Power Rankings: Pre-Big 12 Tournament

Wednesday night, the most wide-open Big 12 Tournament in recent history will get started. By my count, seven teams could plausibly make a run to hoisting a trophy on Saturday night as the league champion. 

Here’s how I’d slot the Big 12 going into this week’s festivities in Kansas City, along with some thoughts on the league awards, which were handed out on Sunday. 

1. Kansas 24-7, 13-5 Big 12. Last week: 1. The Jayhawks are looking shaky, even as they start making designs for a ring celebrating their outright conference title. There’s no telling how long Perry Ellis (knee) will actually be out, Cliff Alexander is mired in what sounds like a complicated eligibility issue, Wayne Selden (ankle) is banged up and Brannen Greene was suspended for Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma. KU is a good team without a ton of raw talent, but at this rate, the Jayhawks are ripe for an early-round upset in Kansas City and in the NCAA Tournament if those guys don’t get healthy/back on the court. The most amazing thing about this Jayhawks run is KU has only two players who earned designation on the first three All-Big 12 teams and only two more earned honorable mention. 

2. Iowa State 22-8, 12-6. Last week: 5. You have to think the Cyclones’ 21-point comeback win over Oklahoma snapped them out of a funk that included losses to Baylor and Kansas State with the league title at stake. ISU was shaky and trailed TCU at halftime, but used a 63-point second half to rally for a win. The Cyclones averaged 61 points in the second half last week. On Thursday, the Cyclones will face the winner of Wednesday’s Texas/Texas Tech game. Jameel McKay earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors but somehow didn’t win Newcomer of the Year honors, which went to Oklahoma’s Tashawn Thomas, a Houston transfer. McKay was also the lone unanimous pick to the league’s All-Newcomer team. Color me puzzled. The coaches got this one wrong. 

3. Oklahoma 21-9, 12-6. Last week: 2. The Sooners rebounded nicely from blowing a 21-point lead at Hilton Coliseum, beating a shorthanded Kansas team at home to close the regular season. They did it in dramatic fashion, too; Buddy Hield’s game-winning tip-in was one of the best plays of the season for a deserving Player of the Year atop a crowded race for the award. The Sooners will face a hungry Oklahoma State team on Thursday in Kansas City. 

4. Baylor 23-8, 11-7. Last week: 3. The Bears finished strong, winning five of their final six games heading into the conference tournament. That run included wins over Iowa State and West Virginia. Taurean Prince somehow continues to be one of the league’s most underrated players, scoring 24 points and grabbing nine boards to help Baylor rally to avoid a deflating loss in the regular season finale against Texas Tech. He won the league’s Sixth Man Award on Sunday.

5. West Virginia 23-8, 11-7. Last week: 4. The Mountaineers rebounded from a rough patch in early February with wins over Kansas and Oklahoma State, but face a Baylor team on Thursday that beat it by 22 and 12 points in their two meetings this week. That’s a brutal opening matchup, and there’s no guarantee Juwan Staten and Gary Browne will be back in time to play. Bob Huggins said it was "conceivable" that both would play, but that he didn’t know and it would depend how both responded to treatment. 

6. Oklahoma State 18-12, 8-10. Last week: 7. The Cowboys will benefit from a pillowy-soft bubble and should still get in the tournament with an 8-10 mark in the Big 12, but they could eliminate any nervousness with a win over Oklahoma in Bedlam Part Three on Thursday night in Kansas City. The good news is Phil Forte snapped out of a little shooting slump against West Virginia on Saturday, hitting 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in Morgantown. The bad news is OSU shot very well on the road and still lost to a West Virginia team missing two of its best players. Le’Bryan Nash didn’t sound happy about the All-Big 12 voting, and I can’t blame him. He’ll have a chance to make voters look prescient or misinformed at this week’s Big 12 Tournament. 

7. Texas 19-12, 8-10. Last week: 8. The Longhorns will be the most interesting team at the Big 12 Tournament with the most to play for. Wins over Baylor and Kansas State played the Longhorns into the tournament for now, but a first-round loss to Texas Tech would very possibly leave them needing some breaks to crack the NCAA field. Texas is riding a two-game winning streak into a wide-open tournament, but considering both the Longhorns and Texas A&M are sitting on the bubble, how could the committee not renew this rivalry in Dayton in the First Four? It’s almost too perfect. 

8. Kansas State 15-16, 8-10. Last week: 6. The regular season met a merciful end with a Longhorns sweep on Saturday. The Wildcats need a tourney run in KC to avoid a losing season. Even with last week’s wins over Iowa State and KU, Bruce Weber’s team finished the year with just three wins in its final 11 games. Turmoil in the locker room with Marcus Foster clearly bled over onto the court. This was an inconsistent team that didn’t show much improvement. 

9. TCU 17-14, 4-14. Last week: 9. The Horned Frogs need a win or two in Kansas City this week to earn a spot in the NIT, but any trip to the postseason would be welcome in Fort Worth. TCU gets Kansas State on Wednesday, who it beat by 14 last month. Kyan Anderson got a chance to shine late in the year with some talent around him in Trey Ziegler and Amric Fields and was rewarded with an All-Big 12 honorable mention nod. 

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