Year after year the Big 12 is one of the top leagues in college basketball. Top programs, top coaches and top competition are hallmarks of the conference.
Conference RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) is a good indicator of which teams routinely face tougher competition. In a nutshell, RPI is a ranking based on wins and the level of competition faced (wins of your opponents and wins of your opponents' opponents).
This year's version of the Big 12 currently ranks third in conference RPI, behind only the Big East and the Big Ten.
While Kansas sits in its usual perch atop the league, several others are in the fray to be next in line.
Some of these would have been hard to predict.
Texas A&M (3-0 in conference, 15-1 overall) is tied with the Jayhawks, while Texas (2-0) and Colorado (3-1) are close behind. The Aggies and the Buffaloes are great stories to date, but not the only ones in the Big 12. Nebraska and Iowa State have both been much more competitive than most (including myself) had anticipated.
The RPI numbers will climb as the teams are now fully into league games, but for some the warning signs are either up or being readied.
Here is a look at some teams that need some patchwork and others who may require some surgery to salvage their seasons.
A Few Stitches Required
The Tigers are ranked, have a 16-3 record (2-2 Big 12), and an RPI of 28. They have been involved in two of the most exciting games of the season, overtime losses to Georgetown and Texas A&M. So what's the problem?
Nothing really. This team is starting to gel and by season's end will be near the top of the standings. They do, however, have to win on the road and they do have tighten up a little defensively. Their style demands a high-tempo, so points will be scored against them. But they have at least eight players that can score as well. Just road wins are needed, they shouldn't lose by 15 to anyone in the league.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
They are only 1-2 in conference but have played decently in a season where they had to replace James Anderson and Obi Muenelo, among others. Like so many teams, there is ample disparity between their play at home and on the road.
But they are competitive most nights and their RPI rank is 42 overall, so coach Travis Ford can't be unhappy. With improved play on the road and a couple of wins against the upper echelon, the Cowboys could sneak into the NCAA tourney.
Day Surgery Needed
Yep, they lost to Chaminade earlier this year and haven't really looked good in losing to the likes of Kentucky, Arizona and Cincinnati, or a couple of the heavyweight conference foes.
But I'm giving Jeff Capel a mulligan, for this year only.
The mistakes that were are gone and he is essentially starting fresh. The Sooners recently picked up their first conference win in a season that was starting to look like it wouldn't produce any.
If, and this is a big if based on past performance, Capel can recruit decently, he will move the Sooners up next season. Trying to stay at or near .500 this year will be a chore.
The Bears have a decent record (12-5, 2-2) but are ranked 101st in the RPI, and have an 0-5 record against teams in the top 100.
This means that they have not lived up to the preseason hype. The Bears were a top 15 team in most analyses, but resemble nothing close and there is really no reason for it.
With Lacedarius Dunn, Quincy Acy, Perry Jones, Anthony Jones and A.J. Walton, Baylor can put a starting lineup on the floor that rivals anyone's.
At some point though, and Dunn more than anyone needs to realize this, they have to play as a team. Too many selfish, individual plays were evident in their 20-point home spanking at the hands of the Jayhawks. Pass the ball, play together, use all of the talent at your disposal.
And Scott, get out of that zone. You're not Syracuse.
Major Cosmetic Surgery Required
Kansas State Wildcats
It was very telling that after another profanity-laced tirade directed at his players following a loss to Florida, Jamar Samuels was unfazed, saying that they've heard worse from coach Frank Martin.
This is not good.
This core group of upperclassmen has been with Martin for at least three years now and they are tuning him out.
A team that many (yep, include me again) thought would challenge Kansas for top spot in the league is falling fast. Their lone conference win was against Texas Tech and their losses have not been all that competitive.
There have been distractions but the Wildcats (51st in RPI) are approaching the point of no return. Supposed leader Jacob Pullen has even announced that he won't play if his team is NIT-bound, a statement that there really is no leadership in Manhattan.
Martin needs to dial it down big-time. Passion is one thing, insane is another. He doesn't seem to understand that removing players after every mistake doesn't really build confidence but just ensures that there will never be any. I'd really like to see Wally Judge just play and not look over to the bench after every whistle.
There is time for this to turn around. But I'm not confident it will.
Doctor, I Don't Feel A Pulse
Texas Tech Red Raiders
I wrote something a while back that suggested the Raiders could move up in the Big 12 standings if, and I believe I am quoting myself correctly, they defended "better than canned turnips."
Well, they're not.
Now, they and not Oklahoma, are on the "Won't Win a Conference Game" watch list.
Even with an older class, the Raiders continue to regress, and, sorry to say, this regression illustrates only too clearly that nepotism has once against failed within the conference coaching carousel.
Playing in a Big Six conference, Tech is currently 214th in the RPI rankings, sandwiched in between San Jose State and South Dakota State, two teams that are, to be brutally honest, not very good.
The question, and it is the only question, is, how long will Pat Knight continue to be the coach of the Red Raiders.