Back by popular demand, it is time for the internet craze that is sweeping the nation: the REAL Big 12 Standings. The ultimate tool (along with certain computer ratings services) for assessing where your team stands in the Big 12 race. But this year, there is a twist. Although the Jayhawks have won or tied for the Big 12 championship eight straight years, there was, at the start of conference play, a great deal of uncertainty for the Hawks in many of those years.
Indeed, on one occasion, the chase appeared to be over before it began, with eleven teams vying for the number 2 spot behind Texas. I’m speaking, of course, of 2006, when Texas had experienced future NBA players coming out the wazzoo, while KU’s starting lineup had approximately 15 minutes of NCAA experience combined.
But a horse race takes more than one horse, and, this being a KU oriented analysis, I included the Jayhawks as contenders that year because—well, just because. Well, that and Rick Barnes being UT’s coach.
Worked out. The season ended with KU and UT as co-champions.
I mention this because, like 2006, there appears to be only one REAL contender this year. Unlike 2006, that team is not coached by Rick Barnes.
The question a lucky seven years later, in unlucky ’13, is whether there is any competition anywhere in sight for KU in its quest for Number 9, Number 9, Number 9?
Well, yes. In a way. A number of teams might be able to compete at Home with the Hawks by virtue of either a hot hand from behind the arc, a cold night by KU, or foul trouble for Jeff Withey. Most likely to do so are Oklahoma St, with the best talent Boone Pickens’ money can buy, and Baylor if Scott Drew is Home with the flu that night. Other teams not named TCU or Texas Tech could conceivably pull the upset as well at home. In fact, considering some of the bizarre things that have happened in Lubbock over the years, a W by the Raiders is not out of the realm of possibility.
But that’s beside the point. Neither Okie St nor Baylor, nor anyone else in the conference, is going to hang with KU over 18 games.
This is KU’s Championship to lose.
And that’s not likely to happen. This is the most cohesive KU unit I have seen under Bill Self--or, for that matter, Roy Williams. No offense to 2008 and 1997, but this group of players is greater than the sum of their parts by a greater factor than even those greatest of KU teams. This team reminds me early in the season of the ’88 team at the end of the season—which, contrary to popular belief, might actually have been the best team in the country by the time they were awarded the trophy for being the best team in the country.
What was the last team that had a player at every position whose top priority appeared to be creating the best possible opportunity for someone, anyone, on the team to score--even a one and done scoring machine who might ordinarily be expected to be extremely interested in padding his own stats to position himself for the draft? A team with two point guards, two point forwards, and a point center, as it were. And, with one exception, all capable scorers in their own right.
But that’s all subjective. Subjectively, I expect KU to win sixteen games and end the season three games clear of the rest of the field.
But subjectivity is not what the REAL Standings are about.
What the REAL Standings are about is indicating which team or teams are objectively in the most advantageous position to win the conference championship without regard to their current records as shown in the newspaper or the Big 12’s official web site, taking into account not only the teams' current records, but who they have played and where and who and where they have yet to play.
The premise of the REAL Standings is that championships are won by:
1. Winning EVERY game that a champion should win: i.e., all Home games and all games against the league’s bottom-feeders; and
2. Winning the most difficult games—i.e., Road games vs. fellow contenders or those teams that, while not contenders, are formidable on their Home Court.
In the REAL Standings, each contender is projected to:
• win all Home games and all games against the conference’s bottom-feeders; • lose all Road games versus other contenders; and • be at-risk (i.e., assigned .5 W and .5 L) for all Road games against those teams that are competitive enough to be dangerous, even for a contender, on their Home court.
Second tier teams (competitive, but not contenders), are projected to:
• win their Home games vs. second and third tier teams; • lose their Road games vs. contenders and other second tier teams; and • be at risk at Home vs. contenders and on the Road vs. the bottom-feeders.
Third tier teams (the bottom-feeders) are projected to lose every game except Home games vs.:
• second tier teams (which are counted as at-risk games); and • other third tier teams (which are projected W’s).
The only subjective factor in the REAL standings is identifying the appropriate tier for each team, a task I have spent literally minutes—I mean weeks—on, employing both Dickie V’s eyeball test and information gleaned by such reputable sources as KenPom.com and Sagarin.
THE 2013 PRE-SEASON REAL TIERS
My Pre-season assessment of the Big 12 teams is:
1. Tier One: KU. That’s it. However, in order to have a horse race, I will hold my nose, close my eyes, and include the two teams that are commonly viewed as the next best teams in the conference: Okie St and Baylor. Either of these teams could REALly win 12-14 games.
2. Tier Two: Iowa St, K-State, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. The Mountaineers are a stretch, but they are probably closer to the other four Tier Two teams than they are to TCU and Texas Tech. At any rate, adjustments can, and probably will, be made as the season progresses (including, potentially the number of tiers).
3. Tier Three: TCU, Tech. ‘Nuf said.
THE PRE-SEASON 2013 REAL STANDINGS:
Baylor (0-0) Projected L’s: at KU, at OSU At-risk games: at ISU, at K-State, at OU, at WVU, at UT
KU (0-0) Projected L’s: at OSU, at BU At-risk games: at UT, at K-State, at WVU, at OU, at ISU
Okie St (0-0) Projected L’s: at BU, at KU At-risk games: at K-State, at OU, at UT, at WVU, at ISU
Iowa State (0-0) Projected L’s: at KU, at OSU, at K-State, at UT, at BU, at OU, at WVU At-risk games: at TCU, at Tech, BU, KU, OSU
K-State (0-0) Projected L’s: at WVU, at ISU, at OU, at KU, at UT, at BU, at OSU At-risk games: OSU, at TCU, KU, at Tech, BU
Oklahoma (0-0) Projected L’s: at WVU, at KSU, at KU, at BU, at ISU, at OSU, at UT At-risk games: KU, OSU, at Tech, BU, at TCU
Texas (0-0) Projected L’s: at BU, at ISU, at OU, at K-State, at WVU, at KU, at OSU At-risk games: KU, OSU, at TCU, BU, at Tech
W. Virginia (0-0) Projected L’s: at UT, at ISU, at OSU, at BU, at K-State, at KU, at OU At-risk games: KU, at Tech, at TCU, OSU, BU
TCU (0-0) Projected L’s: at OSU, at BU, at WVU, BU, at UT, KU, at OU, at ISU, at KU, OSU, at Tech, at K-State At-risk games: KSU, ISU, WVU, UT, OU
Texas Tech (0-0) Projected L’s: at TCU, BU, KU, at OU, at OSU, at UT, at BU, OSU, at WVU, at ISU, at K-State, at KU At-risk games: ISU, WVU, K-State, OU, UT
What to Watch
1. Okie St at K-State (12:30)**** (At risk game)
If there is such a thing as a must win game in the first game of the year, this is it for Okie St.
2. Texas at Baylor (1:00p.m.) **** (Projected W: Baylor)
Can UT figure out how to hang around until the return of El Kabongo?
3. Oklahoma at West Virginia (3:00p.m.) (Projected W: WVU)
West Virginia’s first opportunity to distinguish itself from TCU and Tech.
4. Texas Tech at TCU (5:00p.m.) * (Projected W: TCU)
A loss in this game, and TCU is staring down the barrel of an 0-18 season.
Temple at KU (3:30)****
A Number One seed in March could be on the line for the Jayhawks. Lose here, and they won’t have many chances to make up for it in conference play.