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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After Battle Report: Baylor Bears by longdistancejayhawk

Monday was something of a hoops overdose for yours truly. I ran a shit ton of errands, went for a run, cooked food for the week, the usual things I do on a gifted day off. But amidst all of it, I managed to get in about eight hours of basketball. It really helps when you accidentally wake up at 1:00pm with just enough time to eat breakfast and watch the first half of the Nets/Knicks game. Still, by the time our game rolled around, I was a little out of it.

But that didn’t stop me from getting up for the game. Which is more than I can say for our perimeter defense in the first half. Seriously, when is Brady Heslip going to fucking graduate? He’s basically Baylor’s Keiton Page: the guy that burns you pretty much anywhere beyond the arc about the same time you realize that he’s somehow still playing college ball. Dude’s got to be fucking 35 by now.

Final Score: Baylor 68-78 Kansas

The Good: On offense, what I saw Monday was a continuation of what we saw against Oklahoma State, especially in the first half. We shot 57.5% from the floor, hitting 40% of treys. There was movement on offense that we weren’t really all that into in the first part of the season. Which is weird because moving the ball and getting the good, open look is an easy way to win basketball games. I’m not a rocket surgeon over here, but it seems to make sense to me. Throw in the fact that three of five starters were in double figures and I was, more or less happy with the way we played on the offensive end of the court.

Now, while we were doing that, I also felt that we had something that I don’t remember having in about four seasons. Confidence. We looked like a team that knew what we were supposed to be doing1. It reminded me a little bit of the confidence that you could just see in the 2007-08 vintage. Now, don’t misread that. This year’s vintage is nowhere near that level. At all. But for this one game, they looked a little bit more like that team than the befuddled team we were treated to early in the season. Maybe we’re starting to click2, maybe it was an aberration. Just know that, if you guys play like that every time you touch the court, you could make Jayhawk Nation proud.

Not to give it away, but Selden’s hustle play was more than just a SC Top Ten play. It was the kind of hustle, the kind of heart play that you want to see from your team. It shows that they give a shit about playing ball and winning. There’s something about a guy breaking the hip of the geriatric in the third row that makes your heart warm. Am I right or am I right?

The Bad: Well, it wouldn’t be a game involving a medium speed white guy with thick calves if motherfucker wasn’t torching us from distance. If used to be the oft-derided Keiton Page. Will Sprdaling is in that zone, too. But Brady fucking Heslip. WHY ARE YOU STILL AROUND? FUCKING GRADUATE ALREADY! The minute that little shit checked into the game, I felt the way I do when I ride a rollercoaster right before the first drop. You know, when your stomach drops out and you get that feeling like you’re either going to barf or fear blackout. Yeah, that’s the fucking feeling I felt as he stepped on to the court. And he didn’t fail me, hitting a three like five seconds after he came on.

I fucking hate rollercoasters.

What I’ve never understood about guys like Heslip is why, in Toupee’s defensive minded coaching style, we leave those fuckers open all the time. It’s maddening to see them stand aimlessly on the wing as the play evolves away from them, knowing that they’re just waiting to slide to the fucking corner. Once there, their man backs off on help to give up the open look. It happens so fucking much that it’s a constant source of consternation. I don’t understand why we can’t make an adjustment to try and limit the times those fuckers get open to hit the three. I think it was Portland I read about earlier this year3 that decided to try and limit the three ball in those situations. Why don’t we have game by game adjustments to try something like that in these situations?

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: On the topic of energy,

“I thought even though our defense wasn’t great tonight, it was nice to have energy keying our run there, because we had so many opportunities.”

See? Even Toupee can see the energy of this team. Though, I’ll be the first to admit I might have misread his quote.

JCTD Award: Maple had a great game on Monday, as did Gentleman Tailor, going for 17 and 18 respectively. I love to see our talented frosh have a great outing and doubly love seeing Ellis do the same. Lionslayer also looked solid, doing his best to prove that lions are like 50x more badass than bears. But there’s only one person who gets the trophy for this one. And I think we can all agree…

WAYNE FUCKING SELDEN! WHAT THE FUCKING SHIT FUCK?!?! WHAT A CATCH! WHAT A SAVE! WHAT A FUCKING BONER I HAD I NEARLY BROKE MY MACBOOK AIR WITH EXCITEMENT! SO WHAT IF A CERTAIN CBS ANNOUNCER WHO HATES ANYTHING NOT FUNDED BY T. BOONE PICKENS THOUGHT YOU WERE A FOOT OUT OF BOUNDS BECAUSE4 BECAUSE THAT WAS FUCKING HUSTLE! THAT WAS FUCKING HEART! THAT WAS THE BEST THING I’VE SEEN ALL YEAR! MAYBE IN THE LAST TWO YEARS5! I MEAN, MY GOD…WHAT A PLAY!

Okay, I think I blacked out there. Hopefully, I didn’t say anything too embarrassing there.

Looking Ahead: Saturday brings a day I’ve been dreading since the start of the season. I know we worked TCU last year in the second meeting after shitting the bed before we even got to Ft. Worth before the first6. I know I shouldn’t be worried because it isn’t like Daniel Meyer is an intimidating place to play, despite whatever the announcers are going to say to the contrary7. It isn’t like Trent Johnson could coach his way out of a paper bag. In fact, he doesn’t really have to since he has assumed the Doc Sadler position of coach least like to get fired just because he’s at a football school and no one gives a shit about basketball8. Part of me wonders how you get up in the morning when you’re just a slog of mediocrity that couldn’t recruit a two-star recruit if you offered them a Maybach, but I guess there’s something to be said for getting a paycheck.

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Not that we always actually looked like we knew what we were doing, just that there was an air about the team. I know that it isn’t something that can be quantified really, but we just have this look of calm these days that oozes an understated swagger. This should be counterpointed with the supreme overconfidence of the 2010-11 team that brawled with Richmond in a tournament game and dished out Philadelphia handshakes to the back of unsuspecting Cal players’ dome pieces. Because that kind of confidence leaves you open to getting smoked by a Mountain Dew-jacked up VCU team hellbent on proving that rotations are underused in defense and 50 rotations per defensive set is a great way to win basketball games. Back

2 – I don’t know if this is completely the fault of the one-and-done rule because we only lost one frosh from last season in Benji McDunks. But it does open up a very real question about where we’re going from here. One reason that I think played a big role in the discombobulation of the early going is that we were starting freshman, transfers and bench players from the previous season (and despite my love of Tharpapalooza, there was a reason the Prophet was handling PG duties last season). Now, with the explosion of Lionslayer and the continued development of Maple Jordan, we’re probably going to be rebuilding again next season. The situation will get more dire should the Gentleman Tailor continue to play as well as he has and also goes out. It really sucks that, year after year, guys are forced into coming to one year of school, then go to the NBA. It has a deleterious effect on NCAA ball, not because of star power and scoring, but because we’re basically getting guys for one year, watching them struggle to adapt to the team, then moving on. Only for the cycle to repeat. Which is why I was heartened by the news late last week that the NCAA is considering kowtowing to the power conferences and allowing them to have autonomy. I’ve written about it in the past, but I think the best thing would be to move to a modified baseball system for hoops. Either go out of high school or take two years of college. I think that’s a real proposition if the power conferences can get autonomy from the governing body, as we will be able to abandon the pretense of amateurism eventually and just make the power hoops landscape a farm/feeder system to the pros. Real talk, no one really wants to see amateurs play. As Andrew put it very eloquently, “Do you want to watch the intramural team from Hash go toe-to-toe with the kids from artsy dorm at Iowa State or do you want to watch transcendentally talented athletes with +40″ verticals throw down windmills in traffic? I JUST WANT TO BE ENTERTAINED, GODDAMNIT!” Truer words have never been spoken9. Back

