Long known as one of the best football conferences in the land, the Big 12 is making a strong case this season that its top teams are worthy of inclusion in any conversation about the best conferences that compete on the hardwood.
Just two teams from the Big 12 are ranked in the top 25 by both the coaches and the media, six conference teams fall in the top 50 of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) formula, which many college basketball experts believe is an even better indicator of where individual teams and conferences stand in comparison to one another.
Kansas has an RPI of two through Wednesday’s games. And in what might come as a surprise to many, Oklahoma (14-5, 5-2), which is not ranked, has an RP! of 16, largely based on one of the country’s top-10 strength-of-schedule ratings (No. 8 in the nation). Kansas comes in at No, 6 in strength of schedule.
RPI takes into account not only a team’s won-lost record but also its schedule strength as well as the season record and strength of schedule of its opponents and their opponents. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee also places a lot of weight on RPI in seeding the 68-team field for March Madness.
Four other Big 12 schools have RPIs that fall within the top 50 entering February, considered the home stretch of the college basketball season and the month in which the conference races really heat up. Kansas State (16-4, 5-2) ranks third in the Big 12, according to RPI, at 32, Oklahoma State (14-5, 4-3) is 37, Baylor (14-6, 5-2) is 39, and Iowa State, which suffered a heartbreaking two-point loss at Oklahoma State Wednesday night, is at No. 48 this week.
Based on RPI rating, there is a giant chasm at this stage of the season between the top six teams in the Big 12 and the bottom four.. After Iowa State, you have to drop down all the way to No. 106 in the RPI rankings to find the next Big 12 school, West Virginia. The rest of the conference looks like this: Texas (141), Texas Tech (198) and TCU (232).
Texas and West Virginia, along with TCU in its inaugural season in the Big 12, are both experiencing uncharacterically poor seasons (both at 9-11 overall and with a combined four wins in league play), which to some degree is reflected in their strength of schedule ratings. West Virginia ranks 22nd in SOS; Texas is No. 59 in that category.
In addition to Kansas and Oklahoma, Baylor, at No. 19 is the only other Big 12 team in the top 25, based on strength of schedule.
Comparing the Big 12 to the other major conferences on he basis of RPI, only the Big East, with seven, has more teams ranked in the top 50. The Big Ten and Big 12 both have six teams among the top 50. The ACC, the SEC and the Pac-12 all have four teams with RPIs under 50.
Here are some other telling facts that add to the Big 12′s argument of being among the country’s best in basketball and not just football:
- Two Big 12 teams rank in the top 20 nationally in active home court winning streaks: Kansas (second with 33 consecutive wins at home) and Iowa State (ninth at 18).
- In the most recent NCAA statistical rankings, Big 12 schools appeared in the top 25 in the team categories 18 times, and six players were ranked in the top 25 in individual lists.
- This is the sixth consecutive season that every team in the conference entered league play in January with a winning record.
- All but one team in the Big 12 have been ranked in the top 25 since 2009. That is a higher percentage (90 percent) than any other conference during that time.
- A giant indicator that the conference is well served for the future is in the individyal scoring and rebounding categories. Ten of the top 20 scorers in the Big 12 this season are freshman, sophomores or newcomers. Similarly, 11 of the top 20 rebounders are the same.
For more news, information and team and individual statistical breakdowns, visit Big12Sports.com.