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How will the Big 12 play out?

We've got two weeks left in the Big 12 regular season, which means a couple of different things: 1) OMG CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK IS ALMOST HERE!!!!!1!, and 2) it's time to start taking a look at seeding for the Big 12 Tournament.  We're going to do this in two different ways.  First, we're going to walk through the rest of the season chronologically, checking out the most likely developments in the Big 12 standings.  Then, we're going to look at both the biggest tossups remaining on the schedule, the most important games in regard to the standings, and the teams with the highest and lowest ceilings based on remaining games.  Let's hop to it!

First, here are the current Big 12 standings, complete what the conference tourney seedings would be if the season ended today.

Seed Team Conf. Overall
1 Kansas 12-0 26-1
2 Kansas State 9-3 22-4
3 Texas A&M 8-4 19-7
4 Missouri 8-4 20-7
5 Baylor 7-5 20-6
6 Texas 7-5 21-6
7 Oklahoma State 7-5 19-7
8 Texas Tech 4-8 16-10
9 Oklahoma 4-8 13-13
10 Colorado 3-9 12-14
11 Iowa State 2-10 13-14
12 Nebraska 1-11 13-14

For all the (90% justifiable) hype Kansas State has received this season, they still have quite a bit of work to do to lock up the tournament's 2-seed.  They lead ATM and Missouri by only one game, but the big logjam, of course, comes in the #3-7 range, where depending on tie-breakers, five different teams are fighting for the two likely remaining first round byes.

February 22-March 1: Mid-Week Games

In parentheses below are the current odds for each game, culled of course from Ken Pomeroy.  Biggest games are in bold.

Oklahoma at Kansas (KU: 98%)

Kansas State at Texas Tech (KSU: 73%)

Nebraska at Iowa State (ISU: 70%)
Texas A&M at Baylor (BU: 74%)
Oklahoma State at Texas (UT: 85%)
Colorado at Missouri (MU: 92%)

Not a lot of tossup games here.  NU-ISU should be a tight one (not that anyone cares), but the closest things to tossups are KSU's trip to Lubbock and ATM's trip to Waco.  Both games are obviously pretty big -- if KSU loses, then Mizzou will suddenly find themselves tied for second; meanwhile, ATM-Baylor could have as much impact on the standings as any single game the rest of the way.  Both, however, have pretty likely results, with KSU and Baylor the likely victors.

So with the likely results above, here are the resulting standings.

Seed Team Conf. Overall
1 Kansas 13-0 27-1
2 Kansas State 10-3 23-4
3 Missouri 9-4 21-7
4 Baylor 8-5 21-6
5 Texas 8-5 22-6
6 Texas A&M 8-5 19-8
7 Oklahoma State 7-6 19-8
8 Texas Tech 4-9 16-11
9 Oklahoma 4-9 13-14
10 Iowa State 3-10 14-14
11 Colorado 3-10 12-15
12 Nebraska 1-12 13-15

Not much change here, although Missouri (very briefly) assumes sole possession of third place.

February 22-March 1: Weekend Games

Texas at Texas A&M (UT: 53% -- PICKING ATM)
Texas Tech at Nebraska (NU: 60%)
Iowa State at Colorado (CU: 63%)
Missouri at Kansas State (KSU: 68%)
Baylor at Oklahoma (BU: 76%)
Kansas at Oklahoma State (KU: 79%)

Whereas the mid-week games are not worth much in the tossups department, all six weekend games are under the 80% threshold, and four are under 70%.  In other words, this is probably the single biggest day remaining on the schedule.

I'm picking ATM over Texas because while the likely loss of Dogus Balbay isn't necessarily a make-or-break injury for the 'Horns, it's probably worth 3%, which would swing the game's odds to ATM.  As we'll see, however, as it pertains to Mizzou's seeding, Texas-ATM is probably the single most influential non-Mizzou game left on the schedule.  If ATM wins this, Mizzou would likely have to beat KSU AND Kansas to get past ATM in the standings.

As for the other games, obviously Tech-NU and ISU-CU don't really impact much, and while KU's trip to Gallagher-Iba could be a trap, the odds still significantly favor Kansas; but the Mizzou-KSU game is highly influential.  KSU is clearly favored by basically a 2-to-1 margin, but Pomeroy's projections call for just a 5-point KSU victory, meaning if Mizzou gets a little shooting luck, they could steal the game.  (For the record, I don't even remotely see it happening, but still.)

