REAL Standings: What if they threw a party and no contenders came?

BIG XII RECAP The home teams start the season 5-0. About par for the course in the Big 12.

The games that made a difference in the REAL Standings were the losses by OU at Nebraska, Tech at A&M, and Okie St at Mizzou.

As should have been evident from my Pre-season analysis, I was hesitant to rank OU as an elite team with Tier 1 status, because they have not been particularly impressive-especially in their 68-92 whipping on a pseudo-home court by West Virginia. But if they can't contend with Texas, who in the conference can? Can you have only one ‘contender"? Is that lexicographically possible?

Is Big 12 basketball football's twin sibling? One team-the same team-head and shoulders above 11 other teams that are good but not great, competitive but not championship material?

Should the Big 12 just pack it in, elect UT King of the Hill, and change its name to Texas and Associates?

At least in basketball, there is hope long term in the form of Okie St and KU. The question is: Is there any hope for a genuine horse race this year?

KU's emphatic win over UK Saturday presents a glimmer of a hope. However, you don't win-or even contend-for championships at home, especially vs. non-conference teams.

What the UK game did was provide a glimpse of what the still extremely young Hawks can become. If they can suddenly "turn it on" and play at a comparable level consistently and on the road, they could become a legitimate foil for Texas this year.

Unfortunately, that's not likely. Although, man for man, they have, in my opinion, more sheer talent and potential than Texas, the Longhorns have legitimate juniors and seniors, as well as two sophomores who actually played major minutes last year (although, in Aldridge's case, it was for little more than a semester).

So, no, KU has not earned an elevation to contender status based on a home win against a good, but not great, Kentucky team in dire need of getting its main big man back on the court.

The Hawks do, however, have an opportunity to prove their worth Wednesday night in Boulder. CU will be hot for redemption, after dropping its first game in ten tries in Kentucky-fashion Saturday in Austin. They also, as a rule, for some reason consider KU their arch-basketball rival, and this is one of their few legitimate chances in the last 20 years to defeat the Hawks. If KU can walk away from Boulder with a W, they will have to be considered the top challenger for second place in the conference this year--and a probable national championship contender in 2007.

As for OU, they will remain in Tier 1 for the time being. Nebraska, as noted in my pre-season post is ALWAYS tough at home. In fact, perhaps NU should be elevated to Level 2-they now have nice home wins over Marquette and OU. The down side is that they have done nothing away from home (they were crushed by Creighton 44-70 in Omaha). So let's let them stew a little longer as a bottom feeder until they show they can win a road game.

The same goes for Mizzou and A&M, both of whom had nice home victories Saturday, but against lesser competition than OU, and both of whom have yet to take their game with them on the road.

If anything, maybe Tech should be downgraded for their unimpressive showing in College Station. But it's early. Let's see if they can stink up the place at home.

THE REAL STANDINGS

The REAL standings as of January 8, 2006, are:

1. 13.5-2.5 Texas (projected L at OU/at risk games: at ISU, Texas Tech. Okie St)

2. 12-4 Oklahoma (L at Nebraska/projected L at Texas/at risk games: at KU, CU, Okie St, Texas Tech)

3. 9.5-6.5

Colorado (projected L's at UT, Okie St, ISU, KU/at risk games: vs. OU, at Mizzou, A&M, k-state and NU)

Iowa St (projected L's at Tech, KU, OU, CU/at risk games: vs. UT, at NU, Mizzou, k-state, Baylor)

Kansas (projected L's at CU, ISU, Okie St, UT/at risk games: vs. OU, at Mizzou, A&M, NU, k-state)

6. 8.5-7.5 Okie St (L at Mizzou/projected L's at UT, Tech, ISU, OU/at risk games: vs. UT, OU, at Baylor, k-state, A&M)

7. 8-8

Texas Tech (L at A&M/projected L's at UT, OU, KU, CU, Okie St/at risk games: vs. UT, OU, at NU, Baylor)

GAMES TO WATCH

Big XII Games this M-W, with IQ (Interest Quotient) are

1. Texas at ISU (Big Monday at 8p.m.)*****

One of UT's four lose-able games. If they win this one, you might as well wrap up the regular season title in a bow-like in those high class car commercials. Everyone else will REALly be playing for the honor of being-as Tiger says-First Loser. If ever a team-nay, an entire conference-needed a dose of Hilton Magic, it's Monday night.

2. Mizzou at Oklahoma (Tuesday at 7p.m.)***1/2

A conference undefeated vs. a winless team. Bet you didn't see that matchup coming-at least not who would be which. Mizzou gets its first chance to Show Me (and everyone else) that they can take their act on the road. If they pull out a W, they not only upgrade their REAL Standings status big time, they take a big step toward salvaging their coach's job and career-which at the moment are both about as valuable as the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks. But for OU, this is a MUST win game, even this early in the season. Won't happen for Mizzou on this night.

3. Baylor at Texas Tech (Wed. at 7p.m.)***

The only way this would be better for Tech would be if the game were played in Waco, so they could get a road win under their collective belt. Baylor's first game of the season. Not the conference season: THE season. If Tech can't prevail in this situation, they WILL be punished with exile from Tier 2, and SHOULD be banished from the conference and replaced by Sam Houston St (of beating Mizzou in Columbia fame).

4. Nebraska at k-state (Wed. at 7p.m.)****

k-state played ISU tough in Ames Saturday-until turning the ball over on two straight last minute possessions, both times with an opportunity to take the lead. It will be a difficult task for NU-but if they win in Manhattan, they will show that they deserve to ranked with the conference's big-errrrrr, medium sized-boys.

5. KU at Colorado (Wed. at 7p.m.)*****

This-not Kentucky-is KU's chance to make a statement. CU is lucky to catch the Hawks in Boulder early in the season. The Buffs should win-but if they don't, to quote Tiger again, it's "Hello, World" for the Jayhawks.

6. A&M at Okie St (Wed. at 8p.m.)****

Another team looking to rebound from a road loss on its home court. Another team with a chance to show, on the road, that it is to be taken seriously.

In all, an interesting slate of games this early in the conference season.

Go Big (and getting Bigger) Blue!

--Mark

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