Big 12 Sports Articles

Big 12 Basketball Power Rankings: Oklahoma Rising Fast, Jayhawks Collapsing

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Sooners zoomed up to No. 2 in the Heartland College Sports Big 12 men’s basketball power rankings as of Jan. 25.

And we thought COVID-19 destroyed the Big 12 schedule in our last Power Rankings? Well, this past week FOUR teams didn’t play a single game — Iowa State, Texas, Texas Tech and TCU. So, you know the rules — you don’t play, you don’t get ranked. So you’ll find them at the bottom.

But, we did have six teams that DID play and, well, we had some significant movement.

1. Baylor (14-0, 7-0) (Last Week: 1)

Results this past week: def. Kansas, 77-69; def. Oklahoma State, 81-66.

The Bears went into last week undefeated and they stayed that way. The Bears beat the Kansas Jayhawks for the second time in three tries, led by a 30-point game from Jared Butler. But Baylor’s stifling defense and clutch shooting down the stretch was on display, too. It’s clear that Kansas isn’t going to be the team that will challenge the Bears for the Big 12 regular season title. As for Oklahoma State, they gave Baylor a plucky 30 minutes before the Bears outscored them by 16 points after the two teams were tied at 50-all. The Bears have reached the point in the season where they’re not going to fire 100 percent every game. But, even at 80 percent, they can find a way to beat you.

Baylor is set to play Kansas State on Wednesday and then face Auburn in the Big 12-SEC Challenge on Saturday. There’s a solid chance the Bears remain undefeated entering February. And, in case you missed it, the Big 12 rescheduled Baylor’s COVID-postponed game with West Virginia.

WATCH: Baylor Fan Goes Nuts After Kansas Covers the Spread at Buzzer

After Baylor, we have a new No. 2.

 

2. Oklahoma (9-4, 5-3) (Last week: 6)

Results this past week: def. Kansas State, 76-50; def. Kansas, 75-68.

I think we saw the K-State win coming. But the win over Kansas? Maybe we SHOULD have seen it coming. But, like many people, I thought OU would, eventually, fall to the ranked Jayhawks. That didn’t happen. The Sooners have now won their last three games, and sophomore guard De’Vion Harmon has fueled that streak, scoring 22 points in two of those three games (and 16 points in the other). Forward Brady Manek is coming off the bench for the time being, and the adjustment is paying off. Elijah Harkless is starting to come around after missing nearly the first month of the season due to transfer rules. Kur Kuath is providing valuable work inside. And with Austin Reaves and Alondes Williams rounding out the starting lineup, and Umoja Gibson’s 3-point shooting off the bench, the Sooners seem to have something figured out. Now, we see if they can apply that against two more ranked teams this week — Texas and Alabama, neither of which is slumping like Kansas right now.

3. West Virginia (10-4, 3-3) (Last Week: 4)

Results this past week: vs. Oklahoma State, postponed; def. Kansas State, 69-47.

It took the Mountaineers more than a week to exit their COVID-19 pause, and West Virginia’s game with Baylor has been rescheduled. The Mountaineers returned to the floor on Saturday and played Kansas State, winning, 69-47. The Mountaineers made a starting lineup adjustment, moving in Taz Sherman and Josh McCabe and sliding out Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Sean McNeil. Sherman ended up with 10 points, so his production didn’t really change. We’ll see if those changes stick when the Mountaineers face Texas Tech on Monday. The Mountaineers return to the power rankings after a week off, and they actually move up a spot upon their return.

4. Oklahoma State (9-4, 3-4) (Last week: 4)

Results this past week: vs. West Virginia, postponed; lost to Baylor, 81-66.

The Cowboys had to take a one-week COVID-19 pause before they took their shot at Baylor, and the score doesn’t show that the Cowboys gave them a run. And they did it without their top player, Cade Cunningham, along with key bench player Rondel Walker. For 30 minutes the Cowboys slugged with the Bears, blow for blow. But, Baylor’s talent got the better of the Cowboys down the stretch, as the Bears outscored them 31-16. But, if you watched that game, you could see what this Cowboys team may look like next year without Cunningham (who is expected to go to the NBA). It’s intriguing. Good length inside. Solid perimeter game. Plenty of young talent with potential to reach a higher ceiling. With the loss, and what happened around the rest of the Big 12 this past week, I felt that Oklahoma State should remain at No. 4. But our staff explored the Cowboys’ burgeoning depth issues, and that’s worth a look.

 

5. Kansas (10-5, 4-4) (Last week: 5)

Results this past week: lost to Baylor, 77-69; lost to Oklahoma, 75-68.

The Jayhawks will take a big tumble in the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Top 25 this week. But they Jayhawks were No. 5 in our Power Rankings last week, so they hold steady at No. 5 because, well, they’re better than Kansas State, right? The Jayhawks are not quite the team we thought they would be this year. They’re inconsistent, they’re not shooting well from the arc and they don’t have much depth at all. Now, I wouldn’t underestimate Bill Self’s ability to get this team back on track. But, they’re four games behind Baylor and we’re about to enter February. Kansas isn’t going to win the Big 12 Tournament for the second time in three years. That’s basically a certainty. But at least the Jayhawks’ game with Iowa State is rescheduled.

6. Kansas State (5-11, 1-7) (Last week: 8)

Results this past week: lost to Oklahoma, 76-60; lost to West Virginia, 69-47.

The Wildcats moved up two spots this week, but don’t let that fool you. With four teams off due to COVID-19, this was the only place for the Wildcats to go. It was a forgettable week for the Wildcats. They lost both games, they played without their freshman point guard, Nijel Pack, and they committed 28 turnovers to West Virginia, a team that had not played for two weeks. Kansas State deserves to be ranked lower than this. K-State committed the most turnovers in the Bruce Weber era against the Mountaineers. Ugly. They need Pack back.

 

Not Ranked This Week

NR. Texas Tech (11-4, 4-3) (Last week: 2)

Results this past week: No games.

The Red Raiders didn’t have a COVID-19 pause, but they were stuck — along with Texas — in the vortex of the COVID pauses at Iowa State and TCU. The Red Raiders had the misfortune of being scheduled to play both this week. So, just as they seemed to be getting some overall momentum, they had to take a week off.

NR. Texas (11-2, 5-1) (Last week: 3)

Results this past week: No games.

Texas, like Texas Tech, was scheduled to play Iowa State and TCU last week, so they didn’t get to play. But we haven’t talked much about the fact that if Texas had been able to play Iowa State on Wednesday, forwards Greg Brown, Kai Jones and Brock Cunningham would not have been able to travel due to COVID protocols, per head coach Shaka Smart. So the Longhorns had their issues, even though they didn’t have their own pause. Right now it looks like they’ll be back on the floor this week, and that game with Kentucky looms large on the schedule, even though the Wildcats aren’t what they usually are.

NR. TCU (9-5, 2-4) (Last week: 8)

Results this past week: No games.

TCU head coach Jamie Dixon tested positive for COVID-19 last Monday, so that put the Horned Frogs on pause all week. Even before that, though, they were in trouble, and as our new contributor Tori Cummings wrote, the Horned Frogs desperately need a spark to prevent their season from doing downhill. Next up? A really ticked-off Kansas team.

NR. Iowa State (2-7, 0-5) (Last week: 10)

Results this past week: No games.

Iowa State was off all last week due to its own COVID-19 pause, and that gave me some time to wonder whether Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm is on the hot seat. Give that a read and let’s hope Iowa State gets back on the floor this week.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard. Send him a tweet with your question to be included in this week’s Big 12 Basketball Mailbag, which appears each Friday during the conference season.

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