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Big 12 Basketball Power Rankings: Non-Conference Edition Week 4

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Baylor

With the 2019-20 Big 12 Men’s Basketball season four weeks old, here are the HeartlandCollegeSports.com power rankings after four weeks. Updates will come every two weeks before weekly updates during the conference season.

We’re starting to see a bit of separation in the Big 12, with Texas Tech and Iowa State taking big drops after two losses and Oklahoma State proving to be the biggest riser. Plus, we have a new No. 1 team in the power rankings. 

1. Kansas (Last rankings: 2)

Top players: G Devon Doston (19.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, team-leading 30 assists), F Udoka Azubuike (15.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg), G Marcus Garrett (10 ppg, 5.1 rpg).

Kansas won the Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving week, including an overtime win against Dayton that saw Dotson put up a career high in points (31). Azubuike is putting up solid numbers and has, to this point, avoided injury. Garrett being in double figures in scoring per game means a lot to the future of this team. It’s the progress the Jayhawks needed from him. Kansas now has six players averaging at least 8 points per game and seven players averaging at least 18 minutes per game. Head coach Bill Self hasn’t had to use Silvio De Sousa inside that much to this point. But the depth that Self thought he had going into the season is starting to take shape. And that’s important as Kansas wants to protect the redshirt of forward Mitch Lightfoot, who chose to take the redshirt this season so he could play in 2020-21. He’s still available, should the team’s frontcourt depth take a hit.

Next two weeks: The Jayhawks have three games in the next two weeks — at home against Colorado (Dec. 7), at home against Milwaukee (Dec. 10) and in Kansas City against, well, Kansas City (Dec. 14). 

 

2. Baylor (Last rankings: 3)

Top players: G Jared Butler (19.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg), G MaCio Teague (15.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 43.6 percent from the 3-point line), F Freddie Gillespie (9.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg).

The Bears had a great week at the Myrtle Beach Invitational, beating Ohio, Coastal Carolina and Villanova to win the title. It was one of four invitational titles the Big 12 won since our last power rankings. Butler (the Myrtle Beach Invitational MVP) continues to lead the Bears in scoring, while Teague (an all-tournament selection) is proving to be a great second option. Gillespie has built on last season’s success inside and is now, at the moment, the Bears’ leading rebounder. Seven different players are logging at least 20 minutes. Forward Tristan Clark is starting to gather a bit of steam for the Bears, averaging 20 minutes, 6.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Once his play starts to approach last season’s quality, the Bears are going to have a host of quality options inside. And it’s starting to come along, as Clark had a season-high 10 points against the Wildcats. 

Next two weeks: The Bears have three games in the next two weeks, all at home — Maryland-Eastern Shore (Dec. 3), Arizona (Dec. 7) and Butler (Dec. 10, Big 12-Big East Challenge). Arizona and Butler are big tests for the Bears. 

3. Texas Tech (Last rankings: 1)

Top players: G Jahmi’us Ramsey (17.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg), G Davide Moretti (14.3 ppg, 46 percent from the 3-point line), F TJ Holyfield (11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg).

The Red Raiders faced their first real tests of the season in Las Vegas this past week and failed to win either game. The Red Raiders lost by 11 to Iowa and then fell in overtime to Creighton, leaving a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. So, naturally, the Red Raiders had to fall back a bit. In fact, the Red Raiders fell out of the Top 25, but don’t expect that to last. It’s not time to panic in Lubbock. Head coach Chris Beard warned everyone that with 10 new players that the chemistry would take a bit of time to develop. Red Raider fans can take solace in the fact that Kyler Edwards has emerged as a legitimate fourth scoring option, that seven players are logging at least 16 minutes and that Chris Clarke’s scoring touch was finally uncorked in Las Vegas. The defensive identity is still there, too. The Red Raiders are allowing opponents to shoot 40 percent and have forced 120 turnovers in 7 games. There will be weeks like the one in Vegas as the Red Raiders prep for Big 12 play. 

Next two weeks: The Red Raiders have two games in the next two weeks — at DePaul (Dec. 4, Big 12-Big East Challenge) and against Louisville (Dec. 10, Jimmy V Classic, New York City).  

