Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tom Keegan: Self rates Big 12 ‘a monster’

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pulls up for a three before Iowa State guard Monte Morris (11) during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pulls up for a three before Iowa State guard Monte Morris (11) during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.


It’s usually a tough sell convincing rabid fans of the Kansas University basketball program that RPI, a computer ranking on which members of the NCAA tournament selection committee rely way too heavily, is utter hogwash.

The RPI is weighted far too heavily upon strength of schedule and not enough on actual performance. Since Kansas regularly plays such a killer schedule, the RPI, with rare exceptions, ranks Kansas either just about right or too high.

Now that the Kansas fan base has more reason to be more open-minded, let me repeat it one more time: RPI stands for Really Poor Index.


Kansas, which will be ranked No. 1 in the nation Monday if it doesn’t lose Saturday to Baylor in Allen Fieldhouse, ranks 20th in the RPI. So can we all just say RIP to the RPI and never reference it again as proof of anything?

Any ranking that puts Kansas 20th isn’t worth consulting to see where the Big 12 ranks as a conference. Better idea: Add up the total points in the Associated Press poll for conference members, divide that number by the number of conference members and see which league has the highest number.

Based on that formula, which includes points for schools that received votes but didn’t make the top 25, the Big 12 comes out on top and it’s not even close.

The rankings: 1. Big 12, 467.5; 2. Big East, 384.6; 3. Big 10, 277.6; 4. ACC, 185.1; 5. Pac-12 (116.8); 6. SEC (108.9); 7. AAC (80.4); 8. WCC (4.5); 9. A-10 (3.0); 10. MAAC (1.0).

Kansas coach Bill Self didn’t have to consult any computer rankings or polls to articulate what the Jayhawks are about to stare down in an attempt to win a 12th consecutive conference title.

“It’s a monster,” Self said of the Big 12. “The best way to have the best chance to win it is to hold serve at home and go knock some people off on the road, but in this particular instance I think that there will be a lot of home losses by a lot of teams just because the competition’s so good.”

Kansas is No. 2 in the AP poll, joined by No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 11 Iowa State, No. 19 West Virginia and No. 23 Baylor. Texas Tech and Texas also received votes. The 15-member ACC is the only other conference with five members in the top 25 (5. Virginia, 7. North Carolina, 13. Miami, 15. Duke, 18. Louisville) with five members in the top 25. The Big East, a 10-team conference, has four schools in the top 25 (6. Xavier, 9. Butler, 12. Providence, 16. Villanova).

“You bring a top 20 team into your house, they can beat you,” Self said. “We’ve got 19 games left until the postseason and all 19 are high-major, real games. I mean, they’re real games.”

KU’s talent, depth and experience will come in handy during what should be an extremely entertaining grind.

— Tom Keegan appears on The Drive, Sunday nights on WIBW-TV.


Michael Lorraine 4 years, 4 months ago

I don't find the AP ranking very credible either. There are five big 12 teams currently ranked. Let's see how many are standing after the second round of the tournament.

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

I agree Michael. Any observation of the performance of Big 12 teams in the NCAA tournament recently compared against their poll rankings indicates, if anything, that the strength of the Big 12 is exaggerated.

Brianna Zaleski 4 years, 4 months ago

Michael, the NCAA tournament is not a gauge on the overall strength of a conference, or even 1 team. Yes, it is an extremely important tournament where the results are heavily weighted, but those 3 weekends are not the only barometer of a team.

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

Im not violently opposed to your comment more generally, but I think you are mistaken when you say that the NCAA tournament can not be used as a gauge for strength of conference. In fact, there is no better tool out there to compare.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 4 months ago

It's really hard to argue that the tournament isn't actually the very best evaluative tool out there - a far better tool than the bowls, for example. Teams are seeded through a pretty thorough, though not perfect, system. The Big 12 has received a good number of high seeds which should have meant fairly deep runs for at least a few teams.

We've been overrated in the past. No matter how good of a coach Bill Self is - and he is incredibly good - it's tough to take a conference very seriously that let's the class bully put a whoopin' on it for 11 straight years.

