Here is the Heartland College Sports Big 12 men’s basketball power rankings as of Dec. 21.
The Top 5 stays put. But there’s plenty of movement below that to keep you interested. And with a great Tuesday ahead — Texas Tech faces Oklahoma and West Virginia faces Kansas — that should ensure some movement when we convene again on Dec. 28.
1. Baylor (5-0, 1-0) (Last Week: 1)
Results this past week: def. Kansas State, 100-69
Baylor started last week by postponing its Big 12 opener with Texas and canceling a non-conference game with Tarleton State due to a COVID-19 outbreak (Tarleton State had their own outbreak, too, so that game wasn’t happening anyway). The Bears wrapped up the week with a relatively easy win over Kansas State, a win that just shows the distance between the highly-ranked Bears and the Wildcats, who are rebuilding. Baylor had a great shooting slash for the game (.578/.469/.611). OK, the free throw shooting could be a bit better. But when the Bears should like that from the floor and the 3, you can live with sub-70 percent at the line. Baylor outrebounded K-State by 16 and MaCio Teague had a double-double (23 points, 10 rebounds). So did Jared Butler (14 points, 13 assists). Davion Mitchell had 20 points, with six 3-pointers, and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua had 13 points off the bench. This team is humming, and with a pair of ‘Happy Meal’ games over the holiday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Central Arkansas, before resuming Big 12 play against Iowa State on Jan. 2, the Bears are probably going to be at the top for a bit longer.
2. West Virginia (7-1, 1-0) (Last Week: 2)
Results this past week: def. Iowa State, 70-65.
The Mountaineers had just one game this past week, but it was their Big 12 opener and they managed to stave off the Cyclones at home. I’m going to shelve the ‘Mountaineers need a point guard’ talk for a bit. They’re making it work, in part because Miles McBride and Sean McNeil have grown as guards AND decision-makers this season. McBride is logging huge minutes (38 in this one) but producing huge numbers, too — 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals against Iowa State. McNeil isn’t scoring like he was earlier in the season, but that’s OK as long the Mountaineers continue to get consistent games from McBride, F Derek Culver (18 points, 12 rebounds), F Oscar Tshiebwe (12 points, 5 rebounds) and G Taz Sherman (10 points off the bench). Heck, F Emmitt Matthews Jr. had 9 points and Gabe Osabuohein had 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals off the bench. This team is primed for its showdown with Kansas on Tuesday and, regardless of that outcome, has the look of a team that is, at the least, Sweet 16-worthy in March.
3. Kansas (7-1, 1-0) (Last week: 3)
Results this past week: def. Texas Tech, 58-57
Ochai Agbaji had a great game against Texas Tech (23 points, 5 rebounds) and that includes the game-winner in the final seconds on an inbounds play. He’s added a more consistent outside shooting game with his exceptional athleticism and the completeness of that combination is starting to show every night, as opposed to every few nights (trust me — NBA scouts are noticing). Marcus Garrett is still not quite himself, but with his defense, you’ll take 10 points and 10 rebounds, along with 4 assists, each night. Christian Braun also had 10 rebounds. This was Jalen Wilson’s first ‘off’ game of the season, with just 7 points and 3 rebounds. With Tech’s defense, you’d expect them to focus on the player that had averaged 19 points against Gonzaga, Kentucky and Creighton. Kansas has to tamp down on the turnovers (the Jayhawks had 16). It also has to figure out center David McCormack. He’s never been a particularly consistent offensive player. But his rebounding isn’t cutting it, either (he had just 3 boards against Texas Tech). His season average of 5.7 per game is glaring. He shouldn’t be expected to be Udoka Azubuike. But if the Jayhawks have the offensive weapons around him — and it appears they do — is it that much to ask for the 6-foot-10 center to average 8 or 9 rebounds per game? I don’t think so. And that’s what Kansas needs to solidify the paint. The win keeps them locked in at No. 3, with an eye on unseating West Virginia … checks notes … Tuesday night.
4. Texas (6-1, 1-0) (Last week: 4)
Results this past week: def. Sam Houston State, 79-63; def. Oklahoma State, 77-74.
