By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
The annual tradition of high-level college basketball tournaments during Thanksgiving week (aka “Feast Week”) is officially over, and the Big 12 benefited greatly. According to KenPom (a critically-acclaimed college basketball statistics website), the Big 12 is the best conference in America with an average rating of plus-18.87. This means per-100 possessions, a Big 12 school will outscore their opponent by 18.87 points. The second best conference to this point, the SEC, has an average rating of plus-15.20.
Let’s take a look at where each team stands heading into December.
1. Kansas (6-0) (Previous ranking: 1)
The Jayhawks have the best win of the conference so far, taking down No. 7 Kentucky 65-61 in the Champions Classic despite abnormally poor shooting from the perimeter. Kansas hasn’t played as tough a schedule as some of the other Big 12 teams, but the Jayhawks are dominating, checking in at seventh in the country in points per game at 94.5 while holding opponents to just 62.2 points per game.
2. Texas Tech (6-0) (Previous ranking: 7)
Head coach Chris Beard’s veteran squad is the biggest surprise of the season so far. The Red Raiders took home the Hall of Fame Tip Off Tournament championship after a dominant 85-49 win over then No. 20-ranked Northwestern. Texas Tech has won all six games by double digits and are fourth best in the country in defense, holding opponents to just 55.3 points per game.
3. Baylor (5-1) (Previous ranking: 3)
The Bears have the best tournament title of anyone in the conference, taking down Wisconsin 70-65 and No. 25 Creighton 65-59 to win the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. A hard-fought loss to No. 21 Xavier on the road won’t drop Baylor at all in these rankings, but the Bears need to fix their sporadic offense if they want to move up in the conference.
4. West Virginia (6-1) (Previous ranking: 2)
WVU started the season off on a poor note with an embarrassing blowout loss to then-No. 25 Texas A&M (to be fair, the Aggies were vastly underrated and are now a top-10 team), but have picked up the slack recently. Senior point guard Jevon Carter led the Mountaineers to a comeback win over a talented Missouri team to take the Advocare Invitational championship and put the season back on track.
5. TCU (6-0) (Previous ranking: 4)
The Horned Frogs are ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in the Jamie Dixon era, and they got there by being undefeated. TCU has had arguably the easiest schedule in the Big 12 so far, but has not looked dominant against mediocre teams. The Horned Frogs mustered an 82-72 win over UL-Monroe in their season opener, and only beat New Mexico 69-67. For a team that was picked third in the preseason Big 12 coaches poll, they have a lot of improving to do.
6. Texas (4-2) (Previous ranking: 5)
Texas has had the toughest schedule in the conference so far having competed in the motion bracket of the PK80, a tournament organized to celebrate Nike founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday. The Longhorns notched a solid win over Butler, 61-48, but collapsed late in an overtime loss to No. 1 Duke and followed it up with another overtime loss to No. 17 Gonzaga. Freshman big man Mo Bamba has been impressive defensively, but he needs to contribute more on the offensive end if this young Texas team can turn the corner and win close games.
7. Oklahoma (4-1) (Previous ranking: 6)
The Sooners also took a trip to Portland to compete in the PK80, but they faced off against Arkansas in the victory bracket, losing 92-83. They went home 2-1, though, after wins against Portland and Oregon, but gave up an average of 78 points per game in the tournament. Freshman point guard Trae Young has been sensational, but OU will need to pick up the defense if they hope to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
8. Kansas State (5-1) (Previous ranking: 8)
Bruce Weber’s team flew under the radar last week having played in the Las Vegas Invitational, but nevertheless had a strong showing. The Wildcats lost a nail-biter to No. 20-ranked Arizona State, 92-90, before taking down George Washington, 67-59, in a consolation match. K-State will have multiple opportunities to prove itself before conference play, as they face tough road tests at Vanderbilt and Washington State.
9. Oklahoma State (5-1) (Previous ranking: 10)
The Cowboys fell victim to Texas A&M at the Progressive Legends Classic in blowout loss before taking down Pitt, 73-67. With senior guard Jeffrey Carroll and junior forward Devon Dillard back in the fold after missing early season games, OSU will see some improvement in the coming games.
10. Iowa State (4-2) (Previous ranking: 9)
A season opening loss to a talented Missouri team isn’t necessarily bad, but following it up with a lackluster performance against Milwaukee to drop to 0-2 is. Steve Prohm’s Cyclones have the least talented roster in the Big 12, but they still have some guards that can score, so an upset here and there is likely even if the NCAA Tournament is not.