By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Here’s your weekly Big 12 update, spanning the league for the best stories and biggest storylines:
1. Kansas (5-1) - Doesn’t yet resemble the kind of KU teams that have rolled to eight straight Big 12 titles. But there’s a lot of young guys still trying to fit in. Bill Self usually has an answer. (John Helsley)
2. Oklahoma State (5-0) - Can’t say enough about the way Travis Ford’s club has come out to start the year. Despite losing their starting small forward, center and sixth man, the Cowboys are 5-0 and ranked (#15) for the first time in the Ford era. But it’s early. And the injuries may eventually catch up. (Anthony Slater)
3. Baylor (4-2) - Lost at home? To Charleston? The Bears are still talented, but that home-floor loss, as a heavy favorite, suggests things aren’t quite right in Waco. (JH)
4. Kansas State (5-1) - Frank Martin’s gone, but his fingerprints remain. They’re play tough defense, beating teams they should and struggling to score against tough competition (lost 71-57 to #3 Michigan). (AS)
5. Oklahoma (4-1) - The Sooners are showing signs of improvement. They were hammered by Gonzaga, but bounced back with a solid win over West Virginia. (JH)
6. Texas (4-2) - That early-season loss to Division II Chaminade was ugly. The Longhorns’ season outlook, if it goes on without currently ineligible star guard Myck Kabongo, could be uglier. (AS)
7. West Virginia (1-3) - The Mountaineers are a grinding kind of team that will seldom look pretty, which they didn’t against OU. Style will likely play better at home. (JH)
8. Iowa State (4-2) - More talented than people realize. Should be a tough out in conference play, unlike the next two. (AS)
9. Texas Tech (4-0) - For all they’ve been through, the Red Raiders actually look like an improved team from a year ago. Of course, they had a long way to go. (JH)
10. TCU (5-2) - All things considered, TCU is actually an improving basketball program. But anything’s better than the 1-15 season they threw up in the Mountain West two years ago. Early on, the Frogs have some decent wins against teams they should beat. But that 55-31 loss to Northwestern? 31 points? Seventy percent of the Big 12′s football teams average more than that per game. (AS)
OU beats West Virginia 77-70 on neutral site - Because of a nonconference tournament scheduling rarity, we got a brief Big 12 preview in Orlando this past weekend. And the Sooners took it with a nice end-to-end effort, beating the Mountaineers and then hopping them in the above rankings.
Baylor goes down 63-59 at home to Charleston - Not a good look Baylor. That loss, at home to an average mid-major, is the reason the Big 12 only has two ranked teams (Kansas, OSU) in the latest AP poll.
Player of the week
Marcus Smart (OSU) - Averaging 13.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks five games into his college career, contributing in every imaginable way and changing the culture in Stillwater.
Line of the week
Jeff Withey (Kansas) - Had 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks against San Jose State. Regardless of the opponent, that type of triple-double is rare and impressive.
Link to click
CBS’ latest Player of the Year rankings have two Big 12 guys. (Hint: look at the above names).
Starting to look more and more like the Big 12′s premiere nonconference game. We could be talking about a top-10 matchup.
Video of the week
Jeff Withey’s massive block leading to Ben McLemore’s windmill dunk. Count me in.
Best upcoming game
Baylor at #8 Kentucky on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. on CBS – With UK’s young roster still finding itself, the Bears are talented enough to win it. But it’ll be a tough task. And interesting to watch.