Long Distance Jayhawk


2014-15 Big XII Preview, Part 2 – …Blood by longdistancejayhawk

Welcome to Part 2 of my insanely long Big XII X XII Conference preview. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, do yourself and favor and do that before taking a bite out of this bad boy. You’ll be glad you did since you won’t have any surprises when it comes to which teams are decidedly not being discussed in this part of the preview. Also, as noted in Part 1, I wrote this Friday and Saturday of last week, using numbers going into conference play. Obviously, I’m a little late getting this out there in the world, but I honestly thought we weren’t getting into the Big XII X XII till this week. Which is what happens every year since Kansas likes to have that one last non-conference game on the Saturday that everyone else starts. I should note this for next year, but I’ll totally forget.

And then there were five.

And then there were five.

Well, we’re all here. Are you rested? Did you get yourself a little snack? Maybe you actually did a little work in the downtime between the first piece going up and this one. Perhaps you didn’t. Maybe you spent some time pondering the Dion Waiters to OKC, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland trade1. Who knows what you did, but I’mm glad you’re here. There isn’t too much to say in terms of a preamble, so let’s get down to it.

PROJECTED STANDINGS AT THE END OF THE SEASON, PART 1 RECAP

  1. ?
  2. ??
  3. ???
  4. ????
  5. ?????
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Oklahoma State
  8. Texas Christian
  9. Kansas State
  10. Texas Tech

I think I did pretty good there! Not to toot my own horn or anything…I think the ballsiest pick was going against TCU, but as I mentioned in the last piece, I really don’t trust them to stay nearly as good in this death valley of a conference. I’d love to be proven wrong and see the Horned Frogs make a play at relevance, though.

Now, let’s get into the top half of the Big XII X XII. Quick note: I wrote these almost immediately after Part 1. So, I kind of lost a little steam. Or maybe these assessments are more streamlined thanks to me barfing up all the detritus I felt necessary in the first go around. Whatever the case, there’s a fully 1,000 fewer words here, so you can probably get through it without having to avoid your boss too much with minimizing the browser window.

#5 – Baylor Bears

Last Season’s Shame: 26-12 (9-9) – What could have been a terrible season following a 1-6 start to conference play, Scott Drew’s Bears ripped off an 8-3 run to cap league play en route to Big XII X XII Championship game and a Sweet Sixteen appearance against the Great Kamiskies of Wisconsin.
Emoji-nal State:
Baylor
Non-Conference Record:
11-1
Projected Conference Record: 10-8
Projected Total:
21-9

Ranked Game Record: 0-0
Baller Wins:
Either win over Texas A&M or Vanderbilt, since all it takes is one of those teams pulling off the impossible and toppling Kentucky for us to ascribe the transitive property of wins and declare that Baylor could, in fact, beat Kentucky.
Brutal Losses: 
They only lost to Illinois, so by default.

Baylor kicks off the top half of the Big XII X XII picks and ranking series. This might be the second biggest stretch of my picks since this is a Scott Drew team we’re talking about. As with a lot of these, I’m going with the ol’ gut because I don’t trust Baylor to be able to replicate their pre-conference success in such a hellaciously tough conference. A huge part of my trepidation is that they haven’t played anyone of note prior to taking on Oklahoma over the weekend. And they lost that one. So…yeah, maybe I’m starting to worry a bit about putting them over Oklahoma.

Ultimately, I decided that the talent and experience of this team would overcome the curse of Scott Drew. Rico Gathers, a junior forward, is averaging a double-double. Also, there are just two frosh getting appreciable burn for this squad, while there are a whopping 8 upperclassmen (6 are juniors). At a certain point, the experience of being there has to count for something. I can’t imagine that even Scott Drew’s penchant for not getting the most out of his team can overwhelm the amount of talent collected here.

#4 – West Virginia Mountaineers

Last Season’s Shame: 17-16 (9-9) – Did you see what the Mountaineers did last year? They went 8-5 in pre-conference and 9-9 in conference which was good enough to make me at least think about whether or not they deserved to be considered a fringe bubble team. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like that was at least a conversation in March of last year.
Emoji-nal State:
WVU
Non-Conference Record:
12-1
Projected Conference Record: 10-8
Projected Total:
22-9

Ranked Game Record: 1-0
Baller Wins:
At the time, UCONN looked like a solid team defending their title, even though they were in the middle of a free fall at the time. So, WVU gets to hold on to that #17 victory.
Brutal Losses: 
Losing to actual LSU, rather than faux-LSU TSU isn’t the best thing you can do to burnish the old tournament resume.

