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Big 12 Basketball Power Rankings: West Virginia Takes Top Spot For First Time

NCAA Basketball: Texas at West Virginia

The West Virginia Mountaineers are No. 1 in the Heartland College Sports Big 12 men’s basketball power rankings as of March 1. And hey, look, everyone played. Welcome back, Baylor. We see you’re still good. But, um, that loss to Kansas? Should we be concerned?

Maybe we will learn more on Tuesday, when Baylor plays West Virginia.

I had to sleep on my decision to make West Virginia No. 1 this week. Admittedly, Baylor has only lost one game this season. Ann I don’t necessarily believe that means that they are no longer the best team in the conference. But, these power rankings are meant to gauge a team’s quality at that moment in time. And if you look the last seven days since our last power rankings, West Virginia has been a better team than Baylor. Now, we will get an opportunity to see both of these teams play each other on Tuesday night, and head-to-head is usually the ultimate tiebreaker. But, for now, the Mountaineers are playing a little bit better than the Bears. Hence, West Virginia moves up to No. 1.

1. West Virginia (17-6, 10-4) (Last Week: 2)

Results this past week: def. TCU, 74-66; def. Kansas State, 65-43.

The Mountaineers should have had the chance to play Baylor on Thursday as scheduled. But, at least West Virginia will get the opportunity to play Baylor this Tuesday. Right now, there is no question that the Mountaineers are, at worst, the second-best team in the Big 12. I’ve made them No. 1 this week, combining their solid play this week with Baylor’s first loss. Bob Huggins is closing in on his 900th career win, and the Mountaineers look like they have the potential to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. They have a three-game week this week, so their Big 12 Tournament seeding is still up for debate. But, entering this week, the Mountaineers have the inside track for the No. 2 seed in that tournament. And all of this week’s games are in Morgantown.

 

2. Baylor (18-1, 10-1) (Last Week: NR)

Results this past week: def. Iowa State, 77-72; lost to Kansas, 71-58.

Baylor didn’t look like itself this week. But, given what we know about teams coming off of long COVID-19 pauses, I think that was to be expected. But, going into Kansas and losing by 13? That’s significant and the biggest driver in Baylor falling a spot this week. The Bears, of course, have not been ranked the past two power rankings because of their COVID pause. Had they beaten Kansas, I certainly would have kept them at No. 1. But, with the loss, I have to acknowledge that at least for this week, the Bears are not playing the best basketball of any team in the conference. The good news? Head coach Scott Drew and his Bears have two weeks to get things figured out before March Madness begins.

3. Kansas (18-8, 12-6) (Last week: 3)

Results this past week: lost to Texas, 75-72 (OT); def. Baylor, 71-58.

Well, guess what? The Kansas Jayhawks are done with Big 12 play. In fact, The Jayhawks have a nonconference game scheduled with you tab this week. So they will watch as the rest of the conference Duke sit out for seating in the Big 12 tournament. The Jayhawks have turned things around since their funk in January and early February. Even with the loss to Texas last week, these Jayhawks look like a team that could be a problem in the NCAA Tournament. They aren’t very deep, and I don’t see them getting beyond the Sweet 16. But the Jayhawks have now won six of their last seven and I wouldn’t want to play them right now.  

4. Oklahoma State (16-6, 9-6) (Last week: 6)

Results this past week: def. Texas Tech, 74-69 (OT); def. Oklahoma, 94-90 (OT).

Our big jumper for the week, coming after a big week for the Cowboys. There should be no question in anyone’s mind that Oklahoma State should be in the NCAA Tournament. So let’s hope that the NCAA Rules Committee doesn’t hear OSU’s appeal before the selections are made on March 14. Cade Cunningham is starting to look like he’s about to enter a stretch where he could be a dominant force in the Big 12 Tournament and in the NCAA Tournament. I’m a bit more bullish about their chances in Indiana now than I was a couple of weeks ago (I wrote about that recently, before the Cowboys made this push). The Cowboys beat two ranked teams in a row, but have three more games against ranked teams to end the regular season.

 

5. Texas Tech (15-8, 7-7) (Last week: 4)

Results this past week: lost to Oklahoma State, 74-69 (OT); def. Texas, 68-59.

