Each week Heartland College Sports will rank the men’s basketball team’s in the Big 12 Conference, based on play from Jan. 6-13. Our top team remained at the top, but there was plenty of shuffling based on this past week’s results.
1. Texas Tech (15-1) (Last Week: 1)
Tech remains here for the second straight week. Jarrett Culver has emerged as one of the league’s top clutch players, but the cast around him has begun to take a leading role, too. Matt Mooney, Davide Moretti and Tariq Owens all had solid weeks for the Red Raiders. Owens is now one of the league’s top shot blockers. The Red Raiders even turned the Erwin Center — the home of the Texas Longhorns — into Lubbock South on Saturday. The Red Raiders host athletic and deep Iowa State and then travel to the banged up Baylor Bears. There is an opportunity for another 2-0 week for the Top 10 Red Raiders.
2. Kansas (14-2) (Last Week: 3)
The Jayhawks move up a peg after an eventful week. Kansas lost center Udoka Azubuike for the season to a wrist injury. Bill Self burned Ochai Agbaji’s redshirt and the freshman responded with quality play off the bench. But Dedric Lawson continued to prove why he’s on the Wooden Award list. Self still has to figure out the floor spacing and who will pick up the minutes left on the table in the wake of Azubuike’s injury. But I’m not going to be against Self figuring that out. Kansas hosts Texas in a Big Monday game and then travels to Morgantown to face West Virginia next Saturday. I’m betting the Jayhawks can win both.
3. Oklahoma (13-3) (Last Week: 5)
I honestly didn’t think I would believe Oklahoma would be the league’s third-best team at this point in January, but here we are. Head coach Lon Kruger has done a masterful job blending his older hands with the newer arrivals on his roster. But the past week has seen the emergence of two players that can have a significant impact on OU’s season — Kristian Doolittle and Jamal Bieniemy. Doolittle has been around for a while, but he’s finally playing with the assertiveness Kruger needs. Bieniemy, meanwhile, is a young guard who is really starting to grow into his game. OU hosts Kansas State and then heads up to Stillwater this weekend to face OSU.
4. Kansas State (12-4) (Last Week: 7)
Now we get into the meaty part of the power rankings because there’s quite a bit of fluctuation here. This might seem quite the ascendancy for the Wildcats. But they won both games this week. They dug deep to overcome a 21-point deficit against West Virginia during the week and then beat Iowa State on the road on a Barry Brown Jr. layup in the final seconds. Plus, Kamau Stokes is back in the starting lineup and Dean Wade came back for the Iowa State game. Wade scored two points, but he had nine rebounds. The offense should come along soon. The Wildcats get Oklahoma and TCU this week and, with the team re-assembled, have a chance to win both games.
5. Iowa State (12-4) (Last Week: 2)
Just as quickly as the Cyclones moved up the power rankings, they take a tumble this week after losses to Baylor and Kansas State. To me the Baylor loss is more egregious, even if it was on the road. If the Cyclones want to be a serious player in this Big 12 regular-season race they must win games like that where they are clearly the more talented team. Not protecting their home turf didn’t help matters, either. They’re a young, deep team and head coach Steve Prohm his trying to integrate some of these pieces together due to injuries. But it might be time to slide Lindell Wigginton back in the starting lineup. The Cyclones travel to Texas Tech and then host Oklahoma State this week.
6. TCU (12-3) (Last Week: 4)
TCU went to Kansas and lost and then went to Oklahoma and lost. So the Horned Frogs have to take a dip this week. I still like this team, though. Kouat Noi had a huge game against OU, scoring 30 points and draining eight 3-pointers. And they were right in that game until the end. I don’t think depth is a huge issue for TCU right now. I felt going into the season that the Horned Frogs were going to have tough schedule early and that has borne itself out. The Horned Frogs get West Virginia at home (a game I hope to cover on Tuesday) and then travel to Kansas State. The Mountaineers game is key for TCU. They need to protect their home turf.
7. Texas (10-6) (Last Week: 6)
Yes I know Texas lost to Oklahoma State this past week, but I believe, overall, the Longhorns are still more talented and a better overall team than the Cowboys. But it’s not like it’s a chasm at this point. The Longhorns can’t have many weeks like this past one — losing to both OSU and to Texas Tech, the latter at home. The progress of freshman center Jaxson Hayes is worth watching. But the Longhorns will be defined by how well they shoot from the arc. And that shooting can still be inconsistent. Texas gets Kansas and Oklahoma this week. That’s a tough road right after losing to Texas Tech.
8. Oklahoma State (8-8) (Last Week: 10)
So just a week after I thought the Cowboys were in serious trouble, the Cowboys rattle off two straight wins. They beat Texas at home and then went to West Virginia and beat the Mountaineers. Head coach Mike Boynton Jr. needed more consistent play for players other than Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters III and he got it this week. Thomas Dziagwa and Isaac Likekele both have solid weeks on the floor. Curtis Jones added 15 points in the West Virginia game. If Michael Weathers isn’t too badly injured (he hurt his right ankle against West Virginia), then the Cowboys might be onto something as they host Baylor and Oklahoma this week.
9. Baylor (9-6) (Last Week: 8)
The Bears go 1-1 for the week, upsetting Iowa State and then falling to Kansas. But they got some bad news on Saturday as Tristan Clark is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury that will require surgery. He was their best player. His shoes will be hard to fill. They only lost by five to Kansas. The younger post players — specifically Flo Thamba — have to start developing now. This week the Bears get a shot at Oklahoma State on the road and then host Texas Tech. I’m hoping to cover the latter game.
10. West Virginia (8-8) (Last Week: 9)
Thanks to the Big 12 for helping me break the tie in the power rankings this week as West Virginia lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday (oddly, the Cowboys are 5-2 in Morgantown all-time). But, for the first time this conference season, I’m a little more optimistic about the Mountaineers. Bob Huggins is burning redshirts, turning the team over to younger players and I think he’s about ready to fully unleash Derek Culver as a starter. They may not make the postseason, but it’s about to start getting fun.
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