Just the other day, I was asked, “What has to happen for Kansas State to be reclassified as a Tier Two Team?”
As luck would have it, K-State’s putrid (a word that connotes something beyond pathetic) performance in Lawrence Saturday night did not result in demotion to Tier Two status.
No, 40 minutes of basketball worthy of the Washington Generals on a bad day merited a well-deserved demotion directly to Level Three, without passing Go, without collecting two hundred dollars.
In fact, as we approach the mid-point of the conference season, it is time to reassess the Big 12 as a whole. And that reassessment results in numerous changes of status:
1. Two teams stand above the rest. You can either guess who they are (only one guess allowed) or peek below to discover their identities. As a hint, they are the only two teams worthy of Tier One status and the label “Contender.” In fact, no other team has even a remote chance of claiming a share of the Big 12 Title.
2. Two other teams are clearly a step behind the Tier One teams. One of them, Mizzou, appears to be a step ahead of the eight remaining teams. The other, A&M, is not necessarily ahead of the rest of the pack, but has done nothing yet to play itself out of both Levels One and Two, as K-State has done.
3. The other eight teams are interchangeable. If they played an eight team tournament eight times, you might see eight different winners. The main difference between these teams this far being a play here and a play there in games decided in the last minute or overtime. All eight could easily miss hearing their names called on Selection Sunday, unless they stay up for the NIT and CBI announcements. Of these eight, only Baylor looks like a team with a ceiling higher than your average double-wide.
As for Saturday’s games, the only mild surprise was Nebraska taking out A&M in Lincoln. In one sense, this was not a surprise at all, being an At-Risk game for both teams. What was surprising was that Nebraska, a team not built for coming back, even at Home, was able to dominate the second half, outscoring A&M to the tune of 33-17 to ultimately prevail 57-48.
In other games, the Home teams won as projected in four: KU over hapless K-State; UT over a Mizzou team that, a la K-state, did not show up; Baylor, trailing throughout and trailing big, overtaking Colorado in the final moments of the game; and Tech, in Overtime,overcoming an outrageous foul call that allowed Keiton Page (not to be confused with Page Keaton, legendary law school dean at UT) to tie the game in regulation with three free throws in the final twenty seconds of regulation.
The only game that actually went contrary to its projection resulted in an Overtime victory for OU at Iowa St. Hilton Magic appears to be going the way of Puff after Jackie Paper came no more. . .
REAL STANDINGS: 1-30-11 Tier One (Contenders): KU, UT Tier Two (Competitors): Mizzou, Texas A&M Tier Three (Bottom-feeders): Baylor, Colorado, Iowa St, K-State, Nebraska, Okie St, Oklahoma, Texas Tech
1. 15.5-.5 UT (6-0) Projected L’s: None Losable games: at A&M
2. 14.5-1.5 KU (5-1) Projected L’s: None Losable games: at Mizzou
3. 10.5-5.5 A&M (4-2) Projected L’s: at KU Losable games: vs. UT, at CU, at Tech, at Okie St, at Baylor
4. 9.5-6.5 Mizzou (3-3) Projected L’s: at KU Losable games: at OSU, at ISU, at K-State, at NU, vs. KU
5. 6.5-9.5 Baylor (4-3) Projected L’s: at OU, at A&M, at UT, at Mizzou, at OSU, vs. UT Losable games: vs. A&M
Colorado (3-4) Projected L’s: at Mizzou, at KU, at Tech, vs. UT, at ISU Losable games: vs. A&M
7. 6-10 Okie St (2-5) Projected L’s: at NU, at UT, at KU, at OU Losable games: vs. Mizzou, vs. A&M
Oklahoma (3-3) Projected L’s: at OSU, vs. UT, at Mizzou, at K-State, at A&M, vs. KU, at Tech Losable games: None
9. 5.5-10.5 K-State (2-5) Projected L’s: at ISU, at CU, vs. KU, at Nebraska, at UT Losable games: at Okie St
Nebraska(3-3) Projected L’s: at K-State, vs. KU, at BU, at OU, vs. UT, at ISU, at CU Losable games: vs. Mizzou
Texas Tech (3-4) Projected L’s: vs. KU, at UT, at Mizzou, at Baylor, at OSU, at A&M Losable games: vs. A&M
Iowa St (1-6) Projected L’s: at CU, at KU, at A&M, at UT, at K-State Losable games: vs. Mizzou
WHAT TO WATCH MONDAY 1. Texas at A&M (8:00)****(At-Risk Game) UT’s last At-Risk game of the season. If they don’t lose this game, when will they? Time for Nick, Kirk, A-Ron, Keith, Drew, et al., to start paying attention a la the ‘72 Miami Dolphins.
TUESDAY 2. Baylor at OU (6:00)***(Projected W: OU) Whoda thunk just two weeks ago that this would be a projected W for the Sooners? But a three game winning streak, including one on the Road, is nothing for a team that has underachieved like the Bears to sneeze at.
3. Iowa St at Colorado (7:00)**1/2 (Projected W: Colorado) Should be a lot of points scored.
4. KU at Tech (8:00)***1/2(Projected W: KU) Bill Self has never won at Tech. He is 0-3, including the A-Ron getting called for traveling while being mugged game (’04), and the losing to one of the worst teams in the history of the Big 12 while winning the Big 12 handily game. Not to mention that Tech is currently on a longer winning streak (3) at Home and Overall than the Jayhawks. The Hawks better come to play.
5. Nebraska at K-State (7:00)***(Projected W: K-State) One of K-State’s last chances to regain any semblance of self (lower case “s”) respect.
6. Mizzou at Okie St (8:00)***1/2 (At-Risk Game) When I was a child, my grandfather would regale me with tales about walking to grade school in a blinding snowstorm, paying a nickel to attend a silent movie, watching Will Rogers perform at the Electric Theater in Kansas City, Kansas, buying products with the words “Made in USA” stamped on them; along with scarier stories, like how hard it was to win a basketball game at Oklahoma St. I recall those days. Well, at least the part about Oklahoma St. That is lore I hope to pass along someday to my own grandchildren.