The pecking order atop the Big 12 has been static since early in conference play. Baylor, Kansas and West Virginia established themselves as the top three in that order, and throughout the first half of the season nothing happened to shake the tree.
Now, something has.
West Virginia has dropped three of its past five games, including two straight. Texas Tech is headed in the other direction, winning four of five with the only loss coming at Kansas.
Thus, the Red Raiders have leaped above the Mountaineers for the No. 3 spot in this week’s Big 12 Power Index.
1. Baylor (22-1, 11-0) Last week: 1
No one has beaten the Bears since Nov. 8 when Washington nipped them by 3, but by no means is this team invincible. Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas have each taken solid shots at Baylor in the past two weeks before falling late. Do not expect the Bears to remain unbeaten by the end of league play.
2. Kansas (21-3, 10-1) Last week: 2
The Jayhawks are on the cusp of jumping into the top spot after completing the sweep of West Virginia.
3. Texas Tech (16-8, 7-4) Last week: 4
It took awhile for things to come together after experiencing heavy turnover from last season’s Final Four roster, but Chris Beard has the Red Raiders humming once again. Texas Tech operated like a Swiss watch in its 88-42 dissection of TCU.
4. West Virginia (18-6, 6-5) Last week: 3
The Mountaineers’ rough patch doesn’t get any easier with No. 1 Baylor on tap Saturday afternoon. The problem? WVU’s shooters can’t hit the broad side of a barn, ranking 310th nationally in three-point shooting and 331st in free-throw shooting.
5. Oklahoma (16-8, 6-5) Last week: 5
The Sooners have worked their way into the NCAA tournament field after precariously hanging on the bubble. But the bubble may soon come calling again — the next two games are against Kansas and Baylor.
6. Texas (14-10, 4-7) Last week: 6
The Longhorns are on a three-game losing streak, but each of those defeats came against the league’s three best teams. If Texas can get to the finish line at .500 in Big 12 play, it may still warrant NCAA tourney consideration.
7. Oklahoma State (12-12, 2-9) Last week: 9
In the words of former Oklahoma State football coach Jimmy Johnson:
This team was dead in the water a month ago, but is a respectable 3-3 in its past six games. Oklahoma State still occupies last place in the league standings, but it will not be there by the time the conference tournament rolls around.
Like West Virginia a year ago, these guys look capable of upsetting a much better team in the Big 12 quarterfinals despite their many flaws.
8. Iowa State (10-14, 3-8) Last week: 10
The Cyclones showed some fight, snapping a four-game losing streak with a 73-63 win over Kansas State. Unfortunately, it may also be Iowa State’s last win this season. Point guard Tyrese Haliburton is done for the year after breaking his wrist in that win, and the Cyclones were drummed 90-61 by Oklahoma their next time out.
Haliburton is the most valuable player to his team in the Big 12, so the Iowa State seems destined for the cellar.
9. TCU (13-11, 4-7) Last week: 7
More like Horned Frauds, am I right?
Two weeks ago TCU occupied the No. 5 spot in our power index. Now it’s at a Tom Petty level of free-fall with six straight losses. Once 3-0 in the Big 12, the Frogs don’t even look capable of reaching the NIT at this point.
10. Kansas State (9-15, 2-9) Last week: 8
The more time passes, the worse West Virginia’s loss to the Wildcats looks.
K-State isn’t the worst team in the league, per se — outside of the brawl game at Kansas, it hasn’t been blown out by anybody. But the Wildcats just can’t seem to get over the hump in crunch time, resulting in the league’s worst record.