College Basketball Nation: West Virginia Mountaineers

BPI Talk: Duke is not a top-25 team

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
4:19
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The Duke Blue Devils came into the season as a preseason Final Four contender, but after losses to Kansas and Arizona and a one-point win over Vermont, the Blue Devils are ranked No. 31 in BPI.

Duke's BPI game score in its six-point loss against Arizona (ranked No. 4 in BPI) was higher than two of its wins (vs East Carolina, vs Vermont). Other than its wins over No. 40 Michigan and No. 63 Alabama, Duke doesn't have any other wins over teams ranked in the top 180.

Duke has the best adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, but its adjusted defensive efficiency ranks 101st.

Is Wisconsin the best team in college basketball?

The Wisconsin Badgers rank No. 1 in BPI after starting 12-0 with five wins over top-50 BPI teams -- St. John's, Florida, Saint Louis, West Virginia and Virginia. Their five wins against top-50 teams are the most by any team. Kansas and Davidson are the only other teams that have even faced five top-50 teams.

Wisconsin has the 11th-most difficult schedule according to BPI. Seven of their 12 wins are against top-100 opponents and none of them are against teams outside the top 175.

The Badgers have been successful playing a slow pace (17th-fewest possessions per game). Two of their three worst BPI game scores this season have come in the two games in which they played at the fastest pace (at Green Bay, vs North Dakota).

Michigan State barely cracks the top 25

The Michigan State Spartans, previously ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, come in at No. 24 in BPI. The Spartans only have one loss, but it was by far their worst BPI game score and it came against their second-best opponent (No. 23 North Carolina).

Why else is Michigan State's BPI lacking? The Spartans have five wins against teams ranked outside the BPI top 100. Three of those wins are by 15 points or fewer, including two by single digits, and one of the five wins is against No. 338 McNeese State. Also, they haven't played a single true road game yet.

Welcome to the top 10, Saint Mary's

The undefeated Saint Mary's Gaels are ranked No. 8 in BPI, and it's not due to any wins over top-notch opponents. The Gaels haven't faced a single top-50 team yet, but five of their eight wins came against top-100 opponents and six of their eight wins are by double digits.

Saint Mary's has performed well against top-100 teams, posting a BPI game score higher than 95 in four of those five wins.

Why isn't Pittsburgh ranked yet?

The Pittsburgh Panthers are ranked No. 9 in BPI but aren't in the top 25 in the AP Poll. The Panthers are 10-0 with each of those 10 wins coming by at least nine points and nine of the wins coming by at least 17 points.

Pitt doesn't have any top-50 wins, but the Panthers do have two wins against teams just outside the top 50 (No. 51 Penn State, No. 55 Stanford). Their three best BPI game scores came against their three best opponents -- Penn State, Stanford and Texas Tech (No. 110).

Pitt is one of seven teams ranked in the top 20 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, along with Louisville, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Wisconsin, Kansas and North Carolina.

BPI Rankings

Big 12 team previews

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
10:30
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For the past month, Insider has rolled out its college basketball preview, including breakdowns on every Division I team, projected order of finish for every conference and essays from Insider's hoops experts.

Here are previews for each team in the Big 12:

Baylor Bears Insider
Iowa State Cyclones Insider
Kansas Jayhawks Insider
Kansas State Wildcats Insider
Oklahoma Sooners Insider
Oklahoma State Cowboys Insider
TCU Horned Frogs (FREE)
Texas Longhorns Insider
Texas Tech Red Raiders Insider
West Virginia Mountaineers Insider

Nonconference schedule analysis: Big 12

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
10:00
AM ET
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each team in nine of the nation’s top leagues. Next up: the Big 12.

BAYLOR

Toughest: vs. Colorado (Nov. 8 in Dallas), Maui Invitational (Nov. 25-27), vs. Kentucky (Dec. 6 in Arlington, Texas)
Next-toughest: South Carolina (Nov. 12), Southern (Dec. 22)
The rest: Louisiana-Lafayette (Nov. 17), Charleston Southern (Nov. 20), Hardin-Simmons (Dec. 1), Northwestern State (Dec. 18), Oral Roberts (Dec. 30), Savannah State (Jan. 3)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Bears will try to beat Kentucky for the second season in a row when they take on the Wildcats at the mammoth AT&T Stadium -- home of the Dallas Cowboys. Catching a freshman-laden Kentucky squad early in the season is ideal for the Bears. Baylor also will have a chance to avenge last season’s loss to Colorado in the Charleston Classic. Scott Drew’s squad meets the Buffaloes as part of a season-opening tripleheader at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Baylor has an excellent shot of getting to the title game in Maui. The Bears open against Chaminade and will likely face a vulnerable Gonzaga squad (the Zags lost Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris) in the semifinals. A victory in that contest could result in a showdown against Syracuse in the championship game.

IOWA STATE

Toughest: Michigan (Nov. 17), at BYU (Nov. 20), Iowa (Dec. 13)
Next-toughest: vs. Northern Iowa (Dec. 7 in Des Moines), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-23, 25 in Honolulu)
The rest: UNC-Wilmington (Nov. 10), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 12), UMKC (Nov. 25), Auburn (Dec. 2), Northern Illinois (Dec. 31)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Cyclones play just one true road game, but it’s a tough one, as BYU touts one of the best home courts in the country. The Cougars should be pretty salty, too, after reaching the semifinals of the NIT last spring. No game on the schedule, though, jumps out quite like Iowa State’s home tilt with NCAA runner-up Michigan, who returns many of the key pieces from last season’s squad. Hilton Magic will have to be in full effect if the Cyclones, who are incorporating a plethora of new faces, are to have a chance against the Wolverines. Iowa State opens the Diamond Head Classic against George Mason and will likely play either Akron or Oregon State in the semifinals. Don’t be surprised if Fred Hoiberg’s squad ends up in the title game against Boise State.