Jesus, have you seen or heard about what’s happening in Morgantown? This team is about buckets and buckets and buckets and the only way to get buckets and buckets and buckets is to shoot. Like a shit ton. I mean, like constantly. As of Friday when I pulled numbers, they had taken a mind boggling 844 shots, outstripping number two in the conference, TCU, by a staggering 132 shots YTD. That’s nuts! They’re taking nearly ten more shots per game than the second place team in the rest of the conference. Add in the fact that they’re forcing a league high 13.46 steals per game (about 3.5 more than second place OSU) and you realize just how fast this Mountaineer team truly is.

My big reservation though comes when you dig a little deeper. Right now, Huggins’ squad is 24th in PPG (78.9) which is great…except that it comes on a truly abysmal 42.9% FG% (good for 211th in the country). Oof. That’s not the most reassuring thing I’ve ever seen. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if West Virginia was going to run into a huge problem when the pace of the game inevitably slows down. What happens when they have to take say 45-50 shots as opposed to 60-65 they’re shooting right now? I know this is Huggins’ brand of basketball and that’s ultimately what helped me rank the Mountaineers so high2. Even if there’s a bad night or stretch, Huggy Bear’s  been there before. He can get the most out of these guys, good for a fourth place finish.

#3 – Texas Longhorns

Last Season’s Shame: 24-11 (11-7) – Look at that! Another Sith Lord team that makes it through the regular season well on the right side of .500 only to fizzle out in the first weekend of the tournament3!
Emoji-nal State:
Texas
Non-Conference Record:
11-2
Projected Conference Record: 13-5
Projected Total:
24-7

Ranked Game Record: 1-1
Baller Wins:
Just getting in on the “UCONN is a quality win” bandwagon as the Huskies were free fallin’ without a parachute into ignominy.
Brutal Losses:
Losing to Stanford sticks out because fuck the Cardinal.

Honestly, this seems like the biggest gamble on the whole list. Rick Barnes is a slippery coach to figure out and his Texas teams are no different. I’m not an expert on the Longhorns, but I feel like there are only two Rick Barnes teams: 1.) the upper-middle tier talented team that flies under the radar while racking up a solid number of wins and a tournament appearance; 2.) the ultra-for-Barnes-talented squad that flies a little too close to the sun before bursting into spectacular flame out. I feel like there’s no middle ground.

Which is why this could be the biggest gamble on my list. The Longhorns are looking really good so far. They’ve got a slew of wins on their resume and just two losses. One of those losses was to the buzzsaw of Kentucky, which they only lost by twelve and surely covered the spread4. That’s a win, right? And they’ve done it all without phenom guard Isaiah Taylor since the Iowa game back in November.

Which is why I was hesitant to put them this high. With Taylor coming back from injury, I worry that this will morph back into the type of Barnes team that doesn’t wait till the tournament to shit the bed. If that’s the case, backing them is going to look stupid. But I’m prepared to look stupid. This year’s Texas team eats glass like it is their fucking job and the talent up and down the roster fits what Sith Lord wants in a basketball team. Are they a threat to win it all? Of course not, but could they sneak into winning the Big XII X XII? Of course.

#2 – Kansas Jayhawks

Last Season’s Shame: 25-10 (14-4) – No need to rehash the dirty deets here. Not my favorite vintage to watch, though going down to Stanford the first weekend…yeah, that was pretty rough.
Emoji-nal State:
KU
Non-Conference Record:
11-2
Projected Conference Record: 15-3
Projected Total:
26-5

Ranked Game Record: 2-1
Baller Wins:
Michigan State by five to take the Orlando Classic crown for the side of righteousness.
Brutal Losses: 
Two way tie: Kentucky punching straight through our faces to the tune of 32 or Temple smoking us 25. Look, if you’re going to lose, you might as well make it look like you never bothered to lace up your dunks.

