After successfully navigating the daunting gauntlet of games versus A&M, at OSU, at Kansas, vs Missouri, and at A&M, the University of Texas men's basketball team now has a reasonable chance to do something special: run the conference table to finish a perfect 16-0 in Big 12 play. It's only been done one time in league history, in 2001-02, by the Kansas Jayhawks squad anchored by Drew Gooden, Kirk Heinrich, and Nick Collison. That Jayhawks squad wound up losing the in the Big 12 Tournament finals to Oklahoma, but they earned a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region of the 2002 NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Final Four before falling to the title-winning Maryland Terrapins.
Fast forward nine years and many are wondering whether Texas, now at 7-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country, has a shot to become the second Big 12 team to get to 16-0. What are the odds that they pull it off? And who presents the toughest challenges along the way?
The Odds of Getting to 16-0
First, let's take a sober asseessment of Texas' chances to get there. Although the recent five-game stretch provides ample reason to be excited, objectively the odds still aren't in Texas' favor. A look at Ken Pomeroy's projections reveals that it's more likely than not that Texas fails to win all 9 remaining conference games.
To arrive at the percentage chance Texas wins out, we first determine the likelihood that Texas will win each individual game remaining on the schedule and then multiply those percentages together. (It's the same as determining the odds of flipping a coin on heads two times in a row. The odds of a heads on either flip is 0.5. Multiplied together, 0.5 x 0.5 = 0.25. You have a 25% chance of flipping heads twice in a row.)
Pomeroy's projections assign the odds of a Texas victory in each remaining game in a range between 78% (at Nebraska) and 99% (home versus Texas Tech). In the chart below, each remaining opponent is listed along with their KenPom ranking, the projected score, and the odds of a Texas victory.
|Sat Feb 5||143 Texas Tech||W, 88-60||99%||Home|
|Wed Feb 9||121 Oklahoma||W, 71-57||93%||Away|
|Sat Feb 12||57 Baylor||W, 72-57||94%||Home|
|Wed Feb 16||77 Oklahoma St||W, 73-55||96%||Home|
|Sat Feb 19||44 Nebraska||W, 62-56||78%||Away|
|Tue Feb 22||75 Iowa St||W, 78-59||96%||Home|
|Sat Feb 26||51 Colorado||W, 76-67||80%||Away|
|Mon Feb 28||46 Kansas St||W, 74-59||93%||Home|
|Sat Mar 5||57 Baylor||W, 68-60||82%||Away|
|Odds of 16-0||38.4%|
With no ranked opponents left on the schedule, the odds of Texas winning any one game are excellent, but with nine remaining on the schedule, the odds of Texas winning them all remain less than 50 percent. Assuming the individual game odds remain static, should Texas beat Tech and OU the odds will improve to 41%, and if they emerge from the game in Lincoln still unscathed, the chances of getting to 16-0 rise to 59%.
The Toughest Remaining Tests
Going strictly by the ratings, Texas' trip to Lincoln provides the stiffest test left on the schedule, and while the success Doc Sadler has had -- particularly at home -- shouldn't be dismissed, from a match up perspective the Longhorns' battle with the Huskers does not look like the most challenging.
That would be Baylor, who lest we forget owns a three-game winning streak over the Longhorns. Now, granted, the Bears (14-7, 4-4) have been pretty pathetic this season, losing last night at No. 121 Oklahoma and owning just two wins over KenPom Top 100 teams (home wins over No. 77 Oklahoma St and No. 51 Colorado). But Baylor is basically playing without a coach, or at least one whose only discernible skill seems to be recruiting. (Perhaps a bit soon for the Jim Calhoun comparisons.) Scott Drew has shown no ability to develop teams, but there's no questioning that the talent is there, and if nothing else, the experience of a thirty-game season can bring a team along. We saw it with Baylor in 2008-09, when they finally pulled it together long enough nearly to run through the Big 12 Tournament.
And with the talent on hand in Waco this year, a similar late-season awakening seems equally plausible. The Bears have two scoring guards in senior guards LaceDarius Dunn and A.J. Walton, both of whom are phenomenally athletic. And both junior Quincy Acy and freshman Perry Jones are explosive big men with size and athleticism. In short, up and down the roster, Baylor is the one remaining opponent who will have Texas out-athleted. They have good size and length, they can run, and they can jump out the gym. They aren't playing very good basketball, but it's not for a lack of talent and athleticism.
There's a reason Texas is a heavy favorite against the Bears (whether in Austin or Waco), but when you look at the players Baylor has it's not hard to imagine why that group, if it put everything together for one night, could crack the Texas defense and pick up a win.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now, Texas will look to take care of business on Saturday at home against Texas Tech, and then on Wednesday in Norman, where the Soooners have quietly won four straight, including a victory over the Bears.
All told, there's a reason that despite 14 seasons filled with some truly great Big 12 teams, just one has managed to win all 16 league games. The odds are Texas won't make it unscathed either, but that we're able to have the conversation in February is a whole heck of a lot of fun.