Since the dawn of time, Man has known that life is too short to watch Nebraska basketball. Man barely has time to watch the Big 12 teams he actually cares about, and so to discuss the rest Man must turn to statistics. However, those statistics are skewed and untrustworthy due to all the blowout games against the Coppin States, Longwoods, Presbyterians, and Arkansas Pine Bluffs of the world. What is Man to do?
One way to get around the problem (a little bit) is to compare this season's inflated statistics to last season's inflated statistics. For example, Nebraska has the 8th best defense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy's computer. Does that mean they're going to exit the Big 12 with a defensive bang, leaving behind them only the sound of opponent's basketballs not going into the basket? I think probably not.
So, armed with statsheet, kenpom, and a slim amount of basketball knowledge, I'll look at the points per possession stats of the Big 12 teams to try to get a sense of where they are now and what lies ahead, in terms of what we saw last year.
WARNING, this is not so much a serious analysis as a chance to squint at some graphs and make broad generalizations about the Big 12 teams.
(NOTE that these charts are progressive averages, not individual game performances. A great game early in the season will make the line jump a lot; a great game late will not move the line too much.)
Last year, the Jayhawks put up some insanely good numbers. One thing to notice, though, is the slow decay of the defensive average. This could be the increasing difficulty of Big 12 games, or a KU team that was letting defense lapse more and more often. Considering the way the season ended, I'll go with the defensive lapses.
This year's Jayhawks started out surprisingly well, but the stretch of six top-100 Pomeroy ranked teams in the whole Pac-10 mini-conference brought the numbers closer to earth, and they are still trending towards the middle. Considering the rotation is still in question, and the hints from HCBS about this team being inconsistent, I think this year's team will look more like a rebuilding year after all. The other side of that makes me think the team will be ready for the NCAA tournament than last year's team who were saddled with the highest expectations, all season long.
As can be seen, Texas's shocking collapse last season was a defensive one. I think shortly after beating Michigan St. and UNC in the non-conference, they decided they were done playing defense for the year.
In a way, Texas stands at the same precipice this year, again with banner wins against MSU and UNC. Those wins aren't worth as much this time around, though, and the media hype is steering (har) clear of the Longhorns so far. This year's Texas team also simply isn't as dominant, but if they continue to play with intensity they should avoid getting spanked up and down I-35 again. We'll see if Rick Barnes is still more interested in getting his kids into the NBA than the dirty business of winning basketball games.
This year's Tiger team packs a little more offensive punch, led by Marcus Denmon's shooting. At the same time, their defense seems to have slipped a notch, though they are trending back down to good levels before conference play. Even if Denmon's shooting averages out, this could be a great year for the Tigers with a lot of the rest of the Big 12 looking shaky.
At least someone in the Big 12 has tightened up their defense, and I think it will make a difference. KU was the only team that managed to get a home win against the Aggies last season. This year, no one might, and their defense could be good enough to get more road wins.
Something to note is that the dot on December 11th represents the game against Washington, Pomeroy's #5 team, which didn't dent A&M's averages on offense or defense, which I think makes up for A&M's schedule being slightly weaker overall this year.
Kansas State Wildcats
Last year people called KSU a defensive team, but what stands out more is their consistent offense. When they scored >1 PPP, they won games. This year's Wildcats don't foul or get fouled as much, which has improved their defense but hurt their offense. That's not necessarily bad, but the problem is that their offense has declined in other areas, too, so they aren't making up the lost points. It's an immature team, and not like last year's KSU team at all, really. I think they will still finish in the top half of the Big 12, but it seems unlikely they can win it.
Another Big 12 team that had good offense, returned their main scorers, and garnered high expectations---nevermind the lack of point guard.
This year, Baylor looked like they had found the secret to amazing defense, but the cupcake hangover is setting in and leaving them with just the underperforming offense. I think Baylor's problems are easier to fix than K-State's, but KSU is further along on the way to fixing them. Baylor might still be lingering in the Denial phase.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
If you like to take outside shots and not rebound so much, your offense's PPP will look a bit like Okie State's did last year. Up and down from night to night, but overall steady regardless the quality of the opponents you face. This season the Cowboys seem to be trying to shoot less (which is good, as they're missing more) and go inside more. But I feel like right now, they don't have a good inside game or outside game, and the Gonzaga loss doesn't make them look ready for conference play. They did show a lot of spirit in that loss, though.
Iowa State Cyclones
People were expecting ISU to be a smoking crater this season, but losing Brackins and Gilstrap hasn't hurt them yet. They might even be a little better---but that's not saying a whole lot.
Colorado still doesn't seem to think that defense is very important to winning basketball games. They look a little better than last year, but still on track to have the same kind of Big 12 experience.
This season's Nebraska team looks about as good as last season's team did at this point, with a similar very weak non-con schedule (297th, vs. 305th last year). Pomeroy predicts they will go 8-8, yet they only get to play TT and OU once.
Also Nebraska has gone from the 13th best 3P% team last seasons to the 260th. This season they've gone from the 234th ranked 2P% team to the 5th. All while FTRate and OR% stay crappy, suggesting they've traded three pointers for mid range jumpers. We'll see how that works out for them against Big 12 defenses.
These teams have really imploded, huh? To be fair, both teams have faced harder non-conference schedules than last year, but I don't expect they will improve in conference play. It's remarkable that these teams' graphs don't even show much creampuff inflation this year. It's like that old saying: if you can't spot the creampuffs in your schedule, you're the creampuff.