So, How We Doin'? Texas

Dec 6, 2022

So I'm sitting at this desk today in my New Jersey hotel and I'm looking out the window. My room faces the back parking lot, and across the parking lot is small river. I'm looking out towards the river and I see this cat walking up the bank towards the hotel. Looks like your normal everyday house cat.

(This story goes nowhere so... you've been warned.)

Here's how my brain works. There's no way this cat could have crossed the river, and there's nothing on this side of the river besides an interstate and a bunch of hotels, so if this cat wandered away from somewhere, it's a long way from home. Odds are that this is just some undomesticated cat that lives near a river, but I'm thinking it's maybe someone's cat.

So I go searching online for lost cat websites. And I find one. I search by the zip code of this hotel and up comes a bunch of photos of missing cats. I compare a photo I took of the cat out my window (the cat had white "boots" for paws and white around the collar) to the photos of the cats missing from this zip code and none of them match.

I considered going down there to see if the cat had a collar or some tag or something, but I'm on the third floor and the cat was out of sight into the woods about 45 seconds after I first saw it. And then I thought through "even if I found it, what would I do, bring it into the hotel?" before deciding there was nothing I could do besides take a photo of the cat and see if there are any recent missing cats in this area.

I go back to the website and expand the search beyond 2022. And I find a photo of a similar cat, missing from this zip code 13 months ago. Remember, this story goes nowhere. Don't get your hopes up here.

The website has a way to email the owner your contact info. I considered not doing anything - 99% chance this isn't their cat and an email from some random guy in a hotel 13 months after their cat ran away would only provide them false hope - but I thought through what I'd want to know if I had a missing cat and "your cat might be living by this river over by this hotel" would be something I'd want to be told.

And besides, you can click on the map and get a location where the cat is missing from and that location is like .4 miles from here. So who knows? Maybe the cat has been living off the land for 13 months. This is the back of the hotel so maybe it walks up to that dumpster right down there and eats dinner every night.

I sent them my contact info. You can't send the people a note on this. It's just a system where you send them your cell number and it tells them that you might have information about their missing cat. It's then their option to contact you or not contact you.

It's possible they found their cat and forgot to take the ad down 13 months ago. It's possible they no longer live in the area. But in case their cat was still missing, they've now received my name and number to contact me. I took a 5 second video of the cat before it disappeared out of sight, so I can send them that and say "this your cat?" if they do contact me.

But even thinking through that scenario I feel bad. Say they contact me, I send them the video, and they say "that's Scruffy!". Well he's still not found. He was just spotted on a Monday near a hotel. He might have just been passing through while walking along the river. I might be sending this family on yet another long journey trying to find their cat. Maybe they've accepted that all of their hope was false hope and here I am bringing them actual hope again.

Or maybe they simply won't contact me because they found Scruffy. He was missing for a day, he came home, and they simply forgot to take the ad down. Scruffy is happy and healthy and living at home.

I'm going to choose to believe that one.

So, #2 Texas. Here's my thoughts on #2 Texas. I'll use KenPom for this.

Texas was #2 on KenPom going into the season and he still has them 2nd. They played #3 (at the time) Gonzaga and won 93-74 and they played #14 (at the time) Creighton and won 72-67. You start #2, you beat #3 and #14, you're gonna be close to #1. And Texas is closing in on Houston for the top spot (on KenPom as of this moment they trail Houston +28.91 to +28.61).

But here's the thing about their wins. Gonzaga lost to Purdue and Baylor and dropped to #9. And then tonight they needed a 10-0 run in the final three minutes to beat Kent State 73-66 in Spokane. So yeah, that Gonzaga win isn't as impressive as it once was.

And Creighton has fallen to #22 on KenPom. They lost to Arizona and Texas and then, yesterday, to Nebraska by 10. So that Creighton win isn't as impressive as it once was.

Can we learn anything from the other four Texas games this season? Not at all. They played UTEP, Houston Christian, Northern Arizona, and UTRGV.

So that puts them in the "they're probably awesome" category for me. Not "they're awesome." Simply "probably awesome". They haven't done anything to prove that they're not the #2 team in the country. It's just that the things they did to prove that they are the #2 team in the country have been devalued over the last week. Creighton and Gonzaga have now both lost three times.

If Houston and Texas are really the top two teams in the country, they should be proving exactly that over the month of December. Let's look at their schedules.

Houston plays KenPom #13 Alabama on Saturday and then KenPom #7 Virginia a week after that. So we're going to know very quickly if Houston is #1 good.

Texas plays KenPom #18 Illinois tomorrow (have you heard?) and then nobody better than #70 Stanford before conference season starts for them. It's all #228 Rice and #137 Louisiana for the rest of the month. Which means that this Illinois game is their final non-conference test. Either they're going to lose to Illinois or they're going to head into Big 12 play undefeated.

