Yet again, here I am, starting a multi-part series. I will try my hardest to actually, you know, complete this one, and I will give myself bonus points if I finish all 4 points by the conference opening extravaganza, which is slated for Saturday. All 12 teams begin conference play this Saturday, spanning over the entire day. It is almost like Christmas, if you are really into Big 12 conference basketball. In any case, I think that the conference can be separated into four sections, each containing three teams. Each part will break down one of these sections...
Today, we take a look at the bottom three schools in the conference. The Bottom of the Pack.
Ricardo Patton, the outgoing coach of Colorado after 11 seasons at the helm of the program, left the program in terrible shape. He never was a terribly good coach, always struggled against the team he so desperately wanted to beat (Kansas), and wasn't a world-beater out on the recruiting trail. Your guess is as good as mine as to why he received 11 years at a Big 12 school. He is now the head coach of the Northern Illinois Huskies, a level of coaching much more suitable to his talent level. Of course, they are off to a remarkable 3-10 start, including their first 6 games. However, this isn't about Ricardo Patton. This is about the team he left to Jeff Bzdelik, a former Denver Nuggets coach who was most recently the head guy at nearby Air Force.
They are led by senior guard Richard Roby, one of the few seniors on the roster (there are three along with one junior) and one of the few who knows how to get the ball in the basket. He is good enough to win some games against low-quality competition, like Savannah State for example, and they have piled up 8 wins so far this season. Their best win thus far was a tight, three point contest against Colorado State. The CSU Rams' RPI is 203. It gets worse and worse, the further you delve into statistics. Their defense is above average, ranking 93rd in the NCAA. But their offense is pretty pathetic, ranking 195th in the country. However, the most telling fact is Pomeroy's predictions for the rest of the Buffaloes' season, the conference portion. 1-15. They are expected to beat the almighty Iowa State Cyclones at home, though, by a score of 62-61, so they always have that.
Predicted Conference Record: 1-15
Matchup(s) With Kansas: February 2nd (Road), February 16th (Home)
After stumbling out of the gate, losing 4 of their first 7 games, including to Northern Iowa and Drake by 35 points, they have rebounded to win 6 of their next 7. They, like the Buffaloes, are also going through a coaching change, as Greg McDermott is in his second season as the head coach of the Iowa State Cyclones. They entered conference play a year ago with the exact same record, 9-5, before crashing in conference play, ending up with a 6-10 conference record. Judging by the numbers posted thus far in the season, they figure to be worse this season.
Their offense is considerably better than last season, but that is certainly impacted by their lack of conference games. Tell me how much it changes after two games against Kansas. They were one of the worst in all of Division 1 last season while they had the rock, ranking 288th in offensive efficiency. Their 147th ranking is much better this season, and their defense has remained relatively the same (119th last season, 114th this season). However, despite their improved statistical rankings, Pomeroy isn't a big fan of the Cyclones. He wasn't a big fan of the Buffaloes either, and he has basically the same prediction. 1-15, with a home win over Colorado being the only thing between them and a winless conference season. I don't think they are near that bad, they did beat a pretty good Purdue team in Vegas.
Predicted Conference Record: 3-13
Matchup(s) With Kansas: January 23rd (Home), February 26th (Road)
This is where it gets kind of tricky. The Okie State Cowboys have plenty of talent, led by freshman James Anderson, and were ranked in the top 10 at one point last season. However, Shawn Sutton has yet to prove himself as a legitimate Big 12-caliber coach, and is heading down the Ricardo Patton career path. Central Michigan, in 2016, here I come! In any case, the Pokes have severely struggled at times this season, getting destroyed twice in as many games in Maui. They lost by 30 to a good Marquette team, then turned around and lost by 16 to a marginal-at-best Illinois squad. It didn't get any better, as they lost by 15 points to Oral Roberts. Yes, that Oral Roberts.
They play solid defense, having the 70th ranked defensively efficient team in the country, and that has come against a offensive SOS of 100th in the country. Their offense, while playing some tough defensive teams, has struggled so far this season. 133rd is OK for a MAC squad with an outside shot at the conference championship, not as acceptable at T. Boone Pickens' personally funded athletic program. He wants Final Fours, BCS wins and to improvise in the oil industry, in opposite order of that. You have to figure oil is close to his heart, as the soon-to-be 10-0 Jayhawks were taking on the Cowboys down in Stillwater and, for a sizable 10-15 minutes of the third quarter, Brent Musburger chatted with T. Boone about the raising oil prices or something. Their best win up to this point was their crushing of the Washington Huskies, they of the 105th RPI rating. Much better than Colorado State, for sure. However, Pomeroy isn't a whole lot more favorable to the Pokes. Yes, they are projected to beat both the Buffs and Clones, and are predicted to win more than just one win. But only 5 conference wins for Oklahoma State, specifically coming up after a year after a 14-1 start to begin the season, has to be depressing. I think they get less anyways.
Predicted Conference Record: 4-12
Matchup(s) With Kansas: February 23rd (Road)
Part 2 is coming tomorrow, featuring teams 7-9. These teams are classified as Sleepers, all good enough to potentially make a play for a NCAA/NIT bid, but may just as likely be left at home in March.