A few weeks back, after the Nebraska near-death experience in Lawrence, I titled my REAL Standings report, "It's KU's title to lose-and they're trying." Indeed, after having a game stolen from them by official Mark Whitehead on Monday-and shrugging it off as "no big deal, that game was a projected loss anyway"-the Hawks squandered their built-in scheduling advantage Saturday afternoon by losing a home game to a non-contender.
The Jayhawks enjoyed, roughly, a one game advantage in schedule difficulty over OSU, based on the fact that they were required to play only two contenders on the road, as opposed to Okie St's four-mitigated somewhat by having to play four other lesser but dangerous teams on the road as opposed to Okie St's two.
Now that advantage is gone.
The ironic aspect of this is that the team with the best win of the entire basketball season (at Kentucky) now has the ignominy of having what may be the worst loss (ISU at home) of any team generally thought to have legitimate aspirations of playing in St. Louis in April.
If KU suffers its projected loss at OU, but follows with its projected victory over OSU in Lawrence, they will still be in position to tie for the league title and claim the No. 1 seed in K.C. However, if they lose at Norman, how easy will it be to end a three game losing streak against a legitimate Top 10 team, home court notwithstanding?
It WAS KU's title to lose. It is now OSU's to win.
The six deep REAL Big 12 Standings as of February 20, 2005, showing ISU and Tech with a slight edge over OU and UT in the fight for the coveted first round bye in K.C. :
KU: Projected loss: at OU At risk game: at Mizzou Key past games: (L at Tech, L vs. ISU, W at ISU, W at NU, W at k-state)
OSU: Projected loss at KU At risk game: at NU Key past games (L at UT, L at OU, W at Tech, W at A&M)
Texas Tech: Projected losses: None At risk game: at A&M Key past games: (L vs. OSU, L at UT, L at OU, L at ISU, L at OSU, W at k-state, W at MU)
ISU: Projected losses: None At risk games: at A&M Key past games: (L at MU, L at k-state, L vs. KU, L vs. CU, L at OSU, W at UT, W at KU, W at NU)
OU: Projected losses: at UT, Tech At risk games: None Key past games (L at ISU, L vs. Tech, L at OSU, L at MU, W at A&M )
UT: Projected losses: at Tech, OSU At risk games: None Key past games (L at A&M, L at OU, L at KU, L vs, ISU, L at CU, W at NU)
This week's early games, rated on a 5 star scale (all times CST):
*****KU at OU (8p.m.): KU must win this game to have any REAListic chance of winning the Big 12 title outright. Although Okie St's game at Lincoln is characterized as an at-risk game, NU couldn't even beat Mizzou at home Saturday. We will, indeed, get an insight into the character of KU's senior-laden team in this game.
***CU at MU (6p.m.): MU has suddenly won more games in a row than KU has lost. True, two were home games and the other at Lincoln, but winning breeds confidence-and more winning. The winner of this game will have an inside track to wearing their white uniforms on Thursday in K.C.
*****UT at Tech (7p.m.): Tech plays the game of its life at home and beats KU on Big Monday. They go on the road and are exposed as a mediocre (or slightly better) team by OSU. Can they repeat their Big Monday effort on their home court, or have they shot their wad for the year? UT, meanwhile, appears to have righted itself, with Brad Buckman giving it a strong inside game to complement its league leading three point shooting percentage. Should be a terrific game to watch.
**** OSU at NU (7:05p.m.): This is a four stars because of its importance--and because NU is just good enough that beating a Top 10 team on the Huskers' home court is not out of the question. A win for OSU, coupled with a KU loss in Norman, effectively wraps up at least a tie for the conference crown for the Cowboys. Or will OSU be looking ahead to KU on Sunday and get huskered?
***1/2 ISU at A&M (8p.m.): An opportunity to see exactly how legitimate ISU is. A&M is not likely to play with the same lack of focus that KU displayed on Saturday. The Aggies will come to play for forty minutes, rather than forty seconds, and they have some talent of their own in Acie Law, Antoine Wright, and Joseph Jones. If ISU takes this road game, they will have a virtual lock on a first round Big 12 tourney bye.
** Baylor at k-state (7p.m.): k-state gets a chance to end its five game losing streak. They better put their last second disaster against OU out of their minds and jump on it.