It’s already February — hard to believe — and that means we’re in the home stretch of the regular season, where bubble fortunes will be carved out. Sure, some teams will be playing their way in or out of the dance in March, but February is where you make or break it.
So let’s get to power rankings first, then we’ll skip to BUBBLE TROUBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE. I’ll also only do much of a summary for the teams that are “locked” since I will go over the other ones in their bubble section.
- Kansas Jayhawks (20-2, 8-1) - Kansas escaped a murderous week that included road trips to WVU, Kentucky and a home date versus Baylor. They went 2-1 in that span, knocking off the #4 and #2 teams in the country. They still have a return trip to Baylor and a date with WVU in the Phog, but there’s no reason to think this isn’t the best team in the conference, and even if you don’t think that, remember that Bill Self has more regular season titles than home losses.
- West Virginia Mountaineers (18-4, 6-3) - When they are on, WVU has proved they’re capable of beating anyone, including Kansas — but three conference losses in winable games has made their road to a title incredibly difficult. WVU has a dangerous Ok Lite team coming town tomorrow and can’t let it’s guard down if they have any hope of splitting or unseating Kansas. Oh and they’re better than Baylor.
- Baylor Bears (20-2, 7-2) - Baylor played Kansas extremely well, and has more or less seemingly forgotten the aforelinked beatdown in Morgantown. They also have the easier path to a conference title and are playing good basketball.
- TCU Horned Frogs (15-7, 4-5)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys (14-8, 3-6)
- Iowa State Cyclones (13-8, 5-4)
- Texas Longhorns (9-13, 3-6)
- Kansas State Wildcats (15-7, 4-5)
- Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-7, 3-6)
- Oklahoma Sooners (8-13, 2-7)
LOCKS: WVU, Baylor, Kansas
SHOULD BE IN:
WORK LEFT TO DO: Outside of the the big three, none of the remaining teams can rest easy. Each have some work to do...
Kansas State (15-7, 4-5 RPI: 49, SOS: 69) : After a strong start to the season, the Wildcats have lost three in a row and five out of their last seven. The good news for Bruce Webber’s squad is those two wins are both top 50 RPI opponents in WVU and fellow Bubbler Ok Lite. They also don’t have any really terrible losses, and their next three games will provide opportunities to secure signature wins with road games against Baylor and WVU and a home date with Kansas, who they took the wire in a controversial finish at the Phog.
Iowa State (13-8, 5-4 RPI: 51, SOS 38) : Like Kansas State, the cyclones have been lukewarm of late — going 2-4 in their last six games, including the first double-digit home loss in four years earlier this week to WVU. But the Cylones have a respectable resume with two top 50 RPI wins (Ok Lite, Kansas State) and no glaring losses. Still, they could use another quality win — and no more slip ups like the loss Vanderbilt in the SEC/BIG XII challenge — to secure their fate.
TCU (15-7, 4-5 RPI 39, SOS 35): TCU got off to an unexpectedly strong start to the season under new head coach Jamie Dixon, but lost five in a row before this week’s win against Kansas State. They’ve avoided having any bad losses, and have two okay wins (stop me if you’ve heard that before) but like both of the teams above, could use a quality win.
Oklahoma State (14-8, 3-6, RPI 33, SOS 15) Credit to Brad Underwood for getting his team turned around after losing six games in a row to open conference play to win four straight and get his team into bubble contention. They have fantastic numbers (don’t look too hard at them though) and two wins against top 50 RPI teams (more on this next — no really) but (again) could use another quality win.
Texas Tech (15-7, 3-6, RPI 85, 155) K State, Iowa State, TCU and Ok Lite are, on paper, a lot like a 1990’s GM Product: slightly different sheet-metal, but underneath the same car. All four of them are decent enough and have good chances to get into the tournament (though I think one of them might get left out — maybe even two), but then you have the Red Raiders. They’re a Saturn in this analogy. Their numbers are terrible for a bubble team, and they have two losses to sub RPI 100 teams; sixty-six percent of their wins have came against RPI 150 or worse — with eight of those ten twins coming against sub 200 teams like Incarnate Word! On the other hand, they have three wins versus the RPI Top 50, two of them coming against fellow bubblers TCU and Kansas State. What does that mean? Well, even though Saturn cars were largely different from their brand engineered cousins, being different wasn’t enough to cover up they were shitty cars. (They were, don’t @ me.) Texas Tech has a lot of flaws on their resume and they really need to finish strong down the stretch to get in, otherwise it’s off to the NIT, which I guess is a better fate than Saturn.
OUT: Oklahoma, Texas