- Jason King
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The final game of the regular season will also be the most important one for Kansas and Kansas State. The Jayhawks can clinch at least a share of their ninth straight Big 12 title by defeating Baylor in Waco. And Kansas State can claim at least a share of the conference championship for the first time since 1977 by beating Oklahoma State in Stillwater. A loss by K-State would give KU the outright title, and vice versa. The stakes couldn’t be any higher for both teams. Here is the final edition of the Big 12 power rankings.
1. Kansas. Ben McLemore may be a better NBA prospect, but center Jeff Withey has been the MVP of this team. He ranks first in the nation among active players in blocks with four swats per game. On the season he's averaging 13.8 points and 8.6 rebounds. But in his past eight games those numbers have risen to 16.3 and 9.5, respectively.
2. Kansas State. Just as Withey is the clear choice (at least in my opinion) for league MVP honors, the same can be said about Bruce Weber for Big 12 Coach of the Year. The Wildcats haven't lost since falling to Kansas in Lawrence on Feb. 11. And they're one of the few ranked teams that has gone the entire season without being upset. KSU's losses are against Michigan, Gonzaga, Kansas (twice) and Iowa State (on the road).
3. Oklahoma State. Wednesday's loss at Iowa State marked just the second defeat in 12 games for Travis Ford's squad. The Cowboys have a chance to pick up a good résumé win this weekend when they host Kansas State in Stillwater. K-State defeated OSU, 73-67, in Manhattan on Jan. 5. Marcus Smart should be named freshman of the year, both in the Big 12 and nationally.
4. Oklahoma. Lon Kruger isn't receiving nearly enough credit for the quick turnaround that has taken place in Norman. The Sooners have won six of their past eight games, and both of the defeats have come in overtime. Forward Romero Osby is one of the nation's most underrated players. He averages 15.6 points and seven rebounds per game.
5. Iowa State. Not many leagues in the country boast a fifth-place team as good as the Cyclones, who lost two overtime games to Kansas. It's a shame this team couldn't perform better on the road. Fred Hoiberg's squad is better than a No. 10 or 11 seed in the NCAA tournament. Someone is going to cringe on Selection Sunday when they see themselves matched against Iowa State in the first round.
6. Texas. Texas is 4-3 since Myck Kabongo returned from his 23-game suspension, and three of those wins are against teams (Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor) ranked ahead of the Longhorns in the Big 12 standings. Another victory is possible in Saturday's regular-season finale against Texas Tech in Lubbock.
7. Baylor. The Bears' NCAA tournament hopes are all but gone following back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Texas. Even if Baylor shocks the world and beats Kansas on Saturday, it will still need to win some games in the Big 12 tournament to make the field. It's amazing how far the Bears have fallen since going 30-8 and reaching the Elite Eight last season. Of course, Kentucky won the NCAA title last spring and probably won't make the NCAA tournament this year, either. So the Bears aren't alone.
8. West Virginia. Bob Huggins' team has dropped six of its past seven games, and all but one of the defeats has been by double figures. Not a single player averages double figures in scoring, and the leading rebounder snares just 5.9 boards per contest. Needless to say, West Virginia's inaugural season in the Big 12 has not been pretty.
9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have won just three conference games -- and two of the victories are against TCU. Interim coach Chris Walker has done a nice job of getting the undermanned Red Raiders to play hard most of the time. Still, Texas Tech needs an experienced head coach to turn this program around. One person who needs to be considered is Middle Tennessee State's Kermit Davis, who has done wonders in Murfreesboro.
10. TCU. The season can't end quickly enough for Trent Johnson and the Horned Frogs, who actually showed some positive signs in Tuesday's 79-68 loss at Kansas State. Kyan Anderson scored 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
The final game of the regular season will also be the most important one for Kansas and Kansas State. The Jayhawks can clinch at least a share of their ninth straight Big 12 title by defeating Baylor in Waco.