4. Oklahoma State (Last rankings: 6)

Top players: G Isaac Likekele (13.7 ppg, 5.0 apg), F Yor Anei (12.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg), F Lindy Waters III (11.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg).

I wrote about the Cowboys as the lead in my weekly round and for good reason. With wins over Syracuse and Ole Miss the Cowboys on the NIT Season Tip-Off up in New York City and enter this week 7-0. So the Cowboys are the biggest risers this week, moving up two spots. This is exactly what head coach Mike Boynton Jr. was hoping for when the season started. That includes the fact that Likekele is the team’s leading scorer and Anei is the team’s leading rebounder. It lessens the need for seniors Lindy Waters III, Thomas Dziagwa and Cameron McGriff to carry the entire load, as they did last year. Nine players are logging at least 10 minutes per game, and while the new players are coming along a bit slower than some expected, they’re all contributing in meaningful ways after the season’s first month. 

Next two weeks: The Cowboys have three games in the next two weeks — at home against Georgetown (Dec. 4, Big 12-Big East Challenge), at home against Wichita State (Dec. 8) and at Houston (Dec. 15). It’s about to get real for the Cowboys. 

 

5. Texas (Last rankings: 4)

Top players: G Matt Coleman III (14.7 ppg, 5.0 apg), G Andrew Jones (11.3 ppg), G Courtney Ramey (9.4 ppg).

The Georgetown game in New York City was a game the Longhorns should have been more competitive in. So even with wins over Cal and McNeese State afterward, Texas drops one spot this time around. As expected, this is a guard-driven team right now, and Coleman is having a whale of a start, shooting 57.7 percent from the 3-point line, which is absurd a month into the season. Jones has developed into Texas’ top bench weapon. Forward Jericho Sims (9.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is providing the sort of stable production in the paint that Texas needs. Right now Texas is playing just six players for 10 or more minutes per game. One could argue that head coach Shaka Smart needs to get players like Donovan Williams, Kai Jones and Royce Hamm Jr. more time to develop. 

Next two weeks: The Longhorns have three games in the next two weeks — at home against UAB (Dec. 3), vs. Texas A&M (Dec. 8, at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth) and at home against Central Michigan (Dec. 14).

6. West Virginia (Last rankings: 7)

Top players: G Jermaine Haley (12.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg), F Oscar Tshiebwe (12.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg), F Derek Culver (11.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg).

The Mountaineers are one of two teams in the Big 12 that are undefeated as December begins. The Mountaineers now have a win in the Backyard Brawl against Pitt, a win over Wichita State and a win over Rhode Island, a team that beat them last year. Tshiebwe and Culver have emerged as the inside threats head coach Bob Huggins was hoping for when the season began. Tshiebwe is still inconsistent, but that’s fine for now. Culver’s game has grown, too. Plus, both are shooting at least 70 percent from the free-throw line. Emmitt Matthews Jr. (10.6 ppg) is also in double figures this season. The trip to Riviera Maya led to Miles McBride getting an All-Tournament team nod. Huggins has played 10 players at least 10 minutes per game, and no player has more than 29 minutes per game (that’s Matthews). He’s pulling the strings nicely, setting up different combinations to see how they work together. But the starting lineup of Haley, Tshiebwe, Culver, Matthews and Jordan McCabe looks like it should be tough to handle. 

Next two weeks: The Mountaineers have three games in the next two weeks — at St. John’s (Dec. 7, Big 12-Big East Challenge), home against Austin Peay (Dec. 12) and home against Nicholls State (Dec. 14). The St. John’s game is a good chance for the Mountaineers to enhance the resume. 

7. Oklahoma (Last rankings: 8)

Top players: G Austin Reaves (17.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 45 percent from 3-point line), F Kristian Doolittle (14.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg), F Brady Manek (13.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg).

