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2020-21 Big 12 Power Rankings: Final edition

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A surprising Big 12 champ and seven NCAA tournament bids set up the conference for some big games to determine if it really was the nation’s best.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Oklahoma State vs Texas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 tournament brought plenty of interesting results, especially in the semifinals, when Baylor lost for just the second time this season and Kansas didn’t even get to play because of a positive COVID-19 test, putting their NCAA tournament status in jeopardy.

Unlike the selection committee, we won’t ignore what happened in Kansas City as we put together the final Big 12 power rankings of this bizarre, frustrating season. Seriously, how else do you explain West Virginia as the conference’s second-best seed, followed by Texas, Kansas, and then three seeds later, Oklahoma State?

So that’s how the Cowboys ended up with a potential second-round matchup against Tennessee, possibly followed by a Sweet 16 meeting with red-hot Illinois. Oklahoma got an even tougher draw, deservedly so given their terrible finish to the season.

We’ll take a look at where everyone ended up and give you predictions on how far they will go. On to the rankings.

1. No. 3 Baylor (22-2, 13-1)

OK, last week’s proclamation that the Bears are officially back may have been a bit premature. After dispatching Texas Tech, Baylor stumbled to a five-point win over a motivated and improved Kansas State team, then couldn’t keep up with Oklahoma State. The Bears have some work to do on both ends if they want to reach the Final Four. That said, their path to the Final Four shouldn’t be too difficult, although No. 4 seed Purdue could pose a challenge. The Elite 8 will get tricky, and that’s where I think Baylor’s season ends, probably at the hands of either Arkansas or Ohio State.
NEXT UP: Friday vs. Hartford, 2:30 p.m.

2. No. 9 Texas (19-7, 11-6)

Texas wasn’t exactly dominant in Kansas City. The Longhorns trailed by ten in the second half and then rallied to beat Texas Tech 67-66 after the Red Raiders didn’t score a point in the last four minutes. Then Texas caught a break when Kansas dropped out and barely held off a ferocious comeback by Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State, Still, credit where it’s due for a team that has reeled off five straight wins in March. They got the region with the weakest 1-seed (injury-depleted Michigan) and beating SEC tournament champion Alabama certainly isn’t out of the question. At the end of the day, though, I don’t trust Shaka in the postseason enough and so that’s where I see the Longhorns’ season ending, in the Sweet 16.
NEXT UP: Saturday vs. Abilene Christian, 8:50 p.m.

3. No. 11 Oklahoma State (20-8, 11-7)

The emergence of Avery Anderson helped Oklahoma State knock off West Virginia twice, once without Isaac Likekele and Cade Cunningham. Both returned for the Big 12 tourney and Cunningham took over the last two days, scoring 25 in the win over Baylor and 29 in the loss to Texas. He makes the Cowboys as dangerous as any other Big 12 team in the NCAA tournament, but I just don’t think Oklahoma State has the inside game to stop Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and snap the Illini’s win streak in the Sweet 16. The matchup against Brad Underwood sure could be fun.
NEXT UP: Friday vs. Liberty, 1:15 p.m.

4. No. 12 Kansas (20-8, 12-6)

Kansas looked very good in the first half of its quarterfinal win against Oklahoma but the Jayhawks were shaky in the second and of course caught some bad luck when COVID-19 hit and ended their tournament. Such a shame. It’s somewhat difficult to predict how far Kansas will go in the tournament without knowing who will be available, but either way their offense just isn’t good enough to make a deep run. Plus Kansas could match up with a difficult 6 seed in USC, and I think the Trojans topple the Jayhawks, especially if they’re missing anyone important.
NEXT UP: Saturday vs. Eastern Washington, 12:15 p.m.

5. No. 13 West Virginia (18-9, 11-6)

I was tempted to drop West Virginia down to sixth because their last week was disastrous. They looked awful in losing to an Oklahoma State team missing its two best players, then things didn’t get much better in the rematch 5 days later. West Virginia’s got a lot to figure out but did pick up a fairly easy draw. I think the Mountaineers reach the second weekend and lose in the Sweet 16, probably to No. 2 seed Houston.
NEXT UP: Friday vs. Morehead State, 8:50

6. No. 21 Texas Tech (17-10, 9-8)

Texas Tech should be a little alarmed at giving up 88 to Baylor and then blowing a big lead against Texas. This offense is not good, so if the defense can’t hold up the Red Raiders are in a lot of trouble. Chris Beard has obviously been very good in March but something tells me that ends this season. Utah State is certainly talented enough to pull off the first-round upset and I think they do.
NEXT UP: Friday vs. Utah State, 12:45 p.m.

7. Kansas State (9-20, 6-12)

Yes, the Wildcats earned this spot (at least on a K-State blog) by routing TCU and then putting up a very respectable showing against the Big 12 regular season champs. Great defense was the key once again and Bruce surely knows finding more offense must be a priority this season. Hopefully we don’t see any more impact players leaving the program following the departure of Antonio Gordon.
NEXT UP: Transfer portal tracking

8. Oklahoma (17-10, 9-8)

Kansas State appears to have broken Oklahoma yet again, starting a slide of five losses in six games. Turnovers and shooting woes have been the biggest issues for the Sooners, especially Austin Reaves shooting far below 40% in their last four losses. Oklahoma certainly didn’t catch any breaks with their draw, as they’ll face the best 9 seed (Missouri) for the right to play the best team in the tournament. They won’t get blasted, though, because I don’t think they even get to Gonzaga.
NEXT UP: Saturday vs. Missouri, 6:25 p.m.

9. TCU (12-12, 5-10)

TCU lost to Kansas State in the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season, and that’s become a worse loss each of the past three seasons. The Horned Frogs don’t have any important seniors so in theory this team should improve for next year, but they could also use some additional pieces because there’s just not enough there to compete in the Big 12 right now. The question must be asked: Has Jamie Dixon lost his touch, especially on the defensive end?
NEXT UP: Roster re-alignment

100. Iowa State (2-22, 0-18)

Iowa State ended up going 0-11 in games decided by less than 10 points and 0-6 in games decided by 5 or less. That’s actually rather remarkable, all things considered. Either way, this was a terrible, terrible season for the Cyclones and it’s hard to imagine Steve Prohm survives the offseason, even with the very real financial woes caused by the pandemic. Maybe he will, though, and Indeed, about 4 hours after I wrote this, news broke that Prohm is gone. At least Third Team All-Big 12 guard Rasir Bolton is coming back. So that’s something.
NEXT UP: Burn it all down, probably