College Basketball Nation: Josh Gray

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

January, 25, 2013
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.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

December, 7, 2012
Last season, the Pac-12 was the toughest conference in the country to power-rank each week. This season, that honor falls on the Big 12. Other than Kansas, the league is filled with mediocre teams that -- at least for now -- don’t appear to have much potential for a deep run in March. But hey, on the positive side, the parity will make for some close, exciting games once Big 12 play begins in January. Here is how the conference looks thus far.

1. Kansas. The Jayhawks clearly have separated themselves from the rest of the Big 12, yet even Bill Self will admit his squad hasn’t looked all that great. Chemistry and depth are issues in the backcourt, and Kansas still is searching for a leader. Saturday’s home game against Colorado is scary.

2. Iowa State. As I mentioned, ranking the Big 12 is a crapshoot at this point, but Iowa State is 6-2 with losses against a pair of ranked teams (Cincinnati and UNLV). The Cyclones boast plenty of weapons with Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. And they’ve got a great coach. Good enough for me.

3. Oklahoma State. I know Virginia Tech has surprised some people, but the Cowboys still shouldn’t have lost to the Hokies by double figures last week in Blacksburg. Travis Ford’s team is too talented to let that happen. Oklahoma State deserves credit, however, for bouncing back with a nice effort in Wednesday’ 61-49 home victory over South Florida.

4. Kansas State. Rodney McGruder appears to have snapped out of his funk and is averaging 19 points in his past two games. Kansas State has played just one good team (Michigan) and lost handily. It’s tough to get a read on the Wildcats at this point, but they’re definitely one of the more experienced squads in the conference.

5. Oklahoma. Lon Kruger has made the Sooners relevant again. Oklahoma competed its tail off before losing to Arkansas 81-78 in a difficult road environment Tuesday. Romero Osby is averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game for the Sooners, who are off until Dec. 15.

6. Baylor. It seems unheard of for a team to beat Kentucky in Lexington and then drop four spots in the power rankings. But the Bears can’t be trusted. Not yet, at least. Considering its depth and talent, Baylor’s home losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern were two of the worst setbacks by any Division I team all season. And it easily could have lost to downtrodden Boston College. There’s no excuse for this team to be playing so sloppily and uninspired.

7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers appear to be on an upswing following Wednesday’s victory over a solid Marshall team, although the victory was marred by a near-brawl that led to the ejections of four WVU players for leaving the bench. Bob Huggins’ squad could gain even more momentum by beating undefeated Virginia Tech on Saturday.

8. Texas. As if a 12-point loss to Division II Chaminade wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Longhorns scored a measly 41 points in Tuesday’s setback against Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic. Even the return of point guard Myck Kabongo might not be enough to save Rick Barnes’ team, which plays UCLA on Saturday in Houston.

9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders finally played a quality opponent last week and, predictably, got exposed in an 85-57 loss to Arizona. Still, there are reasons for optimism in Lubbock. Guard Josh Gray is averaging three steals, and Jaye Crockett is scoring 15.3 points per game. This team will win some Big 12 games, and not just against TCU.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs lost to Houston on Tuesday and will be looking to bounce back at Tulsa on Saturday. Coach Trent Johnson is doing well on the recruiting trail but simply lacks the personnel to win many games during his first season in Fort Worth.