Baylor’s return means Tech drops a spot. The Red Raiders’ loss to Oklahoma State means the Cowboys are ahead of them (for at least this week). And the win over Texas on Saturday actually ended a three-game losing streak for Texas Tech, before the Red Raiders face TCU and Iowa State and end the season against Baylor. Odds are good Texas Tech will have a winning record in Big 12 play heading into the Big 12 Tournament. The Red Raiders are already solidly in the NCAA Tournament field. What head coach Chris Beard has to do now is fine-tune his rotation and get this team back to being the consistent-looking group they were just a few weeks ago. Remember — before that long break due to Baylor’s COVID-19 pause and the weather, the Red Raiders had won three out of four.

6. Oklahoma (14-7, 9-6) (Last week: 1)

Results this past week: lost to Kansas State, 62-57; lost to Oklahoma, 94-90 (OT)

A steep drop this week. A bit of that is the return of Baylor. But two losses in a week means the Sooners have to take a BIG step back. The loss to Oklahoma State was understandable. That’s a rivalry game. I thought the Sooners might split that series, which wraps up on Monday. But the loss to Kansas State? That’s really hard to excuse for a team that has the potential to make the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. I believe, pound-for-pound, they’re a Top 3 team in this conference. But last week they didn’t play like it. You have to win one of those games. The Sooners drew a solid schedule this week, as they wrap up the season with Texas. OU will be one game short of a full schedule, but can rest up for Kansas City a couple of extra days.

7. Texas (14-7, 8-6) (Last week: 5)

Results this past week: def. Kansas, 75-72 (OT); lost to Texas Tech, 68-59.

The Longhorns are a maddening team right now. They beat Kansas in overtime, and then they go on the road and lose to Texas Tech. Up until the end of January the Longhorns looked more balanced than they ever had under head coach Shaka Smart. But now they seem to have reverted back to their ‘As our guards go, out team goes’ identity. Smart needs to recalibrate this team’s overall offensive balance before the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Just a few weeks ago I thought they were a Sweet 16 team. Now I’m not so certain. Texas has three games this week to work it out, with just one against a ranked team (Oklahoma).

 

8. Kansas State (7-19, 3-14) (Last week: 7)

Results this past week: def. Oklahoma, 62-57; lost to West Virginia, 65-43.

Give the Wildcats some credit. After a 13-game losing streak, Bruce Weber’s crew has won two of their last three games, including a win over No. 7 Oklahoma. For that, the Wildcats stay out of the bottom two spots of our first full power rankings in three weeks. Our Joe Mathieu wrote last week and tried to answer this question —  Is Kansas State Basketball Turning the Corner or Having a Moment? I personally hope they’re turning a corner (and don’t look at the record when you try to answer that question — we know the Wildcats are rebuilding). Just one game remains, which is against Iowa State. So the Wildcats may be 3-1 in their last four going into Kansas City.

9. TCU (12-10, 5-8) (Last week: 8)

Results this past week: lost to West Virginia, 74-66; def. Iowa State, 76-72

The Horned Frogs certainly gave the Mountaineers everything they could handle to start the week. Then, TCU had to hang on to beat Iowa State on the road. The Horned Frogs have a solid amount of talent, but they are one of the most inconsistent teams in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs have no shot at reaching March Madness, unless they can win the Big 12 tournament outright. TCU’s goal for its final three conference games is to try to stay above .500 and interest the NIT committee in offering the Horned Frogs an invite to its postseason tournament. Right now, as I look at NIT Bracketology, it looks like a no-go. But, we’ll see.

10. Iowa State (2-18, 0-15) (Last week: 9)

Results this past week: lost to Baylor, 77-72; lost to TCU, 76-72.

Iowa State remains in the bottom spot in our power rankings, though we move them back to No. 10 since Baylor is back. The Cyclones played two good games this past week against Baylor and TCU, but wasn’t able to win either. The fact that they lost those two games by a combined nine points means that the team is making at least a little bit of progress. Iowa State has three more chances to avoid a winless conference slate, and their best chance is in the regular-season finale against Kansas State on March 6. After the Big 12 Tournament, we’re on Prohm watch, as in, will he get another season in Ames?

READ MORE: Iowa State Basketball: Candidates to Replace Steve Prohm

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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