Each week Heartland College Sports will rank the men’s basketball team’s in the Big 12 Conference, based on the previous week’s play. One team made a big move up the board while our No. 1 team from last week took a tumble.
1. Texas Tech (13-1) (Last Week: 2)
I think Texas Tech is the best team in the Big 12 right now. They may not score as many points as Iowa State and Kansas. But no one in this league plays defense like the Red Raiders and as they make their way through Big 12 action I’m interested to see how much below their season averages they can hold the Cyclones and Jayhawks (those are the only two teams averaging 80 or more points per game). Jarrett Culver can overcome double teams and the Red Raiders’ complementary players are emerging as go-to options. Watch Davide Moretti. He could emerge as one of the Big 12’s top sharpshooters by season’s end.
2. Iowa State (12-2) (Last Week: 6)
Remember last week that I wrote the Cyclones could rise fast? That’s what happens when you follow up a Big 12-opening win over Oklahoma State with a 17-point pounding of Kansas at Hilton Coliseum. These Cyclones are young, deep and talented. They play defense at a much higher level than a year ago and they showed in beating Kansas just how tough “Hilton Magic” is going to be this year. I have Tech over ISU right now because the Red Raiders are a little more battle-tested. But it won’t take long for us to see what ISU is made of when it comes to Texas Tech. They face each other in Lubbock on Jan. 16. We’ll see if both are undefeated when we get there.
3. Kansas (12-2) (Last Week: 1)
Yeah, I know Jayhawks fans are probably saying “Hey we’ve only lost two games?” And I can excuse the Arizona State loss. But not the one to Iowa State. It wasn’t that it was a road loss. It was the way Kansas lost. A grand total of 24 turnovers. Horrible 3-point shooting for the second straight game. The inability to take ISU out of their rhythm offensively. I suspect this is a momentary blip and that the Jayhawks will bounce back. But, for now, based on the past week — and that’s what I’m basing this on now that non-league action is basically over — ISU is playing better basketball right now.
4. TCU (12-1) (Last Week: 4)
Granted TCU only played one game this past week. But I saw no reason to drop them from the No. 4 spot. Alex Robinson is the best point guard in the Big 12 right now, along with being one of the best in the country. The frontcourt is coming together nicely and the young talent head coach Jamie Dixon was reticent about going into the season is producing. This is a big week for TCU with games against Kansas and OU. But they’re up to the task.
5. Oklahoma (12-2) (Last Week: 5)
OU lost to Kansas and beat Oklahoma State and as I look at this league I believe they’re better than the teams that rank below them here. As long as Christian James cranks out double-doubles the Sooners are going to be in every game. And if Christian Doolittle continues to play at a high level, as he has the past couple of weeks, the Sooners have solutions to their interior play without Jamuni McNeace.
6. Texas (10-4) (Last Week: 8)
I’m still not 100 percent sold on the totality of this team, but you can’t ignore their 2-0 week and the tweaks that head coach Shaka Smart has made to his lineup. In my opinion freshman forward Jaxson Hayes is in line for a big February. In the meantime Jase Febres is turning into a consistent bench option and the starting lineup is starting to shoot loads better than it was a month ago. A good-shooting Longhorns team is dangerous.
7. Kansas State (10-4) (Last Week: 3)
Yep, steep drop, and I get that. But without Dean Wade and with or without Kamau Stokes, this team is not playing to its potential. Barry Brown Jr. is doing his best as the focal point for this team. But there is little depth beyond the starting lineup and what depth they have is not productive. This team needs a 100 percent Wade and Stokes fast.
8. Baylor (8-5) (Last Week: 9)
The reason the Bears are up a spot despite losing their only game of the week is because I think, overall, they’re better than the two teams below them here, specifically when it comes to the point guard position. They also scored more points in their one game this week than either West Virginia or Oklahoma State scored in any of their games this week. Baylor will probably occupy the lower five of these rankings all season, but don’t underestimate them.
9. West Virginia (8-4) (Last Week: 7)
No Sagaba Konate in the pivot and no true point guard means the Mountaineers lost both games this past week. More importantly head coach Bob Huggins needs to reimagine this starting lineup because he received practically no production from anyone outside of Esa Ahmad (and even he only produced 10 points against Texas on Saturday). This team is in trouble.
10. Oklahoma State (6-8) (Last Week: 10)
It’s going to be hard for these Cowboys to stay at .500 or better this season unless some of this young talent comes along fast. And, even at that, they were in both of their games this week, which shows the Cowboys have just enough talent to make life difficult on any Big 12 team.
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