Written by BGS Data Analyst Mark Fought
From week-to-week it has been virtually impossible to predict who will take a run at Kansas atop the Big 12 standings.
Last week, Iowa State appeared to be in a prime position to tackle the Jayhawks. The Cyclones had Baylor at home – where ISU had won 21 straight – and middle-of-the-pack Kansas State on the road. ISU dropped both of them to fall to 10-6 in the conference before righting the ship with a victory over Oklahoma – another team with a remaining chance to pull even with the Jayhawks. OU can finish in a tie for first place in the Big 12 with a West Virginia win at Kansas tonight and a victory over the Jayhawks in Saturday’s regular season finale in Norman. Iowa State can also tie the Jayhawks if West Virginia were to defeat KU, OU also tripped up Kansas and ISU wins its regular season finale against TCU to end up at 12-6, which is where Oklahoma would also end up if the chips fell right for the Sooners.
West Virginia could also get in on the party if the Mountaineers upend Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse tonight and close out the regular season with a win over the Cowboys in Morgantown. That would put WVU at 12-6, also. A Kansas win over West Virginia tonight or against Oklahoma on Saturday guarantees Kansas the outright conference regular season title, which would be their 11th consecutive one (outright or shared). So, theoretically, there could be a four-way regular season tie atop the Big 12 conference standings at the end of the regular season, which would be fitting given the parity displayed throughout the season in America’s toughest Division 1 conference.
The best week last week in the Big 12 was posted by Baylor, who went 2-1 with the victory in Ames that busted the Cyclones 21-game home court winning streak and a home win over West Virginia. That put Baylor in a position to also tie for the conference regular season crown, but an overtime loss in Austin last night – a game in which BU let a 9-point lead with 5:43 remaining slip away – gave the Bears their seventh conference loss and took them out of the running.
Oklahoma State was the lone conference team not to register a win last week and the Cowboys are in serious jeopardy of losing an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament unless they put up a good run in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship. Last year the Cowboys were invited to the dance with an 8-10 conference record. OSU enters the week at 7-9 in Big 12 play and faces a home game with an improved TCU squad and an away game in Morgantown. Last year the Cowboys made March Madness despite a losing (8-10) record in Big 12 play and it is doubtful that they’ll be so fortunate two straight seasons. To put themselves in favorable bubble status the Cowboys are in a must-sweep mode in their last two games and in the conference tournament.
Texas’ win over what had been a white-hot Baylor squad may have been too little too late for the Longhorns’ NCAA tournament chances. Sitting currently at 7-10 in-conference Texas will likely need to get to the Big 12 tournament finale to have a prayer of making it into March Madness.
Kansas State’s impressive win over Iowa State at home, coupled with last week’s home upset of Kansas, has the Big 12 in “nobody wants a part of them right now” mode as the Wildcats close out against Texas in Austin on Saturday.
At 4-12 TCU will hope to close out the season strongly with a win in Stillwater and one more while hosting Iowa State in its season finale. With a lopsided conference losing record the Horned Frogs have no shot at March Madness but at 17-12 are almost a shoe-in for the NIT. Texas Tech got a third home win this week against Oklahoma State, but at this point the Red Raiders are just hoping to pull even with TCU in the basement of the conference. At 13-16 it is doubtful that Tubby Smith’s team could make the NIT, but it isn’t entirely an impossibility.
In the upcoming conference tournament, the bottom four seeds (7 through 10) all play on Day One. On Day Two, the top two seeds play the winners from Day One while the No. 3 seed plays the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed plays the No. 5 seed. So, how the conference teams perform in the final week of the regular season has a big bearing on conference tournament seeding.
Regarding March Madness, it is virtually a given that Baylor, Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma and West Virginia – all teams ranked in the Top 20 – are in. Texas and Oklahoma State are the bubble teams, with the Cowboys in the best position to bolster their tournament chances with a strong finish. Should Texas miss out on the NCAA tournament they’re a clear-cut NIT invitee; likewise with Oklahoma State. TCU should make the NIT with their won-loss record (padded with a 13-0 non-conference record) and Kansas State might sneak into to the “Not Invited [to the NCAA] Tournament”, as well. Should that happen, the Big 12 will send 9 of its 10 teams to post-season play, which would be quite an accomplishment.
In terms of the conference average RPI rankings, below are this week’s numbers for the conferences with at least one team ranked in either the AP or USA Today polls. By virtue of VCU dropping out of both polls the Atlantic 10 is not listed below, although it has an average RPI rating of 121.14. San Diego State’s absence from either Top 25 poll drops their conference (Mountain West) out of the list, too, but for kicks and giggles their conference’s RPI average is 149.82. Murray State’s appearance in the Top 25 adds the Ohio Valley Conference to the list.
Big 12 52.00
Big East 65.10
Big Ten 68.00
West Coast 142.30
Miss. Valley 157.20
Ohio Valley 226.75
Two games appear to be keys to the final Big 12 conference standings – tonight’s West Virginia-Kansas match-up and Saturday’s Kansas-Oklahoma contest. It will go down to the wire in the finish to the Big 12 regular season race. Should we be the least bit surprised by that development?