Things are really starting to get interesting in the Big 12. You could make a case for most teams being ranked in a fairly wide range of spots. It seems that literally anyone in this conference has a meaningful chance at winning every time they take their home court. We've also seen some road upsets. Things are really heating up, and after Saturday Kansas, while still the undeniable favorite, is not the shoe-in for an unshared championship it seemed they were becoming last week.
Record: 8-2 (19-4 overall)
LW ranking: 1st
KenPom ranking: 12th (LW: 10th)
Last week: 67-62 loss at Oklahoma State
A loss in Stillwater isn't enough to make me consider dropping the Jayhawks, but it was enough to cut their lead to a single game, if only for a couple of days. Kansas still has trips to Norman and Morgantown on the schedule, so picking up wins in their easier road tests (Texas Tech and Kansas State) becomes very important. A two game cushion means it would take at least a share of the title should be all but assured, but Kansas has to keep things rolling if they want it outright.
Record: 8-4 (17-7 overall)
LW ranking: 2nd
KenPom ranking: 9th (LW: 9th)
Last week: 71-52 win vs West Virginia, 68-56 win at TCU, 94-83 win vs Iowa State
In our preseason podcast, I said that Oklahoma was Kansas' biggest threat, and so far that seems to be holding true. Oklahoma trails KU by two games, but has a much easier schedule down the stretch with three roads games remaining, and two of those are at Texas Tech and Kansas State. Oklahoma has won five straight and may be playing the best basketball in the conference at the moment.
3) Iowa State
Record: 7-4 (17-6 overall)
LW Ranking: 3rd
KenPom ranking: 19th (LW: 24th)
Last week: 75-38 win vs Texas Tech, 94-83 loss at Oklahoma
Iowa State's schedule from here isn't quite as kind as Oklahoma's, but it's not terrifying either. Four of their last seven are outside Ames, but two of those are TCU and K-State. If they can win one of their back to back road games against Oklahoma State and Texas coming up, I could see them finishing a strong 13-5 in the Big 12.
4) Oklahoma State
Record: 6-5 (16-7 overall)
LW ranking: 7th
KenPom ranking: 21st (LW: 28th)
Last week: 65-63 OT win at Texas, 67-62 win vs Kansas, 74-65 win at Baylor
Putting Oklahoma State 4th may be overreacting to their recent success, but it's hard to ignore what they've done in their last five games, which include two wins over Baylor, and wins vs Kansas and at Texas. Oklahoma State is now, at the very least, a team that everyone in the conference should be nervous about playing, even if their top-to-bottom talent isn't quite as strong. You could make an argument that Forte/Nash is as strong an offensive guard/forward combo as you can find anywhere in the conference.
5) West Virginia
Record: 6-4 (18-5 overall)
LW Ranking: 2nd
KenPom ranking: 17th (LW: 14th)
Last week: 71-52 loss at Oklahoma, 87-69 loss vs Baylor
A week ago, West Virginia looked like they could be Kansas' main competition for the Big 12 throne. Now, they find themselves 5th in the power rankings and in serious need of a confidence boost. The Mountaineers didn't just lose two straight, they got overwhelmed. Oklahoma had zero problems breaking their press and forcing them into a halfcourt offense they didn't seem comfortable playing. Then things got out of control at home against Baylor, who had their way with West Virginia's defense, shooting a ridiculous 61% inside the arc. No element of West Virginia's normal gameplan worked in the last week. Two games is two small a sample to start drawing broad conclusions, but since most of us didn't expect WV to be near the top of the conference anyway, this recent slide has me pretty confident that the Mountaineers' early success was a product of an easy first half of their Big 12 schedule.
Record: 6-5 (18-6 overall)
LW Ranking: 5th
KenPom ranking: 13th (LW: 13th)
Last week: 77-57 win vs TCU, 87-69 win at West Virginia, 74-65 loss vs Oklahoma State
Baylor is a little all over the place right now. Had they held serve last night against Oklahoma State, they'd probably be ranked 4th right now. But they followed up a huge road win in Morgantown with a rough home loss, that keeps them in the fray of the Big 12's middle teams. The scouting report on Baylor had been that they won at home and struggled on the road, but after this past week it's hard to say just who Baylor is right now. I just know that they can be dangerous on any given night.
Record: 4-6 (15-8)
LW Ranking: 6th
KenPom ranking: 22nd (LW: 26th)
Last week: 65-63 OT loss vs Oklahoma State, 61-57 win at Kansas State
Texas is coming off a road win over a shorthanded Kansas State team. While that may not be all that impressive, it was definitely needed after a 4 game slide that put the Longhorns near the bottom of the conference. Fortunately, Texas' next two games are the easiest of the entire Big 12 schedule (at home against TCU and Texas Tech). You can pencil them in for a 6-6 record heading into the final third of the schedule, which features road tests against Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Kansas. Longhorn fans are hoping this easy stretch gives them a huge confidence boost, because otherwise this could be a bumpy finish to a once-promising season.
8) Kansas State
Record: 5-6 (12-12 overall)
LW ranking: 8th
KenPom ranking: 96th (LW: 74th)
Last week: 64-47 loss at Texas Tech, 61-57 loss vs Texas
If anyone was wondering just how important Marcus Foster is to K-State's scoring, the Wildcats scored 47 points in Lubbock. FORTY SEVEN points against KP's 169th best team. Kansas State is in a free fall right now, and needs Foster not only to come back, but come back ready to light it up. At this point they've pretty well established that they're mediocre with him, and a trainwreck without him. As it stands, the Wildcats could be in danger of missing the NIT tournament, which would all but destroy Bruce Weber's job security.
Record: 1-9 (14-9 overall)
LW ranking: 9th
KenPom ranking: 59th (LW: 48th)
Last week: 77-57 loss at Baylor, 68-56 loss vs Oklahoma
TCU returned to the Big 12's basement this week, as Texas Tech grabbed a second conference victory. It's still not enough for me to drop TCU to last here, but some of the Frogs' magic seems to be wearing off. After starting the conference slate by seemingly taking everyone down to the wire, TCU has lost by double digits in three straight. A home game against Tech in two weeks should get them a second win, but they're running out of chances to pull off that upset we've been expecting from them.
10) Texas Tech
Record: 2-9 (12-12 overall)
LW ranking: 10th
KenPom ranking: 169th (LW: 184th)
Last week: 64-47 win vs Kansas State, 75-38 loss at Iowa State
Tech's second conference win probably had more to do with their opponent than anything else. K-State was struggling, and down their best player. Still, Tech had to go out and win the game, which they did by 17 points. They then turned around and mustered just 38 against ISU. Tech is bad, but they've shown they should at least be taken seriously on their home court. Are you listening, Jayhawks?
Questions? Comments? Input? Feel free to contact me at PenHawkRCT@gmail.com, and follow me on twitter @kspen124