KANSAS

Toughest: vs. Duke (Nov. 12 in Chicago), at Colorado (Dec. 7), at Florida (Dec. 10), New Mexico (Dec. 14), Georgetown (Dec. 21), San Diego State (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: Iona (Nov. 19), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in Nassau, Bahamas)
The rest: Louisiana-Monroe (Dec. 8), Towson (Nov. 22), Toledo (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- There may not be a team in America with a slate as difficult as the one staring at Andrew Wiggins and the Jayhawks. Duke and Florida are both top five-caliber teams, and Kansas faces each of them away from home. Even more daunting is that both games occur extremely early in the season, when a team featuring as many as six freshmen in its rotation will still be trying to find itself. New Mexico, Georgetown and San Diego State will each take a minor step back from last season, but they should all still be excellent teams, especially the Lobos. Kansas opens the Battle 4 Atlantis against Wake Forest and will play either USC or Villanova in the second round. Event organizers are surely hoping for a title game featuring the Jayhawks against either Tennessee or Iowa. Even nonconference opponents such as Iona, Towson and Louisiana-Monroe will be in the mix for an NCAA tournament berth.

KANSAS STATE

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-22, 24), vs. Gonzaga (Dec. 21 in Wichita, Kan.)
Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Nov. 17), Ole Miss (Dec. 5)
The rest: Northern Colorado (Nov. 8), Oral Roberts (Nov. 13), Central Arkansas (Dec. 1), South Dakota (Dec. 10), Troy (Dec. 15), vs. Tulane (Dec. 28 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), George Washington (Dec. 31)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- This is a pretty disappointing slate, especially considering how good the program has been over the past five or six years. Other than a tilt with Gonzaga in Wichita -- which will basically be a K-State home game -- the Wildcats don’t have a single opponent on their nonconference schedule that raises an eyebrow. The one exception would be Ole Miss, but the Rebels lost most of the key players from last season’s NCAA tournament team. The Wildcats open the Puerto Rico Tip-Off against Charlotte and will play either Georgetown or Northeastern the following day. Michigan, VCU and Florida State are on the other side of the bracket, so the potential for a game against another top team exists. Still, the defending regular-season Big 12 co-champs should have scheduled a few more marquee games.

OKLAHOMA

Toughest: vs. Alabama (Nov. 8 in Dallas), Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff (Nov. 22-23 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Next-toughest: vs. George Mason (Dec. 8 in Washington, D.C.), vs. Texas A&M (Dec. 21 in Houston), Louisiana Tech (Dec. 30)
The rest: North Texas (Nov. 11), Idaho (Nov. 13), Arkansas-Little Rock (Dec 29), Mercer (Dec. 2), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Dec. 5), Tulsa (Dec. 14), Texas-Arlington (Dec. 17)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Not a lot of games on this docket that do much for the excite-o-meter. At least not when it comes to nonconference play. That’s probably a good thing for the Sooners, who may be in for a “transition year” following the loss to standouts such as Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Andrew Fitzgerald and Amath M’Baye. Alabama will be tough to beat, but it’s certainly a game the Sooners could win. Lon Kruger’s squad will also be tested when it travels to Brooklyn for the Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff. If Oklahoma gets by Seton Hall in the first round, it would likely play Michigan State the following night. Some media outlets have ranked the Spartans No. 1 entering the season.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Toughest: Memphis (Nov. 19), Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-29, Dec. 1 in Orlando. Fla.), vs. Colorado (Dec. 21 in Las Vegas)
Next-toughest: at South Florida (Nov. 25), South Carolina (Dec. 6), vs. Louisiana Tech (Dec. 14 in Oklahoma City)
The rest: Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 8), Utah Valley (Nov. 12), Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Nov. 15), Delaware State (Dec. 17), Robert Morris (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- This is definitely an improvement from last season, when the Cowboys earned a ranking of “3” in this category. Like Oklahoma State, Memphis is a potential top-10 team with one of the top backcourts in the country. The two squads could actually end up meeting twice, as Memphis is also in the Old Spice Classic. Oklahoma State opens that tournament against Purdue and will face Butler or Washington State in the next round. Beating Colorado on a neutral court also won’t be easy, especially if talented Buffs guard Spencer Dinwiddie can neutralize Marcus Smart. It still would’ve been nice to see a few more high-profile games -- and a few more true road contests -- for a team that features three potential first-round NBA draft picks.

TCU

Toughest: vs. SMU (Nov. 8 in Dallas), at Washington State (Nov. 24)
Next-toughest: Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 27, 29-30), at Mississippi State (Dec. 5)
The rest: Longwood (Nov. 12), Abilene Christian (Nov. 19), Texas Pan-American (Dec. 15), Grambling State (Dec. 19), Tulsa (Dec. 21), Texas Southern (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- This would be a terrible schedule for a program that was experiencing a moderate amount of success. But considering TCU won just two Big 12 games last season, this is the perfect slate for the Horned Frogs as they try to rebuild. Second-year coach Trent Johnson didn’t schedule the type of Top-25 squads that will shatter his team's confidence. But he also didn't produce a schedule so weak that it wouldn’t challenge his team as it continues to grow. SMU could contend for an NCAA tournament berth and, even though Washington State has struggled in recent seasons, Pullman is a difficult place to play. Tulsa and Texas Southern are both solid teams, and Mississippi State was making huge strides at the end of last season.

TEXAS

Toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 25-26 in Kansas City), at Temple (Dec. 7), at North Carolina (Dec. 18), Michigan State (Dec. 21)
Next-toughest: Mercer (Nov. 8), Vanderbilt (Dec. 2)
The rest: Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 15), UT-Arlington (Nov. 29), Texas State (Dec. 14), Rice (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Rick Barnes always puts together one of the toughest schedules in the country, and this season is no exception. Michigan State is an NCAA title contender, North Carolina could open the season in the top 10, and Temple is never easy to beat on the road. The Longhorns will also play high-scoring BYU in the CBE Classic, and with a win, would likely be pitted against Final Four participant Wichita State in the title game. But Texas lost its top four scorers from last seasons’s 16-18 squad and didn’t recruit as well as it has in years past. In other words, this is the worst possible season to be playing such a grueling schedule. It’ll be interesting to see if the Longhorns (and Barnes) can survive.