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

HUH? So if the Big 12 gets three tough match ups and loses them but the Big East gets three cupcake match ups and wins them then the Big East is better? That's foolish.

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

Short-sighted as always. You dont just compare Wins and Losses Benz. You can look at--get this--how teams win or lose as a group, competition level, etc. You know. All of that kind of stuff that figures into a BPI? Only you do it for the tournament.

Have a Snickers. You're not you when you're hungry.

Michael Lorraine 4 years, 4 months ago

I wouldn't say the tournament is THE gauge but it is certainly part of the equation when gauging the overall strength of a conference or a team. The tournament is just a snapshot of a 3 week period of college basketball. IMO it is flawed because it allows too many undeserving teams to participate and the OAD format does not allow any team to make a mistake. It is the polar opposite of the NBA which has such an exhaustive playoff that only the best team will ultimately advance.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

The Big 12 is often ranked as one of the toughest conferences in basketball but in the NCAA the results aren't very good. Since the conference began, it has produced only a single NCAA Champion.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 4 months ago

Ah yes, something about a miracle comeback in 2008, wasn't it? ;)

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

Yes the Big 12 will be a monster task to win but someone has to win it and it might as well be us. I've always believed the Big 12 or conference championship is a truer measure for a team's capability rather than the NCAA tournament. The Big 12 winner will need to show toughness over a two month period and the ability to bounce back from major disappointments. The NCAA Tournament is in very large measure based upon luck. The format is purely for mass appeal entertainment and marketing. To that end, The NCAA Tournament has been massively successful. It is a true gamblers paradise, which I've been an overly active participant for over 40 years!

As for the Number 1 ranking, it's unthinkable with two tough teams coming into AFH in the next few days. If we are not ready to play, we can find ourselves in a deep Big 12 hole right away. Self needs to get the guys focused ONLY on Baylor and then OU, nothing else matters, for now.

As for the pre-season, it's a shame Bragg and Diallo couldn't make more progress. Early on, I thought Bragg would be ready for Big 12 play. The past couple of games have raised a few questions if he can contribute right away. As for Diallo, what the NCAA did to this kid is criminal. Diablo is massively talented but it seems he won't be able to help us for most of the Big 12's season. Without much PT during the Big 12, that probably means he'll be a non-factor in the NCAA. Even with Diallo sitting on the bench, he's shown enough potential to be a high first round NBA draft choice. The NBA drafts are based on potential, not if they can contribute to win games right now.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 4 months ago

Damn it, Suzi. I hope you're wrong!! [but I'm afraid you probably aren't. :( ]

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

I've always believed the Big 12 or conference championship is a truer measure for a team's capability rather than the NCAA tournament.

With respect, I don't know how you justify this statement at all. To get an NCAA Championship you'd potentially face not just the best in your own conference, but the best in ALL conferences.

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

So lucking out and facing four double digit seeds on your way to a Final Four is a truer measure for a team's capability?!?

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

You dont just guage one team. You look at all of them from a conference. That possibility that all teams from a conference would "luck out" is not likely, making your comment a statistical wash out.

Have fun. Try again.

Michael Lorraine 4 years, 4 months ago

Limiting the second half of the regular season does a poor job of preparing for the tournament. We should actually begin the regular season with conference play until a champion has been crowned then proceed with non-con before the tournament.

Kent Richardson 4 years, 4 months ago

If KU could play defense like you defend your position we would be national champs every year. :)

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

LOL, Kent!

You got me. Beer's on me when I see you.

Micky Baker 4 years, 4 months ago

I think Suzi's point is that it's the single elimination factor. When you go up against a team that has nothing to lose, they play relaxed. Then in a close game, a team that clearly is not as talented heaves up a 25 foot 3 pointer that goes as the shot clock runs to 0, even though our guys played great defense on the possession and boom, the other team's into the better team's heads. Then there are the type of games where a lesser team makes 15 threes against you... and the pressure is on the better team. You can't tell me that the guys at this age don't feel that pressure. It's human nature. How many times have we seen this?

Michael Lorraine 4 years, 4 months ago

Totally agree. The tournament is loaded with teams playing with house money.

