- Jason King
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The race for the Big 12 title appears to be a two-team affair between Missouri and Kansas. The rest of the league, however, is in a state of flux. Here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Missouri: Aided by Oklahoma's porous free throw shooting, the Tigers escaped Norman with a three-point victory last week before dismantling Baylor at home Saturday. On Wednesday they get to avenge last month’s loss to Oklahoma State when they take on the Cowboys in Columbia. Marcus Denmon has made 14 of his previous 26 attempts from 3-point range.
2. Kansas: The Jayhawks looked like a totally different team last week thanks to the emergence of Jeff Withey. The 7-foot center scored a career-high 25 points in Wednesday’s win at Baylor before erupting for 18 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocks Saturday against Oklahoma State. Kansas travels to Manhattan to play Kansas State on Big Monday. Bill Self’s squad defeated the Wildcats by 18 points on Jan. 4. Expect a closer game on the road.
3. Baylor: Not many teams in the country had a worse week than the Bears, who were humiliated in blowout losses to Kansas and Missouri. Baylor looked ill-prepared in both games and cowered under the national spotlight. Leading scorer Perry Jones III accounted for just nine points on 3-of-20 shooting in the two losses. It’ll be gut-check time for Scott Drew’s team when it hosts Iowa State on Monday.
4. Iowa State: If they beat Baylor, the Cyclones will be able to make a case for being the Big 12’s third-best team. They’ve already defeated Kansas, Kansas State and Texas. On Saturday, Fred Hoiberg’s squad defeated Texas A&M by 23 points. Leading scorer Royce White is averaging just 7.7 points in his last three games, but ISU is still hanging in.
5. Texas: The Longhorns -- who count six freshmen among their top nine players -- are beginning to mature. Texas has won four of its last six games, and the two losses were by a combined six points. Freshman guard Sheldon McClellan has taken some of the pressure off of leading scorer J'Covan Brown by scoring in double figures in his last three games.
6. Kansas State: Saturday’s 75-64 loss to Texas may have been the most frustrating of the season for the Wildcats, who blew a 13-point halftime lead en route to their third defeat in five games. Texas attempted 48 free throws compared to 12 by Kansas State. Once a Top 25 team, the Wildcats will fall to 6-7 in the Big 12 if they don't defeat Kansas at home Monday.
7. Oklahoma State: You won’t see the Cowboys in the NCAA tournament this season, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for the future. Travis Ford’s squad has shown loads of improvement during the last month. Oklahoma State defeated Iowa State on Tuesday and cut a 29-point deficit to 12 at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday before eventually falling to Kansas 81-66. Guard Markel Brown is averaging 20 points in his past two games.
8. Texas A&M: Saturday’s 23-point loss at Iowa State was the fourth in a row for the Aggies, who are even in danger of falling at Texas Tech on Tuesday. Khris Middleton (knee) returned to the court Saturday but contributed just five points on 2-of-9 shooting. Point guard Dash Harris has missed five consecutive games with a foot injury.
9. Texas Tech: The team that nobody thought would win a Big 12 game finally pulled off a victory Saturday. Billy Gillispie couldn’t help but get emotional when talking about the Red Raiders’ 18-point win over Oklahoma in Lubbock. The victory was the first for Texas Tech since Dec. 30. Javarez Willis scored 21 points.
10. Oklahoma: The Sooners went 10-2 in nonconference play, but things have been going south for Lon Kruger’s squad ever since. Oklahoma is just 3-9 in Big 12 play -- with two of the wins coming against K-State -- and Saturday it was embarrassed by a Texas Tech squad that had yet to win a league game. The Sooners shot just 32.7 percent in the loss.