A look at how Kansas can achieve a 13th Big 12 regular season title.
When college basketball fans think of the Big 12, Kansas’ recent dominance of the conference immediately comes to mind. The Jayhawks have won twelve straight Big 12 regular season titles and have pocketed seven tournament titles in the last 10 years. For the 15th time in the history of the Big 12, the Jayhawks are the unanimous selection to win the conference to make it lucky No. 13. While Kansas loses Perry Ellis, the team still has Frank Mason and Devonte Graham as well as the highly-touted recruit Josh Jackson to prolong the winning tradition. But just how likely is it that Kansas will win it all yet again? Who can challenge the Jayhawks’ supremacy? Let’s dig into the numbers to find out.
0.4%: Kansas’ chance of going unbeaten within the conference. Although this is a very small percentage, Kansas was the only school to which KenPom gave a chance to go through Big 12 play undefeated. To understand why this is the case, one must take a look at Kansas’ conference schedule. In the Big 12, each team plays each other twice – once away and once at home.
Allen Fieldhouse is easily one of the hardest places to play, as evidenced by Kansas’ home record. The last time the Jayhawks lost at home was on January 5, 2014 against non-conference opponent San Diego State. Last year, not only did Kansas win every conference game, but the team beat all but four opponents by double digits. Needless to say, it might be a cliché, but home court advantage is definitely real for Kansas. This virtually guarantees Kansas nine conference wins.
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Road games aren’t exactly hard to come by for Kansas, either. Last season, the Jayhawks only lost three Big 12 road game. Given all the returning talent for the Jayhawks, the level of experience on the roster could help Kansas steal some road wins and bolster the 0.4% chance of running the table in the Big 12.
89.8: West Virginia’s points allowed per 100 defensive possessions last season, which was sixth nationally. The Mountaineers’ defense was a major part to their success, boasting a 25% turnover rate on defense, second to only Stephen F. Austin (25.9) in the country. Jevon Carter led WVU in steals with 5.9 for a 3.4% steal rate, while Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip, who averaged a 3.9 steals percentage, weren’t far behind with 5.3. This yielded the highest steal percentage in the nation at 13.8%.
Despite falling to Kansas in the conference championship, the Mountaineers had a fairly successful season last year, ending with a 26-9 overall record and 13-5 in the Big 12. The team outscored opponents, 78.5-66.7 for a +11.8 scoring margin. Looking ahead, West Virginia is the biggest threat to Kansas’ 13th conference title.
40.1%: Baylor’s offensive rebounding percentage last year, fourth nationwide. From Quincy Acy to Perry Jones to Cory Jefferson to Rico Gathers, the Baylor Bears are known for their bigs. Last year, Rico Gathers made Big 12 history by recording the most rebounds in a game with 28 against Huston-Tillotson. The previous record was 24 by Kansas State alum Michael Beasley in 2007.
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By the end of the season, Gathers had a nation-best offensive rebounding percentage (18.8%). Although Gathers is gone to the NFL, Baylor still has 6-foot-10 junior Johnathan Motley to crash the boards. Behind Gathers and Taurean Prince, who also graduated and taught the world what a rebound is, Motley had a 12.8 offensive rebounding percentage, indicating he is more than capable of picking up the slack.
Whether or not the Bears have other players on their roster to maintain the high rebounding efficiency remains to be seen, but getting those rebounds won’t hurt in helping to get more possessions.
2: TCU’s conference wins last season, the worst in the Big 12. While TCU has become relevant due to their football program, the Horned Frogs’ men’s basketball team has had no success in the conference. In the past four years, the team has only won eight Big 12 contests.
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In all fairness, though, the Big 12 is one of the top conferences in the country. Last year, the Big 12 had a +17.51 rating. This rating is computed by averaging the offensive and defensive efficiency of each team within the conference. The Atlantic Coast Conference was second with +16.71.
TCU has been picked to finish last (again) in the conference, but the Horned Frogs are confident in first-year head coach and TCU alum Jamie Dixon. The team also has postseason aspirations with senior guard Brandon Parrish being quoted as saying that TCU is “going to be an NCAA Tournament team this season.”
There are many early season predictions and goals that each team has for themselves, but the best part is watching it all play out. Kansas is going for a 13th Big 12 Conference regular season title, while TCU is just hoping for more conference wins. Both teams begin their 2016-2017 campaign when the season kicks off on Nov. 11, and Big 12 play begins on Dec. 30.
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