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

I think her point that a conference champion's showing grit over a 2-month span and comparing that to what an NCAA Champion endures is myopic. The assumption is that because it's over a longer period it's tougher. One need only consider that Kansas, while winning the Big 12 Championship 11 consecutive times has only one the National Championship once in that time. Her point is wrong and the reason for this is obvious. The field of 64 includes the best teams in the country, whereas half the conference any given year is made of cellar dwellars. More than that, the best teams in your conference are NEVER BETTER than the best teams in the country (at best, they would be equally as good--if the best teams in the country all happened to be in your conference; but that never happens). Simply put, the best of the competition is always better in the NCAA tournament than it is in the conference, so to place the conference championship above the NCAA Championship in either importance or prestige is quite obviously misguided.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

It's the one-and-out feature of the NCAA Tournament that makes it such a gamblers delight. Every year there are several upsets every round. In any single game, anything can happen. That is why the NBA, MLB, Hockey etc play a multiple game series.

Winning the Big 12, especially this year, will be a truer measure of the team's ability than the NCAA. Don't get me wrong...I'd love to win both, especially with the Final Four being in Houston.

Micky Baker 4 years, 4 months ago

Well, she clarified her point. You have a right to your opinion, but you don't have a right to state what someone else's opinion is in your view because you want to make a particular argument based on your preconceptions.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 4 months ago

Suzi, I'm thinking that Carlton has just hit one of those freshman rough patches. He faced his first real road test, and the game against UCI was almost a novelty game. For a freshman big-man, playing against that team must have seemed like he'd fallen into the story of Alice in Wonderland. My opinion is that he will come back stronger over the next couple of weeks.

For Diallo, I believe that he will flourish late - I really do. He is all upside, which means that he will be getting more comfortable on a daily basis. It may take another month of practice and sporadic game minutes, but I do believe that he'll help us late in the season.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

I hope you are right. Diallo has loads of talent, heart and "want to" to become a star in the NBA. I'd hate to see Diallo move on and never really get a chance to see him play college ball.

Steve Grimm 4 years, 4 months ago

Hey Suzi. Even though Bragg and Diallo did not see the court very much against UCI, I don't think it is an indication that they will remain there for every game. I think they will play plenty when the other team doesn't have huge bodies down low. My gosh! Even Landon looked like a pre-schooler against Ndiaye! Those freshmen simply don't have the girth to move the opposition off their spots - yet. We have Baylor (with Gathers) and -to some degree - a tough physical team like Oklahoma (with Spangler) upcoming. As a result, I would not be surprised to see Bragg and Diallo get court crumbs again. However, they both are very good. We all have seen that. As long as they don't get frustrated, I believe they will certainly have their games in the sun this year. I just don't see them as being able to firmly secure a consistent acceptable level of productivity quite yet. Don't get down on 'em. They are gonna be good. I'm just quite happy we don't HAVE to rely on them at this point. Imagine the kind of pressure for them if that were the case!

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

Totally agree with everything you said. Bragg will be back next year and probably will be a star. I don't think Diallo will be back. He has shown himself to be a special player. If I were an NBA GM, I'd take him in the first round, even in the top 10, based solely on the potential he's shown already.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

"The NCAA Tournament is in very large measure based upon luck."

Really? Let's pretend that luck plays a 50% chance in winning the NCAA. That is considerably lower than a "very large measure". What would be the odds of winning the tournament 7 times in a row based on 50% luck?

1 in 128 - Yet UCLA did just that between 1967 – 73. I'm fairly certain that skill and not luck was the determining factor. If luck was the determining factor then Kansas would hardly be a lucky team. With the 5th amount of final four appearances, the 4th amount of title games we have only managed to win three titles...7th overall. I'm really amazed that someone who I believe is a real fan of the game would make such an absurd statement. The odds are obviously much higher or it wouldn't be much of a gambler's paradise.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

With regards to UCLA - if you have superior talent, the luck factor diminishes. UCLA was fortunate to be blessed with the great John Wooden, the enormous financial backing of Sam Gilbert, and a compliant NCAA. Also, I don't think UCLA ever had to win more than 4 NCAA games to win the championship. Addicting two more games to 6 increases the permutations and combinations for potential upsets. The odds do not need to be 50% for a specific game. The odds are compounded over 6 games! I've been betting on NCAA games for over 40 years! It's very difficult to pick the winner.

