(Gotta start this week's edition with a thank you to the DC Maguire Show on inthefaceradio.com for having me on to discuss the following rankings.)
For everyone except Kansas. The Jayhawks maintained their undefeated mark in Big 12 conference play with a big win over Texas in Austin last Monday and then beating Iowa state 73-59 in Lawrence.
1. Kansas Jayhawks (24-1, 10-0) LW: 1
KU did win both of their games this week. But who and how they won those games makes Kansas look scarier than ever before. Sophomore Marcus Morris averaged 14.5 points and 9 rebounds last week. Freshman guard Xavier Henry averaged 15.5 points per this last week. In comparison, Cole Aldrich averaged 9 points and 8.5 rebounds and Sherron Collins averaged 13 points in the same time span.
If these younger Jayhawks continue to play at such a high level, the Jayhawks could give the New Jersey Nets a game.
2. Kansas State Wildcats (20-4, 7-3) LW: 2
Only one game last week for the Wildcats, a 68-51 victory over CU. In that game, the Wildcats illustrated their depth as their four players who average double figures all had atleast 10 points. The 13th ranked scoring offense in the nation at 80.4 points a game held off the Buffaloes despite Jacob Pullen and Dennis Clemente combining to shoot 3-14 from three-point range.
In addition, K-State's 17 turnovers were 1.5 above their season average (and Big 12 "leading") 15.5 a game. In fact, the Wildcats rank 277th in all Divison I basketball in turnovers/game. If the Wildcats can change some of these turnovers into points, that would greatly help supplement their already potent offense. K-State will need to do just that to contend for a Big 12 championship with Kansas.
3. Texas A&M Aggies (18-6, 7-3) LW: 3
The Aggies lone game last week, a 67-65 victory at Texas Tech, was enough to vault them into the top 25 for the first time this season. The 23rd ranked Aggies escaped Lubbock with a win despite shooting 59 percent from the free throw line. Although they made six of eight in the final 42 seconds to preserve the W.
Doanld Sloan made three of four of those free throws in the waning moments to give him 14 for the night. But the Aggies will have to improve their 65 percent success rate from the free throw line, good for ninth in the Big 12, to contend in close games against big names and thus, continue gaining national respect.
4. Baylor Bears (19-5, 6-4) LW: 5
With two straight conference wins (something Baylor has done only one other time this season), the Bears move up one spot from last week. But don't get it twisted. Style points did not advance them in G's rankings, only wins.
They needed last second heroics on both occasions as Ekpe Udoh's basket with 25 seconds left gave them a 55-53 win in Lincoln. He followed that with a tip-in with 1.3 seconds to play against Missouri to seal Baylor's 64-62 victory over the Tigers.
Last Saturday, the Bears held MU to 62 points, 18 less than the Tiger's season average of 79.8. Udoh and Quincey Acey combined for 12 defensive rebounds and four blocks as the Baylor bigs took control of the paint. This left Tiger forwards hesitantly putting up point blank shots and slashing guards to question their layups as well.
5. Texas Longhorns (20-5, 6-4) LW: 6
The Longhorns looked underprepared and a little overwhelmed in their 80-68 loss in Austin to No. 1 Kansas. But then again, who doesn't Kansas make look like that?
Positive to take away from the Jayhawk game: 73.9 percent from the free throw line, including a seasoned 8-9 from freshman guard J'Covan Brown (who finished with 28). Despite facing a 10 point halftime deficit, the Longhorns were only outscored by two in the second frame. Dexter Pittman could have supplied more than just three points and three rebounds in 21 minutes.
Texas finally looked like Texas for the first time in a while on Saturday, pummelling Nebraska 91-51. The starting freshmen backcourt of Brown and Avery Bradley teamed up for 37 points to help Texas build a 53-26 halftime lead.
A decisive game looms this Wednesday for Texas as they travel to Columbia, Missouri. Both at 6-4, Wednesday's matchup will look to separate these two teams in the Big 12 standings. If the combination of Damion James and Pittman play like they are capable, the Missouri forwards could be in for a long (horn) night.
6. Missouri Tigers (18-7, 6-4) LW: 4
The Tigers split their two games this week, beating Iowa State 65-56 at home before losing in Waco 64-62. Both games illustrated glaring problems the Tigers must correct before tournament time.
