Big 12 Power Rankings: Safe To Call Kansas State Good? Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 24th, 2015

Kansas State had chemistry problems all season long a year ago as the Wildcats stumbled to a miserable 15-17 record. The offseason then brought a multitude of departures that only further weakened a fan base’s confidence in head coach Bruce Weber. This season, however, with 10 newcomers — including seven freshmen — Weber’s team has already given Texas A&M and North Carolina difficult games. The Wildcats also beat Georgia, a better-than-average SEC team, on the road. So who are these Wildcats?

You might be alarmed to learn that Bruce Weber has the Kansas State Wildcats out to an 8-2 start. (Scott Sewell/USA TODAY Sports)

You might be surprised to hear that Bruce Weber has the Kansas State Wildcats off to an 8-2 start. (Scott Sewell/USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Edwards and Wesley Iwundu are the two highest scoring returnees, but it’s freshmen like last year’s Kansas Mr. Basketball Dean Wade (11.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and Kamau Stokes (9.1 PPG, 3.5 APG) who have led the Wildcats to a 9-2 record thus far. Is it too early to call them a good team? Probably. Still, it’s encouraging to see the Wildcats hang around with teams that are clearly better than them. Kansas State likely isn’t at the point of beating good teams just yet, but the Wildcats also aren’t nearly as far away as we expected them to be before the season began. Let’s see how they fared in our latest power rankings.

Power Rankings

  • 1. Oklahoma (tie) — 6 points (Chris & Nate — 1st, Brian & Kendall — 2nd). Comment: “The Sooners still own the Big 12’s best win according to KenPom, a 23-point drubbing of Villanova on a neutral floor. They also have the country’s fifth-best defense. Sophomore Khadeem Lattin has helped fill the void left by the departure of TaShawn Thomas. His production on the defensive end, where he’s grabbed nearly 20.0 percent of the available rebounds and blocked 8.6 percent of the opposing shots, has been his biggest contribution.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)
  • 1. Kansas (tie) — 6 points (Brian & Kendall — 1st, Chris & Nate — 2nd). Comment: Wayne Selden‘s development has fueled Kansas’ shot at winning a national title. Although Selden can’t shoot 54.0 percent from three-point range all season, he has also increased his field goal percentage at the rim by 10 percent from last season.” – Kendall Kaut (@kkaut)
  • 3. Iowa State — 12 points (All voted 3rd). Comment: “Yes, the Cyclones did not lose their first game until falling to Northern Iowa in Des Moines last week, but their imperfections have been noticeable for a little while now. They struggled to beat a clearly inferior Colorado team. They trailed by 20 at home to Iowa before coming all the way back to win that one in dramatic fashion. Now they’ve lost both a game and a major shotmaker in Naz Mitrou-Long for the season while they slowly work Deonte Burton into the rotation. So, naturally, they then go out and nip Cincinnati at the wire on the road.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

  • 4. Baylor — 17 points (Brian, Kendall & Nate — 4th, Chris — 5th). Comment: “This year has shown that no one’s immune from a clunker, and Baylor’s no different. While the Bears don’t have the cachet of Duke, Kansas or Kentucky, they simply laid an egg against a good Texas A&M team. The Aggies jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first 90 seconds and never looked back from there.” – Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman)
The Cyclones are wounded heading toward 2016. Steve Prohm and his staff will have to right the ship before Big 12 play begins. (Michael Zamora/The Des Moines Register)

Steve Prohm and his staff will have problems to fix before Big 12 play begins. (Michael Zamora/The Des Moines Register)

  • 5. West Virginia — 21 points (Chris — 4th, Kendall — 5th, Brian & Nate — 6th). Comment: “Fun fact: The Big 12 team with the conference’s best scoring margin is not Kansas or Oklahoma. Scoring margin — the number of points you score minus the number of points your opponents’ score — has historically been correlated with NCAA Tournament success. Despite a 16-point loss to Virginia, the Mountaineers rank second nationally in that statistic, winning by an average margin of 26.0 points per game. Let’s see if they can keep that margin up against tougher competition.” – CS
  • 6. Texas — 22 points (Brian & Nate — 5th, Chris & Kendall — 6th). Comment: “Things have changed a bit since we did our last batch of power rankings. A lot of us, myself included, were ready to push the panic button on Texas’ season until they pulled the upset of then-third ranked North Carolina. They’ve since eked out a win at Stanford on Saturday night and will have UConn arriving in Austin next Tuesday; the Horns have an opportunity to end the toughest part of their non-conference slate on a good note.” – NK
  • 7. Texas Tech — 29 points (Brian, Chris & Kendall — 7th, Nate — 8th). Comment: “Although Texas Tech lacks a signature win, they’re beating everyone they should beat. This seems like a solid NIT team, which gives hope Tubby Smith can eventually lead a resurgence in Lubbock.” – KK
  • 8. Kansas State — 31 points (Nate — 7th, Brian, Chris & Kendall — 8th). Comment: “Historically, Bruce Weber’s best teams have always defended, and that’s the calling card of this year’s Wildcats. Kansas State opponents currently sport an eFG% of just 39.7 percent this season. They’ve also benefited from their opponents’ ineptitude from deep, as its foes are shooting a paltry 26.3 percent from three-point range. The question as we near conference play is what the Wildcats do when those threes start falling.” – BG
  • 9. Oklahoma State — 36 points (All voted 9th). Comment: “Due to an elbow injury, the Cowboys’ Phil Forte has played in only three games this season. If he isn’t at full strength during Big 12 play, the league will be missing out on one of its most fun players. Forte can make shots from anywhere on the floor and he’s not afraid to hoist them.” – CS
  • 10. Texas Christian — 40 points (All voted 10th). Comment: “The Horned Frogs are 322nd in turnover percentage and have the 304th-best defensive free throw rate on KenPom. As well as TCU has transitioned to playing football in the Big 12, the road to contending in basketball continues to be tough.” – KK

Big 12 Video/GIF of the Week

As we mentioned before, Iowa State pulled out another late victory against another difficult non-conference opponent. This time, Abdel Nader played hero as his three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining gave the Cyclones another feather in their resume cap. And since he plays in Iowa, don’t rule out another Nader, especially this Nader, making a run for the presidency in 2016. This shot is a perfect jumping off point for his campaign. He’s guaranteed at least half of Iowa’s support now. (h/t CFTV)

Five Big 12 Games You Better Watch This Week

  1. None. Spend time with family this week if you’re able. They miss you, and deep, deep down you miss them, too. Conference play picks up next week. Happy Holidays!
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