With the Big 12 conference season right around the halfway point, the conference title race is quickly becoming centered around just two teams.
Texas, at 7-0, and Kansas, at 6-1, have separated themselves from the rest of the league, with Texas having the inside track to the title after their win at Kansas nearly two weeks ago.
What is a common denominator for the ‘Horns and Jayhawks? They are each a perfect 4–0 on the road in conference play.
That will keep you at the top of any league, at any time.
After those two, the next nine teams are very tightly clustered, separated by only one and a half games.
Texas A&M and Oklahoma—yes, the same team who lost to Chaminade back in November—are tied for third place, at 4-3. Baylor and Colorado are next, tied at 4-4. Missouri and Nebraska are right behind at 3-4.
Kansas State—yes, that same team ranked No. 4 back in November—Oklahoma State and Texas Tech follow at 3-5.
What is the reason for the cluster? Unlike Texas and Kansas, none of these teams have been particularly good on the road against the rest of the Big 12.
They are all taking care of business at home—against each other.
Missouri, currently ranked No. 15, is 0-4 on the road after losing at Oklahoma State this week; so is Kansas State, which has now made them an NCAA bubble team. Nebraska and Oklahoma State are 0-4 as well.
The other five teams mentioned above each have one road win. As a whole, these nine teams have combined for a total of five road wins so far.
Five in a total of 34 road games—a winning percentage of .147.
When you factor in that Oklahoma and Texas Tech’s wins were at Iowa State—a very tough place to play, but a team who is clearly struggling—the numbers get a bit uglier. Three wins in 31 games, or a .097 winning percentage.
Essentially, less than one in ten times this season a Big 12 team has been able to win on the road against a team who has been at least fairly competitive in conference play.
Compare these numbers to teams from the Big East—the only league with at least as many high-quality teams as the Big 12.
The current Big East standings show a very similar cluster of ten teams—Notre Dame, Villanova, Louisville, West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Connecticut, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Marquette— separated by two games.
These ten teams have a combined road record of 20-26, a .435 winning percentage. That’s almost three times better than teams three-through-11 of the Big 12.
If you take out the road wins over the bottom five teams in the Big East—Seton Hall, Rutgers, Providence, South Florida and DePaul—the record is 10-24. That doesn’t equate to a great winning percentage (.294) by any stretch, but it is again nearly three times better than the percentage of the comparable Big 12 teams.
Does this disparity between the Big 12 and Big East mean a difference in the quality of teams in the two leagues? Possibly, but it would only be a small part of a much wider argument.
What does the Big 12’s collective struggle on the road—excluding Texas and Kansas—say about each of those teams? Are Kansas State and Missouri simply not what they were made out to be early on? Are Oklahoma and Texas Tech—the two teams picked to finish in the bottom two spots in the preseason—a lot better than we thought?
Or, it may simply be that all of these schools just have outstanding home-court environments. From Columbia to Stillwater to Boulder, every stop on the road has large, passionate crowds that create a ridiculously tough atmosphere for a visiting team to win in.
If this is the case, then it really helps show just how good Texas and Kansas have been.