Entering conference season, there was one real goal at the forefront of all Kansas fans' minds; start out 6-0. Besides the lofty, longterm goal of winning the Big 12 for the fifth straight year and the 7th in 8 years, that was the primary objective. Just use the easy opening to the Big 12 Conference slate, get some confidence, jump out to 6-0, and we'll move on.
With a quick turnaround for big Monday against Baylor, the game we'd all been waiting for since the lights went off in the Breslin Center January 10th, we had little time to think big picture. We had just spent more than three weeks trying to get to 6-0 for this very game; we weren't going to blow it by looking ahead. So, we just took it in.
And while Baylor isn't playing its best basketball, a win is a win. We won. We're now 7-0. And with a couple of recent near-stumbles by Boomer Sooner (another one tonight, where they losing with under 3 minutes left in Norman against Texas A&M), winning the conference really doesn't seem all that farfetched. We're just a half-game back,
But, no matter how possible it may be, we still have nine games to play. And with a nice little break between games, I'd figure now would be a tremendous time to take a glance at that road we have left to travel.
Looking at each game, all nine of 'em, after the jump...
vs. Oklahoma State -- Obviously, we're going to go much further in-depth later on Friday and early Saturday, but this game doesn't worry me all that much, anymore. Coming into conference play, I was fairly convinced that the Cowboys were a damn good basketball team, a legitimate threat to win a bunch of games (including against us in Allen) and a NCAA Tournament team. Damn, was I wrong. They just aren't nearly as good as I thought they were. They have played terribly, by-and-large, in conference play, nearly losing at home to a pretty awful Texas Tech team on Wednesday night. They still have a bunch of talent, and the James Anderson, Obi Muonelo Byron Eaton trio is as dangerous as any in the league. But their complete lack of size hurts them, big time, and with the backing of homecourt advantage, I don't think we lose. KenPom % chance of winning: 83%
@ Missouri -- It's fun to hate on the Tigers, and all, but this game is, easily, the second-hardest the rest of the way out. Besides our trip down to Norman, which is looking easier, there are no trips more difficult than our trip to Mizzou Arena this coming Monday. Not only are they a really, really, really good team (incredibly underrated, nationwide, just like us), but they also just might have a legitimate home crowd to support them, and we all know how much they hate us. In all honesty, this could be the biggest Missouri basketball game in 5 years, and, honestly, they might be a better team than us. I don't think so, but it isn't nearly the talent differential that usually exists. Demarre Carroll and Leo Lyons likely form the best frontcourt duo in the conference, and their guards are dangerous enough to not just let you pack it in. They'll still lose some games that are inexcusable, but they are good enough to beat anyone in the country. KenPom % chance of winning: 30%
@ Kansas State -- After not losing in Bramlage for 24 years, there is a decent shot we lose there two years in a row. Sure, K-State isn't all that good, and sure, they started out 0-4 in conference play, but they have been on fire lately. As hiphop continues to point out over at Oread Boom Kings, their three-point shooting was astronomical in their upset wins over Mizzou and Texas, but still. Denis Clemente is freakin' dangerous, and they have a host of other players (Jacob Pullen, Dominique Sutton and even Jamar Samuels) that could go off. I don't think we lose, but if the Powercats can win on Saturday in College Station and against Texas Tech at home, they would be on a six-game winning streak. They would still have an outside shot at sneaking into the NCAAs. And, just like Mizzou, we all know just how much they love beating us. After typing that paragraph, I'm more scared about this game than I was. KenPom % chance of winning: 51%
vs. Iowa State -- After two of the three most difficult remaining games (yes, @ K-State is more dangerous, to me, than vs. Texas; we don't lose in Allen, baby), we get a break with two consecutive home games against North teams. Sure, Iowa State and Nebraska are both dangerous, but I really, really don't think we lose either game. Brackins likely won't go ballistic like up in Ames, and there won't be that whole Hilton Magic to deal with. This game could be a blowout; although, I expected the home game against Colorado to be a blowout, too, so whatever. KenPom % chance of winng: 95%
