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Big 12 power rankings: Kansas firm at top as the rest of the league heats up

Posted: January 24, 2013 - 8:33pm  |  Updated: January 25, 2013 - 1:30am
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In this week’s Avalanche-Journal Big 12 power rankings: The Jayhawks continue to hum along, a tight battle emerges at the No. 2 spot and Texas Tech inches up the ladder.

1. Kansas (17-1, 5-0)

Nothing to see here. Just the same boring, consistent excellence from Bill Self’s squad. Buoyed by a suffocating defense, the Jayhawks have ripped off 16 straight wins, the longest winning streak in the nation. If KU can protect home court against Oklahoma on Saturday, it could find itself ranked No. 1 in the country.

2. Kansas State (15-3, 4-1)

Three different teams have an argument for this spot (Baylor and Oklahoma are the others), but the Wildcats have been the most consistent of the bunch. Despite a four-point home loss to in-state rival Kansas on Tuesday, the Wildcats haven’t lost any of their toughness under new coach Bruce Weber. Plus, they are better on offense.

3. Baylor (13-5, 4-1)

Cory Jefferson continues to improve dramatically. The junior, who played sparingly in his previous two seasons, is averaging 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. He’s made his case as perhaps the league’s most improved player, combining with Isaiah Austin to form an imposing 1-2 punch in the Baylor front court.

4. Oklahoma (13-4, 4-1)

Lon Kruger’s squad doesn’t do anything flashy, and that’s probably just the way he likes it. The Sooners have been a much more balanced this season after relying heavily on guard Steven Pledger last year. Freshmen Buddy Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak have been solid contributors.

5. Iowa State (13-5, 3-2)

The Cyclones can light it up in a hurry, but Wednesday’s 56-51 loss to Texas Tech showed that this team can have real issues scoring if it isn’t knocking down outside shots. Luckily for Fred Hoiberg’s squad, those shots usually fall. Now he’ll get to see how his team bounces back from a tough loss.

6. Oklahoma State (12-5. 2-3)

After a resounding, 34-point win against Texas Tech, the Cowboys were flat two days later against Baylor. A rare off night for Markel Brown (two points on 1 of 10 shooting) came at a tough time for the Cowboys, who have lost four of their last six after beginning the season 10-1.

7. West Virginia (9-9, 2-3)

The Mountaineers beat TCU on Wednesday as Bob Huggins avoided his first four-game losing streak since he was the coach at Akron 27 years ago. Despite a .500 record, West Virginia often makes life tough for opponents. None of its three conference losses have come by more than 10 points.

8. Texas Tech (9-8, 2-4)

Folks flocking to United Spirit Arena had waited quite some time to see a game like Wednesday’s, when Texas Tech used staunch defense and some timely shooting to win a second Big 12 game for the first time in two seasons. Can the Red Raiders bottle that momentum and win in Austin on Saturday for the first time since 1996?

9. Texas (8-10, 0-5)

With the talent the Longhorns have on their roster, being winless this deep into conference play doesn’t make much sense. But as highly ranked as Texas’ seven freshman are, they are still just that: freshman. The growing pains have been evident. Losing top rebounder Johnathan Holmes certainly doesn’t help matters.

10. TCU (9-10, 0-6)

The Horned Frogs knew they would be in for a tough transition as they moved over from the Mountain West Conference to the Big 12, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. After a 21-point loss to West Virginia, it’s hard to find a conference win for TCU on its remaining schedule.

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