REAL Standings: Dead Coach Walking

BIG XII RECAP

It has been oft-repeated recently that there are three groupings of teams in the Big 12: UT at the head of the class; Baylor as the bottom-feeder; and ten equal teams in the middle. In line with this thinking, I have expanded the REAL Standings to include k-state.

The reason, however, is not that k-state has done anything to prove that is should be part of the Middle (or is that Little) 10. Instead, it stems from the shabby play of teams like Okie St, Nebraska, and Mizzou. If these teams are included as contenders for a first round bye in the conference tourney, how can I justify leaving k-state out?

If a movie were made about Mizzou, it would be called "Dead Coach Walking." OU and KU did their best to forestall this moment, but both failed miserably: The Hairspray Era in Columbia is over. It is time for Quin to take a job for ESPN, where old-or, in his case and Lavin's, young-coaches go to get paid for saying stupid things. It is time for Mizzou to put on a full court press to hire Bob Huggins. He is a proven commodity, who will make Mizzou competitive not only when it plays miles above its head when KU visits Columbia, but in most other games as well. Huggins will bring in actual talent and have it playing somewhere in the vicinity of its potential.

On the other hand, the Tigers could go after Jayson Williams to preserve that venerable Duke/Mizzou connection. (I apologize if this reference offends any Duke fans.)

Meanwhile, Mizzou's early home court victory over Okie St is looking less and less impressive. The Cowboys resemble a team that wouldn't have a clue if it weren't for Colonel Mustard and the Library. They take shots that only those Guinness Guys would consider not completely brain dead--let alone "brilliant." In other words, Okie St resembles KU in November.

And what can you say about Nebraska? Once upon a time they did beat OU in Lincoln. And handled k-state in Manhattan. Since then, they have lost at home to ISU and suffered their worst loss in Barry Collier's tenure in Lawrence.

So how can I keep these three teams as contenders for the Thursday freebie and omit k-state?

I could throw them all out of the mix, but it seems a wee bit early to conclude that none of these teams can get their act together and contend for a Top Four finish-especially in the case of Okie St. Eddie Sutton, after all, hasn't won almost 800 games because he is Quin Snyder.

(I do beseech KU students and fans to take it easy on Quin when Mizzou visits Lawrence. He is a pathetic, tragic figure, whose flaw was not knowing his limitations, leading him to get in way over his head--no pun intended. Making fun of Quin at this point is equivalent to Lance Armstrong talking smack to a Special Olympics cyclist).

So, for another week, at least, I will expand rather than contract the field. We'll see if k-state can justify its inclusion--and if three or four other teams can justify their retention.

THE REAL STANDINGS

The REAL Standings* as of January 26, 2006, are:

1. 13-3

Texas (No projected L's/at risk games: at OU, MU, Texas Tech, Okie St, k-state, A&M)

2. 9-7

Colorado (L's at UT, vs. KU/projected L's at ISU, A&M, k-state, NU, KU)

Kansas (L vs. k-state, at Mizzou/projected L's at ISU, NU, Okie St, UT, k-state)

4. 8.5-7.5

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

5. 8-8

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

Nebraska (L's vs. ISU, at KU, at CU/projected L's at OSU, UT, ISU, A&M, MU)

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

Oklahoma (L at Nebraska, vs. Mizzou/projected L's at KU, Okie St, CU, Tech, UT/at risk games: at Baylor, vs. UT)

9. 7.5-8.5

A&M (L's vs. OU, at OSU, at k-state, vs. KU/projected L's at OU, UT, MU, Tech/at risk games: at Baylor)

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

11. 7-9

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

GAMES TO WATCH

Big XII Games January 28, 2006, with IQ (Interest Quotient) are:

1. KU at ISU (11a.m.)*****

The young Jayhawks take on the magic of Hilton. Kind of like Columbia, only further north. The place will be hopping with the Cyclones having a shot at taking out KU-maybe ISU's last chance for a long time. Of course, that's true about almost every game remaining on the Big Blue's schedule.

2. Okie St at Texas Tech (12:30p.m.)***

Okie St remains a team worthy of attention. They will, at some point, become a strong team when they learn to value possession of the ball and to forego preposterous shots. Tech is the only Tier 2 team that has performed exactly as projected to this point in the conference season.

3. Mizzou at NU (3p.m.)*1/2

If the conference were divided into seven tiers, these two teams would be in No. 6. NU can't afford a second home loss. Having lost two games at home and two games in a row, Mizzou desperately needs a road victory. Baylor looks like their best chance-if they even care by then.

4. Baylor at A&M (5p.m.)*

I still say Baylor will win a game and UT will lose one. Baylor's win will not be on the road. This is a scrimmage for the Aggies.

5. k-state at CU (7p.m.)****

CU is looking like a tough, battle hardened, veteran team. If k-state can waltz into Boulder and grab a victory, they will have to be taken seriously.

6. UT at OU (7p.m.)*****

One of the REAL at-risk games for UT. That is, if the Sooners REALly are as good as the commentators continue to insist. They are in the Top 25, for what that is worth. If OU has the lead at the half, it could be a wild final 20 minutes. If UT jumps out to an early 10 point lead, you can go bowling or take your dog for a walk. Since their fiascos vs. Duke and the other UT, the Longhorns have learned to take a lead and protect it.

Go Big-and Fast--Blue!

--Mark

*Texas, the only Tier One team, is projected to win all of its home games and to be "at risk" in all road games vs. Tier Two teams.

The Tier Two teams are projected to win all home games with the exception of UT. They are projected to lose all road games not played in Manhattan and Waco. They are "at risk" against UT at home and on the road at Baylor.

As always, teams can move up or down in status with meaningful road wins and embarrassing home losses.

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