BIG XII RECAP What have we learned two games into the conference season?
1. There is no contender. As in football, Texas not only has the league championship wrapped up-barring some bizarre string of events-they have no likely losses in sight. I predicted last week that UT would go 15-1, and I still expect that. However, it is hard to pinpoint where that loss will occur. UT should be favored by 10+ points in every home game left on its schedule and 5+ points in every road game. If they lose a game, it will be on the road, either at arch-rival A&M, or on a night they "decide" to take off-perhaps in Stillwater.
2. As in football, there is at least one young, talented team-actually, in this case two-who could be capable of playing UT basket for basket by the end of the season: KU and Okie St. Unlike football, that development will have some importance, because of the post-season tournament.
3. OU, after losing two games any REAL contender would win-i.e., at NU and at home vs. Mizzou-is not a contender. Not even a pretend one. They have not only fallen from their Tier One characterization, they are in danger of falling off the face of the earth.
4. Where they will join k-state and Baylor, the only two teams that appear at this early stage of the conference season, to have no chance of winning a first round bye in the conference tournament or being even a bubble team come Selection Sunday.
5. As in football, there is a large middle class of teams fighting for that Thursday bye and Big Dance consideration. These include, Mizzou, with a road win at Norman, and NU, with a road annihilation of k-state. It also includes A&M, which did everything but pick up a road win in Stillwater Wednesday night
As a reminder, 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 and k-state.
As always, teams can move up or down in status with meaningful road wins and embarrassing home losses.
THE REAL STANDINGS
The REAL standings as of January 12, 2006, which project UT to win the conference championship by 4 games, are:
Texas (No projected L's/at risk games: at OU, MU, Texas Tech, Okie St, A&M)
Kansas (projected L's at MU, A&M, ISU, NU, Okie St, UT/at risk games: at k-state)
Mizzou (projected L's at NU, Tech, KU, CU, ISU/at risk games: at k-state, vs. UT, at Baylor)
Nebraska (projected L's at KU, CU, OSU, UT, ISU, A&M, MU/at risk games: None)
A&M (L at OSU/projected L's at ISU, OU, UT, MU, Tech/at risk games: at k-state, Baylor)
Okie St (L at Mizzou/projected L's at UT, Tech, A&M, ISU, OU/at risk games: vs. UT, at Baylor, k-state)
Iowa St (8-8) (L vs. UT/projected L's at Tech, NU, MU, KU, OU, CU/at risk games: at k-state, Baylor)
Texas Tech (8-8) (L at A&M/projected L's at UT, OU, KU, CU, NU, Okie St/at risk games: vs. UT, at Baylor)
9. Colorado (7.5-8.5) (L's at UT, vs. KU/projected L's at MU, Okie St, ISU, A&M, NU, KU/at risk games: at k-state)
Oklahoma (L at Nebraska, vs. Mizzou/projected L's A&M, KU, Okie St, CU, Tech, UT/at risk games: at Baylor, vs. UT)
GAMES TO WATCH
Big XII Games this Saturday, January 14, 2006, with IQ (Interest Quotient) are
1. Iowa St @ Texas Tech (11a.m.)***
Iowa St has done nothing so far to REALly justify its status as a Tier 2 team. They were lucky to squeeze by k-state in Ames; and although its loss to Texas was no surprise, the fact that they were not competitive was. A win at Tech would help right the Cyclones' ship and send Tech plummeting to the nether regions of the conference.
2. k-state @ KU (12:45p.m.)****
k-state has, perhaps, its best chance in years to break its incredible 31 game losing streak to its arch-rival. They better take advantage of it, because the Hawks are growing up, and may be out of reach-even in Manhattan--by the time the two teams meet again on March 4.
3. Oklahoma @ A&M (1p.m.)****
OU desperately needs something good to happen, or it is 0-3 with thirteen games remaining in the conference season. If Acie Law (35 pts.) and Joseph Jones (27 pts.) lay down the law like they did in Stillwater Wednesday night, 0-3 it will be, and Sooner fans can turn their attention to a certain football game in Dallas in October-if they haven't already.
4. Oklahoma St @ Baylor (3p.m.)**1/2
Everyone who gets to play Baylor in Waco early in the conference season can thank the scheduling gods for a freebie. The Bears will not contend for a Top 4 finish or a spot in March Madness, but they will get testier as they get more games under their belts. They are not devoid of talent.
5. Colorado @ Mizzou (5p.m.)****1/2
Mizzou, with its road win in Norman is the early surprise team of the conference-at least as positive surprises go (as opposed to OU). They are projected to win three of their next four games, vs. CU, KU and ISU in Columbia, and have an at-risk game at k-state. They have a chance to put together a nice newspaper record and gain big-time momentum heading into the more difficult part of their schedule. The down side is that the pressure is on Mizzou to win all four games in order to pick up half a game in the REAL Standings. If they lose one or two of these games, they will have a big hill to climb to get back into contention for its first Big 12 tournament bye and NCAA consideration. This game is, therefore, as close as you can get to a must game this early in the season.
Go Big Blue. What color is the sky in your world?