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Big 12 power rankings: Tighten the belt

KU's big lead in the Big 12 conference race is diminished, and the Jayhawks have some questions.

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Things just got a little tighter around the Big 12, where it took just four games in 10 days for a once insurmountable lead to shrink enough that, yeah, a couple of teams think they have a shot. And, they should.

1. Kansas Jayhawks (18-6, 9-2) -- A healthy Kansas is better than everyone in the Big 12. However, KU isn't healthy right now. Physically, Joel Embiid looked wrong against K-State and is now out. Mentally, Jamari Traylor's "irresponsible" behavior was messed up enough to make Bill Self "ticked off" and suspend his player against KSU and possibly longer (though, we'll see now that Embiid is iffy). All of this probably won't matter come March.

2. Kansas St. Wildcats (17-7, 7-4) -- It's weird to think a team this high may have been creeping toward bubble talk, but had KSU lost to KU, it would have lost four of its last six and dropped into the Big 12's muddled midsection glut of teams. Instead, it was mostly an ovation-worthy effort from as many as nine or 10 guys to pitch in and knock off the Big 12's best. Now, with a road trip to Waco, does this pretty young team crash emotionally?

3. Texas Longhorns (19-5, 8-3) -- The Longhorns have been the league's hottest team for awhile now, especially since the middle of January. Getting blown out in Manhattan perhaps was a reality check for some predicting March greatness, but this team is still very dangerous, and still growing.

4. Oklahoma Sooners (18-6, 7-4) -- OU dropped back-to-back road games at ISU and WVU, but that loss to the Mountaineers came with a terrible travel caveat. Never mind the Sooners still almost managed a win in a place that has proven to be pretty rough this year. Two wins should happen between now and a three-game stretch against KSU, KU and Texas.

5. West Virginia Mountaineers (15-10, 7-5) -- Time to acknowledge I was wrong about WVU. Huggie's guys are 5-2 since Jan. 22, including wins against K-State, Oklahoma, and a flat smash-job on Iowa St. in which WVU scored a season-high 102 points. Is it too late for an NCAA run? Not necessarily, but this still has become a team nobody wants to play.

6. Iowa St. Cyclones (18-5, 6-5) -- It's time to exercise a little caution with this team. Arguably the hottest, most exciting team in the country to start the year, the 'Clones were 3-4 in January. They are 3-1 thus far this month, but the dismantling WVU put on the fightin' Hoiberg's was slightly unnerving. The only saving grace, at least for now, is that the remaining schedule shows just one current Top 25 opponent (Texas), though K-State will likely make that list next week.

7. Baylor Bears (14-9, 2-8) -- I praised BU's toughness earlier this year, and it is a gritty bunch. Somehow, that hasn't translated into anything really as this group feels as disjointed as any that Scott Drew has led. Just doesn't feel right at all, and the results show. Numbers? I'll end with this: Of the Bears eight Big 12 losses, six of them have been by 10 points or more.

8. Texas Tech Red Raiders (12-11, 4-6) -- You know something? This team has reached the lowest level of respectable, which, if you follow Big 12 hoops, you know this is a step in the right direction. Determined and playing with some sense of role-driven purpose, the Red Raiders are a group that their fans -- even the most ignorant, terribly misnamed "super fans" like Jeff Orr -- can rally behind.

9. Oklahoma St. Cowboys (16-8, 4-7) -- Travis Ford's cupboard isn't bare, it was repossessed with the team home he had built for this season. Two pieces of the foundation and a support beam are gone or suspended, and the Stillwater once-mansion is a shanty. It'll be better when a (hopefully) refocused Marcus Smart returns, but it might be too late to build legit momentum. Also, never mind Smart wasn't playing very well before the Jeff Orr incident.

10. TCU Horned Frogs (9-13, 0-10) -- The Horned Frogs were game against the Longhorns and still fell.The cold, purple rain just keeps falling.