Author’s note: It’s my first week taking over the power rankings after Tim Everson left to take over as sports editor of the Junction City Daily Union (congrats Tim!) so I figure you’re owed a bit of an introduction. Presumably my goals are the same, to let you know how the Big 12 teams should be ranked right now, which means some recency bias. One thing I believe is worth noting: My rankings will consider road wins no more impressive than home wins because of the pandemic. Big 12 teams this season are 27-25 on the road in conference play. To put that in context: Big 12 teams haven’t won more than 32 road games out of 90 in each of the past three seasons. Anyway, on to the rankings.
1. No. 2 Baylor (17-0, 9-0)
Baylor should certainly be concerned by the issues causing the Bears to postpone five games during their second COVID-19 pause of the season (the first came back in December) but it’s not nearly enough to knock them off their perch. This is still the best team in the conference and one of the nation’s top two teams by a wide margin. They won’t play again until at least Feb. 20, when they’re scheduled to host Oklahoma State.
NEXT UP: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
2. No. 14 West Virginia (14-5, 7-3)
Huggy Bear and the Mountaineers extended their league win streak to five games in impressive fashion, first pulling away from Kansas (twice) to top the Jayhawks 91-79 and then owning the last eight minutes once again to beat Texas Tech 82-71. This is certainly not one of the deep, high-intensity WVU teams of old, but talented players like Derek Culver, Miles McBride, Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil are getting the job done.
NEXT UP: Saturday vs. Oklahoma.
3. No. 12 Oklahoma (12-5, 7-4)
The Sooners avoided a likely loss (for now) to Baylor and hardly looked impressive while holding off Iowa State 79-72. Still, Oklahoma must be encouraged that Brady Manek returned from a COVID-19 absence to grab 15 rebounds along with his nine points. This week will be critical for Oklahoma with games against West Virginia and Texas.
NEXT UP: Saturday at West Virginia.
4. No. 7 Texas Tech (14-6, 6-5)
It still feels like the Red Raiders are overachieving, but I suppose we should be used to that from Chris Beard teams by now. They’re not quite as strong defensively (15th in the latest KenPom ratings) and it cost them again when they allowed West Virginia to shoot 49% from the field and 50% from 3. Terrence Shannon Jr. came off the bench and hit just 3 of 14 field goals but did get to the free line enough to score 13 points in that game. Wild.
NEXT UP: Monday at TCU
5. No. 13 Kansas (14-7, 8-5)
Regrettably, the Jayhawks responded quite well to falling out of the AP poll for the first time since I was a senior in college (DeMarre Carroll was in my same class and Jacob Pullen was a sophomore). Kansas put up 50 in the second half to cruise past OSU 78-66 and then kept on scoring to destroy Iowa State 97-64. The Cyclones can’t be looking forward to the rematch just two days later.
NEXT UP: Saturday at Iowa State
6. No. 13 Texas (12-5, 6-4)
Texas clearly has a lot of things to figure out given their narrow win over Kansas State, the only team the Longhorns have beaten in the last month. Admittedly, though, the Longhorns still played well offensively against the Wildcats (especially compared to their ice-cold outside shooting in an OT loss to Oklahoma State) and part of that lack of other wins comes from Covid cancellations. If Texas can’t return to form soon, beating TCU won’t be guaranteed and knocking off Oklahoma will be next to impossible.
NEXT UP: Saturday vs. TCU
7. No. 23 Oklahoma State (12-6, 5-6)
Cade Cunningham is an incredible player, but he’s not ready to win any awards for his basketball IQ just yet. The young Cowboys have the talent to be in the top half of the Big 12 and would actually be there without two puzzling losses to TCU, but that double-digit stumble this week to Kansas really hurts right now. Luckily for OSU, games against K-State and Iowa State could be just what the Cowboys need to get back on track for a challenging end to the season.
NEXT UP: Saturday vs. Kansas State
8. TCU (11-7, 4-5)
When you rally late to beat Iowa State by 3, do you really deserve to count it as a win? I suppose TCU at least managed to keep its tournament hopes alive but the harsh reality is RJ Nembhard and Mike Miles need more offensive help, and Jamie Dixon is probably still very unhappy with this mediocre defense. A brutal five-day stretch starting with Texas followed by two games against Texas Tech will determine whether the Horned Frogs are better than their abysmal KenPom rating of 100.
NEXT UP: Saturday at Texas
90. Kansas State (5-16, 1-11)
The Wildcats ended their streak of eight straight double-digit conference losses in impressive fashion by nearly storming all the way back from a 17-point deficit against Texas. So that was cool and it’s nice to have a bit of hope again. Time will tell if the improved defensive awareness, especially in the paint, and vastly superior ball movement can continue. But we’re finally beginning to see some progress and flashes of potential, which is really all most Kansas State fans wanted this season.
NEXT UP: Saturday at Oklahoma State
100. Iowa State (2-13, 0-10)
For the record, I would have had ISU in this spot ever since their loss to Kansas State. But there’s not even an argument anymore as things have gotten so bad in Ames that even Steve Prohm’s beginning to acknowledge he won’t be around much longer. After a 33-point loss to Kansas it’s hard to recall the Cyclones actually led TCU with four minutes left on Tuesday. Alas, Iowa State’s best win according to KenPom remains No. 289 Jackson State. But hey, it is kind of cool the Cyclones are ranked No. 145 in both offense and defense. Symmetry!
NEXT UP: Saturday vs. Kansas