This is my second week of doing these power rankings and leaderboards. It has been an eventful week for the conference, and we'll go into how different teams are trending as we head into the holidays. If you'd like to see last week's post, you can check it out here. For those of you who will be travelling in the next few days, please be safe. Merry Christmas and Sic Em Bears.
Big XII Record from Monday, December 13 through Sunday, December 18: 11-2
1) #1 Baylor Bears (Prev: 1). Overall Record: 10-0. Weekly Record: 1-0. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 2. NCAA NET Rank: 2. RPI: 18. SOS (per KenPom): 185. Q1+Q2: 4-0. Q3+Q4: 6-0.
Baylor remains atop the conference following a gritty win against Oregon. I am not at all concerned that it was an ugly win for the Bears. This team needed to be challenged. They were and they made all the needed adjustments. I mentioned in my last power rankings that if Adam Flagler gets hot, it will be hard to see Baylor losing. After averaging just 7.6 PPG on 28% from the field in the 3 games in Atlantis, Flagler is averaging 13 PPG on 45.5% from the field in these last 2 games. That's a good sign for him. It is also a good sign that he went 5/7 on his 3P attempts against the Ducks. I also loved the way Akinjo and Brown played in the second half. The strength of this Baylor squad is its balance. If one or two guys have an off night, there is more than enough talent and ability among their teammates to make up for it. I will mention that I'm going to need to see significant improvement at the free throw line if Baylor wants to dominate in Big XII play. All that remains for the Bears in 2021 is a couple of tune-up games against teams with an average KenPom ranking of 326.
2) #7 Kansas Jayhawks (Prev: 2). Overall Record: 9-1. Weekly Record: 1-0. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 4. NCAA NET Rank: 8. RPI: 5. SOS (per KenPom): 90. Q1+Q2: 4-0. Q3+Q4: 5-1.
Kansas only played once this week. They won despite struggling mightily at home against Stephen F. Austin (KenPom Rank: 143). If the Jayhawks had not been allowed to attempt more than 6 times as many free throws (27-4) as the Lumberjacks, this one may have resulted in one of the more embarrassing home losses in program history. Agbaji and Braun continue to carry the scoring load for this team. They combined for 38 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks on 54% from the field against SFA. Kansas remains Baylor's biggest threat in the Big XII because of the efficiency of their offense (ranked 3rd nationally in offensive efficiency per KenPom). Their defense is not as good right now as it has been in years past, but I expect Bill Self to make quality adjustments on that end of the floor. KU will certainly be favored in both remaining games this month.
3) West Virginia (Prev: 3). Overall Record: 10-1. Weekly Record: 1-0. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 42. NCAA NET Rank: 39. RPI: 26. SOS (per KenPom): 170. Q1+Q2: 4-1. Q3+Q4: 6-0.
West Virginia's only game this week was a road trip to play UAB (KenPom Rank: 53). Amazingly, the oddsmakers had the Mountaineers as 3.5-point underdogs. I suppose that makes WVU's narrow win an upset. Still, the win was ugly. West Virginia won the game at the free throw line where they attempted more than twice as many FTs as the Blazers (27-13). This offense will need to be much better if they want to stay near the top of the Big XII. Against UAB, they had 14 turnovers and only 6 assists. They also floundered from the perimeter where they went 2/13 (15%) from deep. The Mountaineer defense is still good and it's a good sign for them that they rebounded as well as they did against UAB but this team is still far away from being on the same level as Kansas and Baylor. They have one final game before conference play starts and anything less than a 20+-point blowout would probably drop them in next week's edition of these power rankings.
4) #9 Iowa State (Prev: 4). Overall Record: 11-0. Weekly Record: 1-0. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 45. NCAA NET Rank: 14. RPI: 48. SOS (per KenPom): 318. Q1+Q2: 4-0. Q3+Q4: 7-0.
Iowa State beat the only team it faced this week, Southeastern Louisiana (KenPom Rank: 313). It took a while, but the Cyclones were finally able to pull away in the second half and dominate the Lions. ISU's star transfer, Izaiah Brockington, played well but the real standout was Caleb Grill who came of the bench to produce 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists on 63% from the field. Over his 2 previous games, Grill went scoreless in 37 combined minutes. This offense continues to look very pedestrian. The Cyclones play great defense and they have a few playmakers, but an offense that stagnates as much as this one does, is unlikely to keep ISU undefeated for much longer. This team is well positioned to make March Madness this year if they don't fall flat in conference play. Their last game this month will be another blowout (against Chicago State: KenPom Rank of 353).
5) #16 Texas Longhorns (Prev: 5). Overall Record: 8-2. Weekly Record: 2-0. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 16. NCAA NET Rank: 20. RPI: 57. SOS (per KenPom): 334. Q1+Q2: 0-2. Q3+Q4: 8-0.