3 – There was a Zach Lowe piece on Grantland talking about an NBA team that actually focused on taking away the high efficiency shots by not having the corner shooter’s man go in on help and using the big to collapse on help, forcing midrange jumpers. I don’t know that it is a sustainable model of defense for the long haul, but why wouldn’t you experiement with a fast, defensive guard on the shooter and have him stay on him like glue? It seems like forcing 16-footers would be way better than giving up wide open treys to dead eye dick over there. Back

4 – As about a million tweeted at Doug Gottlieb, the inveterate homer10, that make off the save was worth the 14 point edge we had at the time. Because, you know, Kansas couldn’t do anything right, even if they were saving Eddie Sutton’s well-pickled corpse from a napalm fire in Gallagher-Iba while helping the mother of the future messiah of OSU basketball give birth l in Bizzarro Gottlieb World. Back

5 – Yeah, that might be overstating it, since Benji’s trey on the screen like ’08 to force OT with Iowa State last year was more memorable, only because of the stakes. Though, it’s got some tough competition between everything Elijah did in the second ISU game and the time he underhand double ax handled that Michigan player last year. Back

6 – I always wondered if there’s an untold story about that game where the night before we left Larry, Toupee literally shit the bed, thought to himself “this isn’t good…” and never told anyone because he’d rather let the team look like chumps than admit to the omen sitting on his 10,000 thread count silk sheets. Back

7 – Also, steel yourself for the fact that all we’re going to hear about in this one is how poorly we played in the same fixture last year. God, it’s going to be brutal. Back

8 – Rick Barnes probably deserves this, but he’s managed to be successful often enough that I think he has bought more time on his own job performance than if he’d been futilely toiling in the now-vacated shadow of Mack Brown. Back

9 – I realized after hammering out that tirade that I could easily be considered a candidate for Mark Titus’ Dick’s Degrees of Separation. You know, because 400 words about watching increasingly new teams year after year and power conference autonomy have a lot to do with whatever the original footnote was interrupting. Back

10 – Shut up, I know it’s the pot calling the kettle black here. But, I mean…come on, dude. You’re on national TV! I don’t expect you to be unbiased, but would it kill you to answer the studio host’s question about how Kansas played in the first half before you make it about OSU? Fucking shit, man, not even I’m that bad. I at least make a back handed compliment about the other team. Back



Know Your Enemy: Baylor Cubs by longdistancejayhawk
Is it that far fetched that tonight I could be ordering this shirt? Am I perhaps putting the cart before the horse?

Is it that far fetched that tonight I could be ordering this shirt? Am I perhaps putting the cart before the horse?

This is it, chummies and chummettes. We’ve come so far since that first game in mid-November. Hell, I can’t believe that the regular season is already over and we’re looking at the final game tonight. Where did the time go? I feel like there should be another five games. Fuck it, there should be another ten games. I wish the season would last forever. And what a season it’s been so far1. We started the season playing some of the best ball I’ve ever seen, then we played some of the worst. And that’s before we get to the skid. We managed to win a shit ton of games in a row, despite the fact that we never seemed, in conference, to look like the world-beaters we were for huge chunks of the non-conference and we still managed to win a ton of games. Then, of course, we lost three straight, one that I’m okay with and two others that defied everything I believe about my favorite team.

Then, shockingly we not only came out of that slump but managed to look like we knew how to play hoops. And we looked like we were having fun doing it. The last two games, we’ve looked absolutely astounding as we tore apart Texas, TCU, WVU, and finally Tech. This is a team that I have more faith in than I did a month ago.

So, on this last day of the regular season, we’re still locked in a battle for our 9ISASI92. Doubtless some of you are reading this between the K-State/OSU game and our game at Baylor. Maybe you know what we’re looking at, in terms of what kind of work we have to do today. But I’m writing this prior to that. As it stands right now, K-State is still tied with us for a share of the title. Their match-up with Oklahoma State is important for both teams. K-State is playing for at least a share of the title. Oklahoma State is playing for staying in third place and not ending up tied with Oklahoma (who need a win to force that issue). Both of these teams have been fun to watch, which is great that it’s the appetizer for a day of Big XII X XII action.

And that leaves us. We have to play Baylor. Right now, I would take any team other than Baylor. We have pretty much everything to lose and Baylor has everything to gain. We couldn’t be in a tighter spot.

Luckily, we’re fucking Kansas. I think we’ve got this one3.

Official Name: Baylor University
Nickname:
Da Bears
Derisive Nickname:
Da Cubs4

Thank god I'll never have to see this human shitstain again. What? He's a junior? Who is this guy? Keiton FUCKING Page?

Thank god I’ll never have to see this human shitstain again. What? He’s a junior? Who is this guy? Keiton FUCKING Page?

Signature Win: They followed their loss to God’s Team up immediately with one of their weird mid-season D-II games. Naturally, they cruised to a 107-38 massacre that more resembles an old-school Globetrotter beatdown of the Generals than a serious college hoops game. Trust me, it’s taking all my willpower not to make that their signature win in the interim since we last met. However, I’m a man of scrupples and I wouldn’t want to impune the good names of any player on…HSIM…what the fuck does that even mean? ESPN, you can’t even tell me the team name? Ah, here we go Hardin-Simmins. I guess the Topeka YMCA was booked that day. Since we played them early in conference play, they’ve beaten WVU (twice) and Texas Tech once. However, easily their biggest win was a ten point edging at home over Oklahoma State. Technically, OSU was slumping at the time, but still a win over a tournament bound bad ass is nothing to sneeze at. The fact that they were able to push OSU to an OT in a game they ultimately lost, shows me that beating the Cowboys wasn’t an aberation. Maybe they’re just well suited to play each other, but I’m going to give the benifit of the doubt to the Cubbies in this case.

Key Players: Easy question: Pierre Jackson and Isaiah Austin. Pierre Jackson’s an interesting case because I can’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have been one of the studs of the conference had he managed to get to Baylor straight out of high school instead of spending time in junior college. Would playing against the likes of Collins/Taylor for two extra years have made him considerably better? I think yes. While his assists per game only jumped up one a game, his points jumped just over five per game. Sure, he probably wouldn’t have been averaging 13.1 his Freshman campaign, but I feel like he’d be rated way higher if he’d had three years of solid service on Baylor. As it stands, he’s their most prolific scorer, the kind of guy you’re perpetually worried about lighting you up in a do-or-die game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he manages to have a career game in his Senior Night and go out of his way to will Baylor to the tournament.

Like a rubber band man. He's in equal measure creepy and eye-catching.

Like a rubber band man. He’s in equal measure creepy and eye-catching.

Isaiah Austin is Baylor’s Freshman center. If you don’t recognize the name, you’ll recognize the player. Dude looks like some kind of crazy scarecrow rocking Rec Specs. He’s having a very, very solid frosh season, complimenting his 13.7 PPG with 8.3 boards. Some of those numbers might be inflated by the fact that he’s about 14 feet tall with a wingspan that give Jay Bilas an erection they can see in space. Dude’s weird as fuck. When he’s on the court you cannot look away from him. He’s like a mute Kevin Garnett and he has the game to match that comparison. While he finishes at the rim often, I’ve also seen him jack up 18 footers that go in, despite the fact that he’s got about the worst possible angle on the rim. I mean in terms of how high he must be releasing the fucking rock, not how he squares up to the basket5. Hopefully, I didn’t break the glass for you all here. Now that you’re keyed in on Austin, you might not be able to turn away.

