Nick Wright, a sports talk guy in Kansas City, tweeted, in connectio with the Mizzou/Baylor game: “Is Baylor overrated? At 3, sure they are. But they’re legit top 10 team. And #Mizzou is spanking them in their building.”
Not living in K.C., I don’t get much of a chance to listen to Mr. Wright, but I hope his forte is football, because Baylor is not a legit top 10 team. Emphasis on “team.”
Yes, they have Top 10 talent. Maybe Top 3 talent along with Kentucky and North Carolina. Almost certainly Top 5.
But the Bears are not a legit Top 10 “team,” because they are not well coached. Which is part of what makes a team. Well, no more than an AAU team.
Okay, that’s unfair. Scott Drew is better than an AAU coach. He is to basketball what Turner Gill is to football.
Well, okay, that’s unfair, too. Scott is not the worst coach in the history of major college basketball.
But he is not a good coach by any means. He is not a developer of talent. He is not a builder of teams. His team is deficient in three areas (at least) attributable in part to coaching:
1. Defense; 2. Rebounding; and 3. Competing.
Saturday,afternoon, Baylor, vastly superior in size and athleticism, was dominated on the boards to the tune of 21-11. It was so bad that the official scorer could have reasonably recorded ever Mizzou missed shot as an assist.
If Mr. Wright intended to say that Baylor is a Top 10 team in the Big 12, he’s got a point. Or in the Top 10 of bad defenses. Or the Top 10 of overrated teams. But not Top 10 in this country.
At least not in late January 2012. Not until they learn to play hard-nosed Defense, instead of just reacting (generally too late) to what their opponents are doing. And learn to box out.
But who is going to teach them these skills? Dave Bliss is not walking through that door. Bobby Knight is not walking through that door. Kim Mulkey is not walking through that door.
Oh, wait. She is.
In short, this is not the great team it has been portrayed to be because of its talent and 17-0 start to the season. KU’s rout of the Bears in Lawrence and Mizzou’s victory in Waco should be assessed accordingly.
Nevertheless, Mizzou’s win in Waco was huge in the REAL Standings. It moved them to the Top of the REAL Standings.
This is precisely the function of the REAL Standings. To look past the records in the newspaper and take into account the difficulty of each team’s remaining schedule.
KU has a one game lead over Mizzou in the newspaper standings, because Mizzou lost a game that KU has not yet played (K-State in Manhattan). However, Mizzou has two significant W’s that KU still has to attempt to grind out (at Iowa St and at Baylor), while the Jayhawks have but one important victory at a venue yet to be visited by Mizzou (UT in Austin).
In sum, Mizzou has a ½ game edge in the REAL Standings because:
○ Although having a loss, it has only one remaining projected Loss (at KU) and one at-risk game (at UT) remaining on its schedule; while ○ KU has two remaining projected losses (at Mizzou and at Baylor, and two at-risk games (at ISU and at K-State)
Had the Jayhawks not eked out a victory themselves in Austin, this would have been one of the most meaningful days in Big 12 basketball history. Not only would Mizzou have put the onus on the Hawks to win in Waco, but would have had a virtual free pass in Austin. The Big 12 Title would have been Mizzou’s to lose in its final attempt to claim a championship in any sport that matters.
But it didn’t happen any other way than in victory for both teams. As they say in golf, “It’s not how, it’s how many.”
How many is that Mizzou has one loss and two lose-able games remaining, while KU has no losses and four loseable games remaining, As a result, the two ancient legendary rivals have earned an early degree of separation from the rest of the field.
Not to say that the game can’t or won’t be decided by a loss at Oklahoma or Okie St (or even A&M), or by one at Home. But that’s not what is expected of your ultimate Big 12 champ. Nor is it the way to bet.
Only one game Saturday did not contain REAL Standings significance: A&M’s Home Court victory, as projected, over Oklahoma. K-State picked up ground by winning its at-risk game at Okie St, as did Iowa St by beating lowly Tech handily in Lubbock.
One third of the way into the season, every team in the Big 12 has established its competitive level, subject to change as the season progresses.
The most likely teams to make substantial improvement are Iowa St (which makes Mizzou’s early win in Ames particularly noteworthy) and Texas (good for KU for the same reason), because of the number of newcomers on those teams who are starting to hit their stride and fully gel with their teammates.
