Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 28th, 2013
Right when we thought a team might overtake Kansas in the Big 12 standings (or our power rankings, at least), Kansas State went out and lost two in a row last week, first to Kansas at home and then at Iowa State on Saturday. Both were close games with the Wildcats losing by a combined 10 points, but they lost two games on the Jayhawks in the Big 12 race and fell into a third place tie with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Baylor has quietly started 5-1 in conference play, but the easier part of their schedule is now behind them. The Bears have already swept TCU and have another win over Texas Tech in Lubbock (but hey, that’s more than Iowa State can say). And about those Jayhawks — they are due for a loss, aren’t they? They have been winning close games for the last month it seems. We’ve spiced up the rankings this week with a team’s projected NCAA Tournament seed from Bracket Matrix. Instead of picking a random bracketologist’s numbers, how about averaging out a bunch of mock brackets? The guys at Bracket Matrix do that so we don’t have to, and as many people have been saying lately, there looks to be six NCAA Tournament teams from the Big 12 this year.
1) Kansas (18-1, 6-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Projected NCAA Seed: #1
Last Week: W 59-55 at Kansas State, W 67-54 vs Oklahoma
This Week: Tonight at West Virginia, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs Oklahoma State, 3:00 PM
- Rundown: The Jayhawks have won 17 straight since losing to Michigan State in November but the offense has disappeared in January. They are averaging 62.2 PPG in their last five games, leading to a KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency of #18. And as we pointed out here, teams that finish outside the top #25 in that category rarely make the Final Four.
- Cause For Concern: The offense, of course. Last season, point guard Tyshawn Taylor was always there to clean up an ugly offensive possession with a drive to the basket. This team has had point guard issues most of the year. Starter Elijah Johnson has been more of an off-guard during his career and backup Naadir Tharpe is trigger-happy. Freshman Ben McLemore averages 16.2 PPG, but with a shooting percentage of 51%, he needs to take over more games than he does. He’s the best player on the team and one of the five best in the country, so an average of 10 shots a game isn’t enough.
2) Baylor (14-5, 5-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Projected NCAA Seed: #9
Last Week: W 64-54 vs Oklahoma State, W 82-56 at TCU
This Week: Wednesday vs Oklahoma, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Iowa State 7:00 PM
- Rundown: The days of losing to teams like Charleston and Northwestern look to be behind them, but the schedule certainly picks up the rest of the way. Eight of their last 12 games are against teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament. The emergence of freshman center Isaiah Austin will help, though. Austin has scored double figures in each of his last 10 games going back to December 12.
- Cause For Concern: We all know what the Bears are by now, a talented, underachieving squad that could fall on its face in the first round of the Tournament or make the Elite Eight. From where they stand now, the worst thing that could happen to Baylor — or any team for that matter — is to land in the #8/#9 game and play a #1 seed in the second round.
3) Kansas State (15-4, 4-2)
Previous Ranking: 2
Projected NCAA Seed: #6
Last Week: L 59-55 vs Kansas, L 73-67 at Iowa State
This Week: Wednesday vs Texas, 7:00 PM, Saturday at Oklahoma, 5:00 PM
- Rundown: Kansas State was coming off a disappointing four-point loss at home to the Jayhawks and Iowa State was returning home after an embarrassing loss at Texas Tech, so both teams badly needed to rebound with a win in Ames on Saturday. It was the home team who did so, and the Wildcats are suddenly sitting in third place along with the Cyclones and Sooners.
- Cause For Concern: In their last 11 games, leading scorer Rodney McGruder (15.3 PPG) scored under his season average five times. The Wildcats’ record is 2-3 in those games. Who is capable of picking up the slack when McGruder isn’t his normal self? No other player averages more than 9.5 PPG.
4) Iowa State (14-5, 4-2)
Previous Ranking: 4
Projected NCAA Seed: #12
Last Week: L 56-51 at Texas Tech, W 73-67 vs Kansas State
This Week: Wednesday at Oklahoma State, 7:00 PM, Saturday vs Baylor, 7:00 PM
- Rundown: The win against Kansas State was nice, but it will be for naught if Iowa State struggles in its next four-game stretch: at Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma, and at Kansas State. As long as they don’t shoot a dreadful 26% from three-point range like they did in their loss to Texas Tech, 2-2 in that stretch should be a worst-case scenario.
- Cause For Concern: It would be easy to look at Iowa State’s 23 three-point attempts (6-of-23) in their loss against a terrible Texas Tech team and tell them to stop shooting so much from deep. But the three-ball nearly gave them a win at Kansas. They shot 36.8% that game (14-of-38) and would have won if Ben McLemore didn’t call bank with two seconds left. When the Cyclones lose in March, don’t be surprised to see a putrid three-point percentage in the box score.
5) Oklahoma (13-5, 4-2)
Previous Ranking: 5
Projected NCAA Seed: #9
Last Week: W 73-67 vs Texas, L 67-54 at Kansas
This Week: Wednesday at Baylor, 6:00 PM, Saturday vs Kansas State, 5:00 PM
- Rundown: Oklahoma’s only conference losses came against Kansas and Kansas State, both on the road and in hard-fought games. The Sooners have improved tremendously in year two of the Lon Kruger era, which shouldn’t be a surprise. They have great scoring balance with three players (Romero Osby at 14.4 PPG, Steven Pledger at 10.9 PPG, and Amath M’Baye at 10.3 PPG) averaging in double figures.