Texas beat both teams it faced this week. Fun Fact: The two teams Texas beat this last week were ones Baylor had already defeated on the season. Baylor combined margin of victory: 83. Texas combined margin of victory: 39. Texas doesn't deserve a ton of credit for bludgeoning 2-11 Arkansas - Pine Bluff (KenPom Rank: 356). They also don't deserve much praise for a narrow 7-point home win over Stanford (KenPom Rank: 90). The Longhorns were able to defeat the Cardinal because they were +9 in turnover margin. This team's primary weakness is its defensive rebounding. They rank 283rd nationally in defensive rebounding. That could be a fatal flaw in a conference that features 2 of the top 6 offensive rebounding teams in the nation (Baylor and TCU) and a multitude of other good rebounding teams. The Longhorns will be heavy favorites in each of their two remaining games this month.
6) Oklahoma Sooners (Prev: 6). Overall Record: 9-2. Weekly Record: 1-0. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 33. NCAA NET Rank: 41. RPI: 60. SOS (per KenPom): 214. Q1+Q2: 3-1. Q3+Q4: 6-1.
Oklahoma played just once this week, a 20-point win over UT Arlington (KenPom Rank: 256). In the game, the Sooners dominated the Mavericks behind the efforts of Waco native, North Texas transfer, and 3P specialist, Umoja Gibson (14 points and 8 rebounds on 4/8 from deep). Oklahoma has used a balanced approach to find success this year. They have a top 25 scoring defense and an offense that boasts the 6th best FG% in the nation. They have excellent ball movement and don't turn it over too much. The only question with this offense is the decision making. If they fall in love with three-pointers, it does not bode well for them. Defensively, I wonder if they have enough rim protection to hold up against the high-flying offenses of the Big XII. The Sooners will wrap up their pre-conference play against the same Alcorn State team Baylor faces this week.
7) #25 Texas Tech Red Raiders (Prev: 7). Overall Record: 8-2. Weekly Record: 1-1. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 21. NCAA NET Rank: 30. RPI: 138. SOS (per KenPom): 344. Q1+Q2: 1-2. Q3+Q4: 7-0.
Tech started their week with a 13-point win over a significantly below average Arkansas State team (KenPom Rank: 229). On Saturday, they played #5 Gonzaga in Phoenix. It was an embarrassing loss to the Zags. I'm sure that Tech fans would be quick to point out that their star and leading scorer, TJ Shannon, did not play (back spasms). I don't think it would have mattered much. This team displays terrible shot selection. It seemed like almost every shot was contested. For as good as the Red Raiders usually are on defense, they had little answer for Gonzaga's starting trio of guards who combined for 40 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals on 43% from the field. Even if Shannon comes back and stays healthy, this offense is going to struggle against a lot of the defenses in the Big XII. They are still a dangerous team that can and likely will win some games against teams near the top of the conference, and I expect them to likely make the NCAA Tournament. I do not, however, think that they are a serious threat to finish near the top of the Big XII this season.
8) Texas Christian Horned Frogs (Prev: 8). Overall Record: 9-1. Weekly Record: 1-0. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 62. NCAA NET Rank: 62. RPI: 35. SOS (per KenPom): 272. Q1+Q2: 2-1. Q3+Q4: 7-0.
TCU only played once this week, a narrow win over a mediocre Georgetown team (KenPom Rank: 111). Mike Miles and Chuck O'Bannon starred for the Frogs in the win, combining for 35 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals on 52% from the field. Going into the game, TCU was one of the worst 3P shooting teams in the country (less than 28% on the year, good for 323rd in the nation). Against the Hoyas, they went 11/26 (42%) which propelled them to victory. If this game is a sign that TCU is going to start hitting a higher percentage of their perimeter shots, TCU can be in the mix to make the Big Dance. If this game was an aberration, then TCU will struggle to hang with most Big XII teams. The thing that makes this team dangerous is their offensive rebounding. They rank #1 in the nation in offensive rebounds per game and #3 in offensive rebound percentage. It will be difficult for them to maintain that advantage in the paint once Big XII play starts.
9) Oklahoma State Cowboys (Prev: 9). Overall Record: 7-4. Weekly Record: 0-1. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 52. NCAA NET Rank: 75. RPI: 84. SOS (per KenPom): 146. Q1+Q2: 0-3. Q3+Q4: 7-1.
Oklahoma State played just once this week. They lost on Saturday to Houston by 11 points. I was mildly impressed with the way the Cowboys battled in this game. They did have the lead early in the second half and closed to within 2 points with 4.5 minutes to play. They may have had a chance to win and help bolster the conference's reputation but for their offensive struggles. They had 18 turnovers and just 7 assists in the game and also failed to get anything going from beyond the arc (3/19 [15%] on three-pointers in the game). Bryce Williams was the only Poke to get to double-figures in scoring and he needed 13 free-throw attempts to do it (he went 2/13 from the field in the game). These difficulties on offense are not limited to Saturday's loss, OSU ranks 336th national in turnovers per game and 317th nationally in 3P%. The elite defenses in the Big XII will feast on this offense if things do not turn around in a big way for the Cowboys. Oklahoma State will not play again until conference play starts on New Year's Day.
