With the 2019-20 Big 12 Men’s Basketball season two weeks old, here are the HeartlandCollegeSports.com power rankings after two weeks. Updates will come every two weeks before weekly updates during the conference season.
After two weeks it is hard to make value judgements about every team because none have played more than four games. Frankly every Big 12 team has come out of the gate swimmingly, so the power rankings, while being done every two weeks, should be taken with more of a grain of salt than one might in, say, January, when we have more of the season to work with.
1. Texas Tech (Last rankings: 3)
The Red Raiders were undefeated after three games and looked dominant doing so. Now, I’ll grant you this — the opponents weren’t exactly top shelf. But the chemistry with this group this early in the season is something to behold. Four players are already averaging double figures, including freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey and senior transfer T.J. Holyfield. Last year’s two main holdovers, Davide Moretti and Kyler Edwards, have combined to average 22 points per game. Another freshman, Terrance Shannon Jr., has averaged 8.0 points per game. And, as I pointed out in my Week 2 wrap, senior transfer Chris Clarke leads the team in assists with 22, despite the fact that he’s not starting and is only playing 20 minutes per game. Ramsey leads the team in scoring (19.0) and rebounds (6.3, though he shares that title with Clarke, too). The schedule the next two weeks feature another couple of cupcakes in Tennessee State and Long Island, followed by a pair of real tests against Iowa and either San Diego State or Creighton in Las Vegas.
2. Kansas (Last rankings: 2)
After two weeks the Jayhawks are off to a nice start. It’s hard to penalize them too much for the loss to Duke on opening night. Since then the Jayhawks have cruised to easy wins, punctuated by the play of guard Devon Dotson, who is averaging 18.7 points and 4.0 rebounds. He also has 11 assists. In fact, the Jayhawks have four players averaging double-figures and two others averaging at least 8 points per game. The only player among those six that isn’t a holdover from last year is transfer Isaiah Moss, who is second on the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game despite just playing 40 minutes in two games. David McCormack had a great opening night, while forward Udoka Azubuike is averaging 10 points and 8 rebounds per game. A dozen Jayhawks have scored so far this season, and the roster looks like it can go eight players deep at the moment. Kansas is a bit ahead of where I thought they would be after two weeks. The Maui Invitational dominates the Jayhawks’ next two weeks.
3. Baylor (Last rankings: 1)
Baylor has to drop because losing to Washington at a neutral site isn’t quite the same as Kansas losing to Duke at a neutral site (though, in fairness, Washington is a Top 25 team right now. It’s just that Duke is No. 1). That 3-point loss to the Huskies came in Anchorage, Alaska, and then the Bears took a week off to recover before beating Texas State. The loss to the Huskies feels more like a speed bump than a cause for alarm, however. The Bears have locked in a solid starting five in Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Freddie Gillespie, Mark Vital and Tristan Clark. Now, Clark didn’t play in the Texas State win after missing the game due to a non-operative procedure on his knee. Clark hasn’t made a significant contribution yet on the floor. But the remainder of Baylor’s Top 8 players have, led by Butler, who went off for 30 points in the opener and is making a case to be one of the top guards in the league. Gillespie had a double-double in the Texas State win. And Vital just keeps grabbing rebound after rebound. Teague and Davion Mitchell have both made an impact. Devonte Bandoo has been a solid shooter off the bench. The Myrtle Beach Invitational awaits this week, with a potential game against Utah on the schedule. The Bears will then take Thanksgiving week off.
4. Texas (Last rankings: 5)
Texas is 4-0 after two weeks, has generated significant buzz off the play of guard Andrew Jones and seen its other guards — Matt Coleman III, Jase Febres and Courtney Ramey — make significant contributions. The win over Purdue is probably the Big 12’s biggest win after two weeks, and the fact that it came on the road showed some toughness in the Longhorns. But what’s been revelatory the first two weeks is the frontcourt. Gerald Liddell has slid into the starting lineup to generate 9.3 points and 5 rebounds per game. Forward Jericho Sims has started all four games and put up solid numbers — 8.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. That assuaged some of the concerns I had about the frontcourt entering the season. Now, the real question is whether the Longhorns can find more on its bench. Texas feels like a six-player team right now, and Smart will spend the next couple of weeks exploring more options. This week’s schedule could be a tough one. The Longhorns are set to play Georgetown in New York City, and a potential game with Duke could come the next day.
