Baylor Bears

Three Thoughts on AP Men’s Top 25: K-State In, Baylor Out, Kansas on the Rise

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Kansas

Five Big 12 teams are among the nation’s best as the Associated Press Men’s Basketball Top 25 was released after the season’s ninth week of games.

Here are our three thoughts on the poll from a Big 12 perspective.

 

Welcome, Kansas State

The wait is finally over for Kansas State fans that believe their inclusion in the Top 25 is overdue. The Wildcats didn’t just enter the poll, they crashed it, going from receiving votes last week to being No. 11 this week, the third-ranked Big 12 team behind Kansas and Texas.

The Wildcats have not been ranked since the last week of the 2018-19 poll, when they finished the season No. 18 and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. So, head coach Jerome Tang has done incredible work in a short amount of time, similar to Iowa State’s T.J. Otzelberger last season.

K-State entered the poll on the strength of beating three Top 25 teams in a row — West Virginia, Texas and Baylor. I have to assume voters weren’t impressed enough with the Wildcats’ win over the Mountaineers, as K-State had not beaten a ranked team to that point.

Kansas State is already at the point where they have to sustain their success. But all signs point toward the Wildcats returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since that 2019 first-round exit.

 

Oh, So Close, Kansas

Kansas moved up to No. 2 this week, with future Big 12 member Houston leap-frogging into the No. 1 spot after the Purdue loss. The defending national champions were never ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 last season. In fact, the Jayhawks’ peak was No. 3 in the preseason poll. But, it’s not where you start, as one might say …

Voters were definitely divided on the Cougars and the Jayhawks. They were separated by just 17 points, with Houston getting 34 first-place votes and Kansas getting 22 first-place votes. Purdue got the other four. It tells me there was pretty fair consensus, at least this week, that Kansas and Houston were the Top 2 teams. There was just disagreement on which was No. 1 and which was No. 2.

Kansas, naturally, has a Big 12 schedule ahead of it, along with a Big 12-SEC Challenge game against Kentucky. As for Houston, the Cougars have an American Athletic schedule ahead of it. The UCF game coming up on Jan. 25 will be significant. The Knights are playing well and pushed Houston at home on Dec. 31, losing by six.

Houston could go undefeated the rest of the way. I’m less certain Kansas can do that.

 

Baylor Falls Out

The Baylor Bears fell out of the AP Top 25 for the first time after a 65-week run. That takes us back to the end of the 2018-19 season, during which the Bears went 20-14 and were never ranked in the AP Top 25. Since that point, the Bears have enjoyed nothing short of a renaissance — a 26-4 record in 2019-20, where it was No. 1 in the nation for nearly a month; 2020-21, where the Bears went 28-2, won its first regular-season conference title since 1950 and won the national championships; and 2021-22, where Baylor went 34-6 and shared the Big 12 regular-season title with Kansas.

This Bears team is still receiving votes. In fact, they were the first team out of the poll. The Bears started league play 0-3 but they were extremely close to being 2-1 to start with. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears return to the poll soon. The Bears are, overall, still a great team that should make the NCAA Tournament.

This Week’s AP Top 25 Poll

No. 1 Houston, No. 2 Kansas, No. 3 Purdue, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Tennessee, No. 6 UConn, No. 7 UCLA, No. 8 Gonzaga, No. 9 Arizona, No. 10 Texas, No. 11 Kansas State, No. 12 Xavier, No. 13 Virginia, No. 14 Iowa State, No. 15 Arkansas, No. 16 Miami (FL), No. 17 TCU, No. 18 Wisconsin, No. 19 Providence, No. 20 Missouri, No. 21 Auburn, No. 22 Charleston, No. 23 San Diego State, No. 24 Duke, No. 25 Marquette. Big 12 teams receiving votes: Baylor, 93.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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