The Sooners rise up a spot this time around, even with the loss to Stanford. Bouncing back to defeat Missouri on a 24-hour turnaround at the Hall of Fame Classic was impressive given the lopsided loss to Stanford. Entering this week the Sooners are 3-1 against Power 5 teams and getting consistent performances from its top three scorers. Reaves, who missed all of last season after transferring, is proving to be worth the wait, especially his shooting from the 3-point line. Alondes Williams and De’Vion Harmon are averaging at least 8 points per game. Head coach Lon Kruger is running eight or nine players a game, and that’s what he was hoping for when the season started — a deep rotation that could keep his starters fresh. Reaves is the only OU player logging more than 30 minutes per game. 

Next two weeks: The Sooners have just two games in the next two weeks, both of which are on the road — at North Texas (Dec. 5) and at Wichita State (Dec. 14). The Sooners get an extended break for exams. 

8. Iowa State (Last rankings: 5)

Top players: G Tyrese Halliburton (15.7 ppg, 8.9 apg, 6.0 rpg), G Rasir Bolton (14.6 ppg), F Prentiss Nixon (11.1 ppg).

My internal debate was how much to punish the Cyclones because one could argue they’ve played the hardest non-conference schedule to this point. But, at this point ISU is 1-3 against teams from Power 5 conferences, so it’s logical they drop in these rankings. Halliburton may be the most dominant player in the conference right now (Kansas’ Devon Dotson could have something to say about that) and he’s been a do-everything guy for the Cyclones. F Solomon Young is averaging 10.7 points per game, but Michael Jacobson remains the team’s leading rebounder (7.6 rpg). The Cyclones have a core of a half-dozen players that are producing, but now head coach Steve Prohm is waiting to see if players like Zion Griffin, Tre Jackson, Caleb Grill and Terrence Lewis can play larger roles. 

Next two weeks: The Cyclones have three games in the next two weeks, all of which are in Ames — Kansas City (Dec. 4), Seton Hall (Dec. 8, Big 12-Big East Challenge game), and Iowa (Dec. 12). Iowa just beat Texas Tech on a neutral court, so this is a good litmus game for the Cyclones in terms of overall progress. 

 

9. Kansas State (Last rankings: 9)

Top players: G Xavier Sneed (14.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg), G Cartier Diarra (11.5 ppg, 6.9 apg), F Makol Mawien (8.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg)

The expectation this week was that the Fort Myers Classic would pose a nice test for the Wildcats, but it ended up being an 0-2 tournament for Bruce Weber’s young team. Now that doesn’t mean it was all bad. Weber is still tinkering with lineups and gave some additional time to DaJuan Gordon and Antonio Gordon, both of which responded with some quality play against Pitt, which was a four-point loss. Gordon had 12 points in that contest. Against Bradley, Shaun Williams and Mike McGuirl hit double-digits for the first time this season. The Wildcats are now 4-2 on the season, but the Wildcats have played a slightly tougher schedule than TCU to this point, and that keeps them in the No. 9 spot this time around.  

Next two weeks: The Wildcats have four games, the first three of which are in Manhattan, Kan. — Florida A&M (Dec. 2), Marquette (Dec. 7, Big 12-Big East Challenge game), and Alabama State (Dec. 11). The two-week period concludes with a Dec. 14 game against Mississippi State in Newark, N.J.

10. TCU (Last rankings: 10)

Top players: G Desmond Bane (18 ppg, 46.5 percent from 3-point line), F Kevin Samuel (10.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg), G R.J. Nembhard (13.5 ppg)

TCU’s first test against a Power 5 team came in Las Vegas last week, where the Horned Frogs lost by two in overtime to Clemson. TCU followed that with a win over Wyoming. Before that, the Horned Frogs avoided a loss in their mid-major danger game against UC-Irvine. Young players like Edric Dennis Jr. (9.5 ppg) and Jaire Grayer (8.8 ppg) are starting to carve out roles as well. TCU has nine players logging at least 10 minutes per game, which means that head coach Jamie Dixon is taking his time to find the right combinations on the floor. The loss to Clemson cost the Horned Frogs a chance to move up. 

Next two weeks: The Horned Frogs have four games, all in Fort Worth — Illinois State (Dec. 3), USC (Dec. 6, at Dickies Arena), Winthrop (Dec. 11) and Lamar (Dec. 14).

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