MIDWEEK RECAP What we have here is REALly unprecedented.
With more than half the Big 12 season remaining, we have a team projected to finish 16-0. Considering that only one conference team has ever run the table (KU in 2002), how likely is it that UT will be the second.
Two words: Damn likely.
For four reasons:
• First, they do not beat themselves. Which is why I stated, in the Pre-Season REAL Standings:
In my subjective opinion, UT is the best team in the Big 12 at this point in time. They have a different mindset than other, even more talented Rick Barnes squads. They aren’t trying to live up to other people’s expectations or their own inflated opinion of themselves. They do not appear to be pressing to prove anything. They are just playing solid, unselfish, team basketball 40 minutes a game, with solid veteran leadership. They have enough talent to beat anyone, although the best of it is young, if they don’t start reading their press clippings—if and when they get any. This is the first UT team in any sport in years to fly below the radar. Which makes them dangerous.
• Second, the big 12 kinda sucks. Below UT and KU (the only teams currently worthy of being in the First Tier), there are but two Tier 2 teams (Mizzou and A&M), followed by eight teams that are mediocre on their best days. In fact, the only thing that distinguishes Mizzou is that they have remained unblemished at Home. And the only thing that distinguishes A&M is—well, what does distinguish A&M?
• Third, their toughest tests are in the rear view mirror. They have no games remaining vs. teams that are currently ranked in Tier 1 or 2.
• Fourth, they have talent at every position. They might not have the same level of talent as the ’02 Jayhawks, but, then, they don’t have to. Still, just for kicks, let’s compare the talent on both teams:
1. Aaron Miles (Fr.) vs. Cory Joseph (Fr.). Two solid PG’s, especially for first year players. Both benefit(ed) from the presence of upperclass leaders. Slight Edge: Joseph, as a scorer.
2. Jeff Boschee (Sr.) vs. Dogus Balbay (Sr.). Boschee was one of the all time great perimeter shooters in the Big 12. Balbay sucks more than, oh, 6 or 7 inches from the basket. Balbay gets rave reviews for his D and playmaking talents. Boschee, not so much, but was adequate in both areas. Both heady players with the ability to make game changing plays in their areas of strength. Edge: Tossup.
3. Kirk Hinrich (Jr.) vs. Jordan Hamilton (Soph.). Hinrich is one of the all time great gamers in college basketball. Hamilton is bigger and has an even better jumpshot—not just vis a vis Kirk, but vis-a vis just about anyone. He also has gone from being the most selfish player in recent college basketball history to a team player who makes good decisions and plays a little D. Slight Edge: Hinrich, because he was older and wiser and made those around him better.
4. Nick Collison (Jr.)/Drew Gooden (Jr.) vs. Tristan Thompson (Fr.)/Gary Johnson (Sr.) Thompson and Johnson are clever, consistent players. Thompson, in fact will be as good as Collison and Gooden by his junior year if he is still around in 2013 (fat chance). But Collison and Gooden as Juniors would school these two this year. Big Edge: Collison/Gooden.
5. Bench: Wayne Simien (Fr.)/Keith Langford (Fr.) vs. J’Covan Brown (Soph.)/Matt Hill (Sr.) Are you kidding me? Brown is a nice player. Hill is serviceable. Simien would likely have started for any other team in the country in ‘02. Langford was MVP of the Regional in Madison that year. Big Edge: KU
6. Coaching: Roy Williams vs. Rick Barnes: I think Barnes is a good coach. I would compare him favorably to former KU coach Ted Owens. (Not a knock on Barnes: Owens was a good coach who went to two Final Fours and was one questionable call in ’66 from a likely National Championship.) I also don’t think Williams is as good as Dickie V does. Still, he is in the basketball Hall of Fame. Edge Williams.
Conclusion: KU ’02 was substantially better than this year’s UT. However, for the reasons stated above, they are in better position to go 16-0 than KU ’02 was with nine games remaining.
If UT is to stumble along the way, who will take them down? To me, the most likely games are, in descending order:
• At Nebraska. The Huskers will need to make it a half court, low possession, physical game and hope that UT gets impatient, rushes shots from the perimeter, and makes a low percentage of them. And hope that the Huskers hold their own on the boards.
