As Saturday's start of conference play comes into focus, the familiar favorite is back atop the league's power poll and again looking like the clear team to beat in the Big 12.
Kansas, in search of its ninth straight regular season conference crown, fills the top spot. The Jayhawks face competition from Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor and the rest of the league is looking to make some noise, too, with much to prove from top to bottom.
1. Kansas (11-1). Since an early loss to Michigan State, the Jayhawks have reeled off 10 straight wins to re-establish their place among the nation's elite. Behind center Jeff Withey and freshman Ben McLemore — and a strong supporting cast that includes veterans Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford — KU looks like the league's most complete team. Best win: at No. 10 Ohio State, 74-66.
2. Oklahoma State (10-1). The Cowboys bolted out of the gate with an impressive run to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship, hinting at a restoration of pride to the program. Freshman Marcus Smart has transformed the feel of a squad that now relies on rugged defense and toughness over Lob Stilly showmanship. Still developing — and recovering from injuries — the Cowboys carry upside, too. Best win: No. 23 North Carolina State, 76-56, in Puerto Rico.
3. Kansas State (10-2). The Wildcats seem to be making a smooth transition from coach Frank Martin to Bruce Weber, winning 10 games in the nonconference for the seventh straight season. Weber inherited a veteran and talented roster, featuring a scorer in guard Rodney McGruder, who has three 30-point games to date. Best win: No. 14 Florida, 67-61 in Kansas City.
4. Baylor (8-4). It's been an uneven start for Baylor, where Scott Drew has gathered talent — again — yet has so far struggled to produce any consistency. A solid win over Kentucky is overshadowed by bad losses, including a setback to the College of Charleston in Waco. Still, the Bears have a lethal backcourt in Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip and serious upside. Best win: Kentucky, 64-55.
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