The Red Raiders have been off the last week but will soon begin the grind of Big 12 play. An 11-1 start has put the team in position to move into the NCAA tournament picture by season’s end. Let’s take a closer look at exactly where they stand heading into Friday’s game at Iowa State.
Strength of Schedule
The numbers here don’t look pretty so far. ESPN had the Red Raiders’ schedule ranked 315th late Tuesday night. However, KenPom.com ranked it 350th out of 351 teams, so there’s work to do. Playing each team twice in the Big 12 will boost these rankings, but if it comes to splitting hairs in March, this aspect of the resume will hurt.
Another bad loss by the Longhorns has effectively eliminated them from this conversation. Otherwise, the league is still loaded with solid teams. ESPN’s adjusted scoring margin has eight teams from this conference ranked in the top 20 nationally. KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin also lists all eight of those teams in its top 40 nationally.
Peaks and Valleys
No change here. The Richmond win currently looks the best, but any Big 12 win will take its place. If Auburn can put together a decent SEC finish, that loss won’t look as bad.
3 Big 12 Games That Matter
Every conference game that the Red Raiders play is obviously important. Here, we’ll look around the league at other games over the next week that will impact the final standings and NCAA tournament outlook.
West Virginia @ Oklahoma State
Barring disaster, West Virginia were always going to be in the top half of the conference. Oklahoma State have surprised early and are currently projected to make the Big Dance. The Cowboys look to be among Tech’s main competitors and a win here would be huge for them. The Red Raiders benefit more from a Mountaineer win.
Oklahoma @ TCU
Each of these teams opens conference play against a team ranked in the top 5 nationally, making this matchup even more important. TCU have shocked everyone so far this season and OU are still trying to find their identity. Early impressions will be made in this one, and both teams could definitely use a win here.
Iowa State @ Baylor
Hopefully, Iowa State will be looking to avoid an 0-2 start here. Regardless, this game will test both teams and give a better idea of the conference hierarchy. It’s hard to tell which result benefits Tech most at this point, but in the long run these teams will represent a big part of the conference’s national perception.
In some ways, the season starts Friday in Iowa. With 18 conference games, the Red Raiders will have plenty of opportunities to impress the national media and move up projection boards. Short of running the table, there’s no perfect formula for making the NCAA tournament, but the right combination of road wins, upsets and overall solid play should be enough.