Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 7:35 PM
The Big 12 has largely stayed off the radar this season for sports fans and sports bettors. Sure, Kansas is still a consensus pick to go deep in the Big Dance even with a loss this past weekend to Oklahoma State. But, after Kansas? Well…the league is currently being presented as “The Big One” with a bunch of non-entities after the Jayhawks.
Is that a fair assessment for a conference that will probably get SIX teams into the NCAA tournament? For a league that’s well-presented in respected computer ratings?
Instead of picking a showcase game to preview Wednesday (the only game matching ranked teams comes in the Big 10, and we’ve talked a lot about that conference already the past several days…and will do so again this weekend when Ohio State plays Indiana!), we’ve decided to give “spotlight” coverage in our key indicators to the six Big 12 teams who are currently on pace to reach the Dance. Is Kansas the only team that matters? What other teams should Las Vegas bettors and sports fans be paying attention to down the stretch?
BIG 12 WON-LOST RECORDS (thru Monday)
Kansas State: 6-2
Iowa State: 6-3
Oklahoma State: 5-3
Kansas still leads the loop even with that one conference loss. They finish off their first trip through the double-round-robin schedule Wednesday against TCU…the worst team in the Big 12. Given the competitiveness just behind Kansas…we can assume that the Jayhawks are likely to take the regular season title. If teams 2-6 are going to keep beating each other up, the margin for error that Kansas enjoys should stay meaningful.
In terms of handicapping value, it’s worth noting that Iowa State took Kansas to overtime in Lawrence, while Oklahoma State beat them outright there. That speaks very well for the chances of those two teams to surprise some people in March…and is another reminder that it’s hard to trust Kansas to go the distance in tournaments because this coaching regime has never figured out how to go for the jugular game in and game out.
Kansas: #4 with Sagarin, #8 with Pomeroy
Oklahoma State: #20 with Sagarin, #18 with Pomeroy
Baylor: #23 with Sagarin, #31 with Pomeroy
Kansas State: #24 with Sagarin, #27 with Pomeroy
Iowa State: #33 with Sagarin, #29 with Pomeroy
Oklahoma: #50 with Sagarin, #56 with Pomeroy
These, of course, are from the computer ratings of Jeff Sagarin at USA Today and Ken Pomeroy. Kansas is projected to get a #1 or #2 seed based on those ratings. But, note how Oklahoma State through Kansas State are slotted into reasonable spots as well. Nobody besides Kansas is currently projected as a Sweet 16 team. Yet…it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for any of those teams above Oklahoma to sneak in. There’s depth of quality in this league, if not a lot of high end superpower stuff.
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Oklahoma: #4 with Sagarin, #7 with Pomeroy
Kansas: #10 with Sagarin, #29 with Pomeroy
Baylor: #31 with Sagarin, #46 with Pomeroy
Kansas State: #45 with Sagarin, #50 with Pomeroy
Oklahoma State: #58 with Sagarin, #76 with Pomeroy
Iowa State: #82 with Sagarin, #105 with Pomeroy
These are respectable enough. Iowa State jumps out as a possible pretender because they weren’t battle tested in pre-conference action. That kind of team (energetic, three-point happy) is usually more of a dangerous Cinderella possibility than a team you can count on in March. They can beat anybody. They can lose to anybody if the treys aren’t falling. As a group, that doesn’t really compare well to the Big 10 or Big East though.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50
Kansas State: 4-4
Oklahoma State: 3-4
Iowa State: 4-5
Only Kansas has a winning record. And, let’s not forget that their winning record includes a road win at Ohio State! This hunk of data is a strike against the Big 12 being a truly dangerous threat as a unit in March. Somebody, or a couple of somebodies cold break through. Greatness outside of Kansas would have shown up by now in those records.
JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY
Kansas: projected #2 seed
Kansas State: projected #5 seed
Oklahoma State: projected #8 seed
Iowa State: projected #10 seed
Baylor: projected #10 seed
Oklahoma: projected #10 seed
What’s interesting here is that the bracketology guys don’t like the Big 12 as much as the computer guys do. Historically, the computer guys have had a better read on actual quality. The bracketology guys tend to read the tea leaves well for how the committee will rank teams…but NOT how those teams ACTUALLY rank! This sets up some potential handicapping value down the road. Iowa State may be three-happy, but they’re better than a #10 seed. Oklahoma State just beat Kansas in Lawrence…suggesting they deserve better than a #8. If they go in as a #8, they’re going to scare a #1 in their second game. Possibly the biggest lesson of today’s article is that the Big 12 is better than the MEDIA realizes.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Iowa State: #16
Oklahoma State: #48
Kansas State: #52
Iowa State’s three-happiness has worked so far. But, that’s a fickle approach for neutral site tournaments. Kansas is more consistently solid on this side of the ball…though their lack of reliable long range shooting may jump up and bite them against a Cinderella. From Baylor on down, we’re looking at teams who will have trouble scoring vs. quality defenses on neutral courts. Those are strong rankings for the top 300 teams…but not really impressive once you’re down to the 50 teams who matter most.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
Oklahoma State: #10
Kansas State: #29
Iowa State: #82
Defense wins championships. Oklahoma State really jumps up here as a threat in March. Again, they’re much more lethal than a #8 seed would suggest at the moment. We’re guessing they’ll play their way to something better between now and then. Iowa State is basically a Missouri Valley team for handicapping purposes. Dangerous when their shots fall, but vulnerable otherwise.
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