REAL Standings: Pre-Season 2012

Now for something completely different: REAL Standings for a double round robin schedule. Just like the good ol’ days of the Big 8. Back in the days when I simply kept track of Road Wins (+1) and Home Losses (-1). Young whippersnappers don’t REALize that, in those days, getting a Road W, any Road W, was like pulling teeth. What’s more, as a fan, you couldn’t even see most of those tooth puling experiences, because, for the most part, there was but one Big 8 game a week on TV, on Saturday afternoon (and afternoon games seemed strange in those days: basketball was a game intended to be played on a cold winter’s night). If that ain’t enough to curl your hair, the one Saturday afternoon game you got to watch on TV was in black and white.

And we LIKED it!!!!

Even though, by radio, every possession seemed excruciating. It was like every basket in every gymnasium had a lid on it.

I say “gymnasium” because that is what virtually every Road venue was. “Bandbox” was the most commonly used term to describe Brewer Fieldhouse in Columbia, the Ames Armory, Balch Fieldhouse in Boulder, the Nebraska Coliseum, and McCasland Field House in Norman. That’s not including Gallagher Hall, because it was the Jerry-Dome compared to the others, accommodating a whopping 7,200 fans.

But what few fans these boxes for bands would hold were right up on top of the players. Jo Jo once complained that Nebraska’s (or was it Colorado’s?) fans would grab the hair on his legs and pull as he attempted to in-bounds the basketball.

For whatever reason, every Road win was worth its weight In gold, even against the usual suspects of mediocrity (which normally consisted of just about everyone not named KU or K-State). Occasionally, Okie ST, Nebraska, Colorado, or OU would rear their ugly heads and be REAL contenders. Still, as a rule, every Road W was worth its weight in gold, and each one might well be the difference between winning a championship champion and grabbing the Big 8’s only berth in the NCAA tourney and the NIT.

Sin short, it was easy to keep track of the conference race: every Road W merited a full +1; and any Home loss was pretty much fatal.

That, however, was in the days before the arrival of the Big 12 with its unbalanced schedule, which meant that certain teams would invariably have the inside track to the championship before the first game of conference play, both because of which teams they played and where. This made it useful, if not imperative, to group teams into tiers in order to accurately assess the extent of the scheduling advantage. Between the unbalanced schedule and tier placements, which resulted, one team might have a Pre-Season projected record a full game (or more) better than its fellow contenders.

With a double round robin, there is no overt scheduling advantage. KU and every team that wants to end the Hawks’ stranglehold on the Big 12 crown will have to earn their advantage on the court—not courtesy of their schedule.

The purpose, then, of the REAL Standings this season is to note when teams have gained or lost REAL ground, by winning on the Road vs. other contenders, or by losing anytime at Home or to a non-contender on the Road. Which is helpful how? Mostly by not getting fooled into thinking, by way of example, that a team which starts the season 4-0 by winning two Home games and Road games at Tech and A&M, is REALly in first place just because it sits, temporarily, atop the newspaper standings. That team, in REALity, has accomplished nothing; it has merely run in place, treaded water, held serve. Which, of course, is a good thing—just not something that moves a team’s championship hopes forward.

Likewise, a team that starts 2-2, losing on the Road to two contenders, has lost nothing. It simply has two fewer opportunities for separation from the pack: two opportunities that might well mean nothing, because it is entirely possible that no one will win those games.

So, without further ado, here are the Pre-Season REAL Standings for 2012.

RULES OF PROJECTION

The premise of the REAL Standings is that championships are won by:

1. Winning EVERY game that a champion should win: i.e., all Home games and all games against the league’s bottom-feeders; and

2. Winning the most losable games—i.e., Road games vs. other contenders and truly competitive teams—with Road wins vs. a contender being “Special.”

In the REAL Standings, each contender is projected to:

• win all Home games and all games against the conference’s bottom-feeders; • lose all Road games versus other contenders; and • be at-risk (i.e., assigned .5 W and .5 L) for all Road games against those teams that are competitive enough to be dangerous, even for a contender, on their Home court.

Second tier teams (competitive, but not contenders), are projected to:

• win their Home games vs. second and third tier teams; • lose their Road games vs. contenders and other second tier teams; and • be at risk at Home vs. contenders and on the Road vs. the bottom-feeders.

Third tier teams (the bottom-feeders) are projected to lose every game except Home games vs.:

• second tier teams (which are counted as at-risk games); and • other third tier teams (which are projected W’s).

