Big 12 Power Rankings (through games on January 19th)
This week was a little better for the Big 12 with Texas getting a huge out-of-conference victory over Wake Forest and the rest of conference starting to shake out a little bit. The biggest theme thus far this year is how vulnerable the top teams are and how competitive the bottom teams can be (including Baylor!). The top four teams in this week's rankings all survived scares from the bottom four. KU edged K-State and A&M, Texas needed a late shot to beat Nebraska, Tech struggled mightily with Baylor, and Okie State came back to beat KSU. The conference currently sits in 6th place in the RPI with limited opportunities to improve upon that ranking. At this point, only four teams would probably make the Big Dance with the chance of a fifth if someone steps up (Missouri perhaps?). Even in a down year, the Big 12 conference season is still exciting and will be fun to watch the rest of the way.
Top Games this week:
1. Texas at Texas Tech (Monday, Jan. 26th at 6 pm on ESPN) – A match-up between two of the top three teams in the conference on Big Monday. Does it get any better? (Maybe if they were both ranked in the top 5!)
2. Oklahoma State at Texas (Saturday, Jan. 24th at 3 pm on ESPN+) – Texas plays a huge game before the one against Tech. The Cowboys are too good to overlook, so don't expect a lackluster performance from either team.
3. Texas at Missouri (Tuesday, Jan. 20th at 8 pm on ESPN) – Let's just make it the trifecta for the Longhorns. As you may have guessed, this will be a tough week for Rick Barnes and his team. Mizzou is looking to build on their victory over Oklahoma.
1. Kansas (11-2, 3-0, RPI: 8; LW #1) – The ‘Hawks did what they were supposed to do, but did not make it overly easy. After defeating the Wildcats by six at home, KU traveled to College Station and beat the Aggies by the same margin. Michael Lee came back from injury against KSU and put up a career high 16 points. It should be noted that Kansas was without starting forward David Padgett for each of these games. The pesky Richmond Spiders, who upset Colorado earlier this year, are up next for the Jayhawks and are followed by those very Buffaloes on Sunday. The CU game could be interesting.
2. Texas (11-2, 2-0, RPI: 25; LW #2) – The Big 12 thanks you Texas! The win over Wake Forest, 94-81, was not only huge for the Longhorns, but finally gave the conference a quality win. Texas followed that monster win with a nail-bitter at home over Nebraska. Royal Ivey's fade-away jumper with 2.4 seconds left sealed the victory in a well fought back and forth game. The week from hell is up next for Rick Barnes and company. As noted above in the Top Games, Texas plays three tough games in a span of seven days. If the ‘Horns sweep those three, then they are poised to replace Kansas at the top of the rankings.
3. Texas Tech (15-2, 3-0, RPI: 12; LW #3) – The Red Raiders could have been ranked at the top this week, but any team that trails Baylor in the second half for even a second cannot be moved up. Excuse Tech for looking ahead to the Big Monday match-up against OU, which they dominated 67-47. One thing to watch for with Bobby Knight's team is the use of the bench. It has provided very little in the way of minutes, which could cause the starting five to wear down by the Big 12 tournament. Up next is a trip to face the increasingly confident Aggies and then the huge Big Monday meeting with Texas.
4. Oklahoma State (12-2, 2-1, RPI: 33; LW #7) – Maybe they were still giddy from blowing out Bedlam rival Oklahoma, 77-56, earlier in the week, but OSU came out very cold against Kansas State on Saturday. The Cowboys did manage to pull out a victory in the second half, but that streaky shooting could be the downfall of this team in critical games. Colorado comes to Stillwater in a great battle on Wednesday and then the ‘Boys go to Austin on Saturday with a chance to earn even more respect.
5. Colorado (10-4, 2-1, RPI: 66; LW #8) – Well look who's back! After being left for dead after a three-game losing streak, Ricardo Patten has glued things back together for a four-game winning streak with two coming in conference. Michel Morandais was given the okay to finish the year last week after a grade situation was sorted out and that seemed to ignite this team. They went to Lincoln and beat Nebraska, and then pulled away from Iowa State in Boulder. Blair Wilson is on fire from long range and set the CU career record for 3-pointers in the game against the Cyclones. The Buffs try to prove themselves further this week with road trips to Stillwater and Lawrence. A split of those games would be a pretty good showing.
