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So Far, So Good: Re-Evaluating Kansas' Chances at a Big 12 Title

Back in mid-to-late January, I laid forth the steps we'd need to take to be Big 12 Champs. Nearly a month later, the picture's a little clearer, and we're just as close as we need to be. We haven't gotten this far perfect, as you all know, but we were "allowed" to lose in Columbia, as long as we won in Lincoln and Waco. Mission accomplished on both of those, so we're all good there.

However, Oklahoma has yet to lose, which is troubling. They pretty much have three, legitimate chances to pick up a loss, although they've had a penchant for letting lesser teams stick with them until the very end, so maybe they drop another along the way. But, most likely, they'll only lose @ Texas, vs. Kansas and @ Missouri. That's about it. I think they could lose all three, and will lose at least one. In fact, I'd be willing to bet large sums of money that Missouri takes them in the Paige.

Any takers? (Yes, my fascination with the Missouri basketball team is greater than plenty of Missouri fans; let's just say it's a part of my gigantic mancrush on KenPom, a crush that may-or-may-not end by April, depending on how well the teams he rates do in the NCAA Tournament...).

Checking Back on the Keys

But before we do any re-evaluating, let's go through each section from the last look, and see how we've done so far:

Win the Gimmes -- As always, this is the key. However, moreso than usual, we really can't afford a slip-up in Ames, or in Manhattan, or in Lawrence against anyone from the North. Now, some of those aren't gimmes; one could even argue there are none. And, in the true meaning of the word, there really aren't any gimmes in league play. They just don't exist, no matter how bad the Buffaloes are. But, still, we can't afford to lose the games we should, frankly, win. But, I'm trying to be reasonable. So, I'll just say that as long as we just lose one of the easy games, we'll still give us a shot. Here are the games I consider to be 'gimmes': @ Iowa State, vs. Colorado, @ K-State, vs. Iowa State, vs. Nebraska, vs. Missouri, @ Texas Tech.

So far, 100%. The game in Manhattan certainly wasn't a gimme (but, remember, I wrote this the night they lost to Baylor to move to 0-4 in league play), but we still won, so whatever. We took care of business against the Clones last night, now it's up for us to take out the Cornhuskers Saturday afternoon. The other two games, a game in Allen Field House against Missouri and a road trip down to Lubbock, seem infinitely more scary, currently, than they did at the time. Texas Tech is starting to show some life, and we all know just how much I love Missouri (that just sounds wrong, don't it?). Still, I remain fairly confident that we win both games.

Rest of the evaluation, initial and updated, after the break...

Split Your Non-Gimme Road Games -- With us already marking down road trips to Ames, Manhattan and Lubbock victories, that leaves four games left on the road. All of them will be tough. Hell, I really struggled with putting the K-State agme in the gimme category. Still, though, it is reasonable that we can win two of the following: @ Nebraska, @ Missouri, @ Baylor, @ Oklahoma. Obviously, one of those is more difficult than the others (Boomer Sooner), and one is easier (Cornhuskers). I figure we'll win up in Lincoln and lose down in Norman, although both outcomes could certainly change. This essentially leaves us with two of this season's key games; the game in Columbia and the game down in Waco. Both will be tough, both will be difficult, both will be hard. We will likely be the underdog in both scenarios. However, if we're serious about winning the league, we pretty much have to win one of the games. As to which one, we'll see. But we have to win one of 'em, or we can kiss our shot at winning the Big 12 goodbye.

Well, we lost one of 'em in Columbia, but that's "allowed". We won in Lincoln in a close-as-hell game, and we won in Waco by a fairly substantial margin. That means, no matter what goes down Monday night in Norman, we pass this section. However, it never hurts to go the extra mile, right? Plenty more on the game in Norman later on (in the re-evaluation section of it), as that's pretty much the key to this entire win-the-Big-12 thing.

Win the Home Games Remaining -- Now, this is where it gets really demanding. The two home games left unaccounted for are vs. Okie State and vs. Texas. Both are really good teams. The Cowboys are a little underrated, I think, while the Longhorns might be a touch overrated. In any case, neither will be easy. But, we are a much better team in the friendly confines of Allen Field House. And we should probably win both. If we win 'em both, we can even lose another game along the way. Maybe. But, seriously, let's just win these both. I understand we're young. But we're still one of the best teams in the country (I believe, and yes, I'm a touch biased) when we're at home. That's the key. These games are in AFH, people. We're gonna win 'em.

No big deal. We easily took care of an Oklahoma State team that isn't nearly as good as I gave them credit for back in January. And, next up, we've got a home date with the Longhorns. They were overrated back then (see, I get some of 'em right), and the game doesn't look too difficult, anymore. Slap Brady on Damion James, Tyshawn/Sherron on A.J. Abrams, incessantly feed the ball into Cole and BAM, victory. Plus, don't overestimate the Senior Day aspect: would you want to lose on a day honoring Matt freakin' Kleinmann? Yeah, me neither. Respect, people. Respect.

