REAL Standings: Pre-Season Edition 2016

This Saturday begins an historic quest. In the long and storied history of mankind, never before has a Division 1 basketball team’s string of conference championships equaled the number in the conference’s name when the name of the conference has contained a double digit number in every year of the streak.

And there are those who claim the regular season doesn’t matter.

In the heat of summer, after the Jayhawks took on the world and beat it, title No. 12 appeared to be no more than a formality.

Since then, a strange thing happened: other Big 12 teams started playing, some of whom looked like they had played the game of basketball before. In fact, as the New Year approaches, an argument could be made that KU will have to fight off five other teams that could be in the hunt in late February/early March, each seeking to begin their own streak.

In other words, this could be the most interesting and wide open season yet in the history of the REAL Standings, not to mention the Big 12 in its 20th year of existence.

How the REAL Standings Work: 

As always, the premise of the REAL Standings is that championships are won on the Road, not at Home. Any team that wants to win a championship must turn back all comers at Home and all non-competitive teams on the Road. The champion usually steals a game or two in its peers’ facilities and walks away with a W in half or more of its Road games vs. the teams in the middle.

We begin by placing teams in the appropriate Tiers, which is the only subjective aspect of the REAL Standings. All Tier One teams are projected to win their nine Home games and all Road games vs. teams at least two tiers lower.  Games vs. teams one tier down are considered at risk games and projected as ½ W and ½ L.

PRE-SEASON TIERS

Tier 1A:

KU: What’s not to like? Eleven straight years of winning outright or sharing the Big 12 title. A world championship. Lots of talented players. Lots of experienced players. The best coach in the league.

Oklahoma: What’s not to like? Undefeated in the non-conference season. Lots of experience, including the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year and in the conversation for NPOY. The second best coach in the league. Enough of everything to navigate their way through the league’s 18 game double round robin schedule.

Tier 1B:

Iowa State:  What’s not to like? Two time defending Big 12 Tournament Champions. Lots of experience. Georges Niang might well give Buddy Hield a run for his money for conference POY honors. A team worthy of Tier 1 status in all respects—except for one wart: Naz Long is gone.  Long gone.  Although my general tendency is to wait and see on injuries that do not involve a Danny Manning or a Magic Johnson and find out what the proverbial Next Man Up can do, having to dig into its depth for the NMU will hurt the Cyclones over 18 games, even if NMU can compensate for the loss of Naz as a starter. Ergo, a notch down from KU and OU. A notch down from Tier 1A.

West Virginia: What’s not to like? Nothing, unless you like consistency. The team most likely to beat KU, OU, or ISU on the Road AND lose to K-State or Tech at Home. Or lose to Baylor twice. Or win in Austin and lose to UT in Morgantown. Eighteen games is a long season for this kind of team.

Tier 1C:

Baylor: What’s not to like?  Ranked No. 34 by Sagarin, 27 by KenPom.  No. 23 in the AP. The best big man in the conference in Rico Gathers. Taurean Prince. I repeat: what’s not to like? What if I Drew you a picture?

Texas: What’s not to like? Four senior starters and a junior who can get to the rim at will. Well, like Iowa State, there is a wart. A big wart—as in the best big man in the conference this side of Gathers being sidelined indefinitely.  A wart big enough that they might be better suited for Tier 2 status. Still, they have beaten UNC at Home and Stanford on the Road, earning the benefit of the doubt until we see what their NMU does.

The guess here is that one of the Tier 1B and 1C teams will overcome its shortcomings and be in contention to the bitter end, while the others, slowly, but surely, fall to the wayside. For the sake of the REAL Standings analysis, however, they will all be treated as Tier 1 teams in the initial projections until they work themselves out if it.

Tier 2:

K-State: There is an upset or two waiting to happen in Manhattan. Let’s hope no one gets hurt in the aftermath.

Texas Tech:  See K-State, except for the aftermath part. That requires people in the stands.

Tier 3:

Okie St: What’s to like? Not much if 1,100 fans in attendance Tuesday night at GIA is any indication. Could make a run at Tier 2 status when Forte gets back in the lineup. Playing them in Stillwater before then would be advisable.

TCU:  This team’s biggest claim to fame is losing to SMU by 5. Still, they are not devoid of talent. If this is the worst team in your conference, you’re in a tough conference. Any team that overlooks them in Fort Worth does so at its peril.

PRE-SEASON PROJECTIONS

1. 12-6

  • KU:
    • Projected L’s (at WVU, at ISU, at OU, at BU, at UT)
    • At risk games (at Tech, at K-State)
  • OU:      
    • Projected L’s (at KU, at ISU, at BU, at WVU, at UT)
    • At risk games (at K-State, at Tech)
  • ISU:
    • Projected L’s (at OU, at UT, at BU, at WVU, at KU)
    • At risk games (at K-State, at Tech
  • WVU:   
    • Projected L’s (at OU, at ISU, at KU, at UT, at BU)
    • At risk games (at K-State, at Tech)
  • UT:       
    • Projected L’s (at WVU, at KU, at BU, at OU, at ISU)
    • At risk games (at Tech, at K-State)
  • Baylor:
    • Projected L’s (at KU, at ISU, at WVU, at UT, at OU)
    • At risk games (at Tech, at K-State)

7. 8-10

  • K-State:
    • Projected L’s (at UT, at OU, at BU, at WVU, at KU, at Tech)
    • At risk games (vs. WVU, vs. ISU, vs, OU, vs. BU, at Okie St, at TCU, vs. KU, vs. UT
  • Texas Tech:
    • Projected L’s (at ISU, at K-State, at OU, at UT, at BU, at KU, at WVU)
    • At risk games (at Okie St, at Tech)

9. 2-16

  • Okie State:  
    • Projected L’s (at BU, at WVU, vs. OU, at UT, vs. KU, at K-State, vs. BU, at Tech, vs. ISU, at TCU, at KU, at OU, vs. WVU, at ISU, vs. UT)
    • At risk games (at K-State, at Tech)
  • TCU:
    • Projected L’s (at Okie St, vs. WVU, vs. UT, at BU, at KU, vs. ISU, at UT, at OU, vs. KU, at WVU, at ISU, at Tech, vs. BU, at K-State, vs. OU)
    • At risk games: (vs. Tech, vs. K-State)

AS SEEN ON TV

Saturday:

  • 11:00a.m. West Virginia at K-State (ESPNU) *** (At risk game):  It’s a game, and it’s on TV.
  • 1:00p.m. Texas at Texas Tech (ESPNU) *** (At risk game): Should give us some indication as to what NMU can do.
  • 3:00p.m. Baylor at KU (CBS) **** (Projected W: KU): Forget what anyone else tells you. This is Baylor’s GOY. Despite the Bears’ shortcomings on the bench, the Jayhawks better be focused on Saturday, not Monday.
  • 3:00p.m. TCU at Okie St (ESPN News) * (Projected W: Okie St): Can’t say it’s a game, but it’s on TV.
  • 6:00p.m. ISU at OU (ESPN) **** (Projected W: OU): This is what Cyclone fans have been waiting for: Success in the REAL conference championship race. A W here, and they not only merit Tier 1A status, they take the pole position.

 

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