Big 12 Power Rankings: West Virginia Is Finally Here Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 5th, 2016

West Virginia is a basketball team. A very solid basketball team, in fact. A team whose hallmark is to press the life out of opponents. A team that scores easy baskets off turnovers. A team that makes its fans cringe when it clangs jump shots off odd parts of the backboard. The Mountaineers started 4-0 in Big 12 play playing the good ol’ West Virginia way before losing back-to-back games at Oklahoma and at home to Texas. In the four games since those defeats, it appears that we’re seeing a different West Virginia team. Not only have the Mountaineers gone 3-1 in that span, but their three-point shooting has improved (35 percent in their last four games; 31 percent for the year) as well as their free-throw percentage (73.4 percent in their last four games; 66 percent for the year). Tuesday night’s win at Iowa State marked the first time a team other than Baylor or Kansas has defeated Iowa State in Ames since the start of the 2012-13 season. Bob Huggins‘ team now finds itself in a first-place tie with Oklahoma with nine games still to play. The Mountaineers are very good and they can no longer be ignored.

Bob Huggins has won 711 games as a Division I coach. I feel like we don't say that enough. (Associated Press)

Bob Huggins has won 711 games as a Division I coach. We don’t say that enough. (AP)

  1. Oklahoma — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “With most of the focus understandably on Buddy Hield’s National Player of the Year campaign, the evolution of junior guard Jordan Woodard — arguably the most improved player in the country this season — hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Having shed his responsibilities as the primary ball-handler, Woodard’s turnover rate has declined eight percent while maintaining his assist rate. It’s also opened up his own offensive game. Woodard is shooting 51 percent from deep and has already made 51 threes, more than he made in his first two seasons combined. Every good superhero needs a sidekick, and Woodard is filling that role nicely.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)
  2. West Virginia — 6 points (All voted 2nd). Comment: Jonathan Holton‘s loss was Devin Williams‘ gain, at least in Monday’s win at Hilton Coliseum. Williams has been terrific all season long, but the absence of Holton — the Mountaineers’ second-leading rebounder behind Williams — due to a violation of team rules indirectly led to Williams pulling down a career-high 18 rebounds in the big win in Ames. – Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman)
  3. Kansas — 9 points (All voted 3rd). Comment: “Kansas beat Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse last night. Not a big deal considering the Jayhawks are 86-35 vs the Wildcats in Lawrence. With the final seconds ticking away and the Jayhawks up 16, though, Brannen Greene dunked the ball as the handshake lines commenced. This should not have happened. Bill Self later remarked on Greene’s dunk in a postgame interview, calling his player’s act a “d**k move.” This is another thing that should not have happened. So, as you might have guessed, everything’s just sunshine and lollipops in the Sunflower State.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)
  4. Iowa State (tie for #4) — 14 points (Brian & Chris — 4th, Nate — 6th). Comment: Georges Niang committed a career-high eight turnovers against West Virginia as he was overwhelmed by a combination of the Mountaineers’ press, nagging injuries and foul trouble. On the flip side, that he was able to tally 20 points in spite of those challenges shows why he’ll go down as one of the Big 12’s all-time leading scorers when the book closes on his immensely successful career.” – BG
  5. Texas (tie for #4) — 14 points (Nate — 4th, Brian & Chris — 5th). Comment: “Texas has won six of its last seven games, are in a three-way tie for second place in the Big 12 and we still don’t if its best player (Cameron Ridley) will be back this season. If the Longhorns can find a way to finish in the top three of the conference by season’s end, you might as well start engraving Shaka Smart‘s name on the Big 12 Coach of the Year trophy. If such a thing exists.” – NK
  6. Baylor — 17 points (Nate — 5th, Brian & Chris — 6th). Comment: “How good is Baylor? After losing to Texas on Tuesday, the Bears are now 3-5 against the KenPom top 50, but just 1-5 against teams ranked in the top 30. Baylor has done a great job of avoiding any bad losses this season, but the Bears could really use some signature wins down the stretch to improve their seed come March.” – CS
  7. Texas Tech — 22 points (Chris & Nate — 7th, Brian — 8th). Comment: “A five-game slump was enough for Tubby Smith to pull sophomore guard Devaugntah Williams from the starting lineup in advance of Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma State. Unfortunately, Williams’ replacement, Justin Gray, wasn’t much of a factor against the Cowboys, scoring just two points in 34 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Williams came up empty on his first seven shots of the night. For 44 minutes and 58 seconds of the overtime game, it looked like the Red Raiders would be headed for their eighth loss in nine contests. Then Williams hit a game-winning layup with one second remaining, giving Tech a much-needed win.” – BG
  8. Kansas State — 23 points (Brian — 7th, Chris & Nate — 8th). Comment: “The Wildcats struggled to protect the ball against Kansas without freshman point guard Kamau Stokes, committing 23 turnovers in a 77-59 loss. The absence underscored the importance of Bruce Weber’s recent recruits to a team that counts three freshmen among their five leading scorers.” – CS
  9. Oklahoma State — 27 points (All voted 9th). Comment: “It is early February and the Cowboys know their fate. Postseason play is probably not in the cards, so now they will play the role of professional spoiler. (Or “amateur” spoiler, because NCAA.) Yes, they picked off Kansas but they also gave Baylor a game. They handled Bruce Pearl’s Auburn team over the weekend and came very close to snatching a road win in Lubbock. Maybe Travis Ford knows the end is nigh and is coaching more relaxed because his players seem to respond well to it.” – NK
  10. Texas Christian — 30 points (All voted 10th). Comment: “Last Saturday, the Horned Frogs beat Tennessee, who beat Kentucky three days later. That has to count for something, right?” – BG

Big 12 Video/GIF of the Week

This one comes to us from West Virginia’s huge road victory at Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday night. Bob Huggins is known to (un)intentionally make the occasional silly face at press conferences, like he did when the Mountaineers’ season ended last March. Although he appeared to be bored, you could tell Huggy Bear was a little giddy and he didn’t care who knew it. (h/t

Five Big 12 Games You Better Watch This Week

  •  Saturday: Iowa State at Oklahoma State (1:00 PM CT, ESPN2)
  •  Saturday: Texas Tech at Texas (1:00 PM CT, LHN)
  •  Saturday: Baylor at West Virginia (7:00 PM CT, ESPN2)
  •  Monday: Texas at Oklahoma (8:00 PM CT, ESPN)
  •  Wednesday: Iowa State at Texas Tech (8:00 PM CT, ESPNU)
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