Iowa State slowed the tempo of the game, kryptonite for the Tigers. Missouri responded by attempting to change the flow of the game by jacking up threes, often looking for instead of finding them. This translated into a 4-20 mark for Missouri. Most disturbing, this included a 2-8 performance from sophomore Marcus Denmon, a normally reliable 44 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
And last Saturday, Baylor outrebounded the Tigers 35-23. While this could be expected heading into the contest, there is no excuse for the last 6.3 seconds of the game. What can be considered a microcosm of the MU season, Baylor collected three offensive rebounds in five seconds, eventually tipping in the third for the go-ahead basket (in comparison, MU tallied six offensive boards all game).
Missouri did not match up well at all with Baylor on the boards. But it's impossible to get a rebound when four of your players are clustered around the free throw line and top of the key, watching all the action.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys (17-7, 5-5) LW: 7
In their only action of the week, the Cowboys smashed their arch-rival Oklahoma in their Bedlam game, 97-76. Granted, OU was without starting guard Willie Warren because of illness and contributing freshman Tiny Gallon not making the trip due to suspension.
But the Big 12's leading scorer got back on track. James Anderson dropped 31 after a season-low 10 to Texas Tech. Keiton Page, Obi Muonelo and Matt Pilgrim all scored in double figures to help take pressure of the biggest Cowboy.
Anderson must receive support like this from his teammates in order for the Cowboys to remain in tournament talk. If not, defenses will be able to focus solely on Anderson. If Page isn't hitting threes and Pilgrim not throwing down ridiculous ally-oops like they did Saturday versus Oklahoma, expect more Texas Tech-like point showings from Anderson.
8. Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-8, 4-6) LW: 9
The Red Raiders strung together back-to-back wins to separate themselves from the dregs of the Big 12 before losing to Texas A&M 67-65 last Saturday. A three and a half minute stretch late in the game where Tech did not score a point saw them go from up two to down two. Texas Tech would never regain the lead, and made the score seem closer with a Mike Singletary three as time expired.
Although they held A&M to 67 points, the Red Raiders allow 74 a game on the season. This number is last in the Big 12. And when you're 10th in the Big 12 in field goal percentage (44 percent) you can ill afford to be allowing so many points.
9. Iowa State Cyclones (13-12, 2-8) LW: 10
Iowa State threatened to give Missouri a new home streak. Except this one would be a losing streak. A week after having its 32-game home win streak snapped by Texas A&M, it took a season high 17 points from JT Tiller for Missouri to avoid that embarassing distinction.
They then traveled to Lawrence, Kansas and put forth at least a competitive effort. ISU overcame a 9 point halftime deficit to pull within two midway through the second half. KU used the next six minutes to go on a 21-3 run, erasing any thought of an upset.
10. Oklahoma Sooners (13-11, 4-6) LW: 8
The two losses this week were bad enough. They lost at home for the first time all year to Texas Tech 72-71 before the embarassment in Stillwater. However, the Norman Transcript reports today that leading scorer Willie Warren (16.3 per) may be done for the year after being diagnosed with mono.
On top of that, Coach Jeff Cable has suspended freshman Tiny Gallon (10 points, 8 rebounds per) for reasons he "refuses to divulge." Throw in two freshmen getting ticketed for petty larceny and it looks like Oklahoma had its best moments ON the court this week...
(Thank you though, Oklahoma, for giving me a chance to work on my java-linking skills)
11. Colorado Buffaloes (2-8, 11-13) LW: 11
While Colorado shoots it nice, a modest 46 percent good for fourth in the Big 12, their opponents shoot it, well, nicer. The Buffaloes are last in the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense (45.4 percent). In their only action this week, the Buffaloes lost to K-State 68-51 as the Wildcats made almost half of their shots, shooting 49 percent from the field.
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-9, 13-12) LW: 12
The Lonestar State wasn't too kind to the 'Huskers this week as they lost in Lincoln to Baylor 55-53 before the Longhorn's extended practice last Saturday. Nebraska is a grinding, methodical type team and can give people trouble as evidence in the Baylor game as well as their game with Missouri earlier in the year.
However, once teams figure out how to beat this system, the Cornhuskers just do not have the talent to contend with the others in the Big 12.