Let me take that a step further. Texas does not play a team ranked as high as Illinois (using KenPom) until they play Tennessee on January 28th. So if they win tomorrow, you might see something like "20-0 Texas, ranked #1 since mid-December, is set to take on Tennessee this Saturday..." in a couple months. Are we really going to see that?

That's how I often approach games like this. I think of them like the "percent chance they'll win" column on KenPom. He has this game as a 68% chance Texas wins and then for the rest of the non-conference their percentages are 99.97%, 99%, 89%, 97%, 99%. At some point they're going to lose one of those - why not Illinois?

I should explain that a little more. I'll keep using KenPom here...

KenPom's formula does a prediction for each game (for this one the formula spits out "Texas 73, Illinois 68"), and when you go down the column game-by-game for a team like Texas, you'll see a lot of W's. In fact, his formula currently has Texas winning every game except for that January 28th contest against Tennessee. So does that mean KenPom thinks Texas is going to go 30-1 this season before the Big 12 Tournament?

No. He has a prediction for Texas that says they'll go 25-6. People will always ask Ken Pomeroy why one column suggests 30 wins and 1 loss and the other column says 25-6 and he'll point to the percentages. Sure, the formula has Texas beating Illinois. But he has it as a 68% chance Texas wins and a 32% chance Illinois wins. And if 32% hits for this one (and 32% hits 32 out of every 100 times #math), then that will be a loss. Add up all those percentages and presto, the formula has Texas going 25-6.

So when I wonder aloud if Texas is really the type of team that will go undefeated in the non-conference, that's more or less what I'm saying. Texas played a 55/45 game with Gonzaga and won (at home). They played a 60/40 game with Creighton and won (at home). Now they're playing a 68/32 game with Illinois on a neutral court. They should win, but, you know those weather forecasts...

Think of it like three kids having a birthday party at the park on three consecutive weekends. The forecast for the first party was a 45% chance of rain but it didn't rain. Whew. The forecast for the second party was a 40% chance or rain but once again, no rain. Now there's a third party and this time there's a 32% chance of rain. That's still a 68% chance it won't rain but... at some point it's gonna rain, right?

Everyone plays a bad game at some point. And a lot of times, the bad game happens the first time they venture away from home. Texas has played one "semi-home" game (they played Northern Arizona at UTRGV's arena in southern Texas for some reason) and every other game at home. We've played twice in Vegas (against KenPom 7 and KenPom 8) and once at Maryland (KenPom 19). So we're easily more tested than they are.

I think I'm actually convincing myself to predict a win here. When I sat down to write, especially since I predicted a win over Maryland, I was going to predict an Illini loss. Easiest prediction ever. We're playing #2. No one will get angry when you predict a loss to #2 on a neutral court.

But looking at all of this, Texas is due for a moment like we had against Virginia (or Maryland). A close game where things go poorly in the final four minutes. It happens to everyone eventually. At some point it's gonna rain, right?

Illinois 74, Texas 73


Ellisrt1031 on December 6, 2022 @ 06:02 AM

Looking forward to this one. Don't take your weather forecasting thinking to the craps table because "the dice have no memory ". But understand the collective probability calculations to get to Texas' record. Our freshman guards vs their guards on paper is a difficult matchup. Think Mayer and RJ need big games to go along with normal good performances by Hawkins. Shannon, and Dainja.

Giovantischixstripz on December 6, 2022 @ 08:18 AM

Matthew Mayer coming out party for the W

Giovantischixstripz on December 6, 2022 @ 08:34 PM

Effing nailed this baby!

IlliniJoe81 on December 6, 2022 @ 10:52 AM

I've been publicly lamenting my in-person losing streak for a long time. I'm reading this right before I leave Maryland to go to MSG for the game.

Illinois 74, Texas 73 would right about 9.5 years of wrongs for me. God bless you for even suggesting it.

1978fan on December 6, 2022 @ 11:04 AM

Maybe, like the Cardinals in 2017, the Illini get a little help from a Rally Cat.

Go I L L!!!

The Olaf Rules on December 6, 2022 @ 04:03 PM

If the Illini can shoot over 35% from behind the arc, I like their chances.

BigSkyIllini on December 7, 2022 @ 01:03 AM

Went to the game tonight. You called it Robert, well done.

IlliniJoe81 on December 7, 2022 @ 02:14 AM


Douglascountyillinifan on December 7, 2022 @ 02:52 PM

Krikeys, Robert. Channeling your inner Mike Leach in honor of the Reliaquest Bowl matchup? Too funny, and why i like your stuff so much.

on July 3, 2023 @ 03:59 PM


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