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 teams ranked 7, 8 and 9, what I have classified as 'The Unknowns'. Basically, I have little idea just how good these three teams are. All three have an outside shot at playing in a postseason tournament of some kind, almost assuredly the NIT, but more likely will be near the bottom of the conference.
No coaching change here, just the same old Bobby Knight in charge in Lubbock. However, these aren't the same Red Raiders that have semi-competed for the Big 12 crown and safely wrapped up a NCAA bid like the past couple of years. No, these Red Raiders have dropped games to Sam Houston State (RPI 24, but they don't have any name value to speak of), Centenary (RPI 194) and the Steve Alford-coached New Mexico Lobos (RPI 51) by 17. Worse yet, they barely snuck by the frightening Lamar Cardinals (RPI 282) by a score of 79-77. Scary.
Their statistics tell a similar story, as the Red Raiders are ranked low in offensive efficiency (108th) and aren't making up for it on the defensive end (45th). They are the antithesis of Missouri, ranking 302nd (!!!) in opposing three-point FG %, allowing almost 40 percent of oppositions' three-pointers to find the bottom of the net.
Pomeroy isn't a big fan of the Red Raiders, picking them to finish just 6-10 in conference a year after a 9-7 conference finish. 6-10 is a pretty accurate prediction in my opinion, with wins against Okie State, @ Colorado, vs. Iowa State and vs. Baylor seeming to be automatic wins. However, I think that is all they get.
Predicted Conference Record: 4-12
Matchup(s) With Kansas: March 3rd (Home)
Just like our first three teams, the Tigers are also going through a coaching change. Mike Anderson is in his second season as the head basketball coach at Missouri, trying to resurrect a program that was hampered by the always comical Quinn Snyder. Quinny, in case you were interested, is now the head coach of the NBDL Austin Toreros. Nice rebound there, Quinn. Mizzou's best win so far was against the 111th RPI ranked Central Michigan Chippewas. However, RPI aside, most would probably argue a home win against a solid Purdue team (RPI 117) was the better win, especially after the Boilermakers' near miss last night against the #6 Michigan State Spartans. However, they do have two pretty poor losses on their belt, at least for a potential postseason team. Losses to Illinois (RPI 129 and dropping) and Mississippi State (127) aren't the types of losses the Tigers need to be picking up, especially entering conference play.
In traditional, Mike Anderson, forty-minutes-of-hell fashion, the Tigers are led by their defense, a unit ranked 28th in the country. Their offense, however, their offense is only ranked 41st, a figure that must improve for them to have any shot of doing anything in conference play. In peripherals, they are especially proficient in opposing three-point field goal percentage, coming in at #1 in the entire country. This forces their two-point defense to suffer, naturally, but with so many teams living-and-dying off of the long range game nowadays, it isn't a bad defensive model.
Pomeroy really likes the Tigers, a lot more than I do, ranking them 26. That is a potential NCAA team, and he picks them to finish 9-7 in conference play. Call me biased against Mizzou, but I'm not seeing it. Mike Anderson has a ways to go before turning this program into a legitimate NCAA contender, at least another couple of years. They will win their fair share of conference games, sure, especially at home. But they won't shock or aw anybody at any point. Pomeroy thinks that Missouri is going to beat Texas on Saturday, but I don't see that happening. I think they will win the easy ones, 2 against Colorado, 1 against Iowa State, and a couple of ones against equal opposition. But they will blow one against the Cyclones, and lose to Nebraska twice.
Predicted Conference Record: 5-11
Matchup(s) With Kansas: Januray 19th (Road), February 4th (Home)
As much as I despite Cornhusker football, I actually like Nebraska basketball. Their new coach, also in his second year, Doc Sadler, seems like a good guy, and has improved the Husks vastly in just a short amount of time. They still can't score worth a hoot, that will come with talent and time, but they sure do play defense. They are ranked 1st before you adjust for opposition, 14th after the adjustment. While being somewhat suceptible to the three-point shot, they rank best in the country at limiting shots inside the arc, allowing teams to shoot for a higher percentage (38.3%) from outside the arc than inside it (33%).
Their best win, thus far, was over Oregon (RPI 42) in OT. The rest of their wins are all against pretty bad teams, so this Saturday's contest against Kansas will go a long way in determining just how good they really are. On a very basic level, they remind me a lot of Okie State of a year ago, except without the fanfare. Okie State began the year 14-1, snuck into the Top 10, and had a big, signature win over Pitt in OT in a semi-home environment (Oklahoma City). Nebraska isn't even ranked in the Top 25, but their signature win over Oregon was on a semi-home court in Omaha. Just like the Pokes, they open up conference play against the Jayhawks. We beat the Cowboys by 30 points, that probably won't happen against the Cornhuskers. Their win over Arizona State (RPI 79) is a really nice win as well, and their losses to Creighton (50) and Western Kentucky (107) don't hurt too bad.
Pomeroy rides the fence on the Huskers' potential success conference, predicting a 9-7 finish. I don't think they win that many, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least for them to reach 9 conference wins and 20 wins overall. They will win all of the games they should, sneak in a couple of upsets, and you might get to 9.
Predicted Conference Record: 7-9
Matchup(s) With Kansas: January 12th (Road), January 26th (Home)
I'm hoping that these conference records work out in the end. I didn't think it through completely, and might have to go back and change a couple. We will continue tomorrow, taking a look at teams 6-4.