vs. Nebraska -- Everything that last paragraph said, except talk about playing like shit for an entire half not likely to occur again, as opposed to Craig Brackins playing awesome. Nebraska is a better team than the Clones, but it shouldn't make too much of a difference. KenPom % chance of winning: 87%
@ Oklahoma -- Nearly all season, this has been marked off as an automatic loss, just like our football game down in Norman. However, the more I see of Boomer Sooner, the more I am positive we can win. In fact, I'm really, really convinced to say the game in Missouri will be tougher, but I can't get beyond that shitting of the bed in Manhattan. When you contain Blake Griffin, which is obviously easier said than done (particularly when discussing the team that gave up 40 to Brackins), Oklahoma becomes a very, very beatable team. And, honestly, probably the third or fourth best in the conference. We're talking non-Blake Griffin, remember. Stick Brady on Willie Warren, contain Blake on the inside, and make their second-tier players beat you. Sure, they're capable, but I'd take our non-Cole-and-Sherron players over their non-Blake-and-Willie players. Now, obviously I'm biased, but I don't much care. I'll say it right now; we will win this game. KenPom % chance of winning: 33%
vs. Missouri -- Our chance for redemption, if we lose next Monday, or a chance to still sweep MIzzou in their strongest hardball season in years, despite being in a "rebuilding year" ourselves. Missouri is a really good team, and given the homecourt advantage maybe even a better one, but they aren't good enough to beat us in Allen. The crowd should be rocking, too, so there's that. The extra noise usually made for Tiger games, combined with the potential Big 12 Title implications, combined with Missouri's rise to prominence, Allen Field House should be shaking. KenPom % chance of winning: 61%
@ Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders are the second-worst team in the Big 12, I'm fairly certain, but we always seem to have trouble down there in Lubbock. For whatever reason, we just can't seem to win down there. I think we do this year, which isn't all that surprising. We better, because if we lose the Big 12 because we lost to Pat freakin' Knight, I'll lose it. And they do have some players, just not enough to really make it relevant. KenPom % chance of winning: 83%
vs. Texas -- Coming in, this was supposed to be a huge test. After watching the Longhorn's last two games, I don't think so. Sure, they are still plenty dangerous, but we are a better team. And, for the billionth time, it usually takes someone special to beat us in Allen. Texas could, sure, but I don't think we'll fall. A.J. Abrams can shoot the hell out of the ball, and Damion James is awesome, and Gary Johnson is becoming a real low-post presence, but that isn't enough. They don't have the game-breakers of years past (T.J. Ford, Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustin, P.J. Tucker just to name a few), and it's Senior Day, too. We aren't losing on Matt Kleinmann's last home game, people. KenPom % chance of winning: 76%
In case you were following along, the chances, according to KenPom, of winning all 9 remaining games and going undefeated in conference are 1.32%. So, if we played out the remains of our conference schedule 100 times, we'd go 9-0 once. Assuming the Missouri and Oklahoma road games are losses, what are the chances we go undefeated in the other 7? 13.5%. Not terrible, really. So, combining the two, and we have nearly a 15% chance to lose two-or-less games. Kind of.
Just in case you were interested, KenPom projects us to go 13-3. He only has us "losing" the two obvious ones (@ Mizzou, @ Oklahoma), but essentially is predicting we lose another one along the way.
Now, beyond the analysis part, here's how I see the rest of the season breaking down:
vs. Okie State -- W
@ Missouri -- L
@ K-State -- L
vs. Iowa State -- W
vs. Nebraska -- W
@ Oklahoma -- W
vs. Missouri -- W
@ Texas Tech -- W
vs. Texas -- W
Obviously, I'm somewhat of a homer. But what can I say; I wanted to put us down for an K-State W, like I said. I really think we win that game, too, but I highly, highly doubt we go 15-1 in conference play. Obviously, the one prediction that sticks out is the @ Oklahoma W, but I think we show up big-time in that one. Really, I think we could win all of them. Swear. It seems weird to say, but this really is a down year in the Big 12 (it's taken me awhile to admit it, but I'm completely willing to acknowledge it, now), and while we aren't nearly as good as last year's team was, we aren't all that much worse relatve to the other Big 12 teams. I'm still not convinced we're not the best.
What are your thoughts, though? Think we go 7-2 the rest of the way? 8-1? 9-0 for a perfect conference record? Stumble to 6-3 or worse?