TEXAS TECH

Toughest: at Alabama (Nov. 14), at Arizona (Dec. 3), LSU (Dec. 18), at Arizona State (Dec. 21)
Next-toughest: South Dakota State (Nov. 21), Legends Classic (Nov. 25-26 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
The rest: Houston Baptist (Nov. 8), Northern Arizona (Nov. 11), Texas Southern (Nov. 18), Texas-San Antonio (Nov. 29), Central Arkansas (Dec. 15), Mount St. Mary’s (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- First-year coach Tubby Smith can’t be pleased with the schedule he inherited from former Red Raiders coach Chris Walker. This is way too difficult of a slate for a program that’s in rebuilding mode. It clearly wasn’t thought out well at all. True road games against Alabama, Arizona and Arizona State and a home tilt with a vastly improved LSU squad? That’s a daunting chore, especially considering TTU is in the Legends Classic with quality opponents such as Pittsburgh, Stanford and Houston. Texas Tech returns nearly all of its key pieces from last season and could make some huge strides under Smith. Unfortunately, the Red Raiders’ confidence could take a hit before Big 12 play ever begins.

WEST VIRGINIA

Toughest: at Missouri (Dec. 5), Gonzaga (Dec. 10), Purdue (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: at Virginia Tech (Nov. 12), Cancun Challenge (Nov. 26-27), vs. Marshall (Dec. 14 in Charleston, W. Va.)
The rest: Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 8), Duquesne (Nov. 17), Georgia Southern (Nov. 21), Presbyterian (Nov. 23), Loyola (Dec. 2), William & Mary (Dec. 29 in Charleston, W. Va.)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The 2012-13 season was one of the worst of Bob Huggins’ career, but the Mountaineers are hoping a standout recruiting class led by power forwards Devin Williams and Elijah Macon -- as well as the return of leading scorer Eron Harris -- helps change their fortunes. There are certainly some opportunities to build confidence early. Missouri and Gonzaga are both incorporating new pieces and may not be crisp in early December. Purdue should be improved, but West Virginia will have revenge on its mind after last season’s 79-52 embarrassment in West Lafayette, Ind. West Virginia opens the Cancun Challenge against Old Dominion and could play Wisconsin the following day.

Podcast: John Beilein and Bob Huggins

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
4:07
PM ET
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg talk to a pair of head coaches: Michigan's John Beilein and West Virginia's Bob Huggins. Listen here Listen to the podcast.
Aaric Murray is a classic archetype. "Talented but troubled." So named because the alliteration is usually too much for our sportswriting brethren to resist, but also because it deftly sums up the situation. Murray, like so many before him, is a very good basketball player. When he's interested and engaged -- and sometimes even when he's not -- he's an excellent interior scorer and rebounder, an obvious asset.

[+] EnlargeAaric Murray
Howard Smith/US PresswireAaric Murray's third school will be Texas Southern. He began his college career at LaSalle.
The only problem is, well, everything else. In 2011, in search of more exposure and in the doghouse of the coaching staff, Murray left La Salle. His departure was greeted with dismay by some, because it seemed to rob a rebuilt La Salle team of its interior anchor just as the Explorers were cresting. But the response also included a few "good riddance" rumblings from around the team. In December 2011, Murray was sitting out his transfer year en route to West Virginia when he was arrested and charged with marijuana possession. When he became eligible, he was supposed to play a large role in Bob Huggins' transfer-heavy Mountaineers reconfiguration. Instead, Huggins suspended him for a violation of team rules in 2012, and when the season rolled around, his minutes, points and rebounds all dropped. WVU limped to a truly ugly 13-19 campaign. In July, Huggins announced he and Murray had arrived at a "mutual decision" -- the polite way to say, "I kicked him off the team" -- and that Murray would finish his final year of eligibility elsewhere.

That elsewhere, we now know, is the Island of Misfit Toys. You may know it better as Texas Southern:
"I am very fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to be mentored by Coach John Lucas, while I attend Texas Southern University. Although, this is not the road I expected to take, this journey will undoubtedly support my goals long term.

"I also feel that being mentored by Coach Lucas and Coach Mike Davis will support my mission to be the best Aaric Murray I can be. Publicly, there are tons of expectations of what I should be. This however is the best opportunity I have in efforts of reaching my full potential. In addition anything that can be done in college basketball can be done at Texas Southern."

And there's this from Texas Southern coach Mike Davis:
"Aaric Murray will be a big addition to our team and he will give us a chance to compete at the highest level of the SWAC."

Which is just ... actually, yeah, I'm not going to touch that.

Anyway, while there is some weirdness afoot here, not least of which is the notion that a player needs to be mentored by John Lucas while he is being coached by another person on a day-to-day basis, ultimately, the "Island of Misfit Toys" is meant out of love. Maybe Murray really does need to get away from things. Maybe he needs to be somewhere where basketball is the sole focus and distractions are at a minimum. Maybe he needs to be coached by someone who knows the insanity of the high-profile college basketball program, and who has refused to recede from coaching but instead been willing to go from Indiana to Texas Southern if it meant he got to keep coaching.

There's something to admire there, and maybe something Murray can learn. And if something insane happens next spring, and the Mike Davis-Aaric Murray duo wins a game in the tournament or something, I call dibs on the movie rights. That's legally binding, right?


The best thing about the college basketball offseason is that it ends. The second best thing about the college basketball offseason is that when it ends, it ends so quickly and so exhaustively that within a few days you have to remind yourself that there was ever an offseason in the first place. By mid-November, it's impossible to imagine life without basketball.

We have the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon to thank for that. Hey, it might still be warm outside and the campus dorms are mostly empty here in the dog days of August. But exactly three months from now, college hoops will be back in full force with the Marathon, which will include more than a dozen games in more than 24 consecutive hours of basketball in what has become a great annual excuse to call into work sick.

At 7 p.m. ET on Nov. 11, the Marathon begins with an ESPN2 women's doubleheader (Stanford-UConn; then Tennessee-North Carolina) and an ESPNU men's doubleheader (Kent State-Temple; then Colorado State-Gonzaga). At 7:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 12, the Marathon ends with a Champions Classic doubleheader that very well might match up four of the nation's top five teams (Kentucky-Michigan State; Kansas-Duke).

In between, starting at 11 p.m. ET on the 11th, there's a run of men's games that will keep the hardcore fans up all night and morning and begging for caffeine by lunchtime. Who will be participating in those games? Well, stick with us here in the Nation blog. We'll be revealing each of the Marathon matchups at the corresponding time they'll be taking place three months from now. Keep this page open and refresh every two hours and you'll get a new game, along with an early analysis of the matchup. Starting with ...

