College Basketball Nation: Andrew Fitzgerald

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

February, 6, 2012
2/06/12
9:30
AM ET
Here are this week’s Big 12 power rankings:

1. Missouri: The Tigers have played the two toughest teams in the league (Kansas and Baylor) and defeated them both. Guard Marcus Denmon had made just five of his previous 31 attempts from 3-point range before going 6-for-9 from beyond the arc in Saturday’s win against Kansas.

2. Kansas: The Jayhawks blew an eight-point lead with just more than 2 minutes remaining in Saturday’s loss at Missouri, but with Baylor up next on Wednesday, there’s no time to mope about the loss. Kansas is 16-2 all-time against the Bears, who it defeated by 18 points last month at Allen Fieldhouse.

3. Baylor: The Bears’ Big 12 title hopes depend largely on what happens this week. Baylor hosts Kansas on Wednesday and travels to Missouri Saturday. Baylor’s only two losses are against those two teams. The Bears' offense looked sloppy and disorganized in last week’s victories over Texas A&M (63-60) and Oklahoma State (64-60).

4. Iowa State: The Cyclones won at Oklahoma Saturday despite getting just three points from leading scorer Royce White. Fred Hoiberg's squad has won five of its past six games overall and could continue that streak this week against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.

5. Kansas State: The Wildcats got back on the winning track by defeating Texas A&M Saturday at home. And the good times should continue when Kansas State hosts Texas Tech on Tuesday. Leading scorer Rodney McGruder has made just four of his previous 20 3-point attempts.

6. Texas: Rick Barnes’ squad hasn’t caught many breaks in conference play. Texas’ six league losses have come by an average of five points. The Longhorns had lost five of their previous six games before defeating Texas Tech on Saturday. Monday’s road game against a beat up Texas A&M squad is winnable.

7. Texas A&M: The Aggies almost defeated Baylor without Khris Middleton and Dash Harris on Wednesday, and they led Kansas State at halftime before falling 64-53 Saturday in Manhattan. Considering all of the injuries, Texas A&M deserves credit for competing as well as it has.

8. Oklahoma: The Sooners have dropped four of their previous five games heading into Monday’s contest against Missouri. All of a sudden the team that got off to a 9-1 start is 3-7 in league play. Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald are averaging a combined 31.1 points.

9. Oklahoma State: Three weeks after losing to them by 41 points, Oklahoma State nearly upset the Baylor Bears before falling 64-60 Saturday in Stillwater. Freshman Brian Williams had 23 points in the loss. On Tuesday, Oklahoma State hosts the same Iowa State squad that it lost to on a buzzer-beater Jan. 18 in Ames.

10. Texas Tech: Last week’s home game against Oklahoma State appeared to be the Red Raiders’ best chance of picking up a Big 12 win. Instead, Billy Gillispie’s team was throttled 80-63. Jordan Tolbert leads Texas Tech in scoring with 11.9 points per contest. But he’s averaging just 6.3 points in his past three games.

76 preview: Saint Louis vs. Oklahoma

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
3:39
PM ET
Breaking down the 76 Classic final:

Saint Louis was supposed to be a contender for the 76 Classic final.

Oklahoma was not. But New Mexico never got out of the first round against Santa Clara to even face the Sooners.

The Billikens were projected to be an Atlantic 10 title contender. Oklahoma wasn’t supposed to be close to being in contention in the Big 12.

Maybe the Sooners will now.

The 76 Classic didn’t have a stellar field, but the winner of Sunday night’s final between Saint Louis and Oklahoma at the Anaheim Convention Center will have significant momentum going forward.

SLU already made its mark on this young season with a huge home win against Washington. Dispatching a rebuilding Villanova -- which is sure to be in the mix somewhere in the Big East -- elevates the SLU resume, too.

Oklahoma took down a subpar Washington State and a middling Santa Clara out of the WCC.

Saint Louis should win. The Billikens should be a Top 25 team.

But if Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma team continues this upward trajectory, there is plenty of room for the Sooners to make a move in the Big 12. Missouri is the class of the league so far this season, with Baylor and Kansas chasing the Tigers. Texas A&M will be in the mix as well. Texas is young. Oklahoma State hasn’t found itself yet. And it’s hard to tell what to make of Kansas State or Iowa State just yet. Oklahoma has room to grow and can make a play for a top-five finish.

Oklahoma is playing much better defense than it did a year ago. The Sooners have an emerging star in junior Steven Pledger, who is averaging 20 points a game and will be a chore to shut down for the Billikens. Juniors Romero Osby (11.5 ppg, 9 rpg) and Andrew Fitzgerald (9.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg) have excelled early in the season.

But the Sooners haven’t faced a defense like Saint Louis'. The Billikens, as is the norm with a Rick Majerus-coached team, have been stingy. Opponents are averaging just 52.4 points a game against the Billkens. SLU scored 24 points off 12 Villanova turnovers and forced Boston College to turn the ball over 20 times Thursday. Washington, which likes to run, scored 23 points fewer than its average. And in the season opener, Tennessee State scored a meager 37 points against SLU.

The diversity of scorers in Jordair Jett (how can you not like that name?), Cody Ellis, Brian Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell give SLU a different look. The Billikens made 14 3-pointers in their win against Villanova.

Kruger has made his mark in Norman in a short amount of time. He’s an experienced coach who has excelled no matter where he has coached. He won the 76 Classic a year ago while at UNLV. Majerus was a few minutes away from a national championship at Utah in 1998. He has gone through quite a personal trial with his health and in rebuilding this once-proud program.

Beat Oklahoma, win the 76 Classic and the Billikens will be ranked. But that’s not all. SLU will be even more of a threat to challenge Xavier and Temple for the A-10 title and make the NCAA tournament.

It is only November. But the impression SLU is leaving in California is one that can’t be ignored. And for the Big 12, Oklahoma’s awakening is also a reason to pay attention to the Sooners when there was no reason to consider them a factor a month ago.

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