Big 12 rankings after the third week. It looks like a race for second at this point after Kansas had a big week with back-to-back critical wins. Plus one for a road win, minus one for a road loss.
1. Kansas (20-1, 6-0, +3) – The Jayhawks may have secured the regular-season title last week with a rout of rival Missouri at home and a gutsy win at Kansas State. Up this week: at Colorado, vs. Nebraska. Should be 8-0 by this time next week. Projection: 29-2, 15-1.
2. Missouri (16-5, 4-2, +1) – Am I convinced this is the second-best team in the league? No. But unlike Kansas State and Texas, the Tigers have taken care of business at home. Up this week: Vs. Texas A&M, at Colorado. Must-win at home, and winning both would help cause for NCAA bid. Projection: 22-9, 10-6.
3. Kansas State (17-4, 4-3, -1) – Might want to pull back on that whole “Octagon of Doom” thing after back-to-back losses at home. The good news is the Wildcats won at Baylor. The bad news is they failed to make a statement Saturday against Kansas. Up this week: At Nebraska, at Iowa State. A loss in either could cost the Cats a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Projection: 25-5, 12-4.
4. Baylor (16-4, 3-3, even) – The Bears got a huge win Saturday at Texas, a place they hadn’t won at in a decade to take the sting out of a loss at home to Kansas State. Up this week: Vs. Iowa State, at Texas A&M. Baylor has been good on the road. A win at A&M would be a good start to the second half of the conference race. Projection: 23-7, 10-6.
5. Texas (18-3, 4-2, even) – It appears the Longhorns have been overrated. They’ve lost both of their games against ranked Big 12 teams and do not have an impressive conference win. Up this week: At Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma. Dangerous week for a team that isn’t clicking. Projection: 23-8, 9-7.
6. Oklahoma State (16-5, 4-3) – Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Damien James get most of the headlines, but James Anderson is the best player in the conference. Dude can control a game. Up this week: Vs. Texas, at Texas Tech. Big week for OSU, which missed injured point guard Ray Penn Saturday at Missouri. Projection: 20-10, 8-8.
7. Texas A&M (15-6, 4-3) – The Aggies enter a brutal four-game stretch that includes games against Missouri, Baylor, Texas Tech and Kansas. Up this week: At Missouri, vs. Baylor. Two wins may mean a top-five finish. Projection: 18-12, 7-9.
8. Oklahoma (12-9, 3-4) – Go figure. The Sooners beat ISU without Crocker and Warren, and get smoked by Nebraska when both return. No reason to think this team is any better than NIT material. Up this week: Projection: 15-15, 6-10.
9. Texas Tech (14-7, 2-5) – The Red Raiders remain competitive, but they can’t get over the hump. The played with Texas and A&M well into the second half last week. Up this week: Vs. Oklahoma State. Must-win game. Projection: 17-13, 5-11.
10. Iowa State (13-8, 2-4): Either Lucca Staiger met more to this team than most thought, or it just isn’t very good. ISU lost to undermanned OU and barely beat Colorado at home last week. Up this week: At Baylor, vs. Kansas State. Tough week for a struggling team. Projection: 17-14, 6-10.
11. Colorado (11-10, 2-5): Winning at Iowa State would have been a solid step forward for this program. A sprained knee injury for freshman Alec Burks could hurt the Buffs the rest of the way. Up this week: Vs. Kansas, vs. Missouri. Split would be big for the Buffs. Projection: 14-16, 5-11.
12. Nebraska (13-8, 1-5): Doc Sadler’s teams always play hard, have to give them that. Saturday’s rout of Oklahoma should give a young team confidence. Up this week: Vs. Kansas State, at Kansas. Likely losses. Projection: 15-16, 3-13.