BYU at Stanford, 11 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Cougars and Cardinal will not only get the Marathon party started late on Nov. 11, they also provide a handy reminder that the earliest parts of the season mean just as much as what happens in February and March. In recent years, the NCAA tournament selection committee has de-emphasized recent results in its selection, instead emphasizing performance in the nonconference as much (or more) than any other single selection criterion. What happens on Nov. 11 matters, in other words, and that's especially true for both BYU and Stanford. The Cougars have quality players in Matt Carlino and Tyler Haws; Stanford is a quality defensive team with solid guard play from Chasson Randle. Neither team looks like a top-25 group, but they do look like they could be in the mix on Selection Sunday. So both will need as many quality nonconference wins as they can get to avoid languishing on the tournament bubble for months at a time. That process will begin immediately.

[+] EnlargeGregg Marshall
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsComing off a Final Four appearance in April, coach Gregg Marshall and the Wichita State Shockers are riding high entering this season.
Western Kentucky at Wichita State, 1 a.m. ET, ESPN2: Just two years ago, Western Kentucky, a proud, historically successful program, appeared to be in deep decline. In January 2012, a 5-10 team lost to six players (true, and long, story), then fired its coach. Since then, Ray Harper has managed to get WKU into the tournament twice, which is as much a testament to his coaching as it is to the wacky power of automatic bids and mid-major conference tournaments. But really, this fixture is about the Wichita State Shockers and their fans, who, in the wake of a surprise Final Four visit, are no doubt eager to showcase the strength of their program and their fan base to a national audience. Charles Koch Arena is always bumping. Imagine what they'll have cooking for a midnight local tip. Oh my.

Akron at Saint Mary’s, 3 a.m. ET, ESPN2: This midnight local tip -- you know, were it not for time zones, this whole Marathon thing would be a lot harder to pull off -- features two of the best mid-major programs of the past decade. You're likely already familiar with Saint Mary's, which has crept up on (and even briefly unseated) Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference in recent years. But Akron coach Keith Dambrot has taken the Zips to the tournament in three of the past five seasons, including as a 12-seed in 2012-13. Recovering from the loss of super-efficient center Zeke Marshall won't be easy (to say nothing of the Alex Abreu ordeal), but Akron has almost everyone else back and is ready to push toward another postseason berth, and then some.

New Mexico State at Hawaii, 5 a.m. ET, ESPN2: There are many, many benefits to being in Hawaii and its time zone is typically not high on that list. But the Warriors' unique geography also makes them a yearly inclusion in the Marathon. At this point, 5 a.m. ET might as well be called the "Hawaii Slot." This year's edition of the Hawaii Slot features one of the more consistently successful and frequently slept-on mid-majors in New Mexico State, where Marvin Menzies has won 50 games over the past two seasons (and has been to back-to-back NCAA tournaments). Expect to hear a lot about Sim Bhullar, who is not your average NMSU player: He's a 7-foot-5 Canadian-born son of Indian parents whose unique background (and sheer size) won him cross-cultural hype from the New York Times before he played a minute of college ball. The good news? Bhullar was good as a freshman, when he shot 62.1 percent from the field and grabbed 12.8 percent of available offensive rebounds. The dude can play, and you can see him do so live -- as long as you can get up early (or stay up that late).

Hartford at Florida Gulf Coast, 7 a.m. ET, ESPN2: There's something immensely fun about the early-morning Marathon entries. The schools involved are typically small enough that the very idea of being included in the event (and on ESPN) is enough to draw a raucous A.M. crowd, especially in the student section. Expect things to go up a notch or two in 2013. The folks at Florida Gulf Coast are riding as high as the sport allows these days. March's "Dunk City"-defined run to the Sweet 16 put the tiny 22-year-old school and its pristine beach dorms in front of every sports fan in the country. Merchandise flew off the shelves; enrollment (almost certainly, given precedent) spiked. It's safe to assume the party will be still be raging come November.

[+] EnlargeTyrone Garland
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT/Getty ImagesThe Explorers lost only one contributor from a team that won three NCAA tourney games in March.
Quinnipiac at La Salle, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN2: Are you sensing a theme? La Salle, like Florida Gulf Coast and Wichita State above, are likewise coming off one of the best seasons in program history. The 1954 NCAA champs saw the last vestiges of ongoing relevance dry up by the mid-1990s, but their return to the tournament in 2013 -- which required a stopover at the "first round" in Dayton -- took them all the way to the Sweet 16 before they fell to Wichita State. The Explorers lose senior leader Ramon Galloway, but everyone else is back, including a great group of guards led by Tyrone "Southwest Philly Floater" Garland, who is entertaining and frustrating in equally perfect measure.

LSU at Massachusetts, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN2: Typically, LSU fans devote more time to the mechanics of Les Miles' grass-chew habit than they do basketball, and in recent seasons it's been hard to argue with that order of priorities. The Tigers simply have not been very good. That may be changing. Johnny Jones' team returns four starters from a better-than-you-remember 19-12, 2012-13 group. But the biggest piece of news is the arrival of Jarrell Martin, the No. 11-ranked overall player in a stacked incoming recruiting class. The Baton Rouge native took to basketball later than most, but he's already developed into an imposing (if somewhat raw) presence. If his development curve continues to do its best hockey stick impression throughout the rest of the summer, look out for the Tigers. Oh, and don't sleep on UMass -- one of the most stylistically entertaining teams in the country, with a solid returning core -- either. This could be one of those games that looks huge once bubble talk ramps up.

West Virginia at Virginia Tech, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN: Virginia Tech got off to a great start last season, its first under new coach James Johnson. But by the end of the year, about the only thing the Hokies had going for them was senior guard Erick Green, who managed to post a 120.0 offensive rating on 31.7 percent usage, which ranked him behind only Nate Wolters, Kelly Olynyk, Doug McDermott and Trey Burke on the list of players who managed to be efficient despite using so many of their team's possessions. Green was great, but now he's gone, which leaves Johnson facing a classic, long-haul rebuilding scenario. West Virginia isn't quite there, but Bob Huggins' team had a decidedly un-Huggins season in 2012-13, when they played some of the ugliest, most disjointed offense the college game had to offer (which, last season, was saying something). After essentially sending talented, but troubled, forward Aaric Murray away, Huggins will have to cull some semblance of a rotation from a smattering of pieces that never congealed last year. Incoming four-star power forwards Devin Williams and Elijah Mason should help.