Keys to Victory: I don’t feel like Baylor matches up particularly well with us. That’s not to say that we’re just going to roll over them in this one at all. I just think if we’re playing with the intensity and fun that we’ve been playing since the skid, I feel like there’s no way Baylor can hang with us. They might be keyed up for their own Senior Night, so we need to stay focused, weather any runs they throw at us and just play like we’ve been playing. If everyone knows their role and keeps to what they do best, I think we’re ruining Senior Night in Waco. Also, it should be noted that I might care about where K-State ends up after their early afternoon game on Saturday, but I don’t think we will. Toupee has shown for years now that he accepts nothing short of domination from his teams and this year is no different. We don’t have a game up on K-State with which to rest. If they lose, we still have to win to take the conference title outright. Maybe we don’t care about that since we still own the tiebreaker over K-State, but I don’t think that’s Self’s MO. Expect us to still play like everything depends on it.

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)6: Baylor 54, Kansas 72

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Yeah, I know that I talked about the weird feeling I have going into this post-season, as if the whole thing is already over and I’m getting misty eyed thinking about what could have been. I don’t know…something about this season has caused me to be more introspective or some shit. It’s weird, I know. Just know that I really feel like there’s something weird about the end of this particular season. The only way I can describe it is that we’re on Deal or No Deal and we don’t get to winnow the suitcases down. I’ll take suitcase number 28, I suppose. Back

2 – Hit me up, Adidas. We can make these shirts happen. My creative genius is cheap. Seriously, guys. Give me a call. It can’t be any worse than the Zubaz. Back

3 – I think, he said with a fade in his voice. Just rub the championship floorboard…just rub it…you’ve got the magic in you, when it comes around something and something…the magic to win that title… Back

4 – Given their record in their last eleven games (3-8), they’re playing far more like the North Siders than the Monsters of the Midway. I would love for us to push six teams into the tournament, but I don’t see how, short of Baylor beating us and managing to backdoor their way into at least the conference tourney title game, I don’t know how the hell they would get into the dance based on the last two months. Stranger things have happened, but I don’t see them making it the way they are right now. Back

5 – I’m more than fascinated by this kid. He’s a fucking freak of nature. During our first game with Da Cubbies, the announcers were saying that he was getting some draft buzz. I don’t doubt that there are teams interested in a guy like that. I’m not kidding when I said that he has a game that seems modeled on Garnett (not that he’s anywhere near Garnett, just that they’re both ridonkulously tall and drill 18 footers). I just don’t know what NBA team would want to take a guy who is that tall and weighs as much as Steph Curry did when he played at Davidson. What am I talking about? There are probably 15 GMs stroking Bilas’ boner right now, mumbling “wingspan…who needs muscle?” Back

6 – Nope, not. At. All. Back



After Battle Report: Baylor Bores by longdistancejayhawk
January 16, 2013, 11:35 am
Filed under: Recap | Tags: , , , , , , ,
There was a time on Monday where we thought this might be the last time we ever saw this saint in Jayhawk uniform.

There was a time on Monday where we thought this might be the last time we ever saw this saint in Jayhawk uniform.

If I could say that I was shaken up by the whole Benji-McDunks-turned-ankle thing and I was only just now able to get my shit together and write something about the game, I would. The truth of the situation is that I’m fucking old1 and between a 9pm east coast tip where I immediately went to bed afterwards and my inability to wake up in the winter, I just didn’t get around to writing the piece. I would have tried to pull it off at work yesterday, but there’s that whole can’t-write-on-the-job thing coupled with the fact that I can’t manage to sneak away for a long lunch or anything. That and I left my Air at home.

Those are all excuses, so let’s just go with trying to recover from the shock of watching Saint Benji rolling his ankle.

The biggest problem with the B-Mac ankle injury was that it came at the tail end of a rather boring game, where we couldn’t hit shit, and you could make the argument that maybe he shouldn’t be out there in a 17-ish point rout2. Though, you know the argument could be made that with as shitty as we were shooting on the night, coupled with the fact that there’s always a potential run by the Bores lurking around the corner, B-Mac should have stayed in the game. I don’t know.

All I know is that the reports out of Kansas are that the ankle’s just a light sprain and he should be able to play by the time Texas rolls around on Saturday. So, let’s stop with the preamble and get down to the business.

The Good: One down on the whole gauntlet thing I mentioned in the Iowa State recap. Which makes me feel more confident in my pre-season prediction that we’re only dropping two this season. We also did it in what, from a purely point total perspective, looked pretty impressive. Twenty points looks good to people who give a shit about that sort of thing, I suppose. Though, it probably would have helped if Baylor had done us the courtesy of being ranked when it happened. Again, if you care about those sorts of things.

Toupee smelled something foul Monday night. It was clearly our shooting.

Toupee smelled something foul Monday night. It was clearly our shooting.

Okay, let’s be real here: we looked kind of like crap on the offensive end. Shit, that’s probably supposed to be in The Bad. What I meant to say was, for all of our defencinces on the offensive end, we actually played pretty well on the defensive end. First off, Baylor was limited to just 13-56 shooting (23.2%), hitting only 4-14 (28.6%) from downtown. Additionally, we racked up some pretty solid defensive stats across the team: 10 steals and 13 blocks. Not to shabby3, really.

Can you tell that I’m having a hard time coming up with nice things to say? I mean, I love wins and all, but we didn’t seem to play very effectively on the offensive end, despite the 20 point deficit for the Bores.

The Bad: Did I mention Saint Benji put the entirety of God’s Nation on high alert when he went down with that ankle injury? Based on my Twitter feed, you would have thought the president had been shot by the speaker of the house during the State of the Union or something when it happened. Luckily, it doesn’t seem to be anything serious, though, we’ll have to wait until the Texas game to actually know for sure. Other than that, I’ll bring up the aforementioned bad shooting night. At one point, we were like 1-12 on three pointers, which was fucking terrible. Add to that the fact that for a good stretch of the game we were well below our season average (going into the game anyway) or 49.9%. It’s great that we managed to net 61, given that we couldn’t have hit the fucking ocean with an orca whale Monday night.

One big guy that was quiet during the game was Swashbuckler. Not to turn this into NFL Sunday Morning or anything, but where you at? With just 10 points, it’s starting to feel like his offensive outburst to start the season may have been an anomaly. Still great on the defensive end and all, but I want him to step it up on offense again.

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: Toupee is apparently nice when it isn’t his kid4.

“…and if we were going to practice tomorrow, I wouldn’t let him practice.”

Junior, however, is still grounded. If you need him, he’ll be running stairs in the Fieldhouse all day.

Jamari, I know I just gave you the award, but damn! Swashbuckler's on your team, man!

Jamari, I know I just gave you the award, but damn! Swashbuckler’s on your team, man!

JCTD Award: I wasn’t particularly impressed with anyone in this one outside of the team’s defense as a whole. So, those of us that gasped a sigh of horror watching McDunks roll that ankle, only to find out that it isn’t all that bad, we’re the real winners in this one. Though, I suppose given the provenance of the award title, that could get a little messy, I’m going to give this one to Jamari. It’s been a big week for the big guy. First, ESPN does a killer profile on him, detailing the trials and tribulations of his life growing up in South Side. Then, he goes out and manages to swat three balls into the audience. Throw on two points and I’d have to say that’s not a bad performance by the big guy. It can only go up from here, Jamari5.

Looking Ahead: Part two of The Gauntlet  where we tangle with Texas on Saturday. I know the Longhorns look like a steaming pile of dog shit right now, but I have faith. I have faith that they can turn this around. I mean, they can’t be this terrible all season, right? They have to have some self-respect, right? RIGHT?!

