-- There's no better example of the Big 12's depth and talent than TCU. The Horned Frogs entered league play at 12-0 -- and promptly lost four of their first five games. Of course, those five games were no cakewalk: vs. Oklahoma, at Baylor, vs. Kansas, at Texas, at Oklahoma.
The scary part about the Big 12? That five-game stretch isn't really an anomaly. That's the way the league is this season. The worst team is Iowa State -- which has beaten top-50-caliber teams Baylor and Boise State by double digits. The other 1-4 team, in addition to TCU and Iowa State, is Baylor, which entered Big 12 play in the Top 25 after beating Creighton and Wisconsin. There are no easy games, especially on the road.
The top of the league is what gives the Big 12 separation, though. There are four teams in the top 10 of the latest Power Rankings, with Texas Tech, Oklahoma and West Virginia taking turns beating each other the past week or so. Throw in Kansas, and there are four Final Four threats -- and four legitimate Big 12 title threats. All four currently sit at 4-1, with the other six teams in the league below .500.
So who's the favorite to win the league?
BPI likes Kansas to win its 14th straight Big 12 title, by 0.2 wins over Texas Tech. West Virginia is in third, while Oklahoma is a distant fourth. Meanwhile, KenPom has Texas Tech winning the league at 13-5, with the other three teams finishing one game behind.
Oklahoma has the best player of the group in Trae Young, and the most impressive team through two-plus months might be West Virginia, which won 15 games in a row before a one-point loss at Texas Tech on Saturday.
Texas Tech is the only one to play all three of the other top-four teams so far, which could bode well for its schedule moving forward. West Virginia will join the Red Raiders shortly, as the Mountaineers host Kansas on Monday night (9 ET on ESPN and the ESPN App). Meanwhile, Kansas and Oklahoma won't meet until Jan. 23.
After that, we'll have a better idea on the pecking order of the Big 12.
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1. Villanova Wildcats
Last week: 1
For the first time in a few weeks, No. 1 stays the same. Villanova established its credentials as the clear Big East favorite with a 24-point home win over Xavier and then struggled before beating St. John's on the road. Sixth man extraordinaire Donte DiVincenzo has now scored double figures in eight consecutive games.
2. Purdue Boilermakers
Last week: 3
Is this the new Big Ten favorite? The Boilermakers have won 13 in a row since losing two in the Bahamas, and thanks to Michigan State's struggles the past two weekends, sit atop the league standings with Ohio State. Aside from the Michigan State game, Purdue's remaining road games are all against likely bottom-half Big Ten teams.
3. Virginia Cavaliers
Last week: 5
Virginia is now 5-0 in the ACC after handling Syracuse and NC State at home, but four of the Cavaliers' first five league games have been at home. Now, they head on the road for five of their next seven.? Isaiah Wilkins continues to cement himself as one of the best defenders in the country, holding Omer Yurtseven to six points one week after limiting Luke Maye to the same.
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Last week: 7
Strong bounce-back week for Lon Kruger's team, knocking off Texas Tech and TCU after the loss at West Virginia. We've talked in the past about Trae Young needing help in big games; Christian James had 15 points against Tech, while Brady Manek went for 22 against TCU.
5. West Virginia Mountaineers
Last week: 2
We're not going to dock the Mountaineers too much for losing their first game since Nov. 10 -- on the road, by one point, against a top-10 team. One big positive was? Esa Ahmad's performance in his first game back from suspension, going for 18 points and six rebounds. Keep an eye on any ramifications from the court-rush incident, though.
6. Duke Blue Devils
Last week: 8
Not going to say Duke solved its defensive issues, since the showings came against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, but Duke played some of its best defense all season last week, holding both teams to 0.91 points per possession or fewer. We'll see if that's an aberration Monday, when Duke travels to Miami.
7. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last week: 6
A road loss at Oklahoma was erased by a home win over West Virginia, so the Red Raiders basically stay the same. Brandone Francis had perhaps the best game of his longer-than-it-seems college career, scoring 17 points. Francis was an ESPN 100 prospect in the class of 2014 but has had two redshirt seasons since then.
8. Wichita State Shockers
Last week: 11
Wichita State is 6-0 with Markis McDuffie on the court, and he seems to be getting healthier every week. McDuffie has hit double figures in four consecutive games, and he has played at least 20 minutes in three straight. This might be Wichita's toughest week of the AAC season, with a home tilt against SMU and a trip to Houston.
9. Xavier Musketeers
Last week: 10
Xavier snapped a two-game losing streak, including a 24-point loss at Xavier, with a 22-point home win over Creighton. The Musketeers badly needed Trevon Bluiett to snap out of his shooting slump, and he obliged, going for 24 points, including five 3-pointers. Maybe J.P. Macura is next? He has averaged just 8.0 points in his past three games.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
Last week: 12
Kansas breaks into the top 10 again after three straight wins, although the three have come by a combined 10 points. All eyes were on Silvio De Sousa on Saturday against Kansas State, as the freshman was dressed for the first time. He played just four minutes. Bill Self will need his physicality this season.