South Carolina at Baylor, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN: Despite taking a massive L.J. Peak-induced recruiting gut-punch this summer, Frank Martin's Gamecocks have already made more progress in his one year at the school than in the 10 before it. Martin has a six-player class arriving this fall, led by No. 7-ranked shooting guard Sindarius Thornwell. A few years down the road, the talent level in Columbia is going to be unrecognizably high. Baylor fans could lend some experience on this front. Now entering his 11th season, Scott Drew has taken the Bears from the untouchable site of shocking scandal into one of the most consistently talented programs in the country. This season, the Bears are adding two top-100 talents (Ishmail Wainright, Allerik Freeman) to a group that already includes 7-footer Isaiah Austin and a score of rising youngsters and/or reliable veterans, including forwards Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers and guards Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin -- the list goes on and on. After an NIT title in March, Baylor should be after much more this season.

[+] EnlargeMick Cronin
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesSean Kilpatrick and Mick Cronin are looking to for a fourth straight NCAA tournament bid.
NC State at Cincinnati, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN: When everything was clicking, there were few sights in the college game as thrilling as NC State's offense last season -- Lorenzo Brown leading the break, T.J. Warren running to the block, Scott Wood spotting up on the wing. The problem, of course, was defense, or more precisely a lack of defense. Some of that had to do with personnel, but much of it was related to attitude. With Wood, Brown, guard Rodney Purvis (transfer to UConn) and forwards C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell all gone, coach Mark Gottfried won't have as much tantalizing talent on the court this time around. But he will have a pared-down group that actually wants to be in Raleigh, and he can build the additions of top-100 recruits Anthony Barber, BeeJay Anya and Kyle Washington around Warren, the Pack's most dynamic and promising player a season ago. A trip to Cincinnati will be a crucial early test of Gottfried's mini-rebuild, as a Sean Kilpatrick-led Bearcats group hopes the addition of power forward Jermaine Lawrence will push the program past the "solid NCAA tournament inclusion" hump into ever more rarefied air.

"College GameDay" from Chicago, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: I don't need to preview College Gameday for you, do I? You already know how awesome College Gameday is. Let's move on.

VCU at Virginia, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: It's almost unfair to pit the ESPN2 primetime games against the Champions Classic. They're bound to look pale by comparison. But on any other night of the season, VCU-Virginia (and its 9 p.m. ET follow-up, about which more below) would be must-see stuff. The basketball is good in and of itself. Under Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth has morphed 2011's shock Final Four run into a burgeoning outfit that plays one of the most recognizable systems -- a constantly turnover-hawking pressing style -- in the country. UVa, meanwhile, has steadily improved under fifth-year coach Tony Bennett, who has adopted many of the pack-line defensive principles that his father Dick Bennett developed long ago at Wisconsin-Green Bay. The contrast of speed and style couldn't be more pronounced here, and if a hearty quasi-cultural, in-state rivalry doesn't exist between these two very different schools already, it shouldn't take long.

Michigan State vs. Kentucky in Chicago, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: And so we arrive at the jewel of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon: The Champions Classic. In its first two years, the Champions Classic has done exactly what it set out to do -- provide mutually beneficial marquee college hoops scheduling at the start of the season -- and then some. It even offered an early national title preview (Kentucky vs. Kansas) in 2011-12.

This year's edition might be the best yet, and that starts with Michigan State-Kentucky. The Spartans are the prohibitive Big Ten favorite (or co-favorite with Michigan, your mileage may vary), and bring back about as solid and imposing a core -- senior guard Keith Appling, still-improving senior forward Adreian Payne, Big Ten freshman of the year Gary Harris -- and will begin the season in the top 5 because of it.

After the 2012 national title, Kentucky coach John Calipari probably didn't expect to be on the losing side of a first-round NIT game a year later (and in his hometown, no less), but even as Robert Morris fans stormed the court in March, Calipari could take solace knowing he assembled what is by all accounts the best recruiting class since the Fab Five, and maybe ever. With Julius Randle, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson, James Young and Marcus Lee, Calipari landed five of the top nine players in the class and six of the top 25. Oh, and he'll have Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein -- clearly talented players who struggled as freshmen, but should be more effective with more experience and more minimized roles -- back, too. The whole prospect is terrifying: For as good as UK was in 2011-12, this team might be better. What better early test than a veteran, Tom Izzo-coached Michigan State?

Florida at Wisconsin, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: See? This is another really good college basketball game that most people probably won't watch live, because you're not going to miss the beginning of what I have already imagined will be a Bird-Magic-esque Wiggins-Parker rivalry in Duke-Kansas. But the doubleheader on ESPN2 isn't too far behind. No coach in the country is as consistent as Bo Ryan, and this year very little should change. The only exception is the star power offered by sophomore forward Sam Dekker, a rare top-20 recruit for the Badgers who shined in an introductory role as a freshman, and will be asked to do loads more as a sophomore. Speaking of consistency, Florida has participated in the last three Elite Eights, and the Gators appear to be as capable of that feat as ever in 2013-14. No. 2-ranked freshman point guard Kasey Hill should start and star immediately alongside forward Patric Young, and if the Gators can get equally touted freshman power forward Chris Walker academically eligible, they'll have plenty of firepower to bring to the Kohl Center.

Kansas vs. Duke, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN: Yes, UK-MSU is awfully good, and the teams are probably better overall. But for sheer intrigue, it's hard to top Duke versus Kansas. On one side is the No. 1 player in the class, Andrew Wiggins, who is not merely your average top-ranked recruit but considered by pretty much every scout you talk to as the best prospect since Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, if not LeBron James. Which is funny, considering that's the same thing Sports Illustrated once plastered on its cover next to a photo of four-time Illinois state champion, No. 2-ranked Jabari Parker. There is already a bit of a LeBron James-Carmelo Anthony thing going on here. Wiggins is the world-destroying athletic freak with the intuitive all-court game; Parker is the smooth, natural scorer. In 2003, Anthony and James entered their rookie seasons having only ever met on the AAU circuit. In 2013, Parker and Wiggins will meet each other on one of the first nights of the season, following Kentucky's Julius Randle, who is good enough to steal the eventual No. 1 overall pick out from under both.