Resulting standings:

Seed Team Conf. Overall
1 Kansas 14-0 28-1
2 Kansas State 11-3 24-4
3 Baylor 9-5 22-6
4 Texas A&M 9-5 20-8
5 Missouri 9-5 21-8
6 Texas 8-6 22-7
7 Oklahoma State 7-7 19-9
8 Texas Tech 4-10 16-12
9 Colorado 4-10 13-15
10 Oklahoma 4-10 13-15
11 Iowa State 3-11 14-15
12 Nebraska 2-12 14-15

If Mizzou does win in the Octagon, then they'll not only stay a game ahead of tie-break killers Baylor and ATM, but they'll own the sweep of K-State, meaning they would remaining a 2-seed here.  If they lose (clearly the more likely scenario), then they fall into a 3rd-place tie with Baylor and ATM ...and they obviously lose that tie-break miserably.  Meanwhile, not that anybody would actually care, but the bottom five teams would be in an interesting race of their own.

March 2-8: Mid-Week Games

Oklahoma at Texas (UT: 94%)

Colorado at Nebraska (NU: 64%)
Baylor at Texas Tech (BU: 67%)
Missouri at Iowa State (MU: 73%)

Oklahoma State at Texas A&M (ATM: 72%)
Kansas State at Kansas (KU: 83%)

This batch of mid-week games is much more intriguing than the previous week's.  Yes, we'd have a likely Big Monday dud in OU-UT; plus, while KSU-KU would get MAJOR billing and hype, the likely scenario in that one is a relatively easy KU win.  But the other three games all fall under the 75% threshold.  Baylor-Tech could be very interesting, and Tech is just unpredictable enough to win that game.  Plus you've got a potential OSU-ATM dogfight (OSU beat ATM by 7 at G-I back in January) and a potential trap game for Mizzou in Ames.  None of the key games falls within 67%, so the outcomes are still relatively safe, but there are certainly games of interest there.

Resulting standings:

Seed Team Conf. Overall
1 Kansas 15-0 29-1
2 Kansas State 11-4 24-5
3 Baylor 10-5 23-6
4 Texas A&M 10-5 21-8
5 Missouri 10-5 22-8
6 Texas 9-6 23-7
7 Oklahoma State 7-8 19-10
8 Texas Tech 4-11 16-13
9 Colorado 4-11 13-16
10 Oklahoma 4-11 13-16
11 Iowa State 3-12 14-16
12 Nebraska 3-12 15-15

You once again see how big the ATM-Texas game is. Mizzou likely beats ISU, but they still find themselves tied with Baylor and ATM.  If Texas can knock of ATM without Balbay, however, then Mizzou controls its own destiny in the search for a bye.  (And if Mizzou loses to ISU, then while their NCAA tourney status is still pretty much a lock, their hopes for conference tourney bye are out the window ... and deservedly so.)

A major wildcard here is K-State.  They are rolling right now, and as long as they take care of business and win the games they're supposed to win, they're a lock for second.  But their odds of beating both Texas Tech (73%) AND Mizzou (68%) are only 49.6%, and if they slip up once, then the race for the #'s 2-6 seeds are a complete and total mess, especially if that loss is to Tech (which would result in a four-way tie for second at 10-5).

March 2-8: Weekend Games

We head into the final weekend with two impactful tossup games.  Texas travels to Waco, where Baylor holds a slight edge in terms of odds; meanwhile, KU heads to The Wood Chipper (god bless you, Mitch Holtus), trying to complete a perfect Big 12 season.

Texas at Baylor (BU: 57%)
Kansas at Missouri (KU: 60%)
Texas Tech at Colorado (CU: 61%)
Texas A&M at Oklahoma (ATM: 67%)
Nebraska at Oklahoma State (OSU: 82%)
Iowa State at Kansas State (KSU: 92%)

Unless Mizzou beats Kansas, then the Baylor-Texas game doesn't mean a lot in the current scenario, as the #4 spot would come down to a Baylor-Mizzou tie-break, which BU would win thanks to Ekpe Udoh's last-second tip-in in Waco.  However, both of these games are essentially in complete tossup mode, and Mizzou will have a chance to clinch a bye with a win and a Baylor loss.

Seed Team Conf. Overall
1 Kansas 16-0 27-1
2 Kansas State 12-4 25-5
3 Baylor 11-5 24-6
4 Texas A&M 11-5 22-8
5 Missouri 10-6 22-9
6 Texas 9-7 23-8
7 Oklahoma State 8-8 20-10
8 Colorado 5-11 14-16
9 Texas Tech 4-12 16-14
10 Oklahoma 4-12 13-17
11 Iowa State 3-13 14-17
12 Nebraska 3-13 15-16

Thanks to the losses to both Baylor and ATM, Mizzou really does have to beat either KSU or KU to give themselves a rock solid chance at a bye, and honestly, they probably need the KSU game more, as it would set up a 4-way tie in the above standings.  However, with tossup games against both BU and ATM, Texas is Mizzou's best friend moving forward.  Granted, if UT beats both teams, they could potentially pass Mizzou in the standings, which wouldn't help matters much, but as we move into the thousands of "If" scenarios, Texas helps Mizzou as much as they hurt them.