- Cause For Concern: The Oklahoma offense hasn’t been great this season, currently #163 in the country with 68.2 PPG and #227 with 12.1 APG. Both stats go hand in hand, obviously, and the Sooners need to move the ball better if they want to secure an NCAA Tournament berth. Senior guard Sam Grooms leads the team with 2.7 APG and has a solid 2.6/1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but only plays 17.9 MPG. When Grooms isn’t on the floor the offense can become stagnant, making life easier for the defense.
6) Oklahoma State (13-5, 3-3)
Previous Ranking: 6
Projected NCAA Seed: #9
Last Week: L 64-54 at Baylor, W 80-66 vs West Virginia
This Week: Wednesday vs Iowa State, 7:00 PM, Saturday at Kansas, 3:00 PM
- Rundown: The moment of realization that Oklahoma State isn’t as good as we thought is well behind us. They were supposed to compete — and possibly win — the Big 12 title. Instead, they are 3-3 and sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The win over North Carolina State in November might be enough to push them into the Dance, but they shouldn’t be on the bubble in the first place. Sophomore guard Le’Bryan Nash hasn’t improved much upon his freshman campaign and freshman point guard Marcus Smart’s impressive season (13.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.5 APG) is going to waste in Stillwater. Sitting outside the top 100 nationally in PPG, APG, and shooting percentage will put head coach Travis Ford on the hot seat this offseason.
- Cause For Concern: The Cowboys can be found in every one of the mock brackets used in the Bracket Matrix (and there are a lot of them) but they aren’t a lock to be invited on Selection Sunday. Their three conference wins have come against TCU, Texas Tech, and West Virginia, all at home. They still have one more game with Kansas State and Oklahoma and four games total against Kansas and Iowa State.
7) West Virginia (9-10, 2-4)
Previous Ranking: 8
Last Week: W 71-50 vs TCU, L 80-66 at Oklahoma State
This Week: Tonight vs Kansas, 8:00 PM, Saturday at Texas Tech, 12:30 PM
- Rundown: This season has been over for a weeks now, but there are reasons to stay optimistic in Morgantown. Six of Bob Huggins’ seven leading scorers return next season, everyone but senior forward Deniz Kilicli, who is averaging 7.5 PPG and 4.4 RPG. Assuming former transfers like junior center Aaric Murray (La Salle) and sophomore guard Juwan Staten (Dayton) improve after a year spent adjusting to their tougher competition, the Mountaineers will have as much experience as any team in the Big 12 next season.
- Cause For Concern: The only possible downside of having so many players return next year is the bad taste they might have in their mouths after this disaster of a season. Can they put it behind them? Who knows. Of course, a big win over Kansas at home tonight could be enough to get them excited for 2013-14.
8) Texas (9-10, 1-5)
Previous Ranking: 7
Last Week: L 73-67 at Oklahoma, W 73-57 vs Texas Tech
This Week: Wednesday at Kansas State, 7:00 PM, Saturday vs TCU, 7:00 PM
- Rundown: What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said about the Longhorns this season? Two months ago, they were a young team in dire need of their starting point guard, or so we thought. Now they’re just a bad young team that won’t be cured overnight when Myck Kabongo returns in a few weeks. Like West Virginia, nearly all of the roster returns next season, probably led by Kabongo assuming he doesn’t enter the NBA Draft. A full season with sophomore guards Sheldon McClellan (14.8 PPG), Julien Lewis (11.8 PPG), Kabongo, and possibly five-star recruit Julius Randle could make Longhorn fans forget this season rather quickly.
- Cause For Concern: If Kabongo enters the NBA Draft and Randle decides to go elsewhere, the Longhorns may only be marginally better next season. Their youth is a legitimate excuse this season, but I don’t see them vastly improving on their 12.2 APG (#212 in the nation) without a solid point guard running the offense.
9) Texas Tech (9-9, 2-5)
Previous Ranking: 9
Last Week: W 56-51 vs Iowa State, L 73-57 at Texas
This Week: Saturday vs West Virginia, 12:30 PM
- Rundown: The Red Raiders had their best win of the season last Wednesday, beating Iowa State at home. Freshman guard Josh Gray had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists on the night. That stat line helped, but the 17 missed three-point attempts for Iowa State were the real factor in Tech’s 56-51 win.
- Cause For Concern: Interim head coach Chris Walker not getting another year to prove himself would be wrong. Former coach Billie Gillispie left the program in shambles. Walker already has more wins than all of last season (eight), and getting rid of him prematurely could set things back even further in Lubbock. He might not be the right guy, but we won’t know that for a few more years.
10) TCU (9-11, 0-7)
Previous Ranking: 10
Last Week: L 71-50 vs West Virginia, L 82-56 vs Baylor, Saturday at Texas, 7:00 PM
This Week: Saturday at Texas, 7:00 PM
- Rundown: Paired together in futility with Texas Tech most of the season, the Horned Frogs suddenly find themselves all alone. Texas Tech has a two-game lead in the race for ninth place, and TCU is nearly halfway to an 0-18 conference record. They are outside the top 250 nationally in PPG (54.7), RPG (32.2), and field goal percentage (41.3%). Sophomore guard Kyan Anderson has been a bright spot this season while averaging 11.6 PPG and 3.4 APG, but four-star recruit Karviar Shepherd can’t get to Fort Worth soon enough. Head coach Trent Johnson stole the local talent away from schools like UCLA, Texas, Baylor, and Kansas.
- Cause For Concern: Shepherd is the best TCU recruit in years, and he and Johnson will be counted on to turn around the basketball program in the Big 12. It will take time though, if it happens at all.