REAL Standings: John, Paul, and Ken Edition

WEEKEND RECAP This is the way the season ends This is the way the season ends This is the way the season ends Not with a whimper but a bang*

And so it will end. The only bigger bang would be if the two leaders faced each other next Saturday, both at 13-2 in conference play.

We have the next best thing, however, with Colorado’s improbable victory over UT on Saturday, in which it scored 58 second half points against the conference’s top ranked defense. As a result, we enter the final week of conference play with both UT and KU facing two interesting challenges in their quest to grab a share or more of the Big 12 Championship.

The question is: which of the two is more likely to win out and hoist the trophy by its lonesome? I say, “by its lonesome,” because the odds are against both teams ending the season at 14-2.

Objectively, according ot the REAL Standings formula, UT has the inside track, with both remaining games (Tier Two K-State in Austin and Tier Three Baylor in Waco) being projected W’s. KU, on the other hand, is facing an at risk game vs. Tier Two Mizzou in Columbia in addition to A&M in Lawrence (a Projected W). Which is why the current REAL Standings have UT with a ½ game lead over the Jayhawks (14-2 to 13.5-2.5).

Subjectively, however, I give KU a slight edge:

UT’s game against K-State at Home is slightly more difficult than KU playing A&M in AFH. The Aggies (Texas variety) are an overachieving team that has done a good job pulling out close games. To do that Wednesday night, the game will have to be close. It shouldn’t be in Lawrence--not on Tyrel’s, Brady’s, and Mario’s Senior Night.

K-State, on the other hand, is an underachieving team that has started to hit its stride after shedding itself of unnecessary parts that simply clogged its engine and revamping its offense. Regardless of conference records, K-State is a better team than A&M at this point in time.

Does this mean K-State will beat UT? Of course not. I rate K-State’s chances of pulling that off at 20%. They are on the Road, where they have lost to lesser teams than UT, they are facing a team on its senior night (two of whom are regular starters), as well as a team fuming from letting a 22 point lead slip through their fingers Saturday. Not to mention still stinging from last year’s loss in Manhattan that started its fall from grace.

However, between K-State and A&M, K-State is the more likely to pull the upset. I generously rate A&M’s chances in Lawrence at 10%.

Then we have Saturday. Again, I rate KU’s chances slightly higher than UT’s. Mizzou is a Tier higher in the REAL Standings pecking order than Baylor, and is undefeated at Home—as opposed to Baylor, which has a Home loss to Texas Tech (not a typo). Further, it is KU/Mizzou. ‘Nuf said. Plus the prospect of beating the nation’s No. 1 ranked team before a rare capacity crowd.

Baylor, on the other hand, has better talent than Mizzou, which translates into a higher ceiling. They are impressive when they play to their ability level—which, unfortunately for them, has not been often. But if they do not play at that level for 40 minutes this Saturday, Lacedarius Dunn will likely be Merely Done. Unless, of course, he takes the path Jacob Pullen says he would not—i.e., playing in the NIT.

More importantly, Baylor matches up better talent-wise with UT than Mizzou does with KU. The Bears can bang inside and stroke it outside. Mizzou can stroke it outside, but inside its only hope is that the refs bail them out, bringing Withey into play.

Because of the matchups, locations, and intangibles, I rate UT’s chances of winning in Waco at 55% and KU’s in Columbia at 60%.

If my assessments are correct, the likelihood of KU winning both games this week is 54%, as opposed to UT’s 44%. In other words, KU is 10% more likely to go 14-2 than UT. A negligible advantage at best.

The more important consideration is that the possibility that KU and UT will prevail in all four games is 24%. Stated differently, there is a 76% chance that the two teams will incur at least one loss between them, leaving the other (if it goes 2-0) as the uncontested Big 12 Champ.

As an aside, Kenpom.com objectively views three of the four games similarly to my subjective analysis: Giving KU a 92% probability of downing A&M at Home and 65% at Mizzou—or a 55.2% chance of jogging the table.

Kenpom’s analysis, which does not take into account intangibles like rivalries and the desperation factor, rates UT’s chances vs. K-State at 88%. The major difference between Kenpom’s numbers and mine is that Kenpom rates UT’s chances of beating Baylor in Waco at 79%--making a 2-0 finish 65.2% likely. That is 10% better than KU.

Kenpom, then has the likelihood of a flat-footed tie at 14-2 at 36%. Meaning there is a 64% chance that it will not happen.

So pick your poison. KU is more likely to finish 14-2 than UT (man); or UT is more likely (machine).

We all know what happened with John Henry, Paul Bunyan, and Ken Jennings.

Here’s to man reclaiming some modicum of respectability.

In other action Saturday, aside from Colorado turning a 22 point deficit into an 11 point lead and ultimate 2 point victory, nothing much of note happened, with the minor exception of Baylor downing A&M in Waco. Being an at risk game, however, that came as no surprise to anyone paying attention.

The rest of the games went strictly as projected: KU over OU in Norman; Iowa St defeating NU in Ames; Okie St eking out a victory over Tech in Stillwater; and K-State adding to Mizzou’s Road futility in Manhattan.

REAL STANDINGS: 2-27-11

Tier One (Contenders): KU, UT Tier Two (Competitors): K-State, Mizzou, Texas A&M Tier Three (Also rans): Baylor, Colorado, Iowa St, Nebraska, Okie St, Oklahoma, Tech

1. 14-2

UT (12-2) Projected L’s: None Losable games: None

2. 13.5-2.5

KU (12-2) Projected L’s: None Losable games: at Mizzou

3. 10-5

A&M (9-5) Projected L’s: at KU Losable games: None

4. 9-7

K-State (8-6) Projected L’s: at UT Losable games: None

Mizzou (8-6) Projected L’s: None Losable games: at NU, vs. KU

6. 8-8

Colorado (7-7) Projected L’s: at ISU Losable games: None

7. 6.5-9.5

Baylor (6-7) Projected L’s: at Okie St, vs. UT Losable games: vs. A&M

Nebraska (6-8) Projected L’s: at CU Losable games: vs. Mizzou

9. 6-10

Okie St (5-9) Projected L’s: at OU Losable games: None

10. 5-11

Oklahoma (4-10) Projected L’s: at Tech Losable games: None

Texas Tech (4-10) Projected L’s: at A&M Losable games: None

12. 3-13

Iowa St (2-12) Projected L’s: at K-State Losable games: None

WHAT TO WATCH (or not)

MONDAY

1. K-State at UT (8:00)****(Projected W: UT)

Major implications for both teams, both in the league standings and NCAA seedings. A loss here, and UT will start to feel San Antonio slip-sliding away.

TUESDAY

2. Baylor at Okie St (6:00)**1/2 (Projected W: Okie St)

Baylor tunes up for UT. A loss here, however, and the Texas game might not be able to salvage the Bears’ season.

3. Mizzou at Nebraska (7:00) *** (Projected W: At risk game)

Mizzou did not want to play a team good enough to beat UT on its Home court, and one desperate to get back into the bubble conversation, just before ending its season with KU. But that is its lot.

WEDNESDAY

4. Oklahoma at Texas Tech (6:30)* (Projected W: Tech)

And you thought Tech at Okie St was a bad game. At least there were a handful of fans in the Stillwater stands.

5. Colorado at Iowa St (6:30) **1/2 (Projected W: ISU)

Now that the Buffs are back on the bubble, this game is huge. And a number of teams can tell you that Iowa St is tough to beat in Ames.

6. Texas A&M at KU (8:00)**** (At risk game)

A&M will come to play with a purpose. But it has been a while since KU has lost on senior night.

--Mark

*Props to Thomas Stearns Eliot

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