The highest ceiling, despite my comments above, still belongs to Baylor, because of their sheer size, athleticism, and shooting prowess. I have seen teams come together in spite of their coaches once they get tired enough of losing. Not a REAL likely development considering Baylor’s lack of upper class leadership, but possible.
The other team that appears to yet have room to grow—and with their schedule, they will need it—is KU. The Jayhawks start four juniors and a senior, but only one started regularly prior to this season (Taylor), and only two played serious minutes with games on the line (Taylor and Robinson). More importantly, all five starters are still learning to recognize and make the smart play all the time.
With six down and twelve to go, here are the tiers the teams have played themselves into:
Tier 1: Baylor, KU, Mizzou
Tier 2: Iowa St, K-State, Texas
Tier 3: Oklahoma, Okie St, Texas A&M
Tier 4: Texas Tech
REAL BIG 12 STANDINGS
Mizzou (5-1) Projected L’s: at KU At Risk games: at UT
KU (6-0) Projected L’s: at Mizzou, at Baylor At Risk games: at ISU, at K-State
Baylor (4-2) Projected L’s: at Mizzou At Risk games: at UT, at ISU
K-State (3-3) Projected L’s: at ISU, at Texas, at Baylor, at Mizzou At Risk games: vs. KU, at A&M
Iowa St (4-2) Projected L’s: at Texas, at Baylor, at K-State, at Mizzou At Risk games: vs. KU, at OU, at Okie St, vs. Baylor
Texas (2-4) Projected L’s: at Baylor, at KU At Risk games: vs. Mizzou, at A&M, at OU, at Okie St, vs. Baylor
Oklahoma (2-4) Projected L’s: vs. Baylor, at K-State, at KU, vs. Mizzou, at ISU, at Baylor, at Texas At Risk games: vs. ISU, at Tech, vs. Texas
Okie St (2-4) Projected L’s: vs. Mizzou, at A&M, vs. Baylor, at KU, at Mizzou, at OU, vs. KU, at K-State At Risk games: vs. ISU, at Tech, vs. Texas
Texas A&M (2-4) Projected L’s: at KU, vs. Baylor, at K-State, at ISU, vs. Mizzou, vs. KU, at Okie St, at OU At Risk games: vs. UT, at Tech, vs. K-State
Texas Tech (0-6). Projected L’s: vs. K- State, at Mizzou, at Texas, at K-State, at KU, at ISU, vs. Texas, at Baylor, vs. Mizzou At Risk games: vs. Okie St, vs. OU, vs. A&M
ON THE TUBE
A&M at KU*1/2: (8:00p.m.—ESPN) (Projected W: KU)
Before the season, this looked like it would be more than a schedule filler.
Baylor at OU***: (7:00p.m.—Big 12 Network) (Projected W: Baylor)
Not the ideal way to try to end a losing streak—Tech at Home would be better—but it’s what’s on the schedule. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Kruger could out-coach Drew badly enough at Home to make things uncomfortable for Baylor. If that happens, we have a two team race.
Iowa St at Texas****: (8:00p.m.—Long Freakin’ Horn Nework) (Projected W: Texas)
UT will be desperate coming off three consecutive losses. ISU has had an easy time of it thus far in the Lone Star State. Should be the most entertaining and interesting game of the Midweek Slate. But will it be enough to keep UT’s fans in the arena for forty minutes—unlike Saturday when they were filing out with 8.8.seconds remaining in a two point game with Thomas Robinson at the line?
Mizzou at Okie St**: (6:30p.m.—ESPN2) (Projected W: Mizzou)
This is a “just in case” game—as in watch it just in case Mizzou decides to try winning just by showing up, or just in case Okie St does a complete 180 and plays as well Wednesday night as it played poorly Saturday.
K-State at Texas Tech**: (8:00p.m.—ESPNU) (Projected W: K-State)
Tom Penders tweeted recently that Tech has no Big 12 players. I wouldn’t go that far, and I think they will beat someone in Lubbock, but Lord have mercy on whoever it is. Did I mention that Baylor was lucky to get out of Tech alive?