THE TIERS I must admit that I have not spent as much time actually watching early season non-KU games as usual to perform the eyeball test on potential challengers for the Jayhawks’ Non-Traveling Big 12 Trophy. Therefore, to a greater extent than in previous years, I am relying on polls and computer rankings in addition to my own observations. Keeping in mind that the Tiers are fluid (i.e., teams can work their way up or down based on results), here are the initial Tiers for 2012: Tier 1: Baylor, KU, K-State, Mizzou, Texas

Tier 2: Iowa St, Oklahoma, Okie St, Texas A&M

Tier 3: Texas Tech

PRE-SEASON BIG 12 STANDINGS

1. 12-6

Baylor (0-0) Projected L’s: at K-State, at KU, at Mizzou, at Texas At Risk games: at OU, at A&M, at Okie St, at ISU

KU (0-0) Projected L’s: at UT, at Mizzou, at Baylor, at K-State At Risk games: at OU, at ISU, at A&M, at Okie St

K-State (0-0) Projected L’s: at KU, at Texas, at Baylor, at Mizzou At Risk games: at OU, at Okie St, at ISU, at A&M

Mizzou (0-0) Projected L’s: at K-State, at Baylor, at Texas, at KU At Risk games: at Iowa St, at Okie St, at OU, at A&M

Texas (0-0) Projected L’s: at Mizzou, at K-State, at Baylor, at KU At Risk games: at ISU, at A&M, at OU, at Okie St

6. 7-11

Iowa St (0-0) Projected L’s: at A&M, at KU, at Texas, at OU, at Okie St, at Baylor, at K-State, at Mizzou At Risk games: vs. Texas, vs. Mizzou, at Tech, vs. KU, vs. K-State, vs. Baylor

Oklahoma (0-0) Projected L’s: at Mizzou, at Okie St, at A&M, at K-State, at KU, at ISU, at Baylor, at Texas At Risk games: vs. KU, vs. K-State, vs. Baylor, vs. Mizzou, at Tech, vs. Texas

Okie St (0-0) Projected L’s: at Texas, at Baylor, at ISU, at A&M, at KU, at Mizzou, at OU, at K-STate At Risk games: vs. K-State, vs. Mizzou, at Tech, vs. Baylor, vs. Texas, vs. KU

Texas A&M (0-0) Projected L’s: at Baylor, at Texas, at Mizzou, at KU, at K-State, at ISU, at Okie St, at OU At Risk games: vs.Baylor, vs. Texas, at Tech, vs. Mizzou, vs. KU, vs. K-State

10 2-16

Texas Tech (0-0). Projected L’s: at Okie St, vs. Baylor, vs. KU, at A&M, at OU, vs. K-State, at Mizzou, at Texas, at K-State, at KU, at ISU, vs. Texas, at Baylor, vs. Mizzou At Risk games: vs. ISU, vs. Okie St, vs. OU, vs. A&M

ON THE TUBE

MONDAY

Texas A&M at Baylor***1/2: (6:00p.m.--ESPNU) (Projected W: Baylor)

How will a program that has long been the underdog, if not conference doormat, handle the burden of high expectations that comes with being the highest ranked team in the Big 12 and the presumptive conference favorite. If A&M can figure out a way to keep this one close, the Bears’ collars might get a little tight.

TUESDAY

OU at Mizzou***: (7:00p.m.—MSN) (Projected W: Mizzou)

Two Mystery Teams: Is Mizzou worthy of being one of the Final Four undefeated teams? (Do they hang the banner for this achievement when KU visits?) Or is it primarily a function of their schedule? My guess is that they are one of the four best teams in the conference; but a loss here, at Home, would cause a lot of people to reassess this team’s shortcomings. Emphasis on “short.”

WEDNESDAY

K-State at KU****: (7:00p.m.--Big 12 Network) (Projected W; KU)

Speaking of shortcomings, the Jayhawks are in trouble if they don’t value the ball, go something like 3 for 20 or 6 for 27 from three point land, and rebound passively. Or they might pick up the pace now that the REAL season has started. This game could serve as an early indication as to how serious they are in their quest for an Octo-peat.

Texas Tech at Okie St*: (7:00p.m.) (Projected W: Okie St)

The game between two programs that almost piggy backed their way into the PAC-16. Not that they would have been any more relevant there.

Texas at Iowa St***1/2: (8:00p.m.--ESPNU) (At Risk Game)

Texas is the reverse Baylor. How will a team accustomed to being in championship contention handle the bearable lightness of low expectations. They have adequate talent to contend if couple of freshmen grow up quickly. And with no pressure, as they await their Calipari-like class of incoming one- and-dones next year, Rick Barnes might pull a rabbit out of the hat. Or they could take a big step in the other direction in Ames.

--Mark

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