Four teams in men's college basketball remain unbeaten moving into the second half of the 2011-12 season, and two of the four reside in the Big 12. Missouri and Baylor both own perfect 13-0 records as conference play is set to begin.
Just a week ago, there were six unbeaten teams, but Indiana and Louisville suffered their first losses in their respective conference openers. Indiana's loss was on the road at Michigan State, but Louisville went down to defeat for the first time in the new season at home, a three-point loss to Georgetown. This underscores an undeniable fact in college sports: Winning games against conference opponents is generally a much more difficult task than it is the opening two months, when most all of the games are contested at home against nonconference, largely overmatched foes.
The Big 12 conference season tips off tonight, with No. 5 Baylor putting its perfect record on the line, hosting 9-3 Texas A&M. And Tuesday night, undefeated Missouri, ranked sixth in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, goes against 10-2 Oklahoma at home in Columbia. And it gets even tougher from there, Over the next seven days, both the Bears and Tigers have to take their games on the road against a 10-1 Kansas State team that would also be undefeated except for a five-point double-overtime loss to West Virginia. The Mountaineers will be joining the Big 12, perhaps as early as next season.
This is the time of year, as they say, when the going gets tough and the tough get going. The Big 12 had the nation's best record against nationally ranked opponents in the 2011-12 nonconference season and the second-best overall winning percentage. Teams from the Big 12 also had the second-fewest losses over the first two months of the season.
Playing at home has been a huge advantage for Big 12 teams thus far in the season. In 77 true home games, only four teams dropped a game at home in nonconference play (Iowa State, Kansas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State).
The Big 12 ranked third among the six major conferences in games played against teams from any of the six other leagues:
Big Ten - 20-16 (.556)
SEC - 28-23 (.549)
Big 12 - 20-17 (.541)
Big East - 24-23 (.511)
ACC - 21-25 (.457)
Pac-12 - 10-19 (.345)
A few other noteworthy numbers as Big 12 teams head into conference play:
2 - Only two Big 12 teams (Texas Tech and Oklahoma State) have winning percentages below .750. Only one other conference can make this claim.
3 - Where the Big 12 ranks in conference RPI so far this season.
9 - National ranking for Texas Tech in team field-goal percentage (.419). Despite their high shooting percentage, the Red Raiders are ninth in the conference standings with a 7-5 record.
10.4 - Rebounding margin by Oklahoma vs. the Sooners' 12 nonconference opponents, ranking OU No. 7 nationally in that category.
13 - The 13-0 starts by Baylor and Missouri is only the second time in Big 12 history and second time in three years (Texas 17-0, Kansas 14-0 in 2009-10) that two teams have begun the season with perfect records at this point in the season.
19.3 - Texas' senior guard J'Covan Brown leads the Big 12 in scoring with an average of 19.3 points per game.
24.3 - Scoring margin by Missouri in its 13 wins heading into its Big 12 opener vs. Oklahoma. All but five of the Tigers' wins have been in Columbia (one away and four on a neutral floor).
51.7 - Field goal for Missouri in its 13 wins, the best in the country.
54.4 - Three-point field-goal percentage by senior guard Kim English of Missouri (37 of 68), No, 1 in the Big 12 and tops in the country. Sophomore Brady Heslip of Baylor ranks ninth nationally, hitting 49.4 percent of his three-point shots.
86.2 - Scoring average for Missouri, the best in the Big 12 and third nationally.
96.7 - Home winning percentage of Big 12 teams (295-10) since the start of the 2009-10 season.
100 - Total number of nonconference wins by Big 12 teams (100-26), giving the conference the country's second-best winning percentage (.794).
For more information:
Big 12 Conference official website
More sports coverage for the Missouri Tigers