Hoops Regular Season Shouldn’t Be Ignored
The regular season in college basketball always seems to be fighting for its due. The start of the schedule is often eclipsed by football (unless you’re Kansas), and the race for regular season wins and postseason positioning is often discounted as less important than simply making it into the NCAA Tournament. The sheer number of games (again, as opposed to football) makes each individual result not quite as critical. Still, to ignore or discount all of the competition in January and February in favor of postseason action in March is a huge mistake.
Take for example, the best basketball league in the country — the Big 12 conference. On Saturday, five ranked teams will be in action, with four squaring off against each other, including #7 Oklahoma at #6 West Virginia, and #10 Kansas visiting #16 TCU. Kansas State, which has an identical record to Kansas, visits #18 Texas Tech. Then there’s Baylor and Texas, each looking to get an early foothold in the upper tier of the league after solid non-conference seasons.
This isn’t a rare Saturday, either. With seven teams worthy of Top 25 consideration at this point, the league is going to have ranked showdowns on just about every game night. It won’t be a surprise to see the same number make the NCAA tournament — unless everyone beats up on each other teams with 9-9 or 8-10 league records get bumped. Much of that also depends on results in other leagues, but the Big 12 currently stands as the only league that saw every team win at least three-quarters of its non-conference games this year, featuring a current 27-game winning streak and an .864 non-conference winning percentage.
While this might serve as more fodder for the “my conference is better than yours” debate, it should also serve as encouragement for fans of teams that endure a loss or two (or more) in the league. In football, two losses and a team is pretty much out of the conference race, let alone any national title discussion. In basketball? Those can be mere speed bumps, or perhaps teaching moments on the way to later success. That should, if logically analyzed, keep more fans engaged, and interest up, throughout the final two months of the regular season.
Given those facts, how many losses might a team suffer in the Big 12 this year and still be in the title race? Typically the answer is three or four, but that number might be five, or maybe even six this season. There are so many good players and teams in the league this year, it’s tough to see any one squad going 15-3 in the conference. Teams are 8-2 in conference road games so far during the young season, a clear indicator that balance exists up and down the conference. Kansas won the league with five losses in the 2014-15 season, but it’s not hard to imagine the regular season titlist topping that number this year.
BIG 12 NOTES
The Big 12 leads all conferences with four of the nation’s 13 one-loss teams – Oklahoma, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia. This, even with the fewest number of teams in any major conference. The Big 12 is one of two leagues in which 60 percent of teams are in the top 52 of the NCAA RPI. The list includes 3. Oklahoma, 4. TCU, 20. West Virginia, 21. Kansas, 29. Texas Tech
and 52. Texas. The Conference has a nation-leading average RPI of 51.9.
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Oklahoma’s Trae Young leads the nation in both scoring and assists. He would be the first player in NCAA history to achieve that double title if he maintains those numbers throughout the season.
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The Bracket Matrix, which combines 46 different NCAA bracket selections to provide a great overall view of projected seedings, has seven Big 12 teams making the Tournament. The tabulation has Kansas as a two seed, WVU and Oklahoma as three seeds, TCU as a four, Texas Tech six, Baylor eight and Texas nine. Oklahoma State is in the next four out list, while Kansas State is also receiving some mention.