Big 12 hoops Power Rankings: December

Nov 19, 2013; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Marcus Smart celebrates after shooting a three-point shot against the Memphis Tigers during the first half at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Alonzo Adams/Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

We’re only about three weeks away from Big 12 conference play tipping off, but we’ve already seen a whole bunch of high-quality hoops across the Big 12. The conference’s quality wins have surprised early on, and it finds itself as the nation’s No. 1 league, according to RPI. It’s also the only conference in which every team has a winning percentage of .625 or more.

But how do the league’s 10 teams rank? Let’s take a look before conference play begins.

1. Oklahoma State, 9-1: The Cowboys’ only loss this season came to Memphis in Orlando, almost two weeks after routing the Tigers in Stillwater. Marcus Smart has been even better than advertised after a huge freshman season. He’s the Big 12’s leading scorer (19 ppg) and is one of the favorites in the national player of the year race.

2. Baylor, 8-1: Baylor’s only loss came in the Maui Invitational title game to No. 2 Syracuse. The Bears have been the Big 12’s biggest surprise this season, looking like a Final Four-caliber team after last week’s win over Kentucky. Baylor also has solid wins over South Carolina and Colorado and lead the Big 12 in three-point shooting percentage (.425). One problem? They’re last in the Big 12 in three-point defense (.360).

3. Iowa State, 8-0: The Cyclones are the lone undefeated team in the Big 12, but get the nod over KU in the power rankings because of its three big wins. KU has just one (Duke). Melvin Ejim ranks in the top 10 of six categories and has been a huge boost since returning from a knee injury. Iowa State rallied for a comeback win over rival Iowa last week and has a win vs. Michigan and a road win vs. BYU already on its resume.

4. Kansas, 7-3: Bet against Kansas in Big 12 play at your own risk, but the Jayhawks’ win against Duke in Chicago back on Nov. 12 is its lone jewel thus far. Perry Ellis has been a constant for the Jayhawks, but hyped freshman Andrew Wiggins has begun to get a little more assertive on the offensive end. He’s taken at least 11 shots in each of KU’s last three games and grabbed the team scoring lead from Ellis at 15.9 points.

5. Oklahoma, 9-1: OU doesn’t have an eye-popping win, but the Sooners have exceeded expectations and their only loss came in Brooklyn to No. 5 Michigan State, who was then the nation’s No. 1 team. Lon Kruger’s team has topped 95 points on four occasions so far and looks like it wants to play its way into the tournament come Big 12 play.

6. Texas, 9-1: You’d be hard-pressed to find a season with lower expectations in Austin than this one, but the Longhorns are quietly building what could be a much-better season than most predicted. Texas has cut it close in narrow wins vs. Mercer, South Alabama, Temple and Texas-Arlington, but its only loss came against a good Brigham Young team. Rick Barnes’ team has five players averaging double figures in points.

7. Kansas State, 7-3: The Wildcats have rebounded from an ugly season-opening loss to Northern Colorado and have looked respectable since. The highlights of K-State’s first month was a solid win over SEC champion Ole Miss. The Wildcats are the inverse of Baylor: They lead the league in three-point defense (.249) and are last in the conference in shooting the 3 (.278)

8. West Virginia, 7-4: WVU is the only Big 12 team with four losses, but three of them came to top 25 teams. The Mountaineers haven’t lost a game by double digits, and WVU has two players in the top six in the Big 12 in scoring. Sophomore Eron Herris trails only Marcus Smart and Melvin Ejim with 18.5 points a game.

9. Texas Tech, 7-3:
Tubby Smith’s rebuilding job is underway, and Tech’s been blown out twice, but both came to tournament teams, Pitt and No. 1 Arizona. Forwards Jordan Tolbert and Jaye Crockett, the team’s two leading scorers, both rank in the top three in the Big 12 in field goal percentage, and both have made more than 60 percent of their shots.

10. TCU, 6-3: Trent Johnson’s team is better than it was a year ago, and logged an encouraging road win against Mississippi State in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. TCU has been ripped apart by injuries so far, after losing Devonta Abron and Aaron Durley before the season even began. The team’s top player, Amric Fields, finally returned from a knee injury in late November, but quickly suffered a broken hand in a 21-point loss to Harvard in Alaska and may not return until next month.