I have heard a common refrain from a number of different sources recently. It goes something like this:
“Of course KU wins the Big 12 every year; they play in Allen Fieldhouse. They have the biggest Home court advantage west of Durham, North Carolina and east of, well, Durham North Carolina. They start off every season 9-0 in conference. How could they not pick up enough wins on the Road to win the league championship?”
There is some truth to this. It is easier to win Home games when your crowd won’t let you get down. When it is always there to pick you up.
However, there is a corollary to this theory that goes like this:
“Although life is easier at Home when you play at AFH, it is tougher on the Road. No other Big 12 team plays before packed houses game after game, wherever they go, whenever they go. No one else plays nine games in arenas where, for this one game, the fans refuse to let their team get down, Where the fans are there to pick their team up for this forty minutes (or longer if necessary). Where they are poised to charge onto the court if the final buzzer sounds with their team in the lead.”
Which brings us to Tuesday night. A Road game for KU against a Tier 3 team with a 1-4 newspaper record and a projected REAL Standings record of 2.5-15.5. Not to mention a less than capacity crowd without much apparent passion, at least at tip-off (according to my source in attendance). Should have been one of the easy Road W’s that, along with nine Home wins, add up to a twelfth straight championship.
Well, no. A 67-86 loss for the Jayhawks. The worst kind of loss. A loss in a Projected Win Game. To that point, there had been only one other example of a PWG loss in the Big 12 this season: Iowa St losing at Home to Baylor. (Unless you count Texas, when they were considered Tier 1 worthy, at TCU. More about that later.)
One such loss is not necessarily fatal. KU has overcome them before: on the Road at Texas Tech and TCU; at Home vs. Texas A&M, UT, and Okie St. But it does cut into your margin of error. Big time.
Which raises the question: Whose PWG loss is worse, Iowa St’s or KU’s?
On the one hand, Iowa St at least gets a chance to atone for their loss when they play Baylor in Waco. A W in that Projected Loss Game, and they are back to Square One. As in Even-Steven. As in No Harm, No Foul.
But there is nothing you can do to atone for losing to a Tier 3 team. Beating them later at Home has no effect on the REAL Standings. You remain -1 for the season vs. that team.
But Riddle me this: When is a tier 3 team not a Tier 3 team?
Maybe—just maybe—when it is Oklahoma St.
It was noted in the last REAL Standings report that:
"Okie St has been playing above its paygrade recently, but with nothing to show for it. After trailing by 16, they were one bounce away from beating OU in Stillwater. After trailing by 23 in Austin, they closed within three before UT held on at the free throw line. In other words, if KU is fortunate enough to take a workable lead in this game, here are two words of advice from someone Who is knowledgeable about such things: Don’t Blink."
The problem for the Jayhawks is that they never took a workable lead AND they Blinked. And Okie St took advantage.
Along with their other recent performances, Okie St demonstrated that they are not a bottom feeder. They are capable of playing anyone tough at Home. They are a legit Tier 2 team. The good news is that this makes the fact of KU’s loss somewhat less devastating. The bad news is the manner of the loss (19 points and a non-competitive second half) remains inexplicable.
Still, even defeating the Tier 2 Cowboys in February at Home will result in a net negative of .5 in the REAL Standings.
Again, what is worse: a certain -.5 in the REAL Standings or a potential push offset by the possibility (probability) of a net -1?
Pick your poison.
The following day, West Virginia became the latest Tier 1 team to drop a Projected Win Game. This one at Home to a Tier 2 Texas team. Or, with this victory, did UT earn its way back to Tier 1 status?
Let’s not jump the gun. However, as mentioned in the last REAL Standings Report, UT thinks it has turned the corner.
In other mid-week action, Texas Tech picked up half a game in the REAL Standings with its at risk victory on the Road at TCU; Iowa St won at Home as projected vs. Oklahoma; and Baylor won as projected at Home vs. K-State.
Projected L’s (at WVU, at OU)
At risk games (at Okie St, at K-State, at UT)
Projected L’s (at BU, at WVU)
At risk games (at K-State, at Tech, at UT)
Projected L’s (at ISU, at OU, at BU)
At risk games (at K-State, at UT)
Projected L’s (at ISU, at KU, at BU)
At risk games (at Tech, at UT, at Okie St)
Projected L’s (at BU, at WVU, at KU)
At risk games (at Okie St, at Tech)
Projected L’s (at KU, at BU, at OU, at ISU at K-State, at Okie St)
At risk games (vs. WVU, Vs. BU, vs. OU, vs. KU)
Okie State (2-4):
Projected L’s (at K-State, at Tech, at KU, at OU, at ISU)
At risk games (vs. BU, vs. ISU, at TCU, vs. WVU)
Texas Tech (2-4):
Projected L’s (at OU, at UT, at BU, at OSU, at KU, at WVU)
At risk games (vs. WVU, vs. ISU, vs, OU)
Projected L’s (at WVU, at KU, at ISU, at Tech)
At risk games (vs, OU, vs. BU, at Okie St, at TCU, vs. KU)
Projected L’s (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. Okie St, vs. K-State)
AS SEEN ON TV
11:00a.m.: Oklahoma at Baylor (ESPNU) **** (Projected W: BU)
The Sooners’ chance to leap-frog the Bears into first place in the REAL Standings.
12:00 noon: West Virginia at Texas Tech (ESPN3) *** (At risk game)
The old saying about going from the penthouse to the outhouse is appropriate here because (a) West Virginia, with a loss here, will have dropped 1.5 games in the REAL Standings in four days; and (b) it’s West Virginia. BTW—do they have penthouses in West Virginia?
1:00p.m.: Texas at KU (ESPN N) **** (Projected W: KU)
Whatever is lower than the outhouse is where KU will reside if they allow their Road woes to follow them Home.
If UT wins, better get ready to hear the phrase, “There’s a new sheriff in town,” early and often.
3:00p.m.: Iowa St at TCU (ESPNU) ** (Projected W: ISU)
TCU makes a run at turning the Big 12 into a two Tier league.
5:00p.m.: Okie St at K-State (ESPNU) *** (Projected W: K-State)
Will Okie St justify its battlefield promotion to Tier 2? Will K-State justify staying there?