The Big 12 Powerhouses
No. 4: Kansas
It might be a stretch to put KU in the category of "powerhouse" this week given that the Jayhawks are only 4-3 in Big 12 play. However, there's just something about that logo and that program that makes me feel reluctant to count them out.
To contend in this conference, though, Bill Self had better figure out how to get his team to win road games. So far, Kansas is just 1-3 away from Lawrence in league games with losses at UCF and West Virginia to go with Saturday's defeat at the hands of Iowa State.
Coming up, KU has to play at Kansas State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Houston so the road might go on forever for the Jayhawks but their party as the Big 12's biggest bully might come to an end.
No. 3: Iowa State
Few people are giving enough love to Iowa State, which is 5-2 in the conference and tied with Houston for second place. That might start to change after the Cyclones took down Kansas on Saturday in Ames.
The madness of Hilton Coliseum will keep ISU in the conference race given that they aren't likely to drop many, if any, home games this year. They've already beaten Houston in Ames and they don't have to go to Lawrence. What's more, they host Tech as well meaning that they could score home wins over the three other Big 12 title contenders and that could flip the race in their favor.
No. 2: Texas Tech
Yes, Texas Tech is alone in first place in the league standings. So why are they No. 2 in this ranking? Simply put, they played the No. 1 team on this list, Houston, and got drilled. That 77-54 beating in Houston is hard to forget. Sure, it would be closer if they teams played on a neutral court but Houston was clearly the better team that night and I think they are the class of the league.
As for Tech, they just navigated a crucial three-game stretch against Houston, BYU, and Oklahoma at 2-1 despite only having one of those games at home. That's a fantastic accomplishment for Grant McCasland's team.
Still left for Tech are a pair of games against Baylor, a home tilt with Kansas, and road trips to TCU and Iowa State so there's still plenty of treacherous water to navigate. However, Tech has proven that grit and determination can carry you to the top of the league standings. Now, the task is to prove that it will keep you there all season.
No. 1: Houston
The Houston Cougars aren't the first place team in the league right now but they are playing like the best team in the Big 12, if not America. What's more, their schedule lays out rather favorably for them to stay in the league race all the way until the end.
Outside of road trips to Kansas and Baylor, the road to Kansas City and the Big 12 Tournament looks pretty smooth for Houston. Of course, any team can stump its toe in this conference and Houston won't be able to take for granted its trip to Norman or home games against Iowa State and Kansas.
With that said, Houston has the look of a Final Four team and they have all the makings to win this conference. They already have dealt Texas Tech a rough lesson and that won't be the only conference powerhouse to fall to the Cougars before this season concludes.