In other words, the three reasons why you'll hear so much about NBA teams tanking in the next 12 months are all playing on the same United Center night in mid-November, and two of them are playing each other. Man, the Champions Classic is awesome. Did I mention that already? We covered that part, right?

So get your remote control handy; get your DVR game tight. That's good advice for the primetime doubleheader, but it works for the whole Marathon, too. By the time it's over, you won't even remember the offseason existed. I can't wait.
It's the timeless conundrum: A player is good at basketball -- good enough to change the trajectory of your season, good enough to get you to the NCAA tournament -- but less good, let's say, at things that aren't as simple as chasing down rebounds on the weak side. Maybe the player isn't a great teammate, or runs with a troublesome crew, or fails the occasional drug test. Maybe it's some combination of the three. You're a college basketball coach, and you burn to win basketball games, but you are just as obsessed with the big picture.

What do you want your players to say about your program? How much are you willing to tolerate in exchange for success? How do you run the cost-benefit analysis? Where do you draw the line?

As we saw last week, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy is spending the lion's share of his summer determining exactly where his line on Marshall Henderson should be drawn. At West Virginia, Bob Huggins just decided he'd had enough.

That's the obvious conclusion from Monday morning's announcement that forward Aaric Murray was leaving Huggins' West Virginia program after just one year at the school. Huggins announced the news without specifics, saying it was the product of a mutual agreement that Murray would be better off playing out his final year of eligibility somewhere else. More likely is the possibility -- reported by CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello -- that Murray was dismissed from the team following another brush with trouble. Before he transferred to WVU, Murray earned a reputation for prickliness at La Salle; during his 2011-12 transfer holdover year, he was arrested in charged with marijuana possession.

Whatever the issues behind it, the latest edition in Murray's rambling story makes him the fifth player to transfer out of Morgantown this offseason. Previously, guards Jabarie Hinds and Aaron Brown and forwards Keaton Miles and Volodymyr Gerun asked for their release. Of that group, only Hinds was a key contributor in WVU's 2012-13 season. Hinds -- with his high turnover rate (20.8 percent), horrendous shooting percentages (38.9 from 2, 27.6 from 3, 8), and gawd-awful offensive rating (85.5) -- was emblematic of the atrocious offense that made last season such a nightmare for Mountaineers fans. His departure is addition by subtraction.

That's a more difficult argument to make about Murray. Even as WVU struggled last season, Murray posted a 106.4 offensive rating, grabbed 23.7 percent of available defensive rebounds, and posted a tidy 8.6 percent block rate. Even were he not skilled enough to shoot 51.7 percent inside the arc -- with a solid post-up game and a reliable 15-foot jumper -- his numbers say he's a major asset on the defensive end of the floor. That's why Huggins, like a handful of other schools, was eager to take Murray on after he left La Salle, and it's why most observers pegged the Mountaineers to have a resurgent season in 2012-13.

Instead, they bricked their way to 13-19, the worst season of Huggins' career. Now Murray is leaving, but make no mistake: Those numbers will still make him a prized transfer asset at this stage of the summer and, having finished his course requirements in Morgantown, he is eligible to play right away at another school so long as he pursues a graduate degree WVU doesn't offer.

Somewhere between these sets of facts -- between Murray's performance, WVU's season, and the fact that the typically forgiving Huggins came to this "mutual agreement" -- is the line would-be suitors have to examine. Is one year of Aaric Murray worth everything that comes with it? If Huggins said no, why would another coach decide differently?

Video: Texas Tech's buzzer-beater

March, 14, 2013
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Dejan Kravic's buzzer-beating put-back gave Texas Tech a 71-69 victory over West Virginia in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

March, 8, 2013
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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.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

March, 1, 2013
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If the Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats both win the rest of their regular-season games, they will share the Big 12 title. The Jayhawks are seeking their ninth straight league crown. Kansas State hasn't won a conference championship since 1977, so even tying KU for first place would be huge for the Wildcats, especially considering they're playing for a new coach, Bruce Weber.

Baylor has a chance to alter the conference race because it has remaining home games against K-State (Saturday) and Kansas (March 9). The Bears were waxed during their initial meetings with the Jayhawks and Wildcats, but they're talented enough to beat both teams if the stars align and the moon is full. Whatever happens, the final week of the season should be interesting. Here are this week's power rankings.

1. Kansas: Elijah Johnson's 39-point performance in Monday's overtime win at Iowa State marked the best game by a Big 12 player this season. A healthy and aggressive Johnson could be the difference in this team winning a game or two in the NCAA tournament and making the Final Four. Ben McLemore is averaging just 10.3 points in his past four games.

2. Kansas State: The Wildcats have won eight of their past nine games. They look better every time they step on the court. K-State's shot selection is good and they're playing tough defense. Shane Southwell has made 10 of his past 17 attempts from 3-point range. The Wildcats' past six wins have come by nine points or more, including a 20-point thrashing of Baylor on Feb. 16.

3. Oklahoma State: Le'Bryan Nash snapped out of a mini-funk Wednesday and scored a career-high 28 points in the Cowboys' 64-47 drubbing of TCU. Nash is averaging 19.5 points in his past four games. OSU has three tough games remaining against Texas, Iowa State and Kansas State. But only one of those contests (Iowa State) is away from home.

4. Iowa State: The Cyclones (19-9, 9-6) might be the most snakebitten team in the Big 12. Three of their losses have come in overtime and another occurred on a last-second basket at Oklahoma State. Fred Hoiberg's squad ranks fourth in the nation in scoring (80.1), 12th in assists (16.3) and 19th in rebounds (39.3). Saturday's game at Oklahoma will be pivotal in terms of NCAA tournament seeding.

5. Oklahoma: Lon Kruger's squad led Texas by as many as 22 points in the second half Wednesday before wilting down the stretch in a 92-86 overtime loss. The Sooners, who are getting a team-high 15 points per game from Romero Osby, will have a tough chore Saturday against Iowa State, a team they lost to by 19 points earlier this season. Things get easier after that with a home game against West Virginia and a road tilt with TCU to close the regular season.