The way to minimize the "luck factor" is to thoroughly prepare for each game and the players need to play fearlessly every minute. Making FTs also helps ...remember '96 (AZ), '03 (Syr), etc, etc. But that's my point. Overnight a team needs to be on and hope the other team doesn't go insane great.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

I get what you're saying Suzi but the odds are heavily against any one team even if everything breaks right but it's a lot easier then when everything breaks wrong.

On an aside... I did really well in statistics both on an undergraduate and graduate level but couldn't remember (even w/using the Internet) how to figure the probability of winning the NCAA 10 times in 12 attempts. Any help Joe?

Benz had a really good idea on how to minimize luck but it would eliminate filling out the brackets in a 64 team tournament, again not counting the play in games. Plus it made too much sense....

Bryce Landon 4 years, 4 months ago

"I've always believed the Big 12 or conference championship is a truer measure for a team's capability rather than the NCAA tournament."

That's easy to say considering how much we've underachieved in the NCAA Tournament, not just in the Self era, but historically speaking.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 4 months ago

Diallo will come back for his sophomore season. Bank on it.

Robert Brock 4 years, 4 months ago

The quality in the conference comes from good-quality coaching, NOT from talented players.

The Big 12 is pretty week when it comes to recruiting top talent.

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

Don't confuse "talented player" with "talented recruit". You aren't required to have been a talented recruit to be a talented player.

Kerby Rice 4 years, 4 months ago

Self every year talks up the Big 12. The conference as a whole body of work has failed to back up his claims come NCAA tourney time. Hopefully this year with the squads KU, ISU, and OU have the conference can have ~3 teams still alive come the round of 8. Is that a realistic possibility or are my home conference biased blinders skewing my perception?!

Layne Pierce 4 years, 4 months ago

The Way the College Game is today, and the overglorification of the Tournament, why not just do away with conferences altogether. Take the tournament seedings and also just pull games out of a hat. No one is going to convince me that there is not a lot of pairing luck, or manipulaton in the tournament.

Since winning your conference actually means very little for the Big Dance, why have it?

On the other hand, having only two teams from each conference, with no conference tournament, that I kind of like.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 4 months ago

As long as we are thinking outside of the box, I'd love to see the conference tournament replaced with a match-up tournament with another conference - say the Pac 12. Playing conference teams for a third time, when everybody is pretty much just waiting on selection Sunday, has worn a bit thin for me. Id like to see something more inventive and interesting.

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

Eliminate the conference tournaments altogether and make the conference winner the auto bid.

Bump the ncaa field out to 76 by adding 8 more at large teams.

The bottom 8 auto bids play for the right to be the four #16 seeds.

The bottom 16 at large teams play each other (best plays worst, etc...) for 8 seeds in the 10-12 range depending on the quality of the 4 best "lower tier" auto bids.

Have these 12 games in the time typically used by today's conference tourneys. This gives the higher seeded teams a week off and a chance to scout the teams they are going to play better.

I would offer up that the bottom 16 auto bid would have to play in to the 4 #15 and 4 #16 slots but the little schools have too many votes to put so many of them on the potential chopping block.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 4 months ago

I like your idea better. Much better, actually.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

I like this idea...too bad it will never happen.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

I hate the conference tournament. IMO, it is a major distraction for Kansas.

Rodney Crain 4 years, 4 months ago

You are forgetting about the money Benz, who replaces the money lost with the B12 tournament? I like the idea but you have to address the money before anything goes anywhere now a days.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 4 months ago

I love the Big 12 Tournament. It's a celebration of a great year in a great conference, it's great practice for postseason, and if there are any kinks to work out before the NCAA Tournament, that's the time to do it.

Since we're a 10-team league, the only change I would make is to render the 9th and 10th place teams ineligible for the event. Hardly anyone comes to those preliminary rounds on Wednesday anyway.