5. Iowa State (Last rankings: 4)
Iowa State lost its game with Oregon State, so the Cyclones have to drop a bit. But the Cyclones have a nice rhythm brewing. Transfer Rasir Bolton is the team’s leading scorer after three games (14 ppg). Michael Jacobson is averaging a double-double (12.7 ppg/10 rpg). Solomon Young is off to a nice start after last year’s lost season (11.3 ppg). George Conditt IV, one of my top rising players in the Big 12, is averaging 11 points and 5.7 rebounds per game off the bench. And Tyrese Halliburton? Well he’s off to a wild start, averaging 10.3 points, 6 rebounds, 32 assists and 11 steals. Yes, he’s averaging a points-assists double-double right now. Three other players — freshman Caleb Grill, sophomore Zion Griffin and transfer Prentiss Nixon, who sat out all of last season — are averaging at least 7 points per game. An eight-player rotation right off the bat is nothing to sneeze at in this conference. The next two weeks means its Battle for Atlantis time in the Bahamas. The Cyclones can expect a game with Michigan, maybe North Carolina at least one other opponent. Great tests for a team that needs it.
6. Oklahoma State (Last rankings: 7)
The Cowboys flip spots with West Virginia here because I think their start has been a tad more impressive. Plus, at 4-0, there’s a bit more raw data to work with. Lindy Waters III is off to the best start of his career, averaging more than 14 points per game. Sophomore guard Isaac Likekele is the team’s minutes leader and has upped his scoring average to 12.8 points per game, along with 5.8 rebounds per game and a team-leading 19 assists. Yor Anei has shown real progress with 11 points and 6 rebounds, including a season-opening double-double. Cameron McGriff is averaging 9 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game, while Thomas Dziagwa 8.5 points per game. So the starting five is in fine shape. Keylan Boone, Kalib Boone, Avery Anderson III and Jonathan Laurent have been filling roles off the bench. The team head coach Mike Boynton Jr. wants, one that is deep and filled with chemistry, is starting to come together.
7. West Virginia (Last rankings: 6)
The Mountaineers got off to a late start, playing their opener the latest of any Big 12 team. The young, exciting team we all thought the Mountaineers might be is starting to take shape. Super-freshman Oscar Tshiebwe is averaging a double-double in two games (12.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg) after a 20-17 game in his second outing. Emmitt Matthews Jr. is actually West Virginia’s leading scorer with 15 points per game, and I could see him being the fulcrum of this entire team this season. Derek Culver is averaging 10 points and 6.5 rebounds, while Jermaine Haley has 10 points and 7 rebounds per game. Ten players are averaging at least 4 points per game, and Sean McNeil, Brandon Knapper, Miles McBride, Chase Harler, Taz Sherman and Jordan McCabe are carving out roles. The next two weeks bring Northern Colorado and Boston University to Morgantown before the Mountaineers head to Riveria Maya, Mexico, and the Hard Rock Hotel to face Northern Iowa and either South Carolina or Wichita State in the Cancun Challenge. Must be nice.
8. Oklahoma (Last rankings: 8)
I gave some consideration to moving OU up a spot in these rankings, but for now the Sooners will stay where they started after a 3-0 start. Oklahoma is off to a fine start, though. Transfer Austin Reaves, who had to sit for a year, leads the Sooners with 17 points per game and is shooting more than 40 percent from the 3-point line. Forward Kristian Doolittle is averaging a double-double (14.5 points and 13 rebounds per game). Forward Brady Manek is averaging 14 and 7 per game. Freshman De’Vion Harmon has fit right into the starting lineup, while Jamal Bieniemy has certainly taken the next step after a solid freshman campaign. Right now Alondes Williams is the only player providing significant minutes off the bench, though, so that’s head coach Lon Kruger’s next assignment. The Sooners face William & Mary, Maryland Eastern Shore, Stanford and either Butler or Missouri in the next two weeks.
9. Kansas State (Last rankings: 9)
We expected the core to play well. Cartier Diarra and Xavier Sneed are averaging an identical 14.3 points per game. Neither is shooting particularly well from the 3-point line, but that will come. Forward Makol Mawien is off to a solid start, averaging 9.3 points and 7.3 points per game. K-State has rounded out the starting lineup with Montavious Murphy and Mike McGuirl, neither of which has been particularly productive to this point. Murphy has some promise, though, with 5.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. It’s the filling out of this roster behind Diarra, Sneed and Mawien that will determine how successful the Wildcats will be in Big 12 play. Right now, as expected, there are some questions to answer. The next two weeks feature games against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Pitt and either Bradley or Northwestern.
10. TCU (Last rankings: 10)
TCU stays where it started for now, but there are some encouraging signs. Guard R.J. Nembhard is the team’s second-leading scorer after two games (15.0 ppg). Kevin Samuel is averaging a double-double inside (14.5 ppg and 12.0 rpg). Jaire Grayer and Edric Dennis Jr. are averaging double figures as well (12.0 ppg and 11.5 ppg, respectively). Outside of that TCU only has seven players with meaningful minutes. The next two weeks TCU’s competition is going to get tougher, with games against Air Force, UC Irvine, Clemson and either Colorado or Wyoming.
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