Texas put the disappointment of the Baylor postponement behind it and drubbed Sam Houston, with freshman Greg Brown leading the way with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Courtney Ramey had 17 points and 6 assists, while Andrew Jones had 31 points in 24 minutes. These Longhorns are developing into a group committed to team rebounding. In this game six players had at least four rebounds. That sort of commitment will come in handy in Big 12 action. But the ‘Happy Meal’ game was preamble to Sunday’s Big 12 opener with Oklahoma State, where two of the conference’s best freshmen — OSU’s Cade Cunningham and Brown — faced each other for the first time. And this was a good one. Brown pulled his weight with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Jones had another big game with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Matt Coleman III didn’t shoot that well (2-of-11), but he still had 15 points. This was a gut-check game for Texas. The Longhorns were down five points at the break, surged ahead and then had to hold off Oklahoma State. This is the kind of game Texas has lost in the past. As you look ahead to the rest of Big 12 action and the teams the Longhorns will have to beat to show the country they’re NCAA Tournament-worthy, this is a win you can build upon. It was a good enough week to keep the Longhorns at No. 4.
5. Texas Tech (6–2, 0-1) (Last week: 5)
Results this past week: lost to Kansas, 58-57.
This was a tough one for Texas Tech to lose. The Red Raiders had Kansas at home, had the Jayhawks on the ropes at times and two players had supremely good games — Mac McClung with 21 points and Terrence Shannon Jr. with 20 points. But Texas Tech had a few issues. It continued its poor shooting from the floor (32.3 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from the 3-point line). They couldn’t outrebound Kansas, despite a tepid game from KU post David McCormack. Even with a plus-9 turnover edge and an edge in second-chance points, the Red Raiders couldn’t make the Jayhawks pay for it. It was Tech’s only game of the week and the Red Raiders were left to lament the missed opportunity. Still, the chemistry on this team, even with three transfers and two true freshman contributing heavily, looks better than last year’s team at this time. By the way, Kyler Edwards cannot go a full game without scoring like he did in this one. He just can’t. His 3-pointer is too valuable. Even with the loss, I’m holding them steady at No. 5 … for now. And, if that seems weird, you have to consider what happened BEHIND the Red Raiders this week.
6. Oklahoma (4–1, 1-0) (Last week: 7)
Results this past week: def. Oral Roberts, 79-65; def. Houston Baptist, 84-65.
The Sooners managed to corral an opponent at mid-week by luring Oral Roberts to Norman and, well, the Sooners prevailed rather easily. Austin Reaves had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists, while Brady Manek had 17 points and 9 rebounds. Umoja Gibson had 14 points off the bench. Transfer Elijah Harkless finally got to play, freed by the NCAA’s ruling that allowed all basketball transfers to play this season. He played 10 minutes and didn’t score, but his impact is likely forthcoming. Then the Sooners played Houston Baptist on Saturday and won, 84-65. It could have been worse for the Huskies, but Lon Kruger played his entire team and no starter logged more than 28 minutes. I think he knew this game was nothing more than a tune-up for this week’s league game. Reaves had 15 points and 5 assists, Manek had 13 points and Alondes Williams added 10 points. Victor Iwuakor had 12 points and 3 rebounds in 19 minutes. If the Sooners could get that consistently from the floor it would improve their depth inside. OU moves up a spot this week basically because Oklahoma State, which was ahead of the Sooners last week, lost twice. It’s a two-win week, but not against any Big 12 teams. Their win over TCU keeps them ahead of the Horned Frogs.
7. TCU (6–2, 1-1) (Last week: 8)
Results this past week: def. Oklahoma State, 77-76
TCU junior RJ Nembhard, put the Horned Frogs up for good in the one-point victory over Oklahoma State, a nice up-and-under move that led to a free-throw line floater. Then the TCU defense took care of the rest. That’s a big win against an OSU team that received 40-plus votes in the AP poll last week and, at the time, was undefeated. The Horned Frogs may have siphoned off some of those votes now. Nembhard finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Kevin Samuel had 18 points and 8 rebounds, while Mike Miles had 16 points and 3 assists. Miles played 37 minutes. That’s a heavy load for a true freshman. Chuck O’Bannon is starting to get some time back coming off the bench, but Taryn Todd’s 27 minutes off the bench shows that he has head coach Jamie Dixon’s trust early in Big 12 play. The true freshman had 10 points and 4 rebounds, and that gives the Horned Frogs another option. TCU moves up a spot with its win over Oklahoma State, but I can’t move them up any further because their one league loss, to this point, came at the hands of Oklahoma.
