile.
6. Oklahoma State (9-1, 0-0, RPI: 68; LW #6) – Eddie Sutton keeps winning and has his Cowboys ranked for the first time this season. After beating Samford and SMU in the last week, OSU is ready for the Big 12 part of the season to begin. No team is harder to read than this one right now because they have yet to play enough quality opponents. The blowout victory over Colorado State early on is looking better and better with each Ram victory, but a win at Texas Tech would be a much bigger victory.
7. Missouri (5-4, 0-0, RPI: 59; LW #2) – The biggest disappointment thus far is easily Mizzou after their losses to Memphis and Belmont over the last couple of weeks. The victory by Belmont is the biggest shock of the entire season so far and led to a shakeup of the starting lineup by Quin Snyder. Author Johnson and Josh Kroenke started on the bench against Iowa, which may have spurred the Tigers to the 20-point victory. If they figure out what their problem is and how to fix it, the Tigers are still one of the most talented teams in the country and could make a run at the conference title. A trip to Ames on Wednesday gets their Big 12 schedule started.
8. Colorado (6-4, 0-1, RPI: 89; LW #8) – After losing to KU on Big Monday, the Buffs losing streak has hit three. The Spiders of Richmond came into Boulder last week and took an easy victory before Kansas did the same Monday. The problems continue to mount for CU as they face the possibility of losing their best backcourt player, Michel Morandais, after January 14th. Michel has some academic problems to figure out before then or will be ruled ineligible for the rest of the year. Two cupcakes this week should help get some confidence back before traveling to Lincoln next week.
9. Iowa State (7-2, 0-0, RPI: 67; LW #9) – Well the Cyclones finally faced a couple decent teams on the road and came away with losses in each last week. After a good win at home over Xavier, ISU went to Virginia and San Diego State and lost by 11 and 10 respectively. Winning on the road in conference will be very difficult for this team, but it is still talented enough to scare almost anybody at Hilton Coliseum. Their Big 12 slate gets started with Mizzou and Nebraska coming to Ames this week.
10. Kansas State (7-3, 0-0, RPI: 130; LW #10) – It was not a good week for Jim Woolridge and the Wildcats. Losing at St. Louis by only one was a decent showing, but losing to UMKC by 41 is unacceptable for a Big 12 team. The ‘Cats must pick themselves back up against Savannah State this weekend before facing in-state rival Kansas next week. A good showing in Lawrence would help build some confidence for this young squad, but it is unlikely to happen. Right now, K-State is solidly locked into the tenth spot in the conference.
11. Texas A&M (6-4, 0-0, RPI: 266; LW #11) – Well, only one loss for the Aggies over the last two weeks isn't bad! That loss was on the road in overtime to a solid Houston team, so it could have been worse. A&M came back with a win at Louisiana-Monroe after the New Year began. The first game of the conference schedule for Melvin Watkins' team is at Missouri on Saturday. It will be a long finish to the season for the Aggies.
12. Baylor (5-7, 0-0, RPI: 263; LW #12) – Just when you thought it could not get any worse for the Bears, their top two players were ruled academically ineligible for the second half. The loss of RT Guinn and Terrance Thomas leaves BU with just five scholarship players and almost no hope of winning a conference game this year. They competed well against Purdue last week in their first game with the limited squad, but competing does not equal wins when you have almost no talent. It should be interesting to see if Baylor can step up and get one last win against UT-Pan America this week. The Big 12 massacre tour begins at Texas this weekend.
You can reach Bobby Ludemann with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org