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Kansas Basketball 50 in 50, No. 34: The New Look Big 12

50 in 50 is a feature here at RCT counting down until the Jayhawks kick off the 2011 basketball season on November first. Got an idea for something you'd like to see featured here? tweet @rockchalktalk or @fetch9 or email me at fetch9 at gmail dot com.

The biggest story in the Big 12, like it or not, over the past two years has been conference realignment. Last year saw Colorado and Nebraska leave the league, and next year will see Texas A&M (and possibly Missouri) exit for the SEC. While the football impact is obvious (no more championship game = perhaps an easier route to a national title, but ultimately less money), its impact on basketball is much more subtle. The double round robin format it will be under starting this year ensures a more fair league champion (not only because you might only see your closest competition for the title, eg Kansas and Texas most years, once, but because your chances would be heavily impacted based on whether the North or South is stronger, or which teams from the opposite division you see at home and which on the road. Also, we need footnotes.). It also will give Kansas a chance to play Texas twice a year, and further what has become the best rivalry in the league.

After the jump, I take a look at what we lose (or gain) as a conference with the departures of Colorado, Nebraska and A&M, as well as look at some notes and observations from KU's recent run of dominance.


This chart (click to enlarge) as you can imagine, is the old look Big 12. A brief explanation: each number is the team's KenPom pythagorean rating for each of the past 5 years. The far right column, obviously, is the average, and the bottom right number, highlighted in green, is the conference average over the past five years.

Next, a look at the league without the three defectors:


The conference-wide numbers don't look too different, but .0164 is a pretty huge rating in KenPom terms. For reference, it was the difference between the 45th and 52nd ranked teams in 2001. It looks bigger still when considering it is over the course of five years and nine teams, which is a much bigger indicator of true performance than a one year sample.

Why the difference?

Well, Colorado. Nebraska and Texas A&M had their bad years, but they also had good (and mostly mediocre) ones. Though Colorado almost (and should have) made the NCAA tournament last year, the Buffs were a horrible program prior. Their 2007 and 09 seasons are the worst two in the Big 12 in the past 5 years, and their best year was only enough to get them in the middle of the pack.

Some brief Kansas notes:

  • the 2008 year is the best in the Big 12 over the past 5 years, and the best of the KenPom era. They're also the only team to get into the .99 area.
  • Kansas's worst year, 2009, was better than 6 teams' best year.
  • Looking at this reminds me just how good the 2007 team was. Granted they were the foundation for the 2008 title team, but after how good the 2010 and 2011 teams were, not to mention the 2008 team, they get overshadowed a bit. It really is criminal that they had to play a road game in the Elite 8
  • One final note: I'll be using these tables in a larger post later in this series as a look at realignment as a whole. When I do it isn't decided yet, but be on the lookout for that.