Rian Ankerholz 4 years, 4 months ago

First, I commend Suzi Marshall and Joe Ross for being two of the most thoughtful writers on the board. I am a firm believer that when two thoughtful people disagree on a subjective topic, the correct answer usually lies somewhere in the middle. Joe believes the Big Dance is a truer test of a team's capability because arguably the best teams are involved. That would be true if each team played every other team, and even more so if a multiple game set were involved between those teams. But March Madness success involves rather serendipitous team draws and player matchups, avoidance of even short-term injury, and some luck, because a last-second half-court heave can be determinative. Suzi believes the Big XII race is a better indicator of a team's capability. But a team's finish in the Big XII race is only indicative of how well it did against Big XII team's. She might add that the way Big XII team's fare outside the conference is related, but again Texas Tech might beat Duke on a single night due to a favorable player matchup, a hot hand, or a last second shot. Because a larger sample size will almost always produce better results, I believe Suzi has the better argument. The rub is that Conference success is not a reliable indicator of how a team (KU or other) will fare in March. We would like it to be, but it just doesn't reliably follow. I look forward to future comments from both of you. RCJH

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

Im not sure my comments deserve that level of praise but I wont leave your compliment unrecognized. Thank you, Rian!

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm never going to believe a team like NC State is anywhere near a Houston team with Olajuwon and Drexler. The NCAA Tournament is perfect for mass appeal and entertainment but is a horrible format to identify the best team.

Joe Ross 4 years, 4 months ago

Two points.

First, winning 6 games a row and being the only team to do so against a field hand-selected on the strength of their regular season resumes is nothing to sneeze at. You are distilling it down like it's easy to win a championship. It isnt. Again, Kansas eleven consecutive conference championships, One national title in that time. A National Championship is harder to achieve.

Secondly, as far as get those. You get them in the regular season too. But with increased sample size (that is to say when you look at ALL tournament games) surprises where very low seeds beat very high seeds is a statistical rarity. How many times has a one seed lost to a 16, a 2 to a 15, etc.? You cant cherry pick the games that stand out without mentioning that the vast majority of games go the way theyre "supposed to".

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Rian. I always look forward to reading KUSports online at our breakfast table every morning. Everybody has great points.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 4 months ago

Rian, you may not read Joe that much. Most of the time, he's as condescending as anyone on this board, if not more so. But, in a world where people use 100 words to say what could be said in 10, Joe reigns supreme.

Jeremy Wilhelm 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm with Rian and Suzi on this debate. Sorry Joe. And it's less that I think you're plain wrong. More just that I agree more with the other point of view.

I've often felt that the field of 64 crown goes to the team that lucked into the easiest path to the Championship. The most blatant recent example of this was the year Duke beat Butler in the final.

And just as often, the team that is the unanimous lock loses on an off night to a less talented team (whom they would probably beat 4-1 in a 7 game series) a la KU versus Arizona in 1997(?) (too lazy to confirm the exact year but y'all know the one). Sure, there are examples where each round provides the highest level challenger possible like when KU won it in 2008, but I can't deny the role luck played for us that year.

At least in the current incarnation of the Big 12 regular season, nobody gets to dodge a bad matchup or rely exclusively on a home court advantage, etc. since all teams play every other team twice.

I still do think that, aside from the NBA playoff format or the English Premier League, the NCAA is the best way to crown a champion in all of sports, but it hardly guarantees the champ is the very best team.

Chad Smith 4 years, 4 months ago

We might as well not even play the conference season, I mean apparently conference titles mean nothing. Well, actually, I value our streak and want 12 in the BIG 12. As far as NCAA tournament goes, I can see both sides of the argument. Does the BIG 12 need to start playing better as a conference overall in the big dance? Absolutely. Does it mean the BIG 12 isn't a good conference? That's false. The BIG 12 has posted a very strong non-conference record head to head against power six conferences. And that's the only other gauge for how our conference stacks up is head to head with non-conference opponents.

The first weekend of the NCAA tournament, in my opinion, is now designed for upsets to happen. I won't go into all the detail, but timing rules, shot clock, foul rules, and the three point line all aid in the upset factor climbing.

But, Iowa State losing to UAB needs to stop happening. Baylor losing to Georgia State needs to stop happening. We need a couple more teams to make it to the 2nd weekend, plain and simple.

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