I think it’s obvious what I think about this year’s vintage at this point. Especially if you read every post. To give a quick Cliff’s Notes: this is one of the weirder teams of the Toupee era. We’re bursting with a good mixture of talent, experience, and skill…yet we can’t seem to string any of it together into a workable whole for more than 20 minutes a game. If that. For every game where we get a monster, career performance from one of our guys, someone else is playing like they forgot there was a game going on. Most of the time, our sheer talent wins out, getting us the brass ring almost in spite of ourselves. Other times, mercifully few this season so far, no one steps up and we end up getting embarrassed out of the building. Which is why we need to be ready to assume crash positions at any point during any game this season.

This is not, as currently humming, a team prepared to win a National Championship, let alone a clear and convincing win for our eleventh straight regular season.

Which is why I couldn’t put us at the top of the list. At least not alone.

Look, I’ve seen enough teams under the stewardship of Self overachieve to keep the conference title streak alive and so I can’t rule us out to continue the streak. I don’t have faith in this squad. Not yet. But I have never-ending faith in Toupee. He will pull this team together, mash it together into a competitor. It’s that faith and the belief that in nine weeks, we’ll be seeing the vision of the team that we’ve had flashes of so far this season. And that team will be rounding into form at the right time. But they’ll also be tying with Iowa fucking State.

#1 – Iowa State Cyclones

Last Season’s Shame: 28-8 (11-7) – Probably the best season in Ames in a while, especially since they didn’t have the Prophet to be the focal point of their intense self-esteem issues. They capped off a great regular season with their first Big XII X XII title since 2000 and a Sweet Sixteen exit to eventual champion UCONN.
Emoji-nal State:
ISU
Non-Conference Record:
10-2
Projected Conference Record: 15-3
Projected Total:
25-5

Ranked Game Record: 1-0
Baller Wins:
An 18-point win over then #18 Arkansas is only eclipsed by a 50-point ritual sacrifice of the Mississippi Valley State Sun Devils. I swear they’re D-I despite the insane logo.
Brutal Losses:
Probably losing to the Gamecocks a mere three days before the start of conference play.

Obviously, the Mayor of Ames has done this before: had an impressive start to the season, only to get into Big XII X XII play and watch life pump the breaks a little bit. I’m sure, given the talent on the roster and what they’ve been doing under Hoiberg, an 11-7 finish in Conference wasn’t an ideal way to end the season. Which is why I’m worried that this team is out for blood now.

Iowa State is like West Virginia, in that they’re scoring and scoring a lot. But they’re doing it considerably more efficiently. Currently, they’re in the top-20 nationally in both scoring (82.4 PPG, 14th in country) and percentage (49.4%, 16th in country). They’re doing what WVU is attempting, but doing it better. I fully expect both of those to cool off when we get into the thick of conference play. But I can’t imagine it falls off nearly enough for them to not win at least 80% of their league games. If there’s ever a year for us to lose our seat at the top of the Conference, this is the year. And if there’s a team to knock us off, I don’t trust Texas to do it, mostly because that wouldn’t fit with the Sith Lord’s narrative. No, Iowa State, this year, is the biggest threat to our streak. It would cap the story that started with Melvin Weatherwax and the Prophet dunk. This is how these things work. I’m not happy about it, but here we are.

Of course, at the risk of giving up my Jayhawk cred here, I’d like to point out that I do have us tying with the Cyclones. However, the only reason they’re slotted above us is because of the previously mentioned feeling that we’re going to drop both to these shits only to redeem ourselves in the Big XII X XII Tournament.

God, I hate this season already.

*

That’s it. I’m sure you’re all like 80% as exhausted reading this shit as I was writing it. I believe I did the best I could, at least in terms of ranking the teams if not their actual records. If you have a problem with any of them, come at me, bro. Now, if you’re interested in a little peek at how the sausage is made here is the spreadsheet with all my predictions on it (and if you’re really interested in like how I slaughtered the pig for the sausage making, here’s a scan of all the notes that ultimately grew into this twin behemoth). The first sheet is me literally picking every game for every team. A “1” means I think they win that game and a “0” should be pretty fucking obvious, but just in case…that’s a loss, Jimmy. Sheet 2 is conference standings at the end of the year, based on my picks for the individual games. Yes, for like the hundredth time, I think ISU is going to beat us twice in the regular season. It just feels like it’s coming back on us for reasons I can’t quite understand. Finally, I threw in a conference tourney bracket that I filled out, mostly to make me feel better about picking against us. Nothing quite like the tantalizing possibility of embarassing Weatherwax at what should be his team’s crowning glory, ammirite?