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Or just 243 days shy of 30…but let’s go with me being old for the sake of argument. Back

2 – I hesitate to label this anything along the lines of “blowout,” “ass kicking,” or “slaughter that’s probably illegal in like 37 of the 50 states” because you really can’t label anything where we were shooting less than 35% at one point on FG (and let’s not go into the fact that we shot something like 12% from three point land at one point…shit, I already brought it up…). Which really limits my ability to talk about these things. Okay, moving on… Back

3 – Don’t worry, it’ll come up, but was I the only person who thought there was a stretch of this one where it seemed like every possession ended in either a straight up picked pocket or a picked pass? It was like I was watching Aqib Talib running around on the hardwood last night, only there were like seven of him, on the court between the two teams. Back

4 – Last dispatch from the Self household is that Toupee junior tried to sneak the car out of the driveway without cutting it on. Bad news for him is Toupee knows exactly how many miles are on the ol’ Astrovan and when Toupee Jr. woke up, there was a whole mess of hand covering obscenity let loose in the Self Mansion. Just so you know. Back

5 – And if I were to award an honorary one to Baylor, I’d have to give it Brady Heslip. Not because his stat line was all that impressive. In fact, it was pure crap. However, I realized about halfway through the game that he looks almost exactly like Human Giant’s Rob Huebel. He could totally get laid telling people that he is and talking shit all over Aziz Ansari. Just saying, Brady. Just saying. Back

Uncanny.

Uncanny.



Know Your Enemy: Baylor Bores by longdistancejayhawk

As those of you who read me regularly know, I had a pretty low key Saturday. The kind where the only time I left my apartment was to do laundry. Hell, I didn’t even have a beer on Saturday. Which probably makes me about as interesting as the average Baylor student, save for the fact that I’m ballin’ in Brooklyn.

Which is to say that, while Baylor’s teams have been really good under Scott Drew, I’ve never gotten a sense of team character from them. They never have a kind of flavor outside of “pretty damned good at hoops.” Well, that and “passing familiarity with the NCAA rules regarding recruiting contact.” You know, if you can consider that a team’s character. The rest of the conference’s teams always seem to have a character. Iowa State is that scrappy team that thinks they can beat anyone else in the conference every time they touch the court. K-State has a kind of tough, scrappy mentality that probably had more to do with the Departed Frank Martin than it does Bruce Webber1. Texas tends to2 swagger around the conference like a bunch of gunslingers getting ready for the OK Corral3. We’re the guys who take our mascot’s vaguely sinister smile to heart, laughing as we pummel our opponents with reckless abandon.

Baylor…doesn’t really have a personality in my mind. They’re the vaguely weird cousin, who just sort of plays solitaire at the family reunion. Maybe he has a sip of beer, maybe he laughs at your uncle-in-law’s off color joke. It isn’t until everyone’s leaving to go back to wherever they came from that you remember he totally invented some microprocessor and has tons of success in business.

But tons of success doesn’t mean much if you’ve got no personality to match it. So, enjoy getting crushed at Allen Fieldhouse. Hopefully, Scott will let you watch the pre-game video this time so you can see what a team with character is like.

Official Name: Baylor University
Nickname:
Bears
Derisive Nickname:
Bores

Signature Win: It should be pretty obvious, but knocking off Kentucky was pretty huge. Mostly because that was before they sucked.

Key Players: Pierre “Action” Jackson. Dude’s crushing it points-wise, with a staggering 19.2 points per game. That’s insanity! Add to that Austin and Jefferson combing for an additional 28.9 points and you’ve got a legit three-headed scoring hydra. This one’s going to be a pretty good test of our defensive ability. Toupee’s hallmark has always been his defensive coaching, but this one’s going to be interesting. I’m assuming we’ll have Swashbuckler all over Action Jackson, with WITHEY! and Weird Harold Young locking it down on the interior. If we can limit Jackson and effectively shut down at least one of the other two guys, the Bores will be pressed to make up the scoring difference with guys that don’t average more then 9PPG. It’s a pretty obvious strategy, all things considered, but it’s effective.

Keys to Victory: Didn’t I just turn Key Players into Keys to Victory? Shit.

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)4: Baylor 72, Kansas 81

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – It’ll be interesting to see how the team morphs under Webber. Right now, it’s still Martin’s guys and they still play like that. Will the Wildcats turn into the grindiest of grinderman teams in the conference once we’ve cycled through all of Webber’s kids? Time will tell, but there’s the potential for K-State to become the new Nebraska in the Big XII X XII, except they’ll probably be good. Back

2 – This year being the notable exception, obviously. Back

3 – See Durant, Kevin. Back

4 – Exactly like that, but the opposite. Back



Big XII Preview, Part 2 – …Spit On Them From Such a Lofty Perch by longdistancejayhawk

Welcome to part two of my mega-conference preview. In the previous installment, I knocked out all the teams that are going to be in the cellar of the Big XII X XII, covering each of them with analysis that ranged from “somewhat informed” to “has TCU been on TV in the tri-state area?” I want to assure you that, I go out of my way to watch as much pre-conference Big XII X XII games as possible before writing this column. Just know that, thanks to the apparent lack of interest in Horned Frogs basketball in and around Brooklyn1, I couldn’t get around to it. Enough preamble! Let’s get down to the dirty business of ranking the top of the conference.

This is part two. This is a lazy way of differentiating.

This is part two. This is a lazy way of differentiating.

I have serious doubts that spitting on your opponents from the heights of the Big XII X XII season standings would in any way satiate their hunger. I know that. Let’s not get tied up in semantics or calling out the fact that I just wanted to make a reference to a Jucifer record2. You know, that and I wanted there to be a connection between the two3. So, with that out of the way, let’s get down to a little recap of what happened in the first 3,500-word monster of this bad boy.

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

  1. ?
  2. ??
  3. ???
  4. ????
  5. ?????4
  6. Iowa State
  7. West Virginia
  8. TCU
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas Tech

That’s a motley crew, to be sure. Looking back on it, I’m starting to second guess my Iowa State at sixth pick. That’s probably good enough to make the tourney, but there’s no garauntees. It’s probably going to come back to bite me in the ass, just as a certain team that is conspicuously absent from the garbage crew of the league is probably going to come back to bite me in the ass. Look, I’m no professional, here. Get off my back! I just go with what I think, feel, and, in some cases, a gut feeling based on prior history.

So, who’s going to take home the regular season crown? Who will challenge them for that spot? Will Toupee have enough caustic remarks to make it through the season? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, I can ramble about things that will probably not come true.

#5 – Baylor Bears

Non-Conference Record: 8-4
Projected Conference Record: 10-8
Projected Total:
18-12

Ranked Game Record: 1-1 (9 point win over Kentucky, 7 point loss to Gonzaga5)
Baller Wins:
A nine point beating of Kentucky6
Brutal Losses:
Losing by four to a Northwestern team that’ll probably be 8th or worse in the B1G Ten.

Brady Heslip has a weird concept of corrective lenses, people. That said, he's probably going to drive you batty this season.

Brady Heslip has a weird concept of corrective lenses, people. That said, he’s probably going to drive you batty this season.

Baylor, like a certain other school in the Republic of Texas, is some kind of tease. When you think they’re going to be good, they’re crap. When you think they’re overrated, they rip off a shit ton of wins, beat you in the Big XII X XII tournament, and push their way to an Elite Eight berth against eventual Champ Kentucky. That was a pretty solid showing for a team that I worried had no guard to feed Quincy Acy or Perry Jones III. I was totally convinced that the hole left by LaceDarius Dunn would kill them.

