The men's basketball race in the Big 12 is off to a predictable start, with Kansas starting to separate itself from the rest of the league. Look for that to continue in the weeks ahead, as parity catches up with the nine teams chasing the Jayhawks this and, seemingly, every college basketball season. Photo credit: Big 12 Conference

Big 12 Basketball Power Rankings: KU Still on Top; Rest of League a Dogfight

In football days long gone by, there used to be a popular saying “Oklahoma and the Seven Dwarfs,” referring, in a comical way, to the Sooners longtime conference dominance in the Bud Wilkinson dynasty years of the 1950s. You can make the same argument for the dominance of Kansas in basketball under coach Bill Self.

Eight years…and still counting. That’s how long it has been since the Kansas Jayhawks have finished the regular season any lower than first place. And the Jayhawks are on track to replicate that now all-too-familiar feat for a ninth consecutive time, again, this season. KU won the conference crown outright in five of those years and shared it with Texas twice (2006 and 2008) and Oklahoma (2005), which started the current championship string.

While top-five-ranked Kansas appears to be the strongest and most talented, and once again in the driver’s seat, in a conference whose stock, along with its RPI, is sown this season from what it has been in past seasons, there is parity among at least six of the remaining Big 12 teams. Road wins are going to be a premium this season in the conference-only portion of the schedule. So much so, that the school that wins the most games away from home is likely to finish right there with Kansas, relatively speaking, and claim the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 postseason tournament, plus have a great chance for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Approximately every two weeks, or so, through the rest of the college hoops season, we will offer up a subjective power ranking of where the teams in the Big 12 men’s basketball league race stand and a few words on why. Welcome to our first installment, heading into Saturday’s games:

1.    Kansas Jayhawks – Eight-time reigning league champion and not about ready to relinquish the crown.

2.    Kansas State Wildcats – Lost a close game this week to Kansas and now has to travel to dangerous Iowa State, one of the most difficult road venues in the Big 12.

3.    Oklahoma Sooners – Most improved team in the conference and very athletic, but the Sooners are nowhere near Kansas’ level, their opponent this weekend.

4.    Baylor Bears – Like OU, Baylor has gotten fat early with wins over teams in the lower half of the conference. The real test lay straight ahead.

5.    Iowa State Cyclones – An improbable loss at Texas Tech makes Saturday’s home date with K-State a must-win.

6.    Oklahoma State Cowboys – The 3-2 Pokes should pick up a win Saturday at West Virginia, but then Iowa State and a date with Kansas in Lawrence await.

7.    Texas Tech Red Raiders – Texas Tech’s first five games in conference play came against teams with RPIs ranked in the top 50. They have two wins already, but now the Red Raiders go to Austin on Saturday, where they have not won in 16 games.

8.    Texas Longhorns – Probably the  biggest surprise so far. The Horns have yet to win a conference game in five tries. This streak should mercifully end this weekend at home vs. lowly Tech.

9.    West Virginia Mountaineers –  West Virginia shot 31 free throws in the second half against TCU on Wednesday, but they made only 16 of them. That is a big reason why Bob Huggins’ team has struggled this year.

10.  TCU Horned Frogs – Two seasons ago, TCU lost 13 consecutive games in the Western Athletic Conference to end the season. At 0-6 in the Big 12 in their debut year, the Horned Frogs are in danger of a similar feat this season.

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