With schools on Christmas break and a lot of teams giving players a few days off to travel home for the holidays, it was a slow week in the Big 12. There were only eight games this week, highlighted by Baylor’s 94-87 loss at Gonzaga Friday night. The rest of the schedule was the usual end-of-December no-name games against teams like American and UMKC as teams prepare for the conference season’s start on Saturday. Kansas remains on top of the power rankings for another week after dismantling an overmatched American squad in Allen Fieldhouse Saturday night. The Big 12 microsite staff couldn’t agree on Oklahoma State and Kansas State at No. 2, and the trio of Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa State were tied for fifth place, so we went to KenPom to settle the score. To reiterate the ranking process, I can’t speak for Danny and Nate but my vote isn’t like a Top 25 ballot where teams are almost automatically moved up or down each week with a win or loss. So Baylor lost to Gonzaga in Spokane. Do I think Iowa State or Oklahoma would have fared any better? If the answer is yes, I vote accordingly. If not, then the Bears might not slip because of the loss. With that out of the way, here is where we stand in week eight:
1) Kansas (11-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1
Last Week: W 89-57 vs. American
This Week: Off
- Rundown: Kansas did what it was supposed to do against American on Saturday in a glorified scrimmage. Bill Self is notorious for vastly improving his teams over the winter break when practice times are less limited, and this year is no different. The Jayhawks have been improving steadily since the close wins over San Jose State and Oregon State at the end of November, winning their last five games by an average of 26.2 PPG.
- Interesting Stat: Jeff Withey has been so imposing defensively that teams have basically given up trying to score on him lately. In the last five games, Kansas opponents have attempted 23.6 three-pointers per game. And unless you are playing against Reggie Miller and Ray Allen on the perimeter, I think any team would gladly let its opponents shoot that often from deep.
2) Oklahoma State (8-1, 0-0) (KenPom No. 27)
Previous Ranking: 2
Last Week: Off
This Week: Today vs. Gonzaga, 5:00 PM ESPN, Saturday at Kansas State, 12:30 PM
- Rundown: Gonzaga is 4-0 against the Big 12 this season, looking to make it five wins tonight in Stillwater. Gallagher-Iba Arena should be jumping tonight with the Bulldogs in town, and a Cowboys win would create a definite gap between themselves, Kansas, then everyone else in the conference.
- Interesting Stat: Even with the talented duo of LeBryan Nash and Marcus Page, the Cowboys have not shot the ball well this year (44.2%), but they are the No.3 adjusted defensive team on KenPom.com. Their 81-71 loss to Virginia Tech on December 1 was the only time an opponent has scored over 65 points against them this season. Five teams have failed to reach 50 points against the Cowboys.
3) Kansas State (10-2, 0-0) (KenPom No. 48)
Previous Ranking: 3
Last Week: W 52-44 vs. UMKC
This Week: Today vs. South Dakota State, 1:oo PM, Saturday vs. Oklahoma State, 12:30 PM
- Rundown: Kansas State struggled against UMKC last week, eventually winning by just 12 points. The Wildcats shot 32.1 % from the field against the Kangaroos, but I will consider it a letdown after beating then No. 8 Florida in Kansas City the week prior.
- Interesting Stat: Like Oklahoma State, Kansas State does not shoot the ball well (41.4% on the season) but they still have Frank Martin’s identity. They have grabbed 206 offensive rebounds this season (17.1 ORPG).