There IS No Place Like Home. . .

BIG XII RECAP A couple of times each year, I have to remind myself that the REAL Standings are not predictions-they are simply indications of where teams stand in relation not only to their current W-L record, but also taking into account who they have yet to play and where.

But when you have a day like Saturday, where the REAL Standings remain virtually unchanged, while the newspapers have to make an adjustment in either the W or L column for every team, they sure feel like predictions-and REAL good predictions at that.

The only adjustment to the REAL Standings Saturday was to add half a game to Baylor's overall record while deducting half a game from Iowa St's.

That's it. That was an at-risk game for the Cyclones and an HAC game for the Bears, so a half point change for each was inevitable. In the other five conference games, the Home team won as projected: ergo, their REAL Standings records remained exactly as they were Saturday morning.

I must admit to being pleased with fact that KU fans did not inundate me prior to Saturday night's game demanding to know why UT was in first place in the REAL Standings when the newspapers said the teams were tied. They got it: The game was in Austin. UT had the edge. It's that simple. Duh. . .

In the past, when KU has had the benefit of being the Home team in an upcoming showdown, and that was accurately reflected with a projected W, fans from schools such as Mizzou or UT have insisted that the REAL Standings were biased in KU's favor. First, as if that would accomplish anything. . .

Second, the REAL Standings look at the teams' records and their remaining schedules, and the chips fall where they may. The only subjective aspect is placement of the teams in the appropriate tiers-which are, at the moment, Tiers 1 and 2 and the Pit of Oblivion. The Jayhawks began the season assigned to Tier 2 and moved up only after proving their worth on the Road-which is the only place where a team can prove its worth.

KU and UT have both proven their worth with 5-2 Road records. The difference between the two is not that UT won the head to head game on its Home court: the difference is that KU let a Home game slip away in early January before the Hawks' youngsters realized that it might be a good idea to play a full forty minutes even against a lower level team like k-state.

Elsewhere, I noted prior to Saturday's game that, as talented as KU is, UT was properly favored not only because of the home court, but also because of its experience. Whereas a veteran KU team went into Austin in 2002 and came away with an overtime victory, repeating that feat was a tall order with the shoe of experience on the other foot.

If a team's starting five can have anywhere from 0-15 years of experience (i.e., 0 for freshmen and 3 for seniors), UT had an experience edge this time around of 10-2. Although the talking heads claim that freshmen are no longer freshmen this time of year, they're wrong: freshmen are freshmen every time they encounter a new experience-like playing in their first truly "big" game in a hostile arena.

UT played in comparable games last year in Stillwater and Lawrence, as well as under the bright lights of the NCAA. Even so, they suffered a similar fate to Saturday night's Hawks in December when they played Duke, a team with extensive big game experience, and were schooled to the tune of 31 points.

The Hawks now have their Duke game out of the way. If they learn what they need to learn in order to compete in the "big game" environment against teams that are talented, but no more so than themselves, they will be better for the experience when March rolls around. As it is about to do.


The REAL Standings, as of February 26, 2006:

1. 13.5-2.5

Texas (12-2/No projected L's/at risk game: at A&M)

2. 13-3

Kansas (11-3/No projected L's/at risk games: None)

3. 11-5

Oklahoma (10-4/projected L at UT/at risk games: none)

4. 9-7

Colorado (8-6/projected L at KU/at risk games: none)

5. 8.5-7.5

Nebraska (7-7/No projected L's/at risk game: at MU)

A&M (8-6/projected L at Tech/at risk game: vs. UT)

7. 7.5-8.5

Texas Tech (6-8/No projected L's/at risk game: at Baylor)

9. 6-10

Iowa St (5-9/Projected L at CU/at risk games: none)

Okie St

(5-9/Projected L at OU/no at risk games)

10. 5-11

k-state (5-9/ Projected L's at NU, vs. KU/no HAC games)

11. 4.5-11.5

Mizzou (4-10/Projected L at ISU/HAC game: vs. NU)

12. 3.5-12.5

(4-10/Projected L at ISU/HAC game: vs. NU) 12. 3.5-12.5 Baylor (3-11/Projected L at Okie St/HAC game: vs. Tech)

GAMES TO WATCH Big XII Games February 27-March 1, with IQ (Interest Quotient) are:

1. Okie St @ OU (Mon. at 8p.m.)****

The Bedlam Series might be a little more bedlamic than last time, now that Okie St has learned to tie its shoes. Another one possession game for OU, and they might need a synonym for "bedlam" that connotes a higher level of intense hysteria. On the other hand, it is a Road game for the Cowboys, and they might find themselves back in the REAL world. . .

2. Texas at A&M (Wed. at 7p.m.)****1/2

What is a word that connotes a higher level of intense hysteria. This is the game that either validates UT as the conference regular season champion or punches A&M's ticket to the Dance. The latter could also drop UT into a flat-footed tie for first place in the REAL Standings.

3. Mizzou at Iowa St (Wed. at 7p.m.)*

If there were an NCAA quitting tournament, Mizzou would win the national championship.

4. Colorado at Kansas (Wed. at 7p.m.)****1/2

CU would lock up a spot in March Madness with a victory in Lawrence. Trying to keep their eyes off the scoreboard, the Hawks could end the night atop the REAL Standings for the first time this season.

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

The Huskers downed k-state easily in Manhattan. k-state seems to have toughened up since then to the point where better teams than NU have had trouble shaking them. A MUST win for NU if they are to entertain any hopes of being invited to play in the NCAA tournament. A MUST win for k-state's NIT hopes. Or maybe not-word is the NIT will take any team with a pulse.

6. Texas Tech at Baylor (Wed. at 7p.m.)***1/2

Baylor is feisty at home. Subjectively, I give them slightly better than the objective HAC of stealing the Raiders' bacon.

Go Big Blue!


*Texas, KU, and OU, the Tier One teams, are projected to win all of their home games, lose their road games vs. other Tier One teams, and to be "at risk" in road games vs. Tier Two teams.

The Tier Two teams are projected to win all home games with the exception of games vs. Tier One teams. They are projected to lose all road games vs. Tier One and Two teams. They are "at risk" against Tier One teams at home and on the road against the teams that have cast themselves into the Pit of Oblivion.

As for the teams in the Pit, each is projected to (a) lose every Road game; (b) lose every home game vs. the Tier One teams; (c) win every home game vs. each other; and (4) to have a Half-Assed Chance to win every home game vs. a Tier 2 team.

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