Big 12 Power Rankings: College Basketball’s Most Boring Conference? Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 17th, 2015

We’ve heard from fans and pundits alike this season that the Big 12 is the best conference in college basketball. SB Nation’s Mike Rutherford decided to do some homework on that discussion and released some findings in a piece he published on Monday afternoon. Before you get out your pitchforks and torches, though, Rutherford brings some strong evidence to suggest that maybe the conference is not all it’s cracked up to be. He samples the seven teams that have been ranked in the AP Top 25 during conference play — Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State — and averaged out each team’s win/loss margin whenever a match-up between two ranked opponents occurred. For instance, in the eight games where a ranked Oklahoma team has faced a ranked Big 12 opponent, the Sooners’ combined average margin of victory (or defeat) was 14.6 points per game.

Is the Big 12 as difficult as the pollsters make it out to be? (Big 12 Conference)

Is the Big 12 as difficult as the pollsters make it out to be?

Rutherford then calculated the other average margins (accurate as of tip-off of the Kansas-West Virginia game) — Iowa State (7.9 PPG), Kansas (8.4), Baylor (10.4), Oklahoma State (12.0), Texas (17.4) and West Virginia (17.8) — and then argues that the scoring margins should be a lot closer that they actually are (aggregate scoring margin: 12.6 PPG). In this context, Rutherford is right. Big 12 basketball can be quite boring. But is that the fault of the teams? Some of it is, but the pollsters deserve the lion’s share of it. Many AP pollsters who don’t primarily cover college basketball sometimes paste together their Top 25s by skimming over how teams did the previous week. While that is clearly an important factor to consider, there are others at play too, such as performances earlier in the season or the severity of some losses. Case in point: Oklahoma was ranked #16 in the AP poll during the week of January 5 but the Sooners would go on to lose four of their next five games. In the January 26 poll released three weeks afterward, Oklahoma dropped from #16 to #24. Often a team that loses twice in a week is poised to completely fall out of the rankings, but the pollsters only punished the Sooners by eight spots following such a rough stretch. Another example is Texas, a team that dropped six of eight games at an early point in league play, falling from #10 to #25 in the AP poll over four weeks. Rankings are ultimately an exercise in aggregating how different people view the world around them, and speaking of which, here’s this week’s Big 12 Power Rankings.

Power Rankings

1. Kansas — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “It all came down to effort for the Jayhawks on Monday night. They struggled to start the game, got it to a manageable deficit at halftime, came out roaring in the second half, and thought they’d coast to a victory (they almost did). And now it seems as if Cliff Alexander is back in the doghouse after playing just six minutes in Morgantown.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Oklahoma — 7 points (Chris & Nate — 2nd, Brian — 3rd) Comment: “The Sooners’ loss to Kansas State was a bit of a fluke that involved a missed shot clock violation and Marcus Foster’s heroics. The Sooners thumped Iowa State last Monday and still have a top five defense, so I’ve got them second for now.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)

3. Iowa State — 8 points (Brian — 2nd, Chris & Nate — 3rd) Comment: ” Defense has been Iowa State’s Achilles’ heel this season, particularly on the road. With six games left to make up 1.5 games in the standings, the Cyclones still have some hope but they absolutely have to tighten the ship in order to make a run.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

4. Baylor (tied for 4th) — 14 points (Brian & Nate — 4th, Chris — 6th) Comment: “The Bears lost twice last week but they can compensate with a pair of victories against Texas Tech and Kansas State this week. They’ll need Taurean Prince to return to form, though; he’s shooting just 31.3 percent from deep in conference play.” – CS

5. West Virginia (tied for 4th) — 14 points (Chris — 4th, Brian & Nate — 5th) Comment: “It cannot be overstated how huge the Kansas win was for the Mountaineers last night. Their gauntlet continues with three of their last five conference games on the road, but they finally have a marquee win that will stand the test of time.” – NK

West Virginia's win over Kansas reportedly earned a $25,000 bonus for Bob Huggins. (AP Photo)

West Virginia’s win over Kansas reportedly earned a $25,000 bonus for Bob Huggins. (AP Photo)

6. Oklahoma State — 17 points (Chris — 5th, Brian & Nate — 6th) Comment: “Baylor fans are big on head-to-head victories, so I hope they understand why I have the Cowboys ranked above the Bears. Yes, Oklahoma State lost to TCU but they also took down Baylor at home and look like a NCAA Tournament team.” – BG

7. Texas — 21 points (All voted 7th). Comment: “Is Texas squarely on the bubble? The more and more I think about it, I believe they are. The Longhorns still have a good RPI (#33), overall SOS (#21) and non-conference SOS (#83) but their best league win is over West Virginia and their best non-league win is over Iowa, another struggling team. A road win tonight in Norman will turn plenty of heads.” – NK

8. Kansas State — 24 points (All voted 8th). Comment: “The relationship between Bruce Weber and his muzzled star guard gets stranger by the day. It’s hard to tell what the future has in store for Marcus Foster, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that that future does not involve him staying in Manhattan for a moment longer than he needs to.” – BG

9. TCU — 27 points (All voted 9th). Comment: “The Horned Frogs have played Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia and Kansas State all close before suffering losses by a combined margin of 16 points. They finally broke through for a win on Saturday, beating streaking Oklahoma State convincingly. Finally, something for TCU fans to get excited about.” – NK

10. Texas Tech — 30 points (All voted 10th). Comment: “Two more double-figure losses this week and the schedule isn’t getting any more favorable with Baylor and Oklahoma coming to town.” – CS

Big 12 Video/GIF of the Week

So we spent all that time talking about the lack of exciting games in Big 12 play and, last night Kansas vs. West Virginia finally fulfilled all of those desires and then some. Let’s get to the two plays that everyone’s talking about.

First, Juwan Staten’s gorgeous spin move and finish with the left hand to give West Virginia the late lead. (H/T cvbg22)

At the other end, Jamari Traylor’s throw-ahead pass that was spot on, but the would-be game winner from Perry Ellis wasn’t quite there. (H/T Vinnyviner)

More games like this, please.

Five Big 12 Games You Better Watch This Week

  1. Tuesday: Baylor at Texas Tech (6:00 PM CT, ESPN2)
  2. Tuesday: Texas at Oklahoma (8:00 PM CT, ESPN2)
  3. Wednesday: Iowa State at Oklahoma State (8:00 PM CT, ESPNU)
  4. Saturday: Iowa State at Texas (1:00 PM CT, ESPN2)
  5. Saturday: West Virginia at Oklahoma State (1:00 PM CT, ESPNEWS)
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