BIG XII RECAP
Thank goodness for the REAL Standings. I was going to say, "Thank God," but that sounded a bit vain.
Anyway, I'm not thanking myself, because I am just one of many fans who understand that the newspaper standings are of little import--that what is noteworthy are home losses, road wins, and a team's remaining schedule.
However, it is clear that there are those who don't understand how to follow a conference basketball season--and some of them are even so-called "experts." For example, ESPN's "expert," Andy Katz, took a superficial look at the newspaper standings and declared, "Right now, the Tigers are holding their ground as one of the top-tier teams this season." http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/story?columnist=katz_andy&id=2298128
That's just wrong for two reasons. First, of course, there is only one top tier team in the Big 12. Second, Mizzou is holding on to its secondary tier status by the skin of its Tiger teeth. The Tigers are 3-1 after playing--guess what--3 home games and one road game.
What's more, they had to rely on a flukish finish to prevail at home Monday night against a team with no juniors and whose only senior who started his college career with a basketball scholarship (i.e., Moulaye Niang) has given up basketball for health reasons--and this on a night when it got a 40 point effort from Thomas Gardner. These facts don't bode well for the Tigers' future when it has to take to the Road, play teams who actually have upper-class leadership, or don't get 40 points from one player.
Does this mean Mizzou can't contend for a top 4 finish and an NCAA berth? Certainly not. But they are only one of 7-10 teams with a shot at those prizes, and their shot is not appreciably better than anyone else's.
The premise of the REAL Standings is that you win nothing at home. You win championships (or, in this case, other rewards) on the Road.
Mizzou does have a Road win. That is impressive. However, they immediately squandered the advantage they attained from that game by losing to Colorado in Columbia.
Because of the magnitude of Road wins, the most important result early in the week was not in Columbia. It was in Lincoln, where Iowa St grabbed a Road win from Nebraska. This resulted in a much needed +1 in the REAL standings for the Cyclones, and the dreaded -1 for NU.
A&M lost an at-risk game to bottom-feeder k-state in Manhattan, for a -.5. k-state, meanwhile, by eking out a four point victory, kept alive its hopes of joining in the wild race for fourth place. A Road win against one of the current second-tier teams would do that trick--provided it continues protecting to protect its home court, rather than repeat its Nebraska fiasco.
Nothing of any REAL importance occurred in the other 3 games. KU's give-away in Columbia had no effect on the REAL Standings, because it was a projected loss for the Hawks on the road, and a projected home win for Mizzou.
Likewise, Tech losing at Austin, and Colorado downing Baylor in Boulder.
THE REAL STANDINGS
The REAL Standings* as of January 19, 2006, are:
(No projected L's/at risk games: at OU, MU, Texas Tech, Okie St, A&M)
(L's vs. UT, at Tech/projected L's at MU, KU, OU, CU/at risk games: at k-state, Baylor)
(L at Mizzou/projected L's at UT, Tech, A&M, ISU, OU/at risk games: vs. UT, at k-state)
(L vs. k-state, at Mizzou/projected L's at A&M, ISU, NU, Okie St, UT/at risk games: at k-state)
(L vs. CU/projected L's at NU, Tech, KU, CU, ISU/at risk games: at k-state, vs. UT, at Baylor)
(L's at UT, vs. KU/projected L's at Okie St, ISU, A&M, NU, KU/at risk games: at k-state)
(L vs. ISU/projected L's at KU, CU, OSU, UT, ISU, A&M, MU/at risk games: None)
(L's at A&M, UT/projected L's at OU, KU, CU, NU, Okie St/at risk games: vs. UT, at Baylor)
(L at Nebraska, vs. Mizzou/projected L's at KU, Okie St, CU, Tech, UT/at risk games: at Baylor, vs. UT)
(L's vs. OU, at OSU, k-state/projected L's at ISU, OU, UT, MU, Tech/at risk games: at Baylor)
GAMES TO WATCH
Big XII Games January 21, 2006, with IQ (Interest Quotient) are:
1. Texas Tech @ Oklahoma (Noon)***1/2
Tech has not resembled a formidable Road team yet this season. On the other hand, OU, in one of the most uninspired efforts in the history of basketball, lost at home to Mizzou. Could happen again. If Tech somehow pulls it off, they could jump to the front of the secondary pack.
2. A&M @ Iowa St (12:30p.m.)***1/2
ISU has lost a home game--to Texas. They more than made up for that game with their Road win in Lincoln. This is A&M's chance to establish that it is a legitimate second-tier team.
3. Nebraska @ Kansas (3p.m.)****
This game is all about the Jayhawks. How will they respond to their total collapse in the final 75 seconds that resulted in a loss to an inferior team? If they allow their failure to close out that game to linger, they will be at risk to lose its second home game and REALly put their post-season opportunities behind the 8-ball. If they REALize that being the better team for 38 1/2 minutes and $4.00 gets you nothing more than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and they decide to bring it for 40 minutes, the rest of the conference can start wishing they had gotten in their licks early.
4. Colorado @ Okie St (3p.m.)***1/2
Okie St, like KU is a young team--though not AS young as the Jayhawks. Still, their inexperience makes them vulnerable at home to an experienced-laden team like the Buffs. After negating their loss to KU in Boulder with a victory in Columbia, CU has a chance to make a statement in Stillwater.
5. Texas at Baylor (3p.m.)*
I hate to be unoriginal, but wake me when it's over.
6. Mizzou @ k-state (7p.m.)
Mizzou gets a chance to pick up a 1/2 game and "hold on to their ground" as a middle of the road second-tier team.
Grow Big Blue!
*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.