STORY OF THE WEEK

Five’s a crowd: The first month of Big 12 play has settled very little — well, at least at the top (sorry, West Virginia). Five teams are within a half-game of first place in the league standings, with Kansas State and Baylor sitting atop the conference with 5-2 records. Kansas, Iowa State and Texas Tech each sport 5-3 marks. A debate can be had on whether slumping KU is still the favorite in its quest for a 15th straight league title, but this much is undeniable: The Jayhawks will have to slay several dragons along the way. “We’ve gotta fight and grind and scratch and claw just like the vast majority of the teams in the country,” KU coach Bill Self said Wednesday. “We haven’t been used to doing that as consistently as some of the other (teams), but there’s no reason why we can’t, because when we’ve had to in the past we’ve delivered pretty well.”

STOCK RISING

Iowa State: By way of their 87-73 blowout of then-No. 20 Ole Miss on Saturday in Oxford, Miss., the Cyclones became the only victorious visiting team in an SEC/Big 12 Challenge that saw nine home squads hold serve. Throw in a 25-point home victory over West Virginia on Wednesday and it’s been quite a week for Steve Prohm’s group, which has three defeats in league play by a combined eight points. Are the sharp-shooting Cyclones the Big 12’s new frontrunner?

STOCK FALLING

Oklahoma: Things are getting ugly in Norman, Okla. — Lloyd Noble Center, to be more specific. The Sooners have dropped their last two Big 12 home contests by a combined 43 points, including Monday’s stunning 77-47 defeat to Baylor. OU shot just 26.9 percent from the field in that contest and now ranks ninth in league play in both shooting percentage (40.5) and 3-point shooting percentage (27.7). “We've got to do a lot better,” Kruger acknowledged.

WEEKEND SPOTLIGHT

No. 16 Texas Tech at No. 11 Kansas

3 p.m. CST Saturday, Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan., CBS

True, some of the shine from what only one month ago appeared the marquee matchup of Big 12 play has faded, with the Red Raiders dropping three of five since their 15-1 start and the Jayhawks falling in five of 11 after capturing their first 10. But make no mistake: Saturday’s contest between two powers from last season’s conference race could ultimately prove a watershed moment in the airtight league race. The Jayhawks, who have gone 1-5 in true road contests, have to this point run the table at Allen Fieldhouse, but the team’s struggling offense won’t find easy sledding against a Red Raider defense that ranks No. 1 nationally both opponent shooting percentage (36.1) and defensive efficiency (0.821). Of note: Only twice before in Self’s 16-year tenure has KU dropped three straight games.

WEEKEND SLATE (All times Central)

Time ... Game ... TV

SATURDAY

11 a.m. ... Oklahoma at West Virginia ... ESPN2

1 p.m. ... Texas at Iowa State ... ESPN2

5 p.m. ... Kansas State at Oklahoma State ... ESPNU

7 p.m. ... TCU at Baylor ... ESPNU

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

G Talen Horton Tucker, Iowa State: Up-and-down freshman was way up in victory at Ole Miss, scoring 23 points on 11-for-18 shooting with eight rebounds and five assists.

G Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State: Could one of the Cyclones’ biggest weapons finally be rounding into form? Sophomore has scored 46 in last two games, including 28 against West Virginia.

G Thomas Dziagwa, Oklahoma State: Scored a team-high 19 points with five 3s in much-needed 74-70 victory over South Carolina. Junior is shooting better on 3s (43.6 percent) than 2s (30.6).

G Ochai Agbaji, Kansas: Making his first career start Tuesday, the freshman scored 24 points on 8-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds in 73-63 defeat at Texas. Agbaji was redshirting just a month ago.

NUMBER OF NOTE

96.4

Free-throw percentage for Oklahoma State’s Lindy Waters, the nation’s highest conversion rate. The junior guard hasn’t missed an attempt since Dec. 21, but it’s come on only 55 total tries. Waters ranks just third on his own team in total stripe appearances, trailing Cameron McGriff (91 attempts) and the dismissed Michael Waters (59).

RANKING THE LEAGUE (through Jan. 30)

1. Iowa State (16-5, 5-3): As if the red-hot Cyclones needed another offensive weapon, sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton may finally be 100 percent following a foot injury that cost him most of his nonconference slate. His 28 points in 25 minutes off the bench paced ISU in its 93-68 laugher Wednesday over West Virginia. (Last week: 3)

2. Texas Tech (17-4, 5-3): Back-to-back victories over Arkansas and TCU have the Red Raiders back on track, though both of those outcomes came at United Supermarkets Arena. None of Texas Tech’s leading scorers over the last 10 contests have eclipsed 23 points, with Chris Beard’s defensive-minded squad averaging a ninth-ranked 64.2 points in league play. (LW: 4)

3. Kansas (16-5, 5-3): If there’s a blueprint to defeating the Jayhawks, it may have been exposed in defeats at Kentucky and Texas. Teams are trapping preseason All-American and lone frontcourt starter Dedric Lawson, and guards Marcus Garrett (22.6 percent 3-point shooter) and Quentin Grimes (32.9) aren’t making them pay for packing the paint. (LW: 1)

4. Kansas State (15-5, 5-2): Just when you think you have the Wildcats figured out, they flip the script — for both good and bad. K-State’s five-game winning streak came to a screeching halt Saturday in a 65-53 setback at lowly Texas A&M. Through seven Big 12 games, the Wildcats feature the league's best defense (59.6 points allowed per game) and its worst offense (61.4 points per game). (LW: 2)

5. Baylor (14-6, 5-2): The Bears’ ability to recover from Tristan Clark’s season-ending injury has been remarkable — a 5-1 record, including five straight victories and three in a row in conference play by double-figures. Whether the undermanned group can continue to hang tough remains to be seen, but Scott Drew should receive serious coach of the year consideration. (LW: 6)

6. TCU (15-5, 3-4): This season has unfolded with a familiar narrative for the Horned Frogs, who started 12-1 but have dropped four of seven and three straight against Top 25 opponents. The latest setback, a 84-65 drubbing Monday at the hands of Texas Tech, dropped TCU to 0-4 on the road in Big 12 play. (LW: 5)

7. Texas (12-9, 4-4): The Longhorn defense surrendered 98 points to Georgia in a setback that had many questioning Shaka Smart’s future in Austin, then limited Kansas to 63 in a season-saving victory that saw the Jayhawks score just 14 points across the first 15 minutes. Freshman forward Jaxson Hayes leads the Big 12 in blocked shots per game (2.6) and field goal percentage (73.7). (LW: 8)

8. Oklahoma (15-6, 3-5): Freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy is hitting 40.5 percent of his 3-point attempts this season, but the Sooners as a team are at just a 33.3-percent clip. OU hit only 4 of 20 from deep in Monday's demoralizing 30-point home defeat to Baylor. (LW: 7)

9. Oklahoma State (9-11, 2-5): The Cowboys don’t have many players left — just seven healthy and on scholarship, to be exact — but the ones still hanging around have proven more than capable of pulling a surprise upset through a 3-point barrage. OSU features two of the league’s five most accurate shooters from downtown in Lindy Waters (45.4 percent 3-point shooter) and Thomas Dziagwa (43.6). (LW: 9)

10. West Virginia (9-12, 1-7): Ejected from Wednesday’s 25-point loss at Iowa State, Bob Huggins had to be restrained from officials. Mountaineers’ minus-10.9 point average scoring margin ranks last in league play, more than twice as bad as ninth-place Oklahoma State’s mark. “I’m miserable,” Huggins said in his postgame news conference, also adding: “We suck.” (LW: 10)