And I was wrong7. Which is why I’m going to give Baylor some credit here. Last year, they didn’t lose a game until conference play, where they fell victim to the rest of the teams at the top of the conference (twice to God’s Team and Missouri, once each to K-State and Iowa State). Six loses on the season isn’t a terrible record. So, while I’m willing to go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of finish, I think they’re going to suffer a few more losses on the year. One big thing is that I still don’t trust Brady Heslip to be the voice of veteran leadership on a team that features a ton of young guys. Yes, the young guys are playing well, but Scott Drew isn’t quite Calipari when it comes to trusting him with roster stocked with green players. At some point, this team’s youth is going to catch up to it. Especially when you look at the rest of the league8, where teams are trending towards being deep with experience as well as cohesive basketball. Assuming that there are no recruiting violations or NBA defections, Baylor might be coming back. Consider this season a teaser trailer for that time.

Actually, you could probably consider that Kentucky game a teaser trailer for that time. As with the next squad on the list, I’m basing some of what I think they’re going to do on a game where they seemed to be clicking after some early season missteps.

#4 – Texas Longhorns

Non-Conference Record: 8-5
Projected Conference Record: 11-7
Projected Total:
19-12

Ranked Game Record: 1-2 (18 point domination of UNC, 23 point implosion to Georgetown9 and an 11 point loss to Michigan State)
Baller Wins:
A complete desruction of a UNC team ranked #23 at the time
Brutal Losses:
A UCLA team in perpetual turmoil is kind of embarassing, but that’s nothing compared to losing to Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. First off, they host the thing as a D-II school, so they’re more of a symbolic game than a legit game. Second, Sith Lord should be embarassed about the fact that TCU beat a D-III school while his squad got dropped by thir-fucking-teen to Chaminade. I mean, christ, their nickname is the goddamned Swords. Not Sword Wielding Knights or the William Wallace’s Swingin’ Bastard Swords. Just inanimate swords. They could be sitting on a table for all we know. Whatever the case, YOU SHOULDN’T BE LOSING TO CHAMINADE, BARNES!

…Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand here it is! The boldest of bold picks! I seriously think the Longhorns can do this! They can grab fourth place in this top-heavy league10 based on attrition and my inability to stop picking Rick Barnes to succeed. I don’t know what it is about me and this guy. I can’t help myself. Every time the Longhorns make the tournament, I pick them to make a Sweet Sixteen, and weep openly as they tank my bracket in the first round. It’s just the way this shit goes.

What the fuck ref, the force is strong with me! What? My dead eyes? Just a part of the force, brother.

What the fuck ref, the force is strong with me! What? My dead eyes? Just a part of the force, brother.

But enough about the past. Let’s talk about the very near future. I’ve watched two Longhorns games this season. One of them was the above mentioned Georgetown game where the ‘Horns played like garbage, getting crushed by Georgetown’s size. By the end of that one, they looked like a completely demoralized squad. The other game I watched was the annual Benedict Roy thrashing at the hands of Sith Lord. I don’t know what it is about Roy now that he’s at Carolina11, but he seems to have a hard tim beating Barnes recently. More importantly, though, is that the ‘Horns actually looked good in that game, taking on a UNC team that might not be that great. The thing was Texas actually looked like they knew what was going on, instead of the outsized and outmatched team that got killed by Georgetown. They looked like they were getting it.

That’s what I’m basing this pick on, that Sith Lord’s guys are getting it. It’s a hunch which could seriously kill my credibility, but I don’t care. It’s just how I feel. Part of it might be that I want to try and find a legitimate rival for the departed Missouri. Another part of it is that I believe that, by picking the Longhorns to place here as well as possibly have a solid showing the conference tournament, they might manage to squeak into the tournament with a mid-seed. And I can finally exact my revenge by accurately estimating their ability and look like a goddamned genius when I pick them to get bounced in the first round.

No, I’m not making this pick with emotion. Not at all12.

#3 – Kansas State Wildcats

Non-Conference Record: 11-2
Projected Conference Record: 11-7
Projected Total:
22-9

Ranked Game Record: 1-2 (6 points over Florida, 14 point loss to Michigan and 16 down to Gonzaga13)
Baller Wins:
A convincing showing against Florida14
Brutal Losses:
Either the 14 point rout by Michigan or the 16 point killing by Gonzaga, take your pick

Do you have the time, to watch me hoop?

Do you have the time, to watch me hoop?

Kansas State perpetually lives in the shadow of their goliath cousin to the east. I’ve said it about a million times now, but I honestly never felt nearly the same virtiol towards K-State that I did towards Missouri. In fact, the only time I ever got worked up about them or their town that reeks strongly of manure was when we actually face them. Outside of that, I couldn’t give a shit. Whereas Missouri…I would cross the street to whisper “Rock Chalk” in the ear of someone wearing a Missouri shirt. Then, scream “NEVER GRADUATE!” as they stood there, dumbfounded. With the Wildcats, I actually want them to succeed in the same way an older brother is proud of their little sibling following in their footsteps. You know, as long as they don’t beat us or anything. Throw on top of that the fact that Frank Martin broke the hears of the Wildcats everywhere, only to be replaced by Bruce Webber and I’m kind or rooting for them. Not to win more games than us. But you know, make the tourney, good showing. That sort of thing.

I’ve watched bits and pieces of their games so far this season and I like what they’re doing. McGruder is still there and he actually freightens me as a player. I know he’s the kind of guy that’s going to get up for conference games, probably pushing his current season average of 13.7 closer to the 15 mark. He’s just a good player that’s never in the conversation of great players, that I hear anyway. I’m also amped to see what Billie Joe Rodriguez does this season15. I love that kid! He’s one of those kids that plays like he’s eight feet tall and I love his scrappy style of play. Throw in the fact that they’re returning fucking Spradling and Henriquez and this team could surprise a lot of people. Though not me. Since they’re totally coming in third in the conference.

#2 – Oklahoma State Cowboys

Non-Conference Record: 10-2
Projected Conference Record: 15-3
Projected Total:
25-5

Ranked Game Record: 1-0 (20 point blasting of that really good NC State squad, a 1 point edging by Gonzaga)
Baller Wins:
The Cowboys embarassed a very good NC State Wolfpack, besting them by 20 and limiting C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, and Richard “Thurston” Howell to a combined 14
Brutal Losses:
The Cowboys lost by ten to Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech barely understands basketball and besides, they’re mascot is like a toothless hillbilly version of the Hoosiers

Oklahoma State. What’s there to say about them that hasn’t already been said? Don’t worry, I’m sure I can figure something out. I was so, so hoping that they would fall off somewhat with the departure of Keiton fucking Page16. I’m tired of this team ever being good since they have Toupee’s number. With the Big XII X XII down to ten, we have to play them at Gallagher-Iba, where Toupee has a seriously sketchy track record. Seriously. I wanted them to be a one-note song with Le’Bryan Nash and nothing else to hang their hat on.

Then, they have to go and rack up a 10-2 record coming into conference play. Ugh. I hate having to admit they’re good at all, since that means admitting that, best case scenario, we’re splitting our series with them this year. Good job, universe, you got me. Now that the melodrama’s out of the way, I love that OSU’s not just competitive, but ranked at this point in the season. I love what I’ve seen of not just Nash, but most of the team. They play with a team mentality that, even in the loss to the Zags, showed they’re ready to compete right now. Throw in the fact that Travis Ford is a good coach and seems to be a decent human being, and you’ve got a contender, a team that could challenge us for the regular season title. Not, of course, that it’s actually going to happen. Just that they could do it.

You really can't hate on a dude who does this to announce his college pick. Especially when you consider Nerlens Noel's shaved head business.

