The best conference in the country? To this point, it has been the Big 12 — by plenty.
Baylor has been so dominant, it’s time to start asking if the Bears are even better than they were last season. Come on down, freshman Kendall Brown, you dunk machine, you. Best dunker since Vince Carter? That’s what some were buzzing about Saturday night as the Bears were mauling Oregon on the road.
Kansas is strong enough to stay in the hunt for a No. 1 or No. 2 NCAA Tournament seed the whole way. Iowa State has been perhaps the best surprise in the country. Texas has as much talent as anybody. Texas Tech, Oklahoma and West Virginia are in, or flirting with, the Top 25. TCU is off to a 9-1 start. The good stuff just goes on for this league.
They don’t give out awards in December, but it’s hard to picture the Big Ten, SEC or any other league matching the Big 12. Maybe if Purdue goes wire-to-wire in extraordinary fashion, Michigan State keeps improving throughout, Illinois gets Andre Curbelo back and catches fire, E.J. Liddell puts Ohio State on his back even more than he has already, Michigan rediscovers its own pulse … but that’s a lot of maybes.
Here’s the latest poll, out Monday:
AP Top 25
1. Baylor, 2. Duke, 3. Purdue, 4. Gonzaga, 5. UCLA, 6. Arizona, 7. Kansas, 8. USC, 9. Iowa State, 10. Alabama, 11. Michigan State, 12. Auburn, 13. Houston, 14. Ohio State, 15. Seton Hall, 16. Texas, 17. LSU, 18. Xavier, 19. Tennessee, 20. Kentucky, 21. Colorado State, 22. Providence, 23. Villanova, 24. Wisconsin, 25. Texas Tech.
(Click here to see the poll in more complete list form.)
1. Baylor, 2. Purdue, 3. Duke, 4. Arizona, 5. Kansas, 6. Gonzaga, 7. UCLA, 8. Iowa State, 9. Kentucky, 10. Houston, 11. Alabama, 12. USC, 13. Auburn, 14. Xavier, 15. Colorado State, 16. Seton Hall, 17. Michigan State, 18. Texas, 19. Ohio State, 20. Oklahoma, 21. Providence, 22. Wisconsin, 23. LSU, 24. Texas Tech, 25. Illinois.
(Click here and then on “all voters” to see each voter’s individual ballot.)
• Kentucky’s 98-69 win against North Carolina was blow-your-hair-back impressive. That’s how you bounce back from a loss at Notre Dame. The Wildcats — with Oscar Tshiebwe setting the tone — outrebounded the Tar Heels by 18 and have a plus-16.5 rebounding margin through 11 games. I’ve got this team a lot higher on my ballot than most voters do, clearly.
• If I were king, I’d gather unbeatens USC, Iowa State, LSU and Colorado State for a little round-robin action to see what’s what. Anybody want to help me make this happen?
• The rise of Alfonso Plummer has made Illinois highly dangerous again. Since the team’s low point against Cincinnati, Plummer, a lefty transfer from Utah, has averaged 23 points over seven games. Nearly all of it has come from the three-point line, where good looks can be had as long as center Kofi Cockburn keeps passing out of double-teams.
• Why is anybody still voting for Villanova? The Wildcats just lost at Creighton by 20 after scoring all of 36 points in their previous game against Baylor. Maybe they’ll come back around, but right now they’re a mess.
• My ballot crashers: Providence and Illinois. Falling off it this time: Villanova and Arkansas.