With the Big 12 basketball season upon us, it is time for the first edition of the 2015 REAL Big 12 Standings.
The premise of the REAL Standings is, of course, that championships are won on the Road and lost at Home, whether the College Football Playoff Committee REALizes it or not. (Dumbasses: Rewarding a team with a loss at Home to a team that exemplified mediocrity, while penalizing a team whose only loss was on the Road to the No. 5 team in all the land by a field goal as time expired.)
But enough about football. That’s so 1-1-15.
It is now basketball season. It is now Big 12 basketball time. And the template for winning the Jayhawk Invitational is simple: win all of your Home Games, all of your Road Games versus overmatched opponents, and bring Home the most Road victories against everyone else.
Normally, this entails three tiers of teams:
2. Pretenders and
3. Road kill.
Each team is projected to win all Home games vs. opponents on the same tier or lower; projected with .5 wins and .5 losses for Road games versus teams one tier lower (at-risk games) than themselves; and projected to win all games against opponents two tiers lower.
The only subjective aspect of the REAL Standings is the placement of teams in the appropriate tier, a process that utilizes both the proverbial eyeball test as well as the best statistical analyses available to modern man.
This is where it gets tricky this year. Although the placement of certain teams is obvious, others still carry big question marks.
The Tier 1 teams:
• Texas—11-2. The consensus favorite among the pundit types, and who am I to disagree through December? Nos. 11 and 9 nationally according to KenPom and Sagarin respectively . They have the size, strength, and depth to withstand a double round-robin 18 game schedule, they gave Kentucky a 40 minute game in Lexington, and they have their floor leader ready to come off the injury list. Plus, Rick Barnes is not as bad a coach as some would lead you to believe. He is not Bill Self, but who is? He has three Big Twelve Titles to his name, as well as 14 NCAA tournament appearances in 15 years, and one trip to the Final Four.
• Kansas—10-2. You can’t leave out a team that has won or shared 10 straight championships, especially one with as much as talent the Jayhawks have, however green. So green, however, and so lacking in size inside, that Bill Self should be anointed the best basketball coach of all time if he stretches his Big 12 streak to 11. KenPom No. 15, Sagarin 16.
• Iowa St—10-1, No. 16 in KenPom’s rankings, 15 in Sagarin. The Mayor. 3’s raining down from above like the ever present boos so common in the House of Hilton Magic.
• Oklahoma—9-3. The highest ranked Big 12 team KP-wise at No. 10. No. 17 in Sagarin. My eyeballs are more aligned with Sagarin. Regardless, they are one of the Top 4 teams in the Big 12, with a coach who will make beating the Sooners a task akin to pulling your own teeth with a doorknob and a string, but no anasthetic.
• West Virginia—12-1. No. 14 KP, No. 12 Sagarin. Two words: Guard Play. The Mountaineers will be a tough out. Especially for KU. Huggy-Bear receives a bonus for beating KU.
• Baylor—11-1. KP No. 12, Sagarin No. 10. I have regularly mocked Scott Drew here and elsewhere through the years for his “coaching” ability, or lack thereof. Even to the point that a particular Baylor sports writing grad took it personally and called me names on Twitter for questioning Drew’s coaching bona fides.
Strangely enough, I have to admit that this year’s Baylor team, perhaps its least talented in recent years, looks like it has been coached, looks like it is organized, looks like it has legitimate mental toughness. Is Drew responsible for this? Is it fool’s gold? Is it a mirage in the Waco Wasteland? Is Drew one of those guys who works better with lesser talent that will listen to him than with elite players? Time will tell. In the meantime, although I doubt that they have enough talent to actually win the league title, I will give them the benefit of the doubt until if and when they play themselves out of Tier 1.
Tier 2 Teams:
• Okie St—10-2. No. 27 KP, 37 Sagarin. OK. This is practically ridiculous. Seven Contenders in a 10 team conference? Close, but no cigar. The Cowboys, quite frankly, did not look like a Contender in squeezing by Mizzou Tuesday night in Overtime. Like Baylor, it will surprise me if they were to win enough Road games to win a championship. Still, it is not outside the realm of possibility.
• TCU—13-0. No. 45 KP, 25 Sagarin. Excuse me for being skeptical of a team that is 13-0, even one with victories over such luminaries as Bradley, Ole Miss, Mississippi St, and Washington St. The Horned Frogs have upgraded their talent, for sure, but have yet to do anything to suggest they can compete with good teams over 18 games. Still, at 13-0, and two reputable computer ratings below 50, they cannot be relegated to Tier 3 status before suffering an embarrassing loss or two. After all, it’s not like they lost to KenPom’s No. 58 team (Temple) (No. 80 in Sagarin) by 27 points.
Tier 3 teams:
• K-State—7-6. No. 103 (KP) and 132 (Sagarin). Bruce Weber’s squad is truly a Contender. For Tier 2 status. They might be better than your typical Tier 3 team, but, even the best case scenario does not have them in the Big 12 hunt at any point in February.
• Texas Tech—10-3. No. 141 (KP) and 115 (Sagarin). Tubby Smith will earn is pay if he can lead this team to Tier 2 status at some point in the season.
With all 10 Big 12 teams playing the same schedule, every team in each tier will begin the league race with the same projected record. Tier 1 teams are projected to win their 9 Home games and the 2 Road games vs. Tier 3 opponents, lose their 5 Road games vs. other Contenders, and get credit for ½ W for each Tier 2 Road game.
Ergo: All six contenders start with a projected record of 12-6.
Tier 2 teams are projected to win at Home vs. all Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams, lose their Road games vs. opponents in Tiers 1 and 2, and split their Home games vs. Tier 1 teams and Road games vs. Tier 3.
In short: 7-11 projections for Okie St and TCU.
K-State and Tech will not have much fun if their projections run true to form: Their only projected wins are against each other at Home; and they will only be projected to garner .5 wins at Home vs. Okie St and TCU.
Can you say 2-16?
All Tiers are subject to change as the season progresses, as teams improve, get worse, or reveal their true colors.
GAMES TO WATCH Saturday
1. K-State at Okie State (11:00a.m.) **1/2 (Projected W: Okie St)
K-State’s opportunity to show that they are simply misunderstood.
2. Texas at Texas Tech (1:00p.m.) *** (Projected W: Texas)
A W here by the Red Raiders would throw the Big 12 into a free for all early.
3. Baylor at Oklahoma (3:00p.m.) **** (Projected W: OU)
Will Baylor enter a new era, leaving disorganized under-achievement in the past? Will Scott Drew show that he can, indeed, coach his way out of a paper bag? This would be a good place to start. The must-watch Big 12 game of the week.
4. West Virginia at TCU (3:00p.m.) *** (At risk game)
If TCU is going to improve to 14-0 by beating a credible team, being at Home gives it its best chance.
5. Iowa St at South Carolina (5:00p.m.)
Could give some insight as to the Cyclones’ acumen for Road games as they get ready to enter Big 12 play.
6. UNLV at KU (3:30p.m.)
The last thing the Jayhawks need before starting the conference season in Waco Wednesday night is to lose at Home to a team that, despite beating Arizona, would be a Tier 2 team at best in the Big 12.
Let the Games begin. And may the odds be ever in KU’s favor.