11. Michigan State Spartans
Last week: 4
What is going on with the Spartans? Since winning 14 consecutive games, Michigan State has lost by 16 at Ohio State and barely escaped Rutgers at home in overtime, and then lost by 10 at home to Michigan. The Spartans are turning over the ball at a high clip, and while they're still the best 2-point defense in the country, teams are getting more open 3s.
12. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last week: 14
After losing three of five, North Carolina obliterated Boston College and then won by one at Notre Dame. The Tar Heels have a plethora of solid wins, with the Fighting Irish now joining a hit list that includes Tennessee, Ohio State, Michigan and Arkansas. That outweighs the home loss to Wofford in terms of their profile.
13. Auburn Tigers
Last week: 17
After a tumultuous fall, no one thought the Tigers would be in this position. Bruce Pearl has Auburn as the best team in the SEC and on a 14-game winning streak. They continue to pass tests, coming back to win at Mississippi State over the weekend. The r?sum? is impressive, too: an RPI of 6 and eight Group 1 and Group 2 wins.
14. Arizona Wildcats
Last week: 15
Arizona is back as the highest-ranked Pac-12 team for the first time since the Bahamas debacle after sweeping the Oregon schools at home. It will be interesting to see if Sean Miller goes away from his Deandre Ayton- Dusan Ristic, two-big-man lineup the rest of the season; Ristic played just 15 minutes against Oregon due to foul trouble.
15. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last week: 16
Very few games ultimately matter in the West Coast Conference for Gonzaga, given the Bulldogs' record against the rest of the league in the past decade or so. But one of them is coming up on Thursday, when Saint Mary's comes to town. The Gaels knocked off Gonzaga in Spokane back in 2016 and are winners of 12 consecutive games.
16. Arizona State Sun Devils
Last week: 9
It has been a fairly quick fall from No. 1 for Arizona State, which has lost three of its past five -- and barely beat Oregon State at home on Saturday. The Sun Devils' defense has been poor in Pac-12 play, giving up at least 1.08 points per possession in each of their five league games. Moreover, they've hit only 40 percent of their 3s in two of five games.
17. Tennessee Volunteers
Last week: 19
Rick Barnes' team isn't going away. The Volunteers have won three in a row since their 0-2 start to SEC play, and that November win over Purdue continues to grow in stature. Moreover, their four losses have an average RPI of 9: Villanova, North Carolina, Auburn and Arkansas. Their profile is built pretty solidly right now.
18. Cincinnati Bearcats
Last week: 21
The metrics love Cincinnati, and the eye test also shows the Bearcats are probably better than this ranking. But they still haven't really beaten a surefire NCAA tournament team. Beating UCLA on the road was solid, but the Bruins have since lost to Stanford and Colorado. A win over SMU was impressive, but the Mustangs have lost to Tulane and Temple in AAC play.
19. Seton Hall Pirates
Last week: 13
Marquette can get hot against anyone, so Seton Hall's loss to the Golden Eagles by 20 points last week isn't the end of the world -- but the Pirates' performance brought a few concerning trends to the forefront. It was Seton Hall's second game in a row allowing 1.23 points per possession (and fourth allowing at least 1.02), and the fact the Pirates are not consistent from 3 is an issue.
20. Clemson Tigers
Last week: 20
The Tigers' 10-game winning streak was snapped by one point at a suddenly hot NC State team, but bouncing back to beat Miami on Saturday was impressive. Is Clemson a legitimate top-four team in the ACC? It sounds strange to say, but until Bonzie Colson gets back for Notre Dame, there might not be an argument otherwise.
21. Kentucky Wildcats
Last week: 24
John Calipari has been preaching about a lack of toughness and leadership to his young team, but maybe the Wildcats are starting to listen. They pulled out wins over Texas A&M and Vanderbilt last week despite some late-game miscues. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been terrific in Quade Green's place, hitting at least 16 points in five of six games.
22. Ohio State Buckeyes
Last week: 25
Ohio State certainly proved the win over Michigan State wasn't a fluke, destroying Maryland by 22 in the following game -- and then taking care of business against Rutgers on the road. An interesting scheduling note for the Buckeyes: They play at Northwestern on Wednesday, then don't play a true road game until Feb. 7.
23. TCU Horned Frogs
Last week: 18
TCU is still a Top 25-caliber team, even if the Horned Frogs' recent win-loss record doesn't show it. They are 1-4 in the Big 12, with the four losses coming by a combined 11 points -- and the one win coming by three points on the road. That's just life in the Big 12. Three of their next four league games are against predicted bottom-third teams, though.
24. Michigan Wolverines
Last week: NR
For the second consecutive week, a Big Ten team gets into the top 25 on the strength of a win over Michigan State. This time, the Wolverines knocked off the Spartans in East Lansing by double digits. They have won eight of their past nine, with a one-point loss to Purdue the lone blemish. They're also in the top 20 at KenPom.
25. Rhode Island Rams
Last week: NR
A blowout win over St. Bonaventure on Saturday essentially confirmed the Rams are the clear-cut favorite in the Atlantic 10, as they have now won eight in a row. More important, they are 9-1 with E.C. Matthews on the floor, with the lone loss coming at Nevada. A neutral-court win over Seton Hall looks solid on the profile, too.
Dropped out: Florida, Arkansas