10) Kansas State Wildcats (Prev: 10). Overall Record: 7-3. Weekly Record: 1-0. Conference Record: 0-0. B12 Position: T-1. KenPom Rank: 66. NCAA NET Rank: 91. RPI: 195. SOS (per KenPom): 282. Q1+Q2: 1-3. Q3+Q4: 6-0.
I considered moving the Wildcats up a spot this week after they won their game and Oklahoma State lost theirs. However, OSU's loss was a competitive one to a good team and KSU's win was anything but impressive. Side Bar: I am a graduate of Baylor and bleed green and gold. I also am a graduate of Nebraska (law school) and have a far amount of loyalty for the Huskers as well. This is relevant here because that is the team KSU beat and it is not easy for me to say some of the negative but true things I am about to say about my Cornhuskers. Kansas State's lone win of the week came against a 5-7 Nebraska team by single-digits. The fact that this game was even competitive is a bad sign for Bruce Weber's team. In a display that would trigger horrific memories among Houston Rockets fans, the Huskers missed 18 consecutive three-pointers to close the game. If they had hit 4 or 5 of those (like any normal team would have), KSU would've suffered an ugly loss to a bad team. KSU has a couple of games left to boost their confidence against inferior teams (average KenPom Rank: 322).
Big XII Award Leaderboards
Coach of the Year Leaderboard:
1) TJ Otzelberger, Iowa State. In year 1, he has led a 2-22 team that lost most of its talent to an undefeated record.
2) Porter Moser, Oklahoma. In year 1, after losing arguably their 3 best players, he has led the team to several impressive wins and a 9-2 record.
3) Scott Drew, Baylor. Replacing 4 starters from last year's squad, he has his team as the unanimous #1 program in the nation.
4) Mark Adams, Texas Tech. In year 1, after losing a multitude of key contributors, he has his team playing excellent defense and boasting an 8-2 record.
Player of the Year Leaderboard:
1) Ochai Agbaji, Kansas. Leads the league in scoring and in win shares (per sports-reference.com).
2) Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State. Top 5 in the league in scoring, rebounding, and win shares.
3) Taz Sherman, West Virginia. Leads the league in points produced.
4) Mike Miles, TCU. Top 3 in the league in scoring and assists.
Defensive Player of the Year Leaderboard:
1) Matthew Mayer, Baylor. See my post on why Mayer is as good as it gets defensively in the Big XII.
2) Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State. League leader in steals.
3) Kalib Boone, Oklahoma State. League leader in blocked shots.
4) Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua, Baylor. Check out Michael Nichols's article about JTT's defensive impact.
Sixth Man of the Year Leaderboard:
1) LJ Cryer, Baylor. 1 start in 10 games played. 21.7 points per 40 minutes on 50% from the field and 45% from deep.
2) Markquis Nowell, Kansas State. 3 starts in 9 games played. 20.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.1 steals per 40 minutes on 42% from the field.
3) Jeremy Sochan, Baylor. 0 starts in 10 games played. 15.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per 40 minutes on 48% from the field.
4) Malik Curry, West Virginia. 0 starts in 11 games played. 14.3 points per 40 minutes on 45% from the field.
Freshman of the Year Leaderboard:
1) Kendall Brown, Baylor. Leads all freshmen in scoring and FG% and is top 3 among freshmen in assists and steals.
2) Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State. Leads all freshmen in steals and assists and is second among freshmen in scoring.
3) Jeremy Sochan, Baylor. Leads all freshmen in defensive rating and is top 3 among freshmen in win shares and box plus/minus.
4) Eddie Lampkin, TCU. 4th among freshmen in scoring, 3rd among freshmen in FG%, and 2nd among freshmen in rebounding.
Newcomer of the Year Leaderboard:
1) Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State. See Player of the Year stats above.
2) James Akinjo, Baylor. Leads the league in assists and is tied for the league lead in defensive win shares (with Tyrese Hunter and Izaiah Brockington).
3) Tanner Groves, Oklahoma. Top 10 in the league in scoring, rebounding, and FG%.
4) Timmy Allen, Texas. Top 12 in the league in scoring, rebounding, steals, and TS%.
Upcoming Big XII Games Worth Monitoring
a) Kansas @ Colorado. Tuesday, December 21, 2021, at 8:00 PM CT on ESPN2. Prediction: Kansas by 22.
b) Alcorn State @ Baylor. Monday, December 20, 2021, at 6:00 PM CT on ESPN+. Prediction: Baylor by 29.
c) Rice @ Texas. Wednesday, December 22, 2021, at 1:00 PM CT on LHN. Prediction: Texas by 18.
d) Youngstown @ West Virginia. Wednesday, December 22, 2021, at 5:00 PM CT on ESPN+. Prediction: WVU by 25.