- Jason King
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A handful of Kansas' eight straight Big 12 titles have come with relative ease. But if the Jayhawks claim the crown again this season, no one will be able to say that they didn't earn it. Bill Self's squad nearly fell out of the picture by losing three games in a row earlier this month. But now KU is tied for the league lead again after Wednesday's double-overtime victory at Oklahoma State. The championship is hardly in the bag, but history suggests it'd be foolish to doubt the Jayhawks this late in the season. Here are the latest power rankings.
1. Kansas. The Jayhawks defeated Kansas State and Texas by an average of 23.5 points before escaping Stillwater with a 68-67 double-overtime win Wednesday. Backup guard Naadir Tharpe hit the game-winner on a night when Ben McLemore scored only seven points. KU's toughest remaining game is Monday at Iowa State.
2. Kansas State. Forget all the talk about the Wildcats hitting their ceiling. Bruce Weber's squad just keeps getting better. Point guard Angel Rodriguez looked like a first-team All-Big 12 guard in his 22-point, 10-assist effort in Saturday's win over Baylor. If K-State wins out it will claim at least a share of the conference title for the first time since 1977.
3. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys nearly defeated KU Wednesday even though Marcus Smart went just 2 of 14 from the field. Small forward Le'Bryan Nash continues to be an enigma. In his past four games, he's scored 14, 6, 26 and 8 points. Oklahoma State plays at West Virginia Saturday and at TCU Wednesday.
4. Iowa State. Fred Hoiberg's squad finally beat a decent Big 12 team on the road. Wednesday's 87-82 victory over Baylor was impressive on a variety of fronts. The Cyclones shot 54.2 percent from the field and got 15 or more points from four players: Melvin Ejim, Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee and Georges Niang. Monday's home game against Kansas is obviously huge.
5. Oklahoma. The Sooners have won three of their past four games, with the only setback coming in a road defeat at Oklahoma State. Lon Kruger's squad has a tough upcoming stretch against Baylor, Texas and Iowa State. (The Texas game is on the road). If Oklahoma wins two of those three contests, the Sooners would be a virtual lock to make the NCAA tournament. Wouldn't they?
6. Baylor. If it weren't for West Virginia, the Bears would be the Big 12's biggest disappointment. Scott Drew's squad has lost five of its past seven games, including home setbacks against Iowa State and Oklahoma. Baylor has defeated just one team (Oklahoma State) in the upper half of the league standings. Its other six Big 12 wins have come against Texas, West Virginia, TCU (twice) and Texas Tech (twice).
7. Texas. The Longhorns have gone 2-1 since the return of point guard Myck Kabongo, beating Iowa State at home and TCU on the road and losing at Kansas. Kabongo has been solid, but not spectacular. He's averaging 12.7 points, 4.7 assists and three turnovers while shooting just 38.7 percent from the field. Texas hosts co-league leader Kansas State on Saturday.
8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 13-13 overall and 6-7 in league play. They may have the toughest remaining schedule of any Big 12 team, with home games remaining against Oklahoma State, Baylor and Iowa State and road games against Kansas and Oklahoma. West Virginia lost their first meeting with each of those schools.
9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders almost upset West Virginia in Morgantown on Saturday before falling 66-64. A few days later, they were blown out at home by Oklahoma 86-71. Texas Tech's next two games (against Iowa State and Kansas State) are both on the road. Things could get ugly.
10. TCU. The Horned Frogs threw a scare into Texas Wednesday before wilting down the stretch in a 68-59 loss. First-year coach Trent Johnson shouldn't be judged on his team's 10-16 record. He simply doesn't have the personnel to compete. At least not yet.