Big 12 Tourney Pairings
8 Colorado vs 9 Texas Tech (winner plays 1 Kansas)
5 Missouri vs 12 Nebraska (winner plays 4 Texas A&M)
6 Texas vs 11 Iowa State (winner plays 3 Baylor)
7 Oklahoma State vs 10 Oklahoma (winner plays 2 Kansas State)

Fun with Odds

Now let's look at things in a different way.  Below are the remaining Big 12 games, in order from biggest tossup to smallest, with the games as above in bold.

Feb. 28: Texas at Texas A&M (UT: 53% -- PICKED ATM)
Mar. 7: Texas at Baylor (BU: 57%)
Feb. 28: Texas Tech at Nebraska (NU: 60%)
Mar. 7: Kansas at Missouri (KU: 60%)

Mar. 7: Texas Tech at Colorado (CU: 61%)
Feb. 28: Iowa State at Colorado (CU: 63%)
Mar. 3: Colorado at Nebraska (NU: 64%)
Mar. 3: Baylor at Texas Tech (BU: 67%)
Mar. 7: Texas A&M at Oklahoma (ATM: 67%)
Feb. 28: Missouri at Kansas State (KSU: 68%)
Feb. 24: Nebraska at Iowa State (ISU: 70%)

Mar. 4: Oklahoma State at Texas A&M (ATM: 72%)
Feb. 23: Kansas State at Texas Tech (KSU: 73%)

Mar. 3: Missouri at Iowa State (MU: 73%)
Feb. 24: Texas A&M at Baylor (BU: 74%)

Feb. 28: Baylor at Oklahoma (BU: 76%)
Feb. 28: Kansas at Oklahoma State (KU: 79%)

Mar. 7: Nebraska at Oklahoma State (OSU: 82%)
Mar. 4: Kansas State at Kansas (KU: 83%)
Feb. 24: Oklahoma State at Texas (UT: 85%)

Feb. 24: Colorado at Missouri (MU: 92%)
Mar. 7: Iowa State at Kansas State (KSU: 92%)
Mar. 2: Oklahoma at Texas (UT: 94%)
Feb. 22: Oklahoma at Kansas (KU: 98%)

Of the five tightest "big" games, both Baylor and Texas play in two.  Both have quite a bit of volatility left in their schedule, especially Baylor.  The Bears not only have no "gimmes" left on the schedule (all of their games are projected at 76% or lower), but they're projected to win all four, meaning their projections can only go down.  Yes, they are projected to go 11-5 and lock up the 3-seed, but they have little margin for error -- while each game's odds break in their favor, their actual odds of winning all four are only 21.5%.  They will most likely slip up somewhere, which would give Mizzou a chance to pass them.

Actually, let's look at the projected final standings again, adding in a team's realistic ceiling and floor.  I'll determine the ceiling and floor by considering anything at 75% or lower a tossup.  That's a bit of a reach -- 75% is pretty safe, all things considered -- but that will give you a good idea of the volatility left on a team's schedule.

Seed Team Conf. Overall Realistic Ceiling/Floor
1 Kansas 16-0 27-1 16-0 / 15-1
2 Kansas State 12-4 25-5 12-4 / 10-6
3 Baylor 11-5 24-6 11-5 / 8-8
4 Texas A&M 11-5 22-8 12-4 / 8-8
5 Missouri 10-6 22-9 12-4 / 9-7
6 Texas 9-7 23-8 11-5 / 9-7
7 Oklahoma State 8-8 20-10 9-7 / 8-8
8 Colorado 5-11 14-16 6-10 / 3-13
9 Texas Tech 4-12 16-14 8-8 / 4-12
10 Oklahoma 4-12 13-17 5-11 / 4-12
11 Iowa State 3-13 14-17 5-11 / 2-14
12 Nebraska 3-13 15-16 4-12 / 1-15

Biggest Range Between Ceiling and Floor

  • 4 games: Texas A&M, Texas Tech
  • 3 games: Baylor, Missouri, Colorado, Iowa State, Nebraska
  • 2 games: Kansas State, Texas
  • 1 game: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma

And just for fun...Mizzou has an 8.6% chance of finishing at 12-4 and a 0.9% chance of finishing at 8-8.  If they beat Colorado, their odds of going just 9-7 are 11.0%, while their odds of going 12-4 improve to 9.3%.  The most likely scenario at this point is clearly 10-6.