Big 12 Power Rankings: Feb. 9-15
Kansas has a stranglehold on the top of the power rankings, but just three games separate the team in second place (Iowa State) and the team in eighth place (Texas) in the standings. There's plenty of movement within that group every week, just ask Texas and West Virginia, who plummeted after rough weeks. Or you could ask Baylor and Oklahoma, who are riding the league's two longest win streaks to consistent rises in the power rankings.
Let's get to this week's edition, just as soon as someone can explain to me how a one-legged Noah is faster than any character on The Walking Dead:
1. Kansas 19-4, 8-2 Big 12. Last week: 1. It was starting to feel like Kansas was morphing into an elite, Final Four-bound team as the Big 12 wins piled up, but you have to rethink that idea a bit after the Jayhawks stumbled in Stillwater. It's still going to take a lot for KU to not win the league outright, but maybe the Jayhawks heading into the tournament with a lot to prove is a good thing.
2. Iowa State 17-5, 7-3. LW: 3. Poor Texas Tech. Iowa State took out its frustration on the Red Raiders on Saturday, but that loss in Lubbock only stings more as the season goes on. If ISU wins that game, it's tied with KU for the conference lead and would already have a split with the Jayhawks. Instead, it's a game down and needs help from the rest of the league, despite KU already breezing through the toughest part of its schedule. Jameel McKay replacing Bryce Dejean-Jones in the Cyclones' starting lineup is a very interesting development and it's hard to see Fred Hoiberg going back after McKay scored 17 on 7-of-7 shooting and grabbed eight boards with three blocks against Texas Tech.
3. Baylor 18-5, 6-4. LW: 4. The Bears' 18-point beatdown in Morgantown is one of the most impressive wins of the Big 12 season. This team doesn't have as much raw talent as teams with guys like Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson or Pierre Jackson, but it's got the look of one of Scott Drew's most complete teams at Baylor. The Bears are a guaranteed tough out in March. They can do a little bit of everything and in March when buckets get tough to come by, trash men like Rico Gathers are worth their weight in gold. He has double doubles in three of his last four games and logged a pedestrian 17 points and 16 boards in Morgantown.
4. Oklahoma 16-7, 7-4. LW: 5. Oklahoma quietly keeps plugging along, lacking a true signature win but piling up a bunch of solid victories. The Sooners have now won four consecutive games, and three came by 12 points or more. The other was by eight points on the road against OSU. The Sooners might not scare you, but maybe they should. They're good enough offensively to get to the second weekend of the tournament.
5. West Virginia 18-5, 6-4. LW: 2. You can fall fast in a Big 12 race tighter than spandex on Motekiai Langi, and West Virginia's finding that out the hard way this week. The Mountaineers struggle when teams pack in a zone and make them bust it, mostly because WVU lacks a true zone buster. A closer look at WVU's resume leaves you wondering where the quality wins are and leaves you asking: Just how good is Bob Huggins' team?
6. Oklahoma State 16-7, 6-5. LW: 8. OSU dug itself into a hole early on in Big 12 play, but it's easy to feel good about yourself after beating Kansas and Texas in the same week. That has the Cowboys looking like a tournament team after what I'll be calling Phil Forte's Flu Game in the win over the Jayhawks. Le'Bryan Nash also gave us the best dunk of the year.
7. Texas 15-8, 4-6. LW: 6. The Longhorns were supposed to be KU's chief competition for the league title, but with eight games left in the league slate, finds itself ahead of only two teams in the Big 12 standings: Texas and Texas Tech. Saturday's win in Manhattan snapped a four-game losing streak, but the Wildcats' spiral is just as ugly. The Longhorns are firmly on the bubble for now, but are talented enough to play their way into the field.
8. Kansas State 12-12, 5-6. LW: 7.The Wildcats have now lost five of six, including a 17-point loss to bottom-feeder Texas Tech. K-State hasn't been at .500 this late in the season since 2004, and only a miracle could send KSU dancing, especially with Marcus Foster sidelined by suspension. Remember in late January when K-State was sitting atop the Big 12 standings with wins over Baylor and Oklahoma? It seems like an eternity ago.
9. TCU 14-9, 1-9. LW: 9. All of a sudden, TCU is behind Texas Tech in the standings. The Frogs have swooned in recent weeks after a run of close calls. Trent Johnson's team has lost its last three games by an average of 16.3 points.
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