How the selection committee defines the Big 12 hierarchy will be one of the key NCAA tournament-focused storylines we’ll be following over the next two months. It was the best men’s college basketball league in the country, and all 10 teams looked like they had an opportunity to play in March when the conference began. Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Texas Tech have since reeled, but the Cowboys and Mountaineers are still in the top 40 by most measures.

For our purposes, weeding out the second tier of teams behind Kansas will be a weekly challenge. Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State Wildcats, TCU and Baylor are likely to find themselves in the power rankings at one point or another, and this will lead to a situation where the teams will defeat each other every week. For example: Texas defeated TCU, TCU defeated Kansas, Kansas defeated Texas, and Iowa defeated TCU.

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Texas created some division last week, coming back to take down TCU and Texas Tech. An out-of-conference win over Gonzaga is also a good trump card to move the Longhorns forward.

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Iowa State has the edge over TCU and Kansas State after the Wildcats’ devastating loss to the Horned Frogs on Saturday. The Cyclones suffered a two-point loss in Kansas, but they have a top 15 record as well as four Quadrant 1 wins. TCU is still held back by a Quadrant 4 loss to Northwestern State, although that loss came when the team wasn’t in full force. Kansas State has the worst predictive record of the trio, but the Wildcats also have four Quadrant 1 wins.

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However, with matches like Kansas in Kansas State and Iowa in Texas this week, we’ll be back to that conversation again in seven days. Welcome to life in the Big 12.

Let’s move on to this week’s awards and rankings.

Team of the Week: Alabama Crimson Tide

It’s been a pretty easy week for Team of the Week contenders. Xavier, Texas and Illinois had some solid wins while North Carolina State pulled off a big win over Miami. But I’m not sure there’s a better team in college basketball right now than Alabama.

While some teams across the country have struggled since the start of conference play, this is not the case with Nate Oates’ club. Crimson Tide won their five SEC games averaging 22.8 points. Not to be overlooked is a 15-point win in Arkansas, which ranks as one of the best home courts in the SEC, if not all of college basketball, despite the Razorbacks’ recent struggles. Bama then came out and completely destroyed LSU by 40 points on Saturday, scoring 1.46 points per possession, making 20 three-pointers and losing 106 to the Tigers. The Crimson Tide is in full swing.

Player of the Week: Joel Soriano, St. John’s Red Storm

Soriano, a 6-foot-11 former Fordham player, posted the numbers relatively anonymously throughout the season. He is third in the nation in rebounding and has 16 double-doubles in 19 games. But Red Storm’s struggles in the Big East meant that Soriano didn’t get the attention he deserved. This has changed this week. Against Butler on Tuesday, Soriano started his week with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 10-for-13 field goals and blocked a couple of shots. He then went head-to-head with arguably the nation’s best big-man duo in UConn’s Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan – and came out on top. Soriano finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds in a shock loss to the Huskies as Sanogo and Klingan combined for 14 points.

Honorable mention goes to Xavier’s Souley Boame, who averaged 21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in wins over Marquette and Creighton; and Rutgers’ Cam Spencer, who averaged 22.0 points and 4.0 assists in wins over Northwestern and Ohio State. If Memphis hadn’t lost to the UCF, picking Kendrick Davis wouldn’t have been bad either.

Win of the Week: Kentucky Wildcats 63, Tennessee Volunteers 56

Kentucky started the weekend in disarray. After a 26-point loss to Alabama and a stunning home loss to South Carolina, the Wildcats lost key players to injuries, the coach was tied to another job and dealt with reports of upheaval backstage in the sports department. And then they went to Knoxville and beat one of the hottest teams in the country on their home court.

Tennessee took an early 8-0 lead and it looked like the same from Kentucky. But an injury to Sahvir Wheeler forced John Calipari to change his roster, allowing Antonio Reeves and CJ Fredrick to flourish. More importantly, the Wildcats played with some passion and energy defensively. Oscar Chibwe was instrumental in keeping the Vols on offense, Jacob Toppin had a few chances and Tennessee finished with the worst offensive game since last February.

