REAL Standings: The No Shock Edition

WEEKEND RECAP One week ago, when KU suffered its first loss of the conference season in an uncompetitive game in Austin, Bill Self said, “They had us on our heels the whole game. They protected the rim, and their big guys played much better than our big guys. It was pretty much a dominating win by the Longhorns.”

Kirk Bohls, long time columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, wrote,

"The shock may not be that Texas beat sixth ranked Kansas Saturday.

"It might be that the better team won.

*****

"The truth is that Texas (17-4) is good. Real good and getting better, mostly because of Barnes’s suffocating defense.

*****

"Could the Top 10 be far behind for a Texas team that’s won six straight games?”

Fast forward one week. Texas loses an uncompetitive game in Manhattan. Rick Barnes says, “They beat us in every way you can be beat. They played harder, they played with more energy, they were more physical—any category you want to ask me about, they were better. . . .They really deserved to win. I don’t think the score [74-57] is indicative of how badly they beat us.”

Nothing in Sunday’s paper from Kirk Bohls declaring that the better team might have won.

Not wanting to pick on Kirk, but his mindset is typical of those (including sportswriters) who do not pay enough attention to college basketball. Especially those who do not appreciate the basic tenets of the REAL Standings:

1. Championships are not won at Home. 2. Winning on the Road is hard. 3. No Home win means anything. As in No Home Win means Anything.

Anyone versed in these tenets was not surprised by either result. Throw in the fact that the Home team had a week off to prepare in each case, and the margin in both games was not particularly surprising, either.

One other misstep by Kirk. He declared that UT’s victory at Home over KU “stamps Texas as a Big 12 contender, since the two clubs are separated at the top by a single game.”

This, of course, was not REALly the case. Not ever. Not even for a day. As noted in the Groundhog Day edition of the REAL Standings, there was a two game margin between the two teams, considering UT’s remaining schedule as compared to KU’s. Texas not only had an at-risk game coming up at K-State, it was staring into a Murderer’s Row of Road games at KU, Iowa St, and Oklahoma. Not to mention Texas Tech, who had recently done everything but beat UT in Austin.

With its loss in Manhattan costing it half a game in the REAL Standings, and KU having earned a half game Wednesday night at Baylor, the Longhorns now trail KU by 3.5 games.

In the only other game with REAL implications, Tubby Smith and Texas Tech took a step in the right direction with a W at Home over Okie St. A game it should be noted it had pretty much secured before the Marcus Smart incident. Tubby has them playing well enough to be of concern to all visitors the rest of the season: i.e., KU, K-State, and Texas.

Which brings us to the question of Tech’s and Okie St’s tier status. As a general rule, I would be reluctant to drop Okie St from Tier One after losing a close Road game just because they are clearly out of contention for the conference championship. Tier status is primarily based on the theory that a team’s record does not necessarily indicate how dangerous it is.

However, Okie St is looking more and more like a dysfunctional family that is falling apart before your very eyes. A team this dysfunctional is not dangerous to anyone but itself. At least not Tier One dangerous. And certainly not for the next three games without its best player—indeed, perhaps the Big 12’s best player. Its status will be reassessed after Texas (in Austin), Oklahoma (in Stillwater), and Baylor (in Waco) are finished with the non-Smart Cowboys. After that? My guess is that, after the suspension, Okie St will circle the wagons and be a team on a mission in its final 5 games, including KU’s March 1 visit to Stillwater. Still, until it happens, what can you do other than take a wait and see attitude?

As for Tech, the Red Raiders probably deserve a Tier separate from TCU. They are clearly a much better team. But what difference does it make whether TCU is in Tier 3 or Tier 4? Actually, it does make a half game difference to Baylor and Okie St.

Like I said, what difference does it make?

And that pretty much sums up Saturday. Nothing else of import happened, with KU, OU, and ISU all prevailing, as projected, at Home over West Virginia, Baylor, and TCU.

THE CURRENT REAL STANDINGS TIERS

1. Tier One: Iowa St, KU, Oklahoma, Texas

2. Tier Two: Baylor, K-State, Okie St, West Virginia

3. Tier Three: TCU, Texas Tech

THE CURRENT REAL STANDINGS:

1. 15.5-2.5

KU (9-1) Projected L’s: N/A At-risk games: at KSU, at OSU, at WVU

2. 12.5-5.5

Iowa St (6-4) Projected L’s: N/A At Risk Games: at WVU, at K-State, at BU

Oklahoma (7-4) Projected L’s: at KU At-risk games: at OSU

4. 12-6

Texas (7-3) Projected L’s: at ISU, at KU, at OU At-risk games: N/A

5. 9.5-8.5

K-State (6-4) Projected L’s: at BU, at OU, at OSU At-risk games: KU, at Tech, ISU

6. 9-9

W. Virginia (6-5) Projected L’s: at UT, at ISU, at OU At-risk games: ISU, KU

7. 7.5-10.5

Okie St (4-6) Projected L’s: at Texas, at Baylor, at ISU At-risk games: OU, at TCU, KU

8. 6-12

Baylor (2- 8) Projected L’s: at WVU, at UT, at KSU At-risk games: at TCU, ISU

9. 4.5-13.5

Texas Tech (4-6) Projected L’s: OU, at ISU, KU, at OSU, at BU, at KU, UT At-risk games: KSU

10. 1-17

TCU (0-10) Projected L’s: at KU, at KSU, ISU, at WVU, at UT, OU At-risk games: BU, OSU

Upcoming Games

All times CST

Monday:

1. Iowa St at West Virginia (6:00p.m.) **** (At risk game)

Should Melvin Ejim’s 48 points vs. TCU REALly count as a Big 12 record? Shouldn’t that record be reserved for an effort against a Big 12 team?

West Virginia is a Big 12 team. One that is good enough to justify this game’s at-risk status.

2. KU at K-State (8:00p.m.)* *********(At risk game)

K-State has not had the luxury of an entire week to prepare for KU, so this game might not be as good as it could be. And K-state has to lose a bit of the intensity it had against Texas, right? Yes, if its opponent were someone other than KU in the No. 1 rivalry in all of college sports.

What makes this game REALly enticing is that it might be the Big 12’s last chance to maintain any REAListic hope of slowing down the Jayhawk Championship Express. If the Hawks win, they will be at least 3 games clear of the field with no projected losses and but two at-risk games remaining.

Tuesday

3. Okie St at Texas (6:00p.m.) **** (Projected W: UT)

Poor Okie St. In addition to its recent woes and the loss of its Smartest player, Texas is a desperate team. On the other hand, OSU’s remaining players will bond together. If UT thinks they just have to show up to win, Kirk Bohls could have a REAL surprise to write about Wednesday morning. Look for it to be a good game for at least a half.

Wednesday

4. Baylor at TCU (6:00p.m.)*1/2 (At-risk game)

Okay, TCU. Prove me wrong. Prove you are a Big 12 team. This might be your last chance.

5. Texas Tech at Oklahoma (7:00p.m.) ** (Projected W: OU)

Tubby Smith vs. Lon Kruger. That alone is worth the price of admission.

--Mark

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