Big 12 Men's Basketball Power Rankings

Wednesday, January 9th 2013, 1:31 am
By: News 9

Now that Big 12 Conference play is underway, we will release a weekly power poll every week. Kansas has assumed its traditional place at the top but Kansas State and Oklahoma State have shown the ability to play spoiler to KU's eight-year reign, and the league is packed tightly in the middle near the midway point of the season. Here is a quick look at where the league stands heading into week two:

1. Kansas (12-1, 0-0)

Kansas has clearly been the cream of the Big 12 up to this point. The Jayhawks have reloaded quickly after losing Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor to the NBA, running out to a 12-1 start and a No. 6 national ranking. After an early loss to Michigan State, KU has reeled off 11 straight wins, highlighted by a 74-66 victory at No. 7 Ohio State. Center Jeff Withey has been a dominant defensive force with 5.2 blocks per game, and freshman Ben McLemore has made an immediate impact, leading the team in scoring at 15.6 per outing. What makes KU even more lethal is its depth: four Jayhawks average double-digit scoring and Bill Self routinely goes nine-deep on his bench. Kansas has yet to play a Big 12 game but is still clearly the team to beat. The Jayhawks play ISU and Texas Tech this week.

2. Kansas State (12-2, 1-0)

It was pretty much a coin toss whether to put K-State or Oklahoma State in the No. 2 spot but the head-to-head victory put the Wildcats over the top for now. KSU had two 14-point losses to ranked foes Gonzaga and Michigan but has since reeled off upsets of No. 8 Florida and No. 22 OSU. As a result, K-State has leapt up to No. 18 in the polls. KSU is one of the nation's best rebounding teams and the backcourt trio of Rodney McGruder, Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling has the Wildcats rolling in Bruce Webber's first season as head coach in Manhattan. KSU has consecutive conference road games this week but they happen to be against Big 12 bottom feeders West Virginia and TCU. Expect KSU to take care of both with relative ease before a Jan. 19 showdown with Oklahoma.

3. Oklahoma State (10-3, 0-1)

Marcus Smart was just named Big 12 rookie of the week for the second time but the bad news is it came on a week where the Pokes went 0-2. Fortunately for the Cowboys, it wasn't a bad 0-2. Consecutive close losses to No. 10 Gonzaga and on the road against No. 25 Kansas State go in the "acceptable loss category," but the Cowboys need to get back in the win column with winnable games against TCU and Oklahoma this week. OSU is clearly improved this season but needs to get more consistent play out of Le'Bryan Nash and in the paint to make a serious run at Kansas for the top of the league standings. OSU's defense has remained stellar this season and will continue to be this team's identity moving forward as the offense tries to establish a reliable rhythm. One big key to watch in Bedlam will be how OSU plays in the road; OSU is 0-2 in true road games this season and is just 1-17 in Big 12 road games over the past three seasons. If the Cowboys go 2-0 this week, expect to see them back in the Top 25 as they only dropped to No. 28 in the AP poll.

4. Baylor (10-4, 2-0)

Scott Drew's Baylor Bears have been a hard team to peg through the first two months of the 2012-13 season, which isn't all that uncommon for a Drew-coached team. The Bears have surprising losses to Colorado, Charleston and Northwestern but beat defending national champion Kentucky on the road on Dec. 1. Senior guard Pierre Jackson (19.9 ppg) has been outstanding and freshman center Isaiah Austin (14.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg) might be Marcus Smart's biggest threat for Big 12 newcomer of the year. Baylor is currently atop the league standings at 2-0 with an 86-79 overtime victory against Texas and, most recently, a 34-point drubbing of Texas Tech. This week Baylor hosts TCU and then travels to No. 6 Kansas, where BU suffered its first loss last season.

5. Oklahoma (10-3, 1-0)

Lon Kruger said a few weeks ago the biggest thing he wanted to see develop on his team was consistency and that has certainly been an issue for the Sooners. At 10-3, this team is still hard to place at this point but three straight wins has OU moving in the right direction. Even the home loss against Stephen F. Austin is looking more and more forgivable as the Lumberjacks have improved to 12-1 on the season. Romero Osby is one of the Big 12's best bigs (13.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Steven Pledger is beginning to find his shot after some early struggles with six-straight games in double figures. Freshman Buddy Hield and transfer Amath M'Baye are also improving in their consistency over the past few weeks. The Sooners got a big opening victory in league play, going on a 16-2 run to end the game to come back and beat West Virginia in Morgantown. OU doesn't play any mid-week games but has a huge one on Saturday when it hosts Bedlam.

6. Iowa State (10-3, 0-0)

The Cyclones have to be aching to get back on the court after playing just once in the past 17 days. Unfortunately for ISU, when it takes the court on Wednesday it will be in Allen Fieldhouse against No. 6 Kansas. ISU is off to an impressive 10-3 start but has yet to snag a key victory, having faced the likes of Alabama A&M, Campbell, North Carolina A&T, Florida Gulf Coast, Nebraska-Omaha, Drake, UMKC and Yale. The Cyclones have lost by double figures against both Top 25 teams they've faced. If the Cyclones can snag wins this week against Kansas and Texas, it would go a long way toward legitimizing ISU's position in the conference.

7. Texas (8-6, 0-1)

The Longhorns have gotten off to an uninspired start this season and have struggled without star point guard Myck Kabongo, who was suspended 23 games by the NCAA for gift violations. The biggest question marks on their resume so far are a 13-point loss to Division II Chaminade in Maui and the slow start for highly-touted freshman center Cameron Ridley, who is averaging just 5.5 points per game. Texas certainly has talent, as evidenced by an 18-point victory against then-No. 23 North Carolina, but has been as inconsistent as any team in the Big 12 so far. The ‘Horns got off to an 0-1 start in the Big 12 last week with an 86-79 overtime loss at Baylor. This week Texas hosts struggling West Virginia and travels to untested Iowa State.

8. West Virginia (7-6, 0-1)

Bob Huggins' Mountaineer squad is off to a disappointing start in 2012-13. This certainly isn't the start WVU would have hoped for in its first season in the Big 12 and it got even worse when the Mountaineers blew a 12-point second-half lead in its league opener at home against OU, eventually losing by 10. The Mountaineers have yet to identify a go-to guy this season and the lack of a consistent scoring threat has hampered their ability to find sustained success. Huggins is an excellent coach and is more than capable of righting the ship but appears – at least at this juncture – to be headed for the bottom half of the Big 12 in its inaugural season.

9. Texas Tech (8-5, 1-1)

The Red Raiders opened Big 12 play with a much-needed victory against TCU after it took 12 tries to get their first league win a year ago. However, the win was immediately followed by an 82-48 beat down at home against Baylor. Tech has already matched last season's win total overall and in conference play but the sledding will only get tougher for the Raiders moving forward. Tech will likely only be favored in one more game this season when it hosts TCU on March 2. Tech's only game this week is a daunting one when it hosts No. 6 KU on Saturday.

10. TCU (9-5, 0-1)

Well, season No. 1 in the Big 12 is shaping up to be a rough one for Texas Christian on the hardwood. Many believed a home opener against Texas Tech would be their best chance at a conference victory this season but the Frogs lost 62-53, shooting just 19-for-54 in the process. TCU ranks 335th nationally in scoring at 57 points per game and managed just 31 points in a blowout loss to Northwestern on Nov. 23. TCU needs to enjoy its winning record while it lasts if the offense fails to improve.