Kansas State University

Kellis Robinett's Big 12 Report: Coaches preparing for toughest conference season

Kansas coach Bill Self thinks as many as six teams can win the Big 12 this season.
Kansas coach Bill Self thinks as many as six teams can win the Big 12 this season. Associated Press

Can KU top 11 for No. 11?

The question pops up at this time every year.

Is this the season a team other than Kansas wins the Big 12 men’s basketball title?

For many, the answer is finally yes.

Some will insist the Jayhawks should remain conference favorites until their trophy streak, which stands at 10, comes to an end. But they will be challenged by nine league foes that have never been stronger collectively.

The Big 12 impressed during nonconference games, going a national-best 104-22 and climbing to the top of league RPI measurements. Baylor (21), Iowa State (17), Oklahoma (16), West Virginia (14), Kansas (12) and Texas (10) are all ranked in the latest Associated Press poll and TCU is receiving votes.

“It is undisputed,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “We are the best league in America – hands down.”

At the least, the Big 12 appears to be the nation’s most balanced conference.

“The bottom line is, with most leagues they are top heavy,” KU coach Bill Self said. “You can look at it and there are premier teams in the league, but there are teams when you look at the schedule and you know you are going to get two wins against them. We don’t have any teams like that in our league.”

Improvement from Texas Tech (10-4) and TCU (13-1) has strengthened the conference.

“In the Big East we had nine or 10 very good teams and some teams that weren’t very competitive,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “It isn’t that way in this league. We have 10 teams that are very competitive.”

The odds of a team running away in the standings, as Kansas has done in the past, are long.

Self said Sunday that the Jayhawks (11-2) have not played as well as their record indicates, adding Monday that as many six teams could realistically win the conference championship.

Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia appear on level footing. It may take a few weeks for a favorite to emerge.

They said it

“It’s a grind and a war, and also a privilege for the players to play in the best league in the country.”

Baylor coach Scott Drew

Big 12 power rankings

1. Texas (12-2, 1-0): Longhorns have played great outside of a home loss to Stanford.

2. Oklahoma (11-2, 1-0): Buddy Hield is turning into a star.

3. Kansas (11-2, 0-0): Two lopsided losses, but the Jayhawks have 11 wins against a difficult schedule.

4. West Virginia (13-1, 1-0): Juwan Staten is one of the nation’s top guards.

5. Iowa State (10-2, 0-0): What happened against South Carolina?

6. Baylor (11-2, 0-1): Scott Drew has some depth in Waco.

7. Oklahoma State (10-3, 1-0): Phil Forte and Le’Bryan Nash pack a scoring punch.

8. TCU (13-1, 0-1): Big 12 play will be much harder than nonconference play.

9. Kansas State (7-7, 0-1): Wildcats have too much talent to be .500.

10. Texas Tech (10-4, 0-1): Next three will be hard on the Red Raiders.

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.