So, there you have it. Two incompletes, but Inc's that look likely to be fulfilled, and a pass.But, that pass isn't complete, either. Just cause we've already met the requirements doesn't mean we can't go any farther. And, really, the Race for the Crown could be decided Monday night in Norman. In fact, it probably will be.

But, for now, let's assume it doesn't. Let's get all mathematical, and check out probabilities and stuff. I'm not in AP Stats for nothing, folks.

Statistical Probabilities

Let's all just face it and move on: basketball's all about stats. It can be boiled down into a bunch of numbers, and all results can be obtained from said numbers. No need to play the games, people.

Yeah, scratch that. But, there are plenty of things numbers can tell us, and they aren't some new-age technological advance that should be ignored, lest we ruin the integrity of the game. So, basing it off of KenPom's win-predictor-thing-a-ma-jig, which admittedly has a vendetta of some sort against Boomer Sooner (they just don't play defense, dawg), here are the win probabilities for Oklahoma's remaining games (1=100%, .5-50%, etc.):

@ Texas  - .48

vs. Kansas - .63

@ Texas Tech - .82

@ Missouri - .28

vs. Oklahoma State - .84

So, doing simple enough math, they have a 5.8% chance of winning all five games. So, that's encouraging. But, let's take out the Kansas game, because we'll talk about that one later, for one, and for two because it involves us, so we control that part. Take the .63 out of the multiplication chain, and Boomer Sooner has a 9.3% chance of winning the other four games. Still, I'll take those odds. But, of course, if we lose to Boomer Sooner, then they need to lose two games (and that's assuming we continue to pass the laid-out-above tests and win everything else) for us to, at the very least, tie for the Big 12 Title.

Now, using slightly more complex mathematics (all contained in my calculator, of course, I can't do this stuff), you find the mean probability of winning in non-KU games (.605) and plug it into a program-type-thing. Of course, this is assuming all games are independent, which they more-or-less are. Still, motivation and rivalry and passion and energy certainly play a role, a role that can't really be quantified by numbers. So, just keep that in mind.

Surprisingly enough, though, the result isn't bad.

Mathematically, in the non-Kansas games remaining on Oklahoma's schedule, they have a 51.6% chance of winning 2 games or less. Honest. Now, you may not believe that, and I kind of agree with you. Remember, KP's numbers aren't Boomer Sooner's biggest fans, and basketball isn't all about the numbers. This is obvious. But, I'm just using what I've learned in Statistics. And, greater than 50/50 odds ain't bad.

So, the game in Norman isn't the entire story, is it? Even if we lose, there's a 51.6% chance Oklahoma drops another two anyways, and as long as we win the rest, we can still tie OU, right?

Sure. But, I still think the OU game is all-important. In fact, I'm sure of it.

KU @ OU: The Ultimate Deciding Factor

Big Monday. February 23rd. Kansas @ Oklahoma. The game to end all games, at least as far as the BIg 12 is concerned this year. Actually, I don't think that's true, but we'll go along with the hype for now (I think that the Big Monday game in Paige was the GotY, personally, in the Big 12. Unless something ridiculous happens in Norman, or somewhere else along the way).

It very likely will be the deciding factor in the conference race. Whatever the numbers say above, it's tough to imagine that Oklahoma will lose two, other games. Particularly if they don't lose tomorrow to the Longhorns. So, while there is a realistic chance that we can lose in Norman and still win the conference, I'm not liking those odds.

So, 1700 words later, we come to the obvious realization: Monday night almost assuredly will decide the conference race.

But, this is where it gets exciting. Cause we're going to win. That's all it takes, really. If we win, then we both have one loss, and that's assuming a Boomer Sooner win tomorrow in Austin. Our remaining schedule would be, at that point, significantly easier than OU's. The toughest game that would remain for us would be Missouri's trip into Allen Field House; Oklahoma would have to go to Paige.

In Summation

Lots of words. Lots and lots of 'em. Some well-crafted sentences, and some shitty ones, no doubt. All to reach a fairly simple conclusion: we're going to win the Big 12 this year.

Even if we lose Monday night, the idea shouldn't completely dissipate. After all, statistically, we have greater than a 50% chance that they lose two the rest of the way. So, at least the game isn't absolutely jam-packed with pressure. But, more likely than not, the game will decide the race. It's just how these things work.

I mean, just look at last year. We lost in Austin, so we...

Oh, wait. We still tied for the league title? No way, man. So, maybe the game isn't as all-important as I made it out to be. But, on the other hand, it likely is. Mass hysteria, baby.

But, amidst all of these probabilities and predictions and all of that stuff, I'm just going to go ahead and say we win it all. 15-1, Big 12 Championship, mass hysteria.

Seriously, though, just lose tomorrow Oklahoma. Please?