It took about five weeks for everybody — local, regional and national folks all are guilty — to notice that Big 12 basketball in 2013-14 is far better than the preseason expectations suggested it would be. And, that's with Kansas wobbling through the past few weeks like Wilber "Shooter" Flatch.
In fact, despite the Jayhawks doing un-KU things like losing at home to San Diego State (a Top 25 team that should have had KU's attention), the Big 12 still has positioned itself as the nation's best conference thanks to some pretty fantastic and wildly entertaining developments.*
*When I say "Hoiberg," you say "STUD". When I say "Stevie Clark," you say "Bud."
While I was on board with Iowa State early on, I missed pretty badly on some other programs in my initial power rankings. I blame it on team development and ridiculously good coaching. Regardless, this time around, I'll include the previous rank just to show how much difference a few weeks makes.
1. Iowa St. Cyclones (2) (14-0, 2-0) — One of only six remaining perfect teams, ISU ranks no lower than 22nd in the nation in points per game (87.0, 6th), rebounds (22nd), assists (19.1, 1st) and field-goal percentage (.492, 19th). And, DeAndre Kane is getting better.
2. Kansas St. Wildcats (8) (12-3, 2-0) — Thanksgiving turkeys were being thawed the last time K-State lost - that 90-63 debacle to Georgetown. Since then, K-State opponents have scored above 62 points just once, when Oklahoma St. put up 71. Thomas Gipson is in shape for the first time in his life. Marcus Foster's game has been all-conference caliber at times, and Jevon Thomas' defense in the open floor is good enough to play with anybody.
3. Kansas Jayhawks (3) (10-4, 1-0) — This team is a talent powder keg, and Wayne Selden Jr. may have just lit the fuse against Oklahoma. If other freshmen don't want to lead, Selden proved he can, which takes all the pressure off the other guys. And, a relaxed KU is a scary KU.
4. Baylor Bears (4) (12-2, 0-1) — This version of BU is a tougher team than we've seen in the past, but it got taken to the woodshed in Ames. The Bears are talented enough to cause problems for good teams, but they aren't going to seriously challenge for the regular season title.
5. Oklahoma St. Cowboys (1) (13-2, 1-1) — OSU takes the biggest dip in the rankings after losing Michael Cobbins — the interior defense's heart and soul. Stevie Clark is out after his pot bust, but it's Cobbins who hurts. Marcus Smart is great. Le'Bryan Nash's game is still schizophrenic. Markel Brown is still a matchup nightmare, but Cobbins was the solid infrastructure to OSU's championship makeup.
6. Oklahoma Sooners (5) (12-3, 1-1) — The Sooners are the anti-Kansas State in that they will score all day, but they break out in hives the second someone says "defense." Will OU outscore some folks this year in exciting fashion? Sure. But, that's normally the formula for a good but not great season.
7. Texas Longhorns (6) (11-4, 0-2) — Yep, kind of what I expected with the Longhorns, which outpaced North Carolina in Chapel Hill, but then got handled against a better Michigan St. Spartans group. This team doesn't shoot all that well, and its defense isn't good enough to make up for it a lot of nights; not against legit competition.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers (7) (10-5, 2-0) — It's fun for Bob Huggins' guys to wake up on Jan. 9 and see they have a share of the conference lead at 2-0. Not sure that good feeling will stick around much longer ... maybe 48 hours or so when OSU comes calling.
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (9) (8-7, 0-2) — Tubby's guys have dropped four of their last five games, including an OT loss to West Virginia, and it's time to settle in for that rest-of-winter nap in Lubbock.
10. TCU Horned Frogs (10) (9-5, 0-2) — Trent Johnson won't ever be mistaken for having a bubbly personality, but he seemed extra chippy the other night against K-State. The Frogs have some nice pieces in Kyan Anderson and Amric Fields, but they're not nearly enough to lift this bunch from the mire.