6. Baylor: If the season ended today, the Bears wouldn't deserve to be in the NCAA tournament. But they still have plenty of opportunities to play their way into the field with remaining home games against No. 13 Kansas State and No. 6 Kansas. Both of those contests are at home. A win at Texas on Monday would also enhance Baylor's résumé. Scott Drew's squad has been a disappointment, but the talent is still there to upset anyone.

7. Texas: Even though the Longhorns have lost to West Virginia twice, I'm still ranking them above the Mountaineers, based on their current play. Overtime home wins against Iowa State and Oklahoma proved that Texas hasn't given up during the worst season in coach Rick Barnes' tenure. Myck Kabongo had 31 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals in Wednesday's overtime win against Oklahoma. He's averaging 11.2 fee throw attempts in his past five games.

8. West Virginia: Each of the Mountaineers' six Big 12 wins have come against teams ranked eighth, ninth or 10th in the league standings. West Virginia's leading scorer (Eron Harris) is only averaging 9.3 points. Harris, a freshman, turned in an encouraging performance by scoring 25 points in Wednesday's home loss to Baylor. With upcoming road games at Kansas and Oklahoma and a home game with Iowa State, the Mountaineers may not win again.

9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are just 2-13 in Big 12 play and haven't won a game since beating Iowa State on Jan. 23. They'll likely be favored at home Saturday against TCU, a team it beat in the conference opener. And there's a chance Texas Tech could sneak up on Texas on March 9 in Lubbock. Freshman point guard Josh Gray (9.7 points, 3.2 assists) is showing positive signs.

10. TCU: The season can't end fast enough for the Horned Frogs, whose only Big 12 victory came in that stunner against Kansas on Feb. 6. Each of TCU's 14 Big 12 losses have come by nine points or more. It will be interesting to see how competitive Trent Johnson's squad is in Saturday's road game against fellow Big 12 bottom feeder Texas Tech.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

February, 22, 2013
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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.

Video: Kansas State 71, West Virginia 61

February, 19, 2013
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Will Spradling scored 19 points for No. 13 Kansas State, which beat visiting West Virginia and former Wildcats' coach Bob Huggins, 71-61.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

February, 15, 2013
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Three teams are tied for first place and two others are deadlocked in second. The Big 12 is far from the best conference in the country -- but it's definitely one of the most entertaining. Here are this week's power rankings.

1. Oklahoma State -- The Cowboys have the inside track to the Big 12 title. They've already defeated Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse and will likely be favored in the Feb. 20 rematch in Stillwater. OSU will take a six-game winning streak into Saturday's home tilt with Oklahoma.

2. Kansas -- Monday's 83-62 victory over Kansas State ended the Jayhawks' three-game losing streak. But c'mon ... did anyone seriously think KU was going to lose that game at Allen Fieldhouse? We'll have a better feel for where this team stands after next week's trip to Stillwater.

3. Kansas State -- Kansas State is one of the few teams in the country that hasn't suffered any upsets. The Wildcats' five losses are against Michigan, Gonzaga, Kansas (twice) and Iowa State (on the road). Saturday's showdown against Baylor could be one of the better games of the weekend.

4. Oklahoma -- The Sooners took a major hit when standout freshman guard Buddy Hield went down with a foot injury that will sideline him for four to six weeks. Oklahoma will face a tough test against red-hot rival Oklahoma State on Saturday in Stillwater. Three of OU's next four games are on the road.

5. Baylor -- The Bears have had some tough breaks in road losses at Iowa State and Oklahoma State, but they'll be in the Big 12 title hunt if they can beat K-State in Manhattan this weekend. Brady Heslip appears to have found his outside shooting stroke.

6. Iowa State -- The Cyclones are the Jekyll and Hyde of the Big 12. Great at home and snakebitten on the road. Just think, Fred Hoiberg's squad would be in first place if not for road losses to bottom-feeders Texas Tech and Texas. That has to be disheartening for Iowa State fans.

7. Texas -- The return of suspended point guard Myck Kabongo gave the Longhorns a boost in Wednesday's double-overtime victory against Iowa State -- although, to be fair, it was Javan Felix running the show after Kabongo fouled out down the stretch. Still, a nice win for UT against a talented Cyclones team.

8. West Virginia -- This just isn't the Mountaineers' year. Baylor pummeled Bob Huggins' squad 80-60 in Waco on Wednesday, snapping WVU's three-game winning streak. West Virginia hosts Texas Tech on Saturday. After that, it may not win another conference game.

9. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders' last two losses (to Baylor and Oklahoma State) have come by an average of 25.5 points. With three of the next four games on the road, things probably won't get better anytime soon. It will be interesting to see who is interested in this job -- assuming, of course, that athletic director Kirby Hocutt chooses not to retain interim coach Chris Walker.

10. TCU -- So how did the Horned Frogs respond to last week's upset of Kansas? By losing their next two games by an average of 20 points. It's amazing to think that TCU could finish 1-17 in Big 12 play, with its only victory coming against the Jayhawks.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

February, 8, 2013
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A week ago it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Kansas would win a ninth straight Big 12 title. The Jayhawks were 19-1 overall and 7-0 in conference play, while every other team had at least two league losses.

Now the landscape has changed.

Four days after losing to Oklahoma State in Lawrence, KU suffered one of the biggest upsets in recent college basketball memory -- and easily the biggest in school history -- when it fell to last-place TCU on Wednesday in Fort Worth. Just like that, the race for the Big 12 title is wide-open, with six teams in the mix for the trophy.

Here are this week's power rankings. And remember, these rankings are based on how teams are playing at the moment. Kansas, for instance, touts the best record in the league at 19-3. But the Jayhawks have been terrible lately, which is why they're at No. 4.

1. Kansas State. The Wildcats have done a good job of winning the games they are supposed to win, but we'll find out what this team is truly made of in the next three days. K-State hosts a red-hot Iowa State team on Saturday before traveling to Lawrence to face Kansas on Monday. The Cyclones and Jayhawks handed K-State its only two Big 12 losses this season, so Bruce Weber's players should be foaming at the mouth for these two games. If the Wildcats come out in attack mode, they can win both of them -- and perhaps even a Big 12 title.

