Friday Figures: Big 12 NCAA Tournament Chances, TCU’s Rough Start & Texas Goes Big

Posted by Chris Stone on January 12th, 2018

Friday Figures is back with a look at some of the various statistical trends in the Big 12. This week we’ll dive into how many teams can make the NCAA Tournament with a losing conference record, TCU’s disparate start on offense and defense, and Texas’ move to a super-sized lineup.

The Big 12 is going to put the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee in a strange spot. As the calendar ticks towards March and bracketology posts populate the web, the question of how many Big 12 teams will make the field of 68 should be a fun one. The safest bet is on six teams in, while the most ambitious estimate suggests eight entrants. Either way, the league could put the committee in a weird position if KenPom’s conference projections hold in place. Right now, just four teams — Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia — are projected to finish the regular season with Big 12 winning percentage of .500 or above. Four additional schools — Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and Texas — are lumped together at 8-10. Why’s that interesting? Since the Big 12 took on its current incarnation in the 2012-13 season, just five teams from the country’s top six conferences have made the NCAA Tournament with a losing league record. Three of those have come from the Big 12 and two hailed from the Big Ten. No ACC, Big East, SEC or Pac-12 teams have made the Dance with a losing record in that time frame. If these projections hold, the Selection Committee could be forced the push that number quite a bit higher.

Source: KenPom

TCU’s Big 12 start is awfully unique. The Horned Frogs are out to an inauspicious 1-3 start in league play with their lone win coming over Baylor in overtime. The optimist among us will point out that their three losses came by a combined six points. The pessimist will instead point to the above chart, which plots every Big 12 teams’ offensive and defensive efficiency from conference play dating back to 2012-13. The two circled points? On the right, 2017-18 TCU. On the left, the 2013-14 TCU squad that went 0-18 in conference play. The link between them? Poor defense. These Horned Frogs would rank as the second worst defense in the Big 12 of the last six seasons, second — by just 0.1 points per 100 possessions — to the group that won a grand total zero games in league play. While it appears head coach Jamie Dixon has resolved the offensive issues that plagued the 2013-14 team, he’ll need to work some magic on the defensive end for TCU to live up to its new expectations.

Texas gets big. Andrew Jones’ leukemia diagnosis and Kerwin Roach’s fractured hand threw the Longhorns’ rotation through a loop ahead of Wednesday night’s win over TCU. In response, head coach Shaka Smart rolled out a starting lineup featuring a big man trio of Jericho Sims, Dylan Oswetkowski and Mohamed Bamba. And it worked! In just over 25 possessions, the Sims/Oswetkowski/Bamba lineups produced a net rating (offensive rating – defensive rating) of +46, per Hoop Lens. Prior to the TCU game, the group had played just 45 possessions together all season. Given an undetermined timetable for Roach’s return, this may become a new go-to strategy for Smart and it would be a serious divergence from the pace and space of the modern era. The good news is there’s a template for success about two hours east of Austin. Last season, Texas A&M played a lineup featuring Robert Williams, Tonny Trocha-Morelos and Tyler Davis to a +10 net rating over 430 possessions. Now, all this new Texas lineup needs is a good nickname.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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