The Iowa State men’s basketball team has five non-conference games remaining before Big 12 play will begin on Jan. 13, against second-ranked Texas.
How has the Big 12 performed as a whole this season? That all depends on whom you ask. There are teams like Texas Tech who have blown everybody away. And then, there’s the obvious disappointment known as Oklahoma.
It’s finals week. The Clones don’t play again until Sunday. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to take a lap around the Big 12 Conference here on Dec. 15, and unveil my first power rankings of the season.
Here we go.
1 – Kansas, 9-0 – This is an obvious choice. The Jayhawks are rolling right now with impressive wins over Memphis and then UCLA on the road. So far, Xavier Henry hasn’t disappointed anybody averaging 18 points per game. Here’s an interesting thing to think about. If you were starting a college basketball team and you could have either Henry or Kentucky’s John Wall. Which youngster would you pick?
Personally, I’d take Wall in a second. His performance against UCONN last week blew me away.
Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich have been solid as expected. The Jayhawks are a true national championship contender, just as everybody thought they would be.
2 – Texas, 9-0 – The undefeated Longhorns still really haven’t been challenged so far. They’re BCS wins have come over two down programs, Iowa and Pittsburgh. Look for this team to really be tested over the next couple of weeks though with North Carolina and Michigan State looming. Both of those games will be played in the state of Texas (game with North Carolina will be in Arlington).
3 – Kansas State, 9-1 – Kansas State’s one loss came to Ole Miss way back on Nov. 20 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. If I were a Wildcat fan, which I am not, I wouldn’t sweat that too much. Ole Miss is ranked 20th with their one loss coming to Villanova. Kansas State has picked up some quality wins so far over teams like Xavier, Dayton, Washington State and a road game at UNLV. The thing that I like about this team is that they’ve dominated most of their competition with double-digit type wins. K-State’s go to guy has been Jacob Pullen, who is averaging 19.2 points per game. Four Wildcats are currently averaging double-figures.
The nation is starting to pick up on how good this team actually is. 4 – Texas A&M, 8-2 – The 23rd rankedAggies have been much better than I thought they’d be so far this year. Their two losses came to quality opponents in West Virginia and New Mexico (that Steve Alford is tearing up the southwest). The Aggies have beaten Clemson and Minnesota. Senior Donald Sloan is having quite the year averaging 17.4 points a game.
5 – Texas Tech, 9-0 – Tech has obviously been impressive but in my honest opinion, I just don’t think they’ll sustain the hot start and all of the sudden, high expectations. The win over Washington was nice. A win in Fort Worth against TCU caught my eye. But other than that, here’s the resume. A four point win at home over Oregon State, a two-point win over Stephen F. Austin and comfortable victories over South Dakota, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Lamar and Samford.
What’s interesting is that despite the 9-0 start, according to this guy, nobody cares about hoops in Lubbock.
6 – Oklahoma State, 8-1 – The Cowboys beat Bradley on Nov. 27 by a 68-57 final. That’s a game that might be of interest to Cyclone fans since the Braves are Iowa State’s next opponent. The Cowboys don’t have a slug of impressive wins so far this season but they’ve been very consistent. Oklahoma State’s lone loss was at Tulsa on Dec. 2. They lost that game by 21 points but remember, Tulsa is a 7-1 basketball team. James Anderson currently leads the Cowboys in scoring averaging 20.4 points per game. The guy who has impressed me early on is Marshall Moses, who is averaging a double-double at 12.4 points and 10.6 rebounds a game.
7 – Oklahoma, 7-3 – The Sooners are without a doubt the conference’s biggest disappointment so far. Oklahoma has dropped three games to VCU, San Diego and Houston and it took them overtime to defeat Utah. The Sooners have still beaten the likes of Arizona and Arkansas. With guys like Willie Warren and Tony Crocker on the roster, it’s hard to drop Oklahoma much lower than this in our inaugural poll. I have a strong feeling that this team will be fine come conference play and they’ll represent the Big 12 in the Big Dance.
8 – Iowa State, 7-3 – I still have a ton of faith in this basketball team. The Cyclones are loaded with talent and they’re a couple of bad breaks away from being 9-1. I’m still picking Iowa State to make the NCAA Tournament.
9 – Baylor, 7-1 – The Bears are a team that has been somewhat impressive early on. Wins over Arizona State and Xavier look nice on their resume. Baylor’s one loss came to Alabama by three on Nov. 26.
10 – Missouri, 6-3 – The Tigers three losses have come to Richmond, Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts. The Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts games were on the road. The Tigers lost a lot from last year. Kim English has shown up nicely averaging 15 points per game.
11 – Nebraska, 7-2 – The Huskers have been about what everybody expected so far in 2009. Their losses have come to Saint Louis and rival Creighton. Nebraska got a solid road win over a watered down USC program at the end of November.
12 – Colorado, 6-4 – The Buffs were pretty much the unanimous pick to be the worst in the conference a few months ago. The came out of the gate and impressed me with close losses to Gonzaga and Arizona. Losses to Oregon State and Colorado State do not look good. Colorado’s six wins have come against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Coppin State, Texas Southern, San Francisco, Chaminade and Colorado Christian.
– I cannot stand how the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series is so spread out. It’s probably the most anti-climatic “event” I have ever seen. It began on Nov. 29 with a game between Nebraska and USC and will wrap up on Dec. 22 with Texas A&M’s trip to Washington. If the two conferences want to keep what could be a cool thing going, they need to take some notes from the Big Ten and the ACC. I realize that scheduling is difficult but these games need to be played at the very least, all in the same week. Otherwise, it’s simply not that big of a deal and should be done away with.
– I think that Texas Tech has been the most intriguing story of the early season. The Raiders are 9-0 but still, they aren’t getting much respect nationally. The AP has Tech ranked 16th but I haven’t seen many true “believers” in this program around college basketball. This is a do or die year for Pat Knight in my opinion. His overall record as a head coach was 18-26 heading into this season. With Tech’s hot start, the good people (who actually care about basketball) in Lubbock feel like this team should contend for a conference championship. What will the mood be like if this team fizzles come conference time?
Texas Pan American @ Texas Jackson State @ Baylor
Wednesday Oklahoma State @ Stanford
Michigan @ Kansas Northern Colorado @ Oklahoma North Carolina vs. Texas (in Arlington) Texas Tech @ Wichita St. Arkansas Pine-Bluff @ Missouri Jackson St. @ Nebraska Citadel @ Texas A&M Kansas State vs. Alabama (in Mobile)
Bradley @ Iowa State UT Arlington @ Baylor