2. Oklahoma State. What a stretch this has been for the Cowboys. On Jan. 30 they beat Iowa State on a Marcus Smart layup with three seconds remaining. Three days later OSU became just the second team in 104 games to defeat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, and then on Wednesday it toppled Baylor in overtime. The schedule sets up nicely for Travis Ford's team the rest of the way.

3. Iowa State. In Monday's win over Oklahoma, six Cyclones made 3-pointers in the first 12 minutes of the game. That's how potent this Iowa State offense can be. The problem with Iowa State is that it hasn't been able to win on the road. Fred Hoiberg's squad is 1-3 in league games away from Hilton Coliseum, although it's worth pointing out that ISU played well in losses at Kansas (97-89 in overtime) and Oklahoma State (78-76). Three of the Cyclones' next four games are on the road starting with Saturday's tilt at K-State.

4. Kansas. To put Wednesday's loss to TCU into perspective ... Jerry Palm, who crunches basketball numbers for cbssports.com, said TCU's victory marked the biggest upset in RPI difference in the 20 years he's been tracking numbers. Kansas entered the game No. 7 in RPI, TCU No. 237. KU's field goal percentage (29.5) was its worst in the Bill Self era, and so was its first-half point total (13). The Jayhawks hadn't lost consecutive games since 2006. And they haven't lost three straight since 2005. Kansas plays at Oklahoma on Saturday.

5. Oklahoma. The Sooners have lost four of their past six games, but they'll be catching Kansas at the perfect time this weekend. Oklahoma needs to get more out of Romero Osby, who is averaging 13.8 points on the season but only 10.5 points in his past four games. It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd shows up at the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday. A sold-out arena would certainly help OU's chances.

6. Baylor. The Bears have lost three straight games by an average of 4.3 points. They are 2-7 in games decided by single digits, mainly because they make horrible decisions and shoot ill-advised, forced shots at the end of close games. And often it's the wrong player taking those shots. Baylor's next two games (against Texas Tech and West Virginia) are at home. Isaiah Austin is averaging 14 rebounds in his past three games.

7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers have won two in a row -- and there's a significant chance they could stretch that streak to four. Bob Huggins' squad plays at TCU on Saturday and then returns to the Lone Star State on Wednesday to face struggling Baylor. As a team West Virginia shoots just 40.3 percent from the field, a mark that ranks 303rd in the country.

8. Texas. The Longhorns host a hot Oklahoma State team on Saturday before welcoming back suspended point guard Myck Kabongo for Wednesday's game against Iowa State in Austin. Beneficial as it will be to get Kabongo back on the court, it may not make much difference in UT's season. The Longhorns are 10-12 overall and 2-7 in the Big 12. Barring a miracle, they'll miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in Rick Barnes' 14 seasons.

9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders may be improving, but it's not showing up on the scoreboard. Texas Tech is 2-7 in league play, with the seven losses coming by an average of 19.8 points. Baylor and Oklahoma State each beat Texas Tech by 34 points. Those are the Red Raiders' next two opponents.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs' victory over Kansas on Wednesday is even more amazing when you consider that they shot 39.1 percent from the field, shot 30.8 percent from 3-point range and lost the offensive-rebound battle 17-6. TCU also missed 16 free throws but still won 62-55.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

February, 1, 2013
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Thank goodness for Kansas, Texas Tech and TCU. The decision to rank the Jayhawks, Red Raiders and Horned Frogs Nos. 1, 9 and 10, respectively, is the only thing that's easy about the weekly Big 12 power rankings. The league continues to be as unpredictable as it has been in years. But that also makes it more interesting. Here is the latest attempt to rank the conference.

1. Kansas. While KU's defense has been outstanding, its offense continues to sputter. The Jayhawks are averaging 62 points in their past six games, and three of their past four wins have come by five points or less. Kansas' guard play has been sloppy at times.

2. Kansas State. The Wildcats' 83-57 thrashing of Texas Wednesday is even more impressive considering the minimal contributions made by Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling, who combined for 12 points. KSU plays at Oklahoma -- a team it defeated 69-60 last month -- on Saturday.

3. Oklahoma. The Sooners pulled off one of the more impressive Big 12 wins of the season thus far by defeating Baylor 74-71 in Waco Wednesday. Amath M'Baye and Steven Pledger each scored 20 points for a team that shot 52.7 percent. OU's only two Big 12 losses are against Kansas and K-State, both on the road.

4. Baylor. The Bears were lifeless in the first half of Wednesday's 74-71 home loss to Oklahoma. They deserve credit for fighting back from a 16-point deficit, but it should've never gotten to that point. Isaiah Austin was a bright spot with 19 points and 20 rebounds. Baylor now has back-to-back road games at Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Uh-oh.

5. Oklahoma State. Marcus Smart's layup with 3 seconds remaining propelled the Cowboys to a 78-76 win over Iowa State Wednesday. Oklahoma State hopes to capitalize on that momentum in Saturday's game at Kansas, where the Jayhawks have won 102 of their past 103 games at Allen Fieldhouse.

6. Iowa State. I never thought I'd rank the Cyclones this low, but their inconsistency has been maddening. How do you go from coming within 1 second of beating KU in Lawrence to losing at Texas Tech? Five days after beating K-State at home, Iowa State lost at Oklahoma State. Fred Hoiberg's squad won't get an NCAA tournament bid if it can't win a few road games.

7. West Virginia. Bob Huggins' squad has lost four of its past five games, with the only win in that stretch coming against TCU. Huggins and talented transfer Aaric Murray can't seem to get on the same page. Games against Texas Tech, TCU and Texas are up next, so the potential for a three-game winning streak exists.

8. Texas. The Longhorns looked like the Big 12's worst team in Wednesday's 83-57 loss at Kansas State. Point guard Myck Kabongo becomes eligible in three games, but it may not matter. Sheldon McClellan averages a team-high 14.8 points.

9. Texas Tech. Three of the Red Raiders' next four games are at home, and Saturday's tilt with West Virginia at United Spirit Arena looks like their best chance at a win during that stretch. Jaye Crockett averages team-highs in points (12.7) and rebounds (7.7).

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs' past two losses (to Baylor and West Virginia) have come by an average of 23.5 points. TCU plays at Texas Saturday before hosting Kansas on Wednesday. That one could get ugly. Arkansas transfer Devonta Abron is averaging only 6.6 points.

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