You really can’t hate on a dude who does this to announce his college pick. Especially when you consider Nerlens Noel’s shaved head business.

#1 – Kansas Jayhawks

Non-Conference Record: 11-1
Projected Conference Record: 16-2
Projected Total:
27-3

Ranked Game Record: 1-1 (barely lost to Michigan State, controlled Ohio State and got an 8 point dubbya)
Baller Wins:
A truly spectacular performance on the road against Ohio State
Brutal Losses:
There’s only one, so it’s got to be Tom fucking Izzo’s Michigan State

You should never bet against one of the best coaches out there, especially when he spends his off season crushing HRs in celebrity softball.

You should never bet against one of the best coaches out there, especially when he spends his off season crushing HRs in celebrity softball.

We’re good and we’re good to win at least a share of our ninth straight Big XII X XII title17. Fuck that we’re really good. There’s the obvious concern that we might be peaking early. I get that. But I don’t think this team is in danger of peaking early. Our roster is stocked with veteran leaders, a POY-caliber freshman, and a bench full of dudes who could start at a slew of other schools. We’re playing better than I’ve seen us play, game in, game out, than I’ve seen us play in years. Last year, we made it to the title game on sheer will and determination. This year’s squad is better than that. We play with a ruthless, destructive style that will be hard to top in the conference. No one has that same beautiful mixture of talent and experience to hold a candle to us.

That’s not to say we won’t drop two game. I’m feeling an Oklahoma State loss and maybe a Texas loss. That’s all I see happening to us this season. I can assure that this isn’t just my usual cockiness shining through. This is a firm belief that we’re playing the best basketball in our conference, maybe in the country, right now. I’m sure if you’ve read this far, you’re a Jayhawk fan, so this shouldn’t be a shock to you. Let me assure you one more time: I’m not saying this because I believe we can’t lose out of blind loyalty to KU. This is a firm belief that we’re the best in the Big XII X XII.

Allow me a minute to share an anecdote. On NYE, Alex and I went to our friends’ house out in Queens for a little dinner party. One of the guys there was a pretty knowledgable NCAA basketball fan. While he went to UConn, he told me about how a friend of his came from a pretty serious Jayhawk family. While he was telling me the story, he kept saying “I seriously only pick against Kansas early because it pisses my friend off. I pretty much assume Bill Self is never going to lose.” If even a Huskies fan can admit that Bill Self is a fucking titan, it should be readily apparent that you should never bet against the man. Let alone bet against him when he’s got a team as stacked, top to bottom, as the team we’re running this year.

I’m predicting yet another trophy in our trophy case. And there are few things finer than that in basketball.

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Phew. That was a long one. Longer than the first installment. No less accurate, though. If you take issue with anything I said here, feel free to let me know, either in the comments or via Twitter or something. I welcome all criticism.

Also, shout out to Rock Chalk Talk for re-tweeting me yesterday. That was pretty awesome on their part.

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FOOTNOTES

1 – I don’t even know if they have a game I could go dig up on WatchESPN.com. I firmly believe basketball is something that has to be seen to truly grasp what happened in a game (since some games look close on paper, but are really just blowouts drawn closer by extended bench minutes). That said, I looked at their results. They can barely buy a basket and when faced with God’s Team, let alone Oklahoma State or Baylor, I just don’t think they’re going to be able to hang. Back

2 – I swear I’ve used the “if thine enemy hunger” line before. I double-checked via a Google “site:longdistancejayhawk.com” search and couldn’t find anything. If I’m recycling, I’m sorry. If you’re new here and don’t know what I’m talking about, I never, ever recycle a goddamned thing. What is this? Amateur hour? Back

3 – Much like the way I used a line from “Shady Lane” by Pavement to connect the preview and recap of Georgetown in the Maui Invitational last season. Between Pavement and Jucifer, I’m guessing my eclectic taste in music is on full display right now. Back

4 – WordPress, for all it’s greatness and funcationality, will not, under any circumstances, let you change the starting number for a list. Or make it count backwards from a formatting perspective, it made more sense to have a shit ton of ?s where the eventual teams will be placed. Back

5 – Can anyone else think of an instance where one team not only played a majority of another conference’s teams and then managed to own them as much as Gonzaga seems to be doing to the Big XII X XII this season? Back

6 – Which might not be as baller as we thought it was coming into the season. Not that Kentucky’s bad, per se. Just that, given their struggles on the season thus far and the fact that even the voters can’t give Calipari the default vote these days, they might not be all that great. Of course, byt tournament time, they’ll probably be a one seed and everyone’s pick to win it all. Back

7 – Which should probably give you some level of pause when it comes to me, or really anyone, trying to tell you what’s going to happen in any sports situation. We’re all making it up as we go along. Back

8 – Except maybe for the team that’s coming up immediately after them. I have irrational faith in Sith Lord and…I’ll be honest…I just miss Missouri and I want the default rivalry to mean something rather than us just straight up smoking the Longhorns. Okay, now you know who I’ve locked in at fourth. Fuck me, I’m already regretting this. Back

9 – Did I mention that I actually went to this game? It was the Jimmy V Classic at MSG. A bunch of my ex-pat Jayhawks and I wanted to see some live college ball and the games were actually pretty entertaining on the whole. The UConn/NC State game was fun because both teams are pretty good, especially NC State with C.J. Leslie, Thurston Howell, and Lorenzo Brown, and they both seemed hell bent on winning the game. NC State was most impressive since at least two of those guys looked Association ready during the game (specifically Leslie, who had this crazy fastbreak moment where he faked a defender with a split second shoulder shrug because his face was a stone cold mask). The Georgetown/Texas game was interesting because Georgetown looked like world beaters and Texas look like total shit. I’ve seen a couple other Texas games so far this year and I don’t think they’re as bad as that game would have you believe. But they’re not great either. It seems like their biggest problem is that they don’t have any idea what to do on offense and spend most of the time trying to figure out if anyone’s actually tall enough to take the ball inside. I think they’d have been a damn sight better with Myck Kabongo back in their lineup that night. As it is, they looked like a talented team that couldn’t execute their way out of a wet paper sack. Back

10 – Which admittedly lacks a certain level of star talent from top to bottom. I feel like most years, we have a bunch of guys that excite for their clear NBA-caliber talent (Durant, Griffen, and, recently, Royce White) as well as guys that are fun to watch, even as they’re torching our guys (Keiton fucking Paige, anyone?). This year, there are plenty of guys I enjoy watching, but I don’t feel the same level of wattage coming off the conference as in previous years. Back

11 – I did a little research on the subject (two caveats: 1.) I did all the math myself, so that could be off; 2.) some of the data came from Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt) to see whether Rick Barnes’ Texas squads own Williams’ Carolina squads or if Barnes just owns Williams. During their on-going series, Carolina is 1-3 against the Longhorns. The question then is: how did the Williams Jayhawks squads fare against Barnes’ Longhorns? I looked through results from 1998 (Barnes’ first UT year) and 2003 (William’s last KU year) and I found that we 4-1 against them during the overlap in tenures. So, kind of the opposite of what’s happened with the Texas/Carolina series in the last four years. I’m going to run with the argument that Barnes is a good coach and not just incredibly lucky against the Tar Heels. Back

12 – In all seriousness I believe that Texas is better than their record and better than the shitastic showing at MSG. In fact, what I’m actually envisioning here is Sith Lord managing to get his team to play passable, competent basketball that’s just good enough to win all the games he should win, plus stealing a couple he shouldn’t, based on the chemistry that develops with his squad. As much as I want to see Kabaongo come back, it wouldn’t surprise me if, feeling fan pressure to get him on the floor post-suspension, Barnes rushed him back into the line up, where they go .500 through the last part of the season. They’ll gel just enough with Kabongo to make a decent showing in the conference tourney before all the disjointedness catches up to them in the first round against a fired up mid-major. Fuck…now that I’m writing this, I’m starting to think this is what I should have said about the Longhorns. Whatever. What’s done cannot be undone. Moving along… Back

