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Friday, November 30, 2012
Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

By Jason King

While most Big 12 programs are mired in a “transition year,” the team at the top -- not surprisingly -- remains the same. Ranking the league beyond Kansas isn’t quite as simple, but here’s my best guess three weeks into the season.

1. Kansas. Jeff Withey leads the Jayhawks in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (8.7) -- and his 6.2 blocks per game rank first in the nation. Kansas, though, needs to improve its outside shooting. Bill Self’s squad is making just 29.6 percent of its 3-pointers. KU needs more leadership from senior point guard Elijah Johnson.

2. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ victories over Tennessee and North Carolina State are the two best wins of the season by any Big 12 team. Guard Marcus Smart is playing as well as any freshman in the country and Le’Bryan Nash has made noticeable strides.

3. Kansas State. Wildcats fans were upset that K-State lost to No. 3 Michigan. But seriously ... who thought they had a chance to win that game? Bruce Weber is doing a nice job as he experiments with his roster. Eleven players are averaging double-digit minutes. That’s too many.

4. Baylor. The league’s most talented team has been its biggest disappointment thus far. The Bears lost a two-point heartbreaker to Colorado, but the game would’ve been lopsided if the Buffaloes had hit their free throws. Even without Brady Heslip, losing at home to Charleston was inexcusable. A victory against a vulnerable Kentucky squad in Lexington on Saturday could get Baylor back on track.

5. Oklahoma. Lon Kruger is in just his second season in Norman and already the hire is paying off. The Sooners are 5-1, with the only setback coming against a top-10-caliber Gonzaga squad. Four of Oklahoma’s five victories have come by single digits. A win at Arkansas on Tuesday would be huge.

6. Iowa State. The Cyclones have the potential to move all the way up to No. 2 in these rankings -- especially during a down year for the league. Iowa State’s two losses came against ranked teams (UNLV and Cincinnati) and Fred Hoiberg’s squad performed admirably in both games. Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious (28.6 field goal percentage) needs to get on track.

7. Texas. The Longhorns’ 13-point loss to Division II Chaminade at the Maui Invitational ranks as one of the worst setbacks in Big 12 history. This team has no chance of making the NCAA tournament unless the NCAA clears point guard Myck Kabongo. And even that might not be enough to save a squad with one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Texas plays Georgetown on Tuesday.

8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers are attempting to incorporate three transfers into their rotation, and it isn’t working. At least not yet. Bob Huggins’ squad is shooting just 41.2 percent overall, and point guard Juwan Staten is only averaging 1.8 assists. Upcoming games against Marshall and Virginia Tech won’t be easy.

9. Texas Tech. Interim head coach Chris Walker has made a good impression thus far -- but the undefeated Red Raiders haven’t played anyone. That, of course, was by design as Texas Tech tries to build momentum for its dormant program. Saturday’s home game against No. 9 Arizona will be Texas Tech’s first test against a formidable opponent.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs have won five games by single digits, but none of those victories came against good teams. The most telling score is a 24-point loss to Northwestern, in which TCU only scored 31 points. Trent Johnson’s squad averages just 55.3 points per game.