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Iowa State's Formula for a Regular Season Big 12 Championship

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What must the Cyclones do to pry the Big 12 regular season crown away from the hated Jayhawks? Lets take a look at the past two seasons, and delve into the current conference slate.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Man, did I take a beating on Twitter last night.

For those of you who don't follow me, and honestly you should (shameless plug- @MNelson_ISU), I was openly supporting those sweater-vest wearing holier-than-thou pansies from Lawrence and, not surprisingly, Cyclone fans were quick to tell me how foolish downright crazy I was for taking their side.

Trust me. I've had enough of Kansas going through the Big 12 like crap through a goose each winter. I'm tired of Bill Self's well-timed technical fouls and the Big 12 refs ensuring tough calls always seem to favor the Jayhawks. Speaking of tired, Perry Ellis must be exhausted after last night's game. I wonder if the nursing home staff noticed he slipped away after his 4 p.m. dinner.

Yes, I'd love to see their reign of terror come to an end. And, in my opinion, the best chance for that to happen was KU winning last night's game. While it would have been lovely to see Oklahoma walk out of Lawrence with a win, a Sooners loss was more important for Iowa State's formula.

A Winning Formula

Yes, there is a formula for winning the Big 12 regular season.

It's quite simple, really.

To begin, let's take a look back at how the conference season has played out the past couple of years, which tells you all you need to know:

  • The Big 12 usually has 3 tiers: the top (3 teams), the middle (4 teams), and the bottom (3 teams).
  • To have a chance to win the conference, you must win all your home games.
  • The top 3 teams are likely to lose road games vs the other top 2. Any team that steals a win on the road vs the other top 2 teams has a decided advantage over the others.
  • Top 3 teams can afford to split the road games vs the middle tier teams (win 2 out of 4).
  • Finally, any team that wishes to win the conference can't drop a road game against the bottom tier.
It's often said that the winner of the Big 12 will have 4-5 losses. That statement is almost always true, and it's true because it matches the formula above. Don't believe me? Let's look back at the past 2 seasons...

2013-2014

Standings: KU, OU, TX/ISU, KSU, WVU, BU, OSU, TECH, TCU (ISU held tiebreaker over Texas)

Conference losses for the top 3 teams:

  1. KU- @West Virginia, @Oklahoma State, @Kansas State, @Texas (4)
  2. OU- vs Kansas, @Texas Tech, @West Virginia, @Iowa State, @Kansas State, @Kansas (6)
  3. ISU- @Baylor, @Kansas State, @West Virginia, @Kansas, @Texas, vs Kansas, @OU (7)
Kansas, obviously, won the Big 12 for the 1,820,134th time. But can you see how they did it? They only suffered four losses, all of which were on the road. This particular year, none of their losses were to the other two teams in the top 3 (OU and ISU). This allowed them to lose three games vs the middle tier and one against OSU, who finished 8th, and still win the conference.

Where did both ISU and OU fall short? Both teams suffered home losses (to fucking Kansas of course), and lost a few too many games to the middle of the pack. For them to make up the difference, both teams needed to knock off the teams right behind them in the standings (KSU, WVU, TX) on the road, which they did not.

2014-2015

Standings: KU, ISU, OU, BU, WVU, OSU, TX, KSU, TCU, TECH

Conference losses for the top 3 teams:

  1. KU- @Oklahoma, @Kansas State, @Iowa State, @West Virginia, @Oklahoma State (5)
  2. ISU- @Kansas, @Oklahoma, @Baylor, @Texas Tech, @Kansas State, vs Baylor (6)
  3. OU- @Iowa State, @Kansas State, @Baylor, @Kansas, @West Virginia, vs Kansas State (6)
While the Jawhawks won once again, the standings were much closer than the prior season. Why is that, you ask? Notice in this season each team in the top 3 dropped road games against the other two, keeping the race much tighter.

Unfortunately for both Iowa State and Oklahoma, they each dropped road games against the bottom tier of the conference, Texas Tech and Kansas State. In addition, both teams dropped a frustrating game at home - ISU to Baylor, OU to K-State.

Now then.

Lets get to the real question:


What does this formula mean for Iowa State's chances to dethrone Kansas in 2016?

To be honest, at this point in the season it is difficult to predict much as every game in the Big 12 regular season will be a battle. Good teams will lose games they have no business losing, home court advantage will be profound for many teams and the bizarre and impossible will become routine (thanks Big 12 refs).

However. Kansas beating Oklahoma last night, while helping Kansas, at least ensured the Sooners don't have a leg up on the Cyclones. At least, not yet. In my estimation, it is very realistic for the Cyclones to win every remaining game played in Hilton. And last Saturday proved they can play with (and should have beaten) the country's top teams in a hostile environment. If that effort carries into the rest of the season, I wouldn't be surprised to see our losses are limited to something like...

  • @Oklahoma, @Baylor, @West Virginia...
Heck, maybe even throw in a road loss to a team we should beat easily. It happens, and Iowa State isn't the only team prone to losing those types of games (though it sure seems like it).

Notice, however, I didn't include a loss to the Jawhawks in Allen Fieldhouse in that list above... That's the beautiful part of Iowa State's 2015-16 schedule: A tough first game in Norman, and a chance to prove something the last game of the season in Lawrence.

The reason that Iowa State has been unable to lock up a regular season title in the recent past is due to something familiar to Cyclone fans: losing games they shouldn't. While the nut shots that accompany blowing a chance to knock off a top 5 team or losing a top 10 match-up are painful, I would argue that losing road games, let alone home games, to teams far inferior to the Cyclones is the absolute worst haymaker to the balls of them all.


Can Iowa State dethrone the Jayhawks? Only time will tell. Coach Prohm said Monday he feels this team will continue to get better and better as the season goes on.

If that's the case, I can't wait to see how our remaining 17 games play out and last night's outcome, as odd as it may sound, keeps Iowa State's chances of finally stopping the Jayhawks' reign of terror alive and well.