Coach of the Week: Brad Brownell, Clemson Tigers

We usually use this section to shed some light on some of the most impressive mid-level teams in a given week. But what Brownell does at Clemson deserves some attention. After the Tigers’ 72-64 victory over Duke on Saturday, they are 7-0 in the ABC – a full two games ahead of everyone else in the league. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, starting with Tuesday’s trip to face a hot Wake Forest team, but being in that position at this point in the season is completely unexpected after being selected 11th in the ACC preseason poll. Brownell seems to enter every season in a hot spot, but he hasn’t finished .500 or lower overall since 2013. This streak doesn’t end this season.

Three teams with questions

Mississippi Bulldogs: Initially one of the favorites for the men’s college basketball season after an undefeated 11-0 start, the Bulldogs have lost five of their last six games and are ranked 1-4 in the SEC game. To make matters worse, three of their next four games are against Tennessee, Alabama and TCU.

Texas Tech Red Raiders: One of two teams 0-5 in the Big 12 game, the Red Raiders lost 34 in Iowa State on Tuesday and then narrowly lost in Texas on Saturday. Baylor and Kansas State are waiting this week. Texas Tech University doesn’t have a single top 100 win this season, and its best win comes against the Louisiana Tech home team, which is under .500 in the US conference.

Ohio State Buckeyes: The Buckeyes have lost four games in a row, and most of them have been heartbreaking. This run had a two-point home loss to Purdue, a three-point home loss to Minnesota, and an overtime loss to Rutgers. But Chris Holtmann’s team needs to get the ship up and running quickly or risk getting lost in the Big Ten shuffling.


Strength Rating

1. Houston Cougars (17-1)
Previous rating:
1
This week: at Tulane (Tuesday) and Temple (Sunday)

Houston didn’t look their best in a six-point home win over South Florida on Wednesday, but Markus Sasser did have one of the best games of his college career. The All-American candidate scored a career-high 31 points, made six 3-pointers and had four assists. After an inconsistent perimeter shot at the start of the 2022/23 season, he has started to heat up in the last couple of weeks. He has made 41.7% of his triples over the past six games, averaging 18.0 points. In the 12 games prior to this stretch, Sasser averaged 15.9 points on 30.5% three-point shooting.

2. Kansas Jayhawks (16-1)
Previous rating:
2
This week: Kansas State (Tuesday) vs. TCU (Saturday)

Kansas continues to look for a way out. Four of the Jayhawks’ five Big 12 wins have come by four or fewer points, including both wins last week. Are they playing with fire or is their performance sustainable? Well, their defense has struggled somewhat in recent weeks, conceding more than one point for possession in three out of five Big 12 games – after no opponents allowed that mark to be reached in an out-of-conference game. According to Kenpom, the Jayhawks are only fourth in the league in adjusted defensive effectiveness. But last season they finished fifth in the championship and won the national championship.

3. Purdue Boilermakers (16-1)
Previous rating:
3
This week: Michigan (Monday), Minnesota (Thursday), and Maryland (Sunday)

Only one game last week for Purdue, who have three this week to make up for it. In a single win over Nebraska at home, Fletcher Loyer picked up where he left off in the second half against Penn State. Leuer scored 27 points against the Cornhuskers, hitting 6 of 12 of 3. The freshman now shoots better than 43% from three in Big Ten game, including 50% in his last four games. He was clearly out of his December slump, a seven-game stretch in which he averaged 13.1 points and shot 25.6% from 3.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide (15-2)
Previous rating:
four
This week: Vanderbilt (Tuesday), Missouri (Saturday)

In the last 60 minutes of basketball, spanning three halves and two games, Brandon Miller scored 45 points and shot 14 of 20 from the field, including 9 of 13 from three. half against Arkansas, leading to a halftime tie in Fayetteville. But after not making any shots in the first 20 minutes, he had 14 shots after the break, including a couple of key triples. And then against LSU on Saturday, he was the catalyst for Alabama’s 40-point victory. He repeated LSU point-by-point in the first half and finished with 31 points, nine boards and seven triplets.

5. UCLA (16-2)
Previous rating:
8
This week: in Arizona (Thursday), in Arizona (Saturday)

The Bruins’ defense has been on another level in recent weeks. They have held off five of their latest rivals with under 0.80 points per possession and have only allowed three teams to surpass 0.90 points per possession since early December. They have the best defense in the Pac-12, they force losses at the highest rate in the league, and teams just can’t 3-ball against them. In the past seven games, no team has made more than eight three-pointers against the Bruins, and only one of the three-pointers has made more than a third …