Ok, that’s it. For making it through about 6,300 words, you deserve a medal. I don’t have any handy, so rain check? Now get out of here. I’m sure you all have families and shit you need to hug and feign affection for.

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Okay, confession…I wrote that intro graph after I got home from the Mavs/Nets game and wanted to talk about something timely. You know, because the temporal physics of the internet allow me to write things in the past, update them, then post them in the future. OoOoOoOoO! What a world! Anyway, I have some thoughts on the trade (shocker!) that I’d love to get into, but I’ll save that for another time. Just know that I find it insane that the Cavs would want to ship out one chucking head case for another in Smith (Andrew, your email was spot on in terms of why this trade is insane). Are they really that hard up for scoring with LeBron out that they want to bring in another guy to clash with Kyrie? What are the chances they end up waiving the guy just because? Seriously, I don’t totally understand it from the Cavs side. From the Knicks side, sure. Just not sure what Cleveland hopes to gain here. Back

2 – And apparently the hottest start for the Mountaineers since like 1981, according to Seth Greenburg during halftime of the Notre Dame-North Carolina game. That’s kind of shocking, since I figured they’d had at least a few good seasons during the Huggy Bear reign. Back

3 – Yes, I know, I know…but come on! At least we make it to the second weekend sometimes. Back

4 – Is it possible for us to create a new set of rules for the 2014-15 Kentucky team? Can we only count wins for them if they cover the spread? I mean, they’ve got to be getting like 18-plus per game, so at least that would make this season sort of competitive. Back

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[…] – Speaking of the Sooners, I might have made a terrible mistake putting them in sixth in the preview. Mike Silverman on Twitter was quick to point this out. Between beating Baylor by ten and […]

Pingback by Know Your Enemy: Baylor Bears | Long Distance Jayhawk

Marcus Smart has left some sort of disgusting residue on OSU because I still hate them with a burning fire, even now that the primary object of my hate there is gone. It’s residual hate. That’s how much I hate him. I say that to say this: There’s no rational reason for me to hate OSU more than Iowa State, but at this moment in time, I do. But only just barely. Iowa State with their racism and death threats (yes, I ascribe the words of one fuckwit to the entire school, bitches should know when they are representing) and their INCESSANT GODDAMN BOOING are a school and a fan base that I loathe. (I think I hate the fans more than the team themselves, which is opposite of how I feel about the Cowboys. Fucking Keiton Page finally graduates and now, somehow, even though he’s not even dead yet, he’s been reincarnated as Phil Forte. Little white dudes, three pointers, kryptonite, you know the narrative there. He’s going to torch us.) Anyway the point is, if conference season goes as you predict, Iowa State may jump OSU on my ‘most hated Big 12 rival’ list. I watched some of their game against the Cowboys last night and I have to say although they look pretty good, they didn’t strike me as a threat to win the league. I’m more afraid of Texas, honestly, but that may be because they are orange, and I hate orange teams.

Incidentally in case you’re curious, K-State is down somewhere in the middle of the hated rival list. I’m pretty indifferent about them.

Comment by Josh Dutcher

I made myself curious and decided to figure it out. Here’s my Big 12 hate list in order. It’s based on a mixture of fan and player behavior, threat to us in basketball, and pure subjective opinion. Football doesn’t really play into it since our program is a joke anyway. K-State showed up a little higher than I thought, but they’re below the line that divides actual active dislike vs “meh”. (That line doesn’t always sit between 3 and 4.)

1 Oklahoma State
2 Iowa State
3 Texas
——– (the “Meh” line)
4 Kansas State
5 Baylor
——– (the “no particular dislike” line)
6 Oklahoma
7 West Virginia
8 TCU
9 Texas Tech

Comment by Josh Dutcher




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