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Big XII RPInsights - The Beginning

We're not Bracketologists around here but we watch enough basketball to make some educated analyses.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to WRNL's first edition of Big XII RPInsights.  The goal here is simple: Provide a look at where the Big XII teams fall in some of the common ranking measures used by the NCAA Selection Committee in March.  We have omitted the AP and USA Today Coaches Poll due to their subjectivity and relative worthlessness when measuring a team's quality.

For this first attempt we will be using Ken Pomeroy's rankings, RealTimeRPI, ESPN's BPI, and Jeff Sagarin's rankings.  We're an open book with this, so if there's a ranking you don't see feel free to suggest it for future iterations.  Our goal is to publish every Monday morning from now until the day after Selection Sunday.

Editor's Note: As of final editing on Monday, RealTimeRPI has not updated through Saturday's games.  This would exclude all Big XII games played on Saturday.

The Rankings

KenPom RealTimeRPI ESPN BPI Sagarin
Conf. Rank Team Rank SoS Rank Rank Sos Rank Rank Sos Rank Rank Predict Rank Pure_ELO Rank
1 Kansas 11 1 1 1 2 1 7 9 8
2 Oklahoma 44 33 17 9 28 3 38 42 21
3 Texas 35 43 37 44 32 9 37 36 25
4 Oklahoma State 17 102 13 38 9 47 10 5 20
5 Kansas State 41 54 35 26 43 28 32 37 30
6 Iowa State 20 17 11 19 8 2 11 10 16
7 West Virginia 68 82 103 80 57 15 61 48 109
8 Texas Tech 88 76 123 84 79 19 91 76 133
9 Baylor 55 44 41 25 58 55 52 45 63
10 TCU 209 151 184 130 188 97 193 199 161

Aside from the Conf. Rank on the left all rankings are national rankings and the two components that are best for this analysis are where the team ranks as a whole and where their Strength of Schedule (SoS) ranks.  You can see a team like Oklahoma State may be ranked 17th in KenPom's rankings, but have done so by facing the 100th toughest schedule in KenPom's metrics.

That makes Kansas' spot a top the conference even more impressive.  They are the consensus best team in the Big XII by all four rankings used in this analysis and given their SoS it's not even really close.  Kansas' two game conference lead feels insurmountable at this point, and doubly so with two of their victories coming over two of the three teams with two losses in the conference at this point.

The Obvious Answers

We already mentioned the love Kansas gets from all these metrics, but there are some other noticeable and unsurprising things about other schools as well.  Our own Iowa State is still heavily favored in all of these polls despite currently sitting in 6th in the true Big XII standings.  The strength of the non-conference schedule shines through as the lowest SoS rank ISU carries is 17th in KenPom's rankings.  Further, the ELO_CHESS model of Sagarin's essentially retroactively grades each win, which means as Michigan and Iowa keep winning, that ranking will increase.

The same logic applies to Texas and Oklahoma.  While some models see them as part of that middle of the pack grouping in high 30s and low 40s, the ELO_CHESS model once again shows that they have won some quality games early in the season.  Had UNC not imploded this year no doubt Texas' number would be higher.

Despite a 1-5 start to Big XII play, Baylor is still loved by these metrics.  Some of this has to do with how KenPom weights his starting rankings based on returning production, and some of it has to do with the fact that Baylor didn't play a slouch on a non-conference schedule and has already faced, and lost to, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas.

The Surprises

Despite strong early conference season wins I was surprised to not see Texas and Oklahoma not grade out higher in these rankings.  Their SoS rankings are largely influenced by who they have played in the conference season, but their non-conference schedules were apparently soft enough to not garner respect from the models.

West Virginia is beginning to look like a bubble team and with a few solid wins at home and a surprise on the road may very well play themselves into the field come March.  Their past wins aren't impressive but with games still to come against the top half of the league (sans Oklahoma State), the Mountaineers have every opportunity to impress the Selection Committee.

Texas Tech isn't going to make the tournament but they're going to be a tougher out as the season wears on.  Tubby Smith is working with little talent in Lubbock, but as the rankings show, this Tech team is better than most anticipated.

Tournament Bids

Team-by-team chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas: Talented and have already weathered tough road games in Ames and Norman.  Still have to play in Stillwater and Austin but a 13-5, or better, record is not out of the question.  NCAA Tournament Status: Lock

Oklahoma: The first of about four schools that could all vie for the second spot in the conference.  Oklahoma currently holds good wins over Iowa State, Texas (road), and Baylor (?).  Close losses to Kansas and Kansas State don't hurt them, but they'd be best served to hold court at home the rest of the way and steal one on the road.  NCAA Tournament Status: Near Lock

Texas: The Longhorns hold a remarkably similar resume to that of Oklahoma.  Wins against Iowa State, Kansas State, and Baylor are also aided by a win in Morgantown.  Losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State don't hurt, but the Longhorns still play Kansas twice and travel to Ames in February.  NCAA Tournament Status: Near Lock

Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State did little in the non-conference despite splitting with Memphis and beating Colorado.  So far they've done mostly what they needed to in conference despite road losses to both Kansas teams.  The stretch can be tenuous but they still get four of the other top five schools in the conference to come to Gallagher-Iba.  They will be in the tournament in March, but the loss of Michael Cobbins could impact their seeding.  NCAA Tournament Status: Near Lock

Kansas State: This is a Kansas State team that in a normal year might make the field with no questions asked but have enough freshmen in the line up that road games could be dicey.  They lost close contests last week to Texas and Iowa State on the road, but on a typical night struggle to fill up the basket.  A crucial homestand in early February sees them hosting Texas and Kansas in the course of three days, and will tell a lot about where this team is headed in March.  NCAA Tournament Status: Near Lock

Iowa State: KenPom ranks Iowa State's conference schedule so far as 2nd toughest in the league behind Kansas State's and the next three games have Iowa State at Kansas, vs Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State.  You can't play your way into the tournament in January, but you can play yourself out.  The strength of the non-conference schedule will help them should they sink to .500 in the league, but winning two of the next three will put them back where they were a few weeks ago in the eyes of the pundits.  NCAA Tournament Status: Near Lock

West Virginia: Opportunity is in West Virginia's hands right now, and all they need are a few upsets in Morgantown and a good road win to solidify their status.  As of right now they're a bubble team, however.  NCAA Tournament Status: Bubble

Texas Tech: This team is going to surprise someone in Lubbock and the Cyclones should be happy they got this game out of the way a few weeks ago.  Not talented enough to go to the dance, but will make the NIT.  NCAA Tournament Status: NIT Bound

Baylor: This team should make the dance on paper, but the loss of Pierre Jackson is hurting them more and more every game.  Tournament Status: NIT Bound

TCU: Nothing to see here.  Tournament Status: Spring Break Starts Early

Near Locks can easily turn to Locks in this case, and if the tournament started today the top six in the league would make it no questions asked.  However, the conference season is still early enough that someone in the top six will likely unravel before it's all said and done, and with two through six wide open it's hard to guarantee anyone a spot currently.

The movements will be fun to watch over the next few weeks and with the rankings above it's quite easy to see that the Big XII is one of the deepest, and most exciting, leagues in the country.