• At Colorado. The opposing theory. Run the Horns ragged. High possession game that wears UT down in the altitude. Could be possible if Burks, Higgins, and Knutson are all red hot in the same game.
• At Baylor. There is something about having talent that makes any game a possible W. Baylor has talent.
• Versus K-State. Doubt that it will continue, but K-State has seemed to have UT’s number in both football and basketball in recent years.
I would rate the chances of each of these teams beating UT as 25% or less. (In K-State’s case, much less.) I would rate the possibility that one of the four will do so at 35-40%.
UT’s other five games? Gimmes: vs. Tech, at OU, vs. Baylor, vs. Okie St, vs. ISU.
As for the mid-week games, nothing particularly exciting happened: UT picked up the ½ game it needed to attain a 16-0 REAL Standings Projection by pummeling A&M in College Station; KU ran in place, winning as projected in Lubbock; Mizzou dropped ½ game further back of the pack with a loss in Stillwater; and the other three games went as projected to the Home teams (Colorado over Iowa St, K-State over Nebraska, and Oklahoma over Baylor in a rare Wednesday afternoon game).
REAL STANDINGS: 2-3-11
Tier One (Contenders): KU, UT Tier Two (Competitors): Mizzou, Texas A&M Tier Three (Also rans): Baylor, Colorado, Iowa St, K-State, Nebraska, Okie St, Oklahoma, Texas Tech
UT (7-0) Projected L’s: None Losable games: None
KU (6-1) Projected L’s: None Losable games: at Mizzou
A&M (4-3) Projected L’s: at KU Losable games: at CU, at Tech, at Okie St, at Baylor
Mizzou (3-4) Projected L’s: at KU Losable games: at ISU, at K-State, at NU, vs. KU
Baylor (4-4) Projected L’s: at A&M, at UT, at Mizzou, at OSU, vs. UT Losable games: vs. A&M
Colorado (4-4) Projected L’s: at Mizzou, at KU, at Tech, vs. UT, at ISU Losable games: vs. A&M
Okie St (3-5) Projected L’s: at NU, at UT, at KU, at OU Losable games: vs. A&M
Oklahoma (4-3) Projected L’s: at OSU, vs. UT, at Mizzou, at K-State, at A&M, vs. KU, at Tech Losable games: None
K-State (3-5) Projected L’s: at ISU, at CU, vs. KU, at Nebraska, at UT Losable games: at Okie St
Nebraska (3-4) Projected L’s: vs. KU, at BU, at OU, vs. UT, at ISU, at CU Losable games: vs. Mizzou
Texas Tech (3-5) Projected L’s: at UT, at Mizzou, at Baylor, at OSU, at A&M Losable games: vs. A&M
Iowa St (1-7) Projected L’s: at KU, at A&M, at UT, at K-State Losable games: vs. Mizzou
WHAT TO WATCH
1. Oklahoma @ Oke St (12:30)*** (Projected W: Okie St) When these two teams get together, you can throw out the records. In fact, both teams would be glad to pay you to throw out their records.
2. K-State @ Iowa State (12:30)***1/2 (Projected W: ISU) K-State cannot afford another loss to a Tier 3 team anywhere if it wants to extend its string of NCAA tournament appearances to 2.
3. Baylor at A&M (1:00)**1/2 (Projected W: A&M) Another loss by A&M at Reed Arena, and Tier 2 could consist of Mizzou. Period.
4. KU at Nebraska (3:00)**** (Projected W: KU) The Huskers gave the Jayhawks all they could handle in Lawrence. This game could provide some insight into how far KU and Selby have come since then. Or how much remains to be done.
5. Colorado at Mizzou (4:30)**** (Projected W: Mizzou) Revenge game for Mizzou. If they are not up to the challenge, can we have a Tier Two without any teams??
6. Texas Tech at UT (8:00)* (Projected W: UT) A good time to take in a movie. UT will face less competition Saturday night than The King’s Speech vs. Little Fockers the night of the Oscars.