Has an 8-10 Big 12 Record Historically Been Enough for the Dance?

There is so much noise and so many different things to look at this time of year, but I thought it would be interesting to look back on similar Big 12 teams as Oklahoma State since the league went to 18 games almost a decade ago. We all thought 8-10 all along would get OSU into March Madness, but it’s not looking great right now. So the question at hand is has 8-10 (or even 9-9) historically gotten you into the NCAA Tournament?

And if so, then what did those nonconference schedules look like? Because apparently nonconference schedule strength is determinant of exactly how good you are these days.

OSU is a fascinating case study this year, and obviously all seasons are created differently, but let’s take a look and see if there is historical precedent for 8-10 Big 12 teams getting into the NCAA Tournament.

Year Team Record RPI Noncon SOS Dancing?
2013 Baylor 9-9 70 46 No
2014 West Virginia 9-9 88 218 No
2014 Oklahoma State 8-10 45 115 Yes
2015 Kansas State 8-10 100 160 No
2015 Oklahoma State 8-10 49 168 Yes
2015 Texas 8-10 42 88 Yes
2017 Kansas State 8-10 57 236 Yes
2018 Oklahoma State 8-10 87 301 ?
2018 Baylor 8-10 59 97 ?
2018 Texas 8-10 50 110 ?
2018 Oklahoma 8-10 36 156 ?

So this is not good on the outset. Oklahoma State’s low RPI and awful nonconference strength of schedule matches with other 8-10 or 9-9 teams in the Big 12 that have missed the Big Dance.

But it’s important to remember a few things here (or at least I think it is). That 2013 Baylor team was 2-11 against top 50 RPI teams. This OSU team is 5-10. Baylor that year nabbed four of its nine Big 12 wins against TCU and Texas Tech. Both of those teams had a RPI of worse than 200. Not all conference wins are created equal. Baylor had two Quadrant 1/2 wins in the Big 12 that year (more on the quadrant Ws/Ls here). OSU has seven this year.

Something similar happened to West Virginia in 2014. They were 5-13 in Quadrant 1/2 games. Oklahoma State is 9-13 this year. Seems like that should matter, but it probably won’t.

Kansas State in 2015 went 15-17 overall and 2-5 in Quadrant 3 with losses to Long Beach State, Texas Southern, twice to TCU and Texas Tech. OSU is 1-0 in Quadrant 3 games this year.

While we’re on the topic, two things I don’t really understand — RPI and strength of schedule. All of this #data and information makes the CFP seem easy to understand.

Here’s a look at Oklahoma State’s nonconference schedule this year.

RPI Site Opponent Result
10 Home Wichita State L
24 Neutral Texas A&M L
30 Away Arkansas L
44 Neutral Florida State W
68 Home Tulsa W
169 Home Austin Peay W
210 Neutral Pittsburgh W
220 Home Texas-Rio Grande Valley W
245 Home Oral Roberts W
313 Home Pepperdine W
326 Home Charlotte W
346 Home Houston Baptist W
349 Home Mississippi Valley State W

And here’s Oklahoma’s.

RPI Site Opponent Result
10 Away Wichita State W
30 Neutral Arkansas L
35 Neutral USC W
60 Away Alabama L
67 Neutral Oregon W
111 Home Ball State W
166 Home Northwestern W
189 Home Texas-San Antonio W
222 Home North Texas W
281 Home Nebraska Omaha W
285 Neutral Portland W
342 Home Northwestern State W

It’s pretty much the same schedule! And yet Oklahoma State’s strength of schedule is 301 and OU’s is 156 … and that’s going to be what gets OU into the Tournament. What in the world am I missing here? OSU’s top five games are all more difficult than OU’s. So that means Pitt stinking and OU scheduling Ball State instead of ORU jumps OU 150 spots in SOS? Where are we at in society?!

There has to be some recognition that when you get below the top 200 or 250 or whatever that none of those rankings matter. OSU played one more nonconference game than OU did, and it was against a terrible team, which is reflected in their nonconference SOS. There is not a world that exists in which they should be punished for this.

I don’t get fired up about much these days, but OU’s nonconference SOS being 150 spots better than OSU’s when they’ve basically played the same teams has me going.

One more note on the RPI, a term we like to toss around so casually this time of year even though most of us have no clue what it means. It’s like the term “greek yogurt” or “street tacos,” sounds cool in conversation, then ask somebody to explain it. Anyway, you can read more about RPI here, but I’ll leave you with this.

This entire exercise seems like the opposite of the College Football Playoffs, where you’re forced to put your best wins on the table and hope they stack up. Here those don’t even matter because a team you beat like a drum in December can’t stop losing in their own conference. This is at least part of RPI — what did the teams you played do against other teams? That’s ludicrous, especially considering all of OSU’s big-time wins against top teams.