8. Oklahoma State (6-2, 0-2) (Last week: 6)
Results this past week: lost to TCU, 77-76; lost to Texas, 77-74.
Boy both losses hurt. The Cowboys had been rolling and were coming off a great last-second win over Wichita State. Getting TCU at home to open Big 12 play, followed by a Sunday game with Texas, gave the Cowboys a chance to impress AP voters and make a case to get into the Top 25. That’s out of the question now. Against TCU, Cade Cunningham had another great game — 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists. Rondel Walker pumped in 12 off the bench, while Issac Likekele and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe had 10 points each. Likekele’s overall game was terrific — 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals to go along with the 10 points. So what got OSU in the end in this loss to TCU? Probably the 17.6 percent clip from the 3-point line. Against Texas on Sunday it was a matchup of two of the country’s best freshmen in Cunningham and Texas forward Greg Brown. Cunningham had a great game — 25 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists — and the Cowboys had a 5-point lead at halftime. But this is a young Cowboys team and the Longhorns have a lot of experience, and that won out in the second half. Avery Anderson III gave OSU a nice start (11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) and Bryce Williams had 13 points off the bench. The Cowboys showed this week that they’ll be competitive with anyone in this conference. But they have to fall a couple of spots as they absorb their first two losses of the season, both in Big 12 play.
9. Kansas State (3–5, 1-1) (Last week: 10)
Results this past week: def. Iowa State, 74-65; lost to Baylor, 100-69.
A week before Kansas State opened Big 12 action the Wildcats lost to a Division II team on their home floor. The Wildcats seem to have recovered, and they proved it against Iowa State. The Wildcats didn’t have to rely too much on their one senior, Mike McGuirl (7 points). Instead, two true freshman and two transfers stepped up. For the freshmen, Davion Bradford, the 7-footer, had 14 points and guard Nijel Pack had 8 points, 2 assists and 3 steals. The transfers had fine games off the bench. Carlton Linguard Jr. and Rudi Williams, both in junior college last year, had 10 points each. But the BIG game came from sophomore DaJuan Gordon, who was with the Wildcats last year and recorded his first career double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds). The Wildcats had a plus-10 edge on the glass and shot an incredible 26-of-29 from the free-throw line. It was a great bounce-back from the loss to Fort Hays State. Of course, I expected the Wildcats to lose and lose big to Baylor, and they did. Now, K-State may get more competitive in those games later this season. But a couple of good takeaways from that one? Antonio Gordon with 23 points off the bench. The Wildcats need a lot more of that. Plus, Selton Miguel showed some good range from the 3-point line (3-for-5) en route to 14 points. This is your Wildcats lineup for the foreseeable future, and right now it’s no longer in the cellar of our Big 12 Power Rankings.
10. Iowa State (2-4, 0-2) (Last week: 9)
Results this past week: lost to Kansas State, 74-65; lost to West Virginia, 70-65; def. Jackson State, 60-45
The time may be coming for the Cyclones to start shuffling the starting lineup, which has been heavy on holdovers and transfers to this point. The best players on the floor for Iowa State in the loss to Kansas State were holdover guard Rasir Bolton, who had 19 points (but 7 turnovers) and true freshman 7-foot center Xavier Foster, who had 10 points off the bench. I’m not saying the Cyclones should bench Bolton, undoubtedly their best perimeter player. But perhaps it’s time to slide Foster into the starting lineup for Solomon Young. Foster is more athletic and gives the Cyclones a big that can run the floor more effectively. Now, he’s not the rebounder Young is, but I think he will get there eventually. The Cyclones lacked offensive flow in their loss to K-State, and that hindered them all night. For instance, Bolton shot 7-of-10 from the floor. The other guards — Jalen Coleman-Lands and Darlingstone Dubar — shot a combined 5-for-13. The Cyclones played better against West Virginia, and Bolton had a big game with 25 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Coleman-Lands had 11 points and 5 rebounds. They shot well on the road (nearly 50 percent) and didn’t get outclassed by WVU on the glass (just a minus-6). But those 21 turnovers were a killer. The Cyclones finally got a win, beating Jackson State, with 18 points and 8 rebounds from Young and 16 points and 9 rebounds from Coleman-Lands. But, with the loss to K-State, they must drop to the bottom spot of the power rankings for the first time this season.