13 – Oh. My. God. Mark Few’s team has a vendetta against our conference. Avoid at all costs! AVOID AT ALL COSTS! Back

14 – Unpopular opinion alert. I seriously hate Billy Donovan. I think he’s the most overrated coach out there. Throw in the fact that he’s grossly overpaid, especially when you consider that he won two consecutive titles…then didn’t make it back to the tournament. I honestly don’t think there’s anything special about the guy, in much the same way I don’t think Gary Williams is an incredible coach. It’s just my prerogative. Back

15 – That’s Angel, in case you were wondering. He looks so much like Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day, that I just can’t help calling him that all the time. I thought he was great his freshman campaign, so I can only imagine he’s getting better this season. Back

16 – Speaking of whom…did anyone else watch the Gonzaga game? I watched the first half and the announcers kept talking about Page. Not about his legacy. About what he’d said that day. I’m sure he works for the school now. It’s the least they can do for their leading scorer. Though, I didn’t hear what the context for talking to him was. I kept imaging him like J.O. Incandenza in Infiite Jest when he becomes the wraith that haunts Gately, but more like a wraith haunting the hallways of Stillwater’s basketball facilities. Back

17 – Just so you know, when I do these bad boys, I actually go to the trouble of picking what I think will happen in each of the games played in the conference. There’s a whole spreadsheet and everything. When I was picking all the games, I seriously contemplated a whether or not to have us tie with Oklahoma State. I may or may not have redone my predictions a couple fo times just to see if I could bring myself to do it. Ultimately, I couldn’t. However, if you’re interested in how I got to the numbers I got to, this is the spreadsheet: Conference Predictions 2012-13. It should be noted, when I built the spreadsheet originally, Missouri and Texas A&M were still in the conference, hence the mismatched colors and out of alphabetical order of the team names. Back



The Hunger Game of Thrones – Sweet Sixteen Preview, Part 2 by longdistancejayhawk

Winter is coming. Okay, that's not totally true since we kind of have to get through spring and summer first. But, winter is coming. It's an omen, a way of saying everyone's fucked. For the 16 teams still alive, it's a sign that fifteen of you won't be taking the throne.

Some how I went through the entire intro to the last piece discussing The Hunger Games without saying the word “tribute.” I’m not sure why that happened other than, in my mad rush to try and pack as many tenuous analogies between the tournament and the series, I overlooked the most obvious reference that I could make. Maybe it’s because I’m watching Game of Thrones on HBOGo to try and figure out what all the fuss is about1. That’s actually a little conservative. I’m kind of obsessed with the show. It makes me laugh sometimes, it makes me think, but most of all, it makes me try and remember a whole bunch of characters and their interpersonal relationships. Also, I’m fascinated by the Dothraki because they seem to be the most bizarrely realized group in the series. They characterized as being this exotic, brutish force that is afraid of water for some reason. Well, water and gentle, caressing sex2. It’s like they’re as hyper masculine as you can possibly be. Of course, if I lived in a hellish desert continent, separated from the rest of Westeros by my supreme hatred for water, I’d probably only find fun in aggressive sex. It’s probably why Dave Navarro looks so sour all the time.

And yet, I really can’t stop watching the show. It’s a testament to HBO that they’re so willing to pump so much money into their shows. Even when they’re not well acted (GoT is on the better acted side, though there are a few cast members who are…let’s just say not graduates of Julliard), they’re still so epic in scope that you get sucked in. Honestly, that’s the only reason I kept watching Big Love after the first season. The story lines were so intricatly fascinating (and ultimately ludicrous to the point where I did eventually give up on the show), that I kind if ignored the fact that some of the actors were basically wooden boards and, more specifically, ill-fitted to their role in the show. Other than Harry Dean Stanton who I’d watched butcher his way through a Romanian phone book if someone put on DVD3.

So, now that I’ve managed to prattle on about Game of Thrones, let’s get down to the real game of thrones in this second installment of my Sweet Sixteen preview. If you missed the first part or just want to relieve the glory days of my stretched Hunger Games analogy, click here. Otherwise, buckle up because it’s time to get Sweet Sixteen’d all up in your grill!

SOUTH – ATLANTA

Like the first two brackets I previewed, the South regional is pretty ho-hum. There’s a double-digit seed, Xavier, and that’s about the only surprise from a seeding standpoint. Well, other than the fact that Duke got knocked out in the first round. But that’s old news. This quad is definitely the least interesting to me. Everyone’s been saying “Oh, the tournament is Kentucky’s to lose” and, while there’s some truth to that, I don’t think I’m going to be inking their name on the Champions line, let alone penciling it. The tournament is to chaotic for me to buy into the inevitability of Kentucky taking home the hardware. That said, I don’t think any of the remain teams have a more than 5% chance of blocking Kentucky from making a second consecutive Final Four appearance. So, with that in mind, let’s break down the two games in the South regional.

Quincy Acy is pretty fired up here. He has every right to be, as the Bears are on a quest to make the Final Four. Against the Musketeers, I think you're likely to make the Elite Eight. Against Kentucky though?

10 Xavier v. 3 Baylor (Friday 7:15pm, CBS)

Quite a year for the Baylor Bears. They’re going to get a chance to burn the retinas out of middle America and in prime time no less. Scott Drew’s squad is facing off with one of just two true mid-majors in the Sweet Sixteen (we’ll get to Ohio in a bit). I know quite a bit about this year’s Baylor team and I know next to nothing about Xavier. They tend to make the tournament every year and do well, but knowing that doesn’t mean much when you consider the high turnover of college basketball players. So, let’s talk about what I do know: their uniforms. I hate the Xavier uniforms of the last couple of seasons. That giant “X” on the shorts? Tacky. It’s like they didn’t think we got just how proud they are that their school’s name starts with “X.” Hey, guys, wake me up when you become Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. I honestly don’t care about Xavier and really don’t see what difference it makes who wins this game. They’re just going to get cut open from belt to chin and bled out on the hardwood by Kentucky on Sunday. Though, we could be heading for a matchup of epic proportions, one that challenges my distaste for uniforms: Baylor could rock the electric outfits against Xavier’s Xs. Which do I hate more? Probably Baylor’s but I can root for them since they shouldn’t be able to wear them against Kentucky, should they win.

In all seriousness, I think that Baylor’s got the edge here, but that’s only because I’m familiar with their team and I am rooting for the Big XII X over anyone at this point. I think this Bears squad has ability to beat the Musketeers. The main thing about Baylor, and what’s going to kill them against Kentucky, is that they never seem to be able to completely put an opponent away. In the regular season, there was just one game where they blew their opponent out, a completely crazy game against Oklahoma State where Baylor blasted them 106-65. In the tournament, they’ve been playing much more aggressively and dominating much more than they have previously. Which is why I think they’ll take this one.

That said, I think Xavier has a chance to win. The main thing that they need to do is try to get Baylor in a speed race and pile on points early. Since Baylor trends towards grinderman style ball, they’re going to have a hard time digging out of deficit. I know this is like basketball 101, but there are some teams that do not rebound well from getting punched in the mouth at the outset4. Baylor, by not going out of their way to bury opponents all that often, should have a hard time clawing back into the lead. Part of it, I think, is their reliance on interior play and just bruising basketball. If the Musketeers can keep the game up tempo and force the Bears into a shoot out, they could definitely take this one. That’s really the only way I see Xavier making the Elite Eight. However, I’m rooting for my conference in this one.
Winner: Baylor

Anthony Davis' unibrow is the key to Kentucky's success. I bet that most of the agents that are going to beating down his door in a couple of weeks are going to try and get him to wax. Don't do it, Anthony! Hold out for the agent that loves you for your unibrow!

4 Indiana v. 1 Kentucky (Friday 9:45pm, CBS)

Ah, the rematch of Kentucky’s first shaming of the season. I know that the Wildcats are the favorite in this one and there really shouldn’t be any question that they’re going to come out looking for blood, but the part of me that loves a good narrative desperately wants the Hooisers to pull off the upset. Make no mistake, Kentucky is the only team left in the field right now that a loss, for me anyway, would count as an upset5. They’re stacked and while, as I mentioned above, nothing’s assured, they’re certainly one of the most talented and efficient teams left in the field. And, in facing Indiana, they’re rematching with the only team to beat them in the regular season, and one of just two teams (Vanderbilt being the other) to beat them all year. So, yeah, I’m pretty sure Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis, and Jones are all going to be gunning for a rout.

So, what does Indiana have to do to win their second meeting with Kentucky? The same shit they did the last time they played each other. Shoot well, defend well, and above all else, drain three-pointers like there’s no tomorrow. Yes, Wafford’s buzzer beater to win the game was what everyone remembers from that matchup, but look at the stats: the Hoosiers hit 9-15 from beyond the arc, for an impressive 60%. The Wildcats, remembering that, aren’t going to give them easy threes, though. So, they need to spread the floor to try and get open shots on the wing. When that isn’t working, go inside to Cody Zeller. The biggest problem that they’re going to have with Zeller, though, is Davis. So, go strong at him, get him in early foul trouble, and hopefully that will be enough to open up eas buckets. And still, hit those three-pointers. This isn’t going to be easy for Indiana, but definitely doable. Hell, they did it once before.
Winner: Indiana6

MIDWEST – ST. LOUIS

And here we are. The best bracket because it contains Kansas. The best bracket because, with Marshall’s injury and the coming Stillman Era of Carolina Hoops, this is the most open quad on the board. The titans of Carolina are looking more like the Titanic with every game they play, as the siding on their ship rips and lets in more and more water. They could manage to win a few more before the ship jackknifes, twists and snaps apart. Winning with that frontcourt, regardless of who’s feeding them the rock is a possibility, but so is them sinking by 10pm on Friday night7. Which leaves the door for this Final Four spot wide open.

Kendall Marshall called the fateful "I'm going to jump, land awkwardly, and totally shitjack my wrist" play. Bet he wishes he could take that one back.

13 Ohio v. 1 North Carolina (Friday 7:47pm, TBS)

Let’s not sugar coat this: Kendall Marshall’s wrist is the only thing that matters in this game. That’s it. That’s all that anyone’s talking about. That’s all that anyone cares about. That’s all that matters, with or without him suiting for the game. If Marshall doesn’t go tomorrow night, then we’re looking at Stillman White and Justin Watts will be running the point. Combined, they’ve managed roughly 11.1 minutes per game, with Watts only running the point twice. That sounds like it’s completely bad news for the Tar Heels. Calm down, mom, it isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t ideal, but don’t start pining for next season just yet. Stillman and Watts could conceivably win the game by doing one thing well: protecting the ball. Between Zeller and the kind-of, sort-of injured Henson, there should be enough post play to rack up some points and if they run more plays with Barnes on the wing and going inside, everything should be fine against Ohio. Again, this is if they protect the ball. Making mistakes and turning it over will completely destroy Carolina, since they will most likely not be forcing a hell of a lot of turnovers without Marshall8. Seriously, though, Carolina should be fine without Marshall at least for this game.

The Tar Heels can probably still make an Elite Eight with or without Marshall. So, does Ohio stand a chance? Yeah, they do, actually. Here’s the thing about game planning, for the Bobcats: it makes no difference if Marshall plays or not, their strategy for defense should be the same. They need to play pressure defense, possibly going for the press on most Carolina possessions and definitely once they drop back into halfcourt. The more pressure they put on Carolina’s guards the better. If it’s White and Watts, they have limited experience so pressure should keep them off balance. Traps should also help, as they’re going to have a hard time breaking them and possibly burn time outs early. If Marshall does take the floor, the strategy should be the same. Keep pressure on Marshall. Force him to play faster and, if you can, force him to use his right hand (he’s left handed). I’m no advocating that they slap his hand or anything here, just that they need to keep as much pressure on the Tar Heel guards as they possibly can. The more disjointed they can keep the guard play, the less likely it is that Barnes and Zeller burn you for 25 apiece. That’s the key for the Bobcats here. All that said, I don’t have any idea if they have the athleticism to keep up a pressure defense for 40 minutes. It’s an all-or-nothing strategy that could either be genius (if they win) or make them look like amateurs (if they lose).
Winner: North Carolina

11 North Carolina State v. 2 Kansas (Friday 10:17pm, TBS)

And here we are: the game that everyone’s been waiting for me to break down. God’s Team taking on a flaming hot Wolfpack squad that hasn’t sniffed a Final Four in about a hundred millennia (or 29 years). NC State has been playing quite well this season, amassing a respectable 24-12 record (including ACC tournament play), which was good for a semis in their conference tourney and fifth place in the ACC regular season. Not too shabby, Wolfpack, not too shabby. But your nice little run in the tournament most likely ends here. I’m not saying that God’s Team will win this matchup, but I am saying that I feel good about our chances9. Here’s the key about the Wolfpack: they have faced solid competition this season but they haven’t been able to get the job done against any of them. Notable among their loses, three to UNC, one to Florida State, and another to Duke. Granted, Duke wasn’t the powerhouse of three-pointer terror they’ve been in the past, but they were a solid team this season. NC State couldn’t beat them. They also lost to Georgia Tech, which I’m pretty sure was dogshit this season. I’m not saying that the Wolfpack are terrible. Nope. I’m just saying that they haven’t impressed with any quality wins this season.

Which is why I’m pretty sure we’re going to be another quality team that beats them. After the come-from-behind, hand-punching-through-the-casket-screaming-“I’m-not-dead-dammit!” Purdue game, I don’t see anyway we come out flat on Friday night. T-Rob quietly got his double-double, but I know his pride is going to get to him. He’s going to want to make this a statement game. On top of that, The Prophet seems to be peaking at just the right time, and Taylor has been better than himself, more or less. I really think that with Johnson on fire, we’ll be able to run a more balanced PG situation. Having Taylor and Johnson alternate is going to throw defenses off, which should give us the ability to get T-Rob better looks on the inside. Additionally, I expect WITHEY! to chip in some points and not ride the bench for most of the game. NC State has a decent inside game with C.J. Leslie, but he won’t be able to stop T-Rob and Master of Puppets for an entire game. So, we need to go inside early and often, which, with the two-point tandem concept, should ultimately open up shots from the outside later in the game.

T-Rob knows what it's like to show your team's colors like a champion. Could he be doing this again on his way to New Orleans? Only time (well, this weekend, actually) will tell.

Look, I’m not handing anything to us here and I never think that victory’s assured until the final buzzer, but I’m feeling good, here. On top of that, I know that with a week to prepare and the sour taste of a discombobulated performance still fresh in their mouths, our guys are going to have something to prove. If history has taught me anything, it’s try not to be nervous for the first game of the weekend. It’s that second one on a quick turnaround that’s always the death trap10. While I’m feeling confident right now, I know that 24 hours from now, I’m going to be an anxious ball of nerves. Nothing can ever stop that