- Jason King
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Kansas took a huge step toward claiming its ninth straight Big 12 title by defeating Kansas State 59-55 Tuesday in Manhattan. The Jayhawks won't face a more difficult road environment all season. The rest of the league is as balanced as any conference in the country. Heck, even rebuilding Texas Tech forced its way into the mix Wednesday with a mammoth upset of Iowa State, which was No. 2 in these rankings last week. Here is the latest list.
1. Kansas. The Jayhawks' defense has been excellent lately, allowing an average of just 51 points in its past four victories. Offensively, though, Kansas is averaging only 58.5 points in that span. Ben McLemore (16.1 points per game) has been the one constant.
2. Kansas State. The Wildcats are maximizing their potential under first-year coach Bruce Weber, who could be among several candidates for national coach of the year if K-State finishes second in the league. Weber's squad faces Iowa State on Saturday in Ames, where KSU had won five straight before a two-point loss last season.
3. Baylor. Led by Pierre Jackson and Isaiah Austin, the Bears got back on track Monday by defeating a talented Oklahoma State team 64-54 in Waco. Baylor's past four Big 12 opponents are averaging 50.8 points. Jackson is scoring a Big 12-best 18.6 points but also averages 3.3 turnovers.
4. Oklahoma. Forward Romero Osby is blossoming into one of the top players in the league. The forward had 29 points and eight rebounds in Monday's win over Texas and is averaging 19.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in his past five games. He'll need to come up huge Saturday at Kansas.
5. Iowa State. Wednesday's loss at Texas Tech was one of the worst by any Division I team this season. The Cyclones scored a season-low 51 points and shot 35.3 percent against one of the Big 12's worst teams. They were also outrebounded. With K-State coming to town Saturday, Fred Hoiberg's squad had better turn things around in a hurry.
6. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have lost four of their past six games, and their only two Big 12 wins are against TCU and Texas Tech. Marcus Smart is shooting just 40 percent from the field, 30 percent from 3-point range and is averaging three turnovers per contest. Crucial home games against West Virginia and Iowa State are next.
7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers' three Big 12 losses have come by a combined 13 points. Bob Huggins' squad defeated TCU by 21 points Wednesday, but five days earlier it was drubbed by 21 points by a mediocre Purdue squad in a nonconference game. A tough stretch lies ahead with a game at Oklahoma State (Saturday) and a home contest against Kansas (Tuesday).
8. Texas. Rick Barnes' team fell to 0-5 following a hard-fought 73-67 loss to Oklahoma on Monday in Norman. Leading rebounder Jonathan Holmes broke his hand in that game and will miss the next three to six weeks. Texas' 0-5 Big 12 record marks its worst start in conference play since 1976.
9. Texas Tech. Freshman point guard Josh Gray scored a career-high 16 points and had four assists in Wednesday's 56-51 upset of Iowa State in Lubbock. At 2-4 in league play, Texas Tech has already doubled last season's Big 12 win total. Another victory could come Saturday against last-place Texas in Austin.
10. TCU. The Horned Frogs fell to 0-6 in Big 12 play following Wednesday's 21-point loss at West Virginia. Trent Johnson's injury-plagued squad probably won't win a conference game, although it hosts a Baylor team Saturday that it led at halftime in Waco just two weeks ago.