6. Iowa State (10-3, 2-1, RPI: 49; LW #5) – The ‘Clones hung with CU in Boulder in a frantic first half on Saturday, but ran out of steam in the second. Jake Sullivan was ice cold all day long and ISU did not have an answer for Wilson and Morandais from the outside and David Harrison in the middle. Wayne Morgan will get this corrected before Iowa comes to Ames in the intrastate rivalry game. After that battle, ISU should notch another conference win at Baylor, but it will not be easy.
7. Missouri (7-6, 2-1, RPI: 56; LW #9) – Another possible resurrection may be occurring in Columbia, but one win against an overrated Oklahoma team does not completely stop the slide the Tigers have been on. Ricky Paulding and Author Johnson finally both showed up in the same game during the overtime victory in Norman. It also appeared that Mizzou played some defense for the first time all year! This team is still dangerous, but has yet to prove if they can return to the Big Dance. A HUGE game against Texas is next and is followed by Nebraska on Saturday. Both games are in Columbia, so they are both winnable games for the Tigers.
8. Nebraska (10-4, 0-3, RPI: 63; LW #6) – Such a promising start has almost been forgotten with the 0-3 conference start, but a good sign of things to come came in Austin on Saturday. After losing to Colorado earlier in the week at home, the Huskers went into Texas and nearly pulled the upset. The NU defense shut down the highest scoring offense in the country, but fell two points short of victory. Andrew Drevo did it all against the Longhorns with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and solid defense. The first conference win should come this week with Baylor at home and is followed by a chance to get back into the postseason picture at Missouri.
9. Oklahoma (10-4, 0-3, RPI: 68; Last Week #4) – Unlike Missouri, Oklahoma's fall off of the face of the earth can be understood. OU is extremely young and currently riding a four-game losing streak against very good competition. The problem with those losses is the margin of defeat. UConn, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech all dominated the Sooners. The scary thought for the Big 12 is the future of this young team. Kelvin Sampson starts two freshman and two sophomores right now and even played four freshmen together at times against Tech. Another reason for this slide is the absence of Kevin Bookout due to a shoulder injury. With surgery likely after the season, Kevin's impact the rest of this season will be minimal. The Sooners get a break this week with only one game at home against Kansas State.
10. Kansas State (8-5, 0-2, RPI: 119; LW #10) – Moral victories only count for so much and definitely do not count for anything in the official standings. Kansas State can attest to that after hanging with Kansas in Lawrence and letting a win slip away at home against Oklahoma State last week. This Wildcat team is very young, but very talented at the same time. They are dangerous to everyone in the Big 12, but may not put up many wins to show for that talent. KSU should get their first win Wednesday against Texas A&M before traveling to Oklahoma to try for an upset.
11. Texas A&M (7-6, 0-2, RPI: 228; LW #11) – The Aggies put on a good show for the ESPN audience on Saturday against Kansas, but came up short. Antoine Wright is probably the best player nobody knows about in the Big 12 and could carry A&M to a few victories by himself. Melvin Watkins takes his team to Manhattan to face the ‘Cats before coming back to Texas to take on the Red Raiders at home. The latter game could be closer than some may think.
12. Baylor (5-10, 0-2, RPI: 259; LW #12) – Amazingly, this week featured good news for Baylor! Seniors Terrance Thomas and R.T. Guinn were reinstated by the NCAA in what was nothing more than a goodwill gesture to a down-and-out program. They did not qualify academically, but were given a pass since Baylor's situation had never previously occurred. After that good news, the Bears went out and nearly shocked the world against Texas Tech. The return of the two seniors gives BU some scoring ability and may give some teams headaches in Waco. Winning a conference game will still be difficult, but not as farfetched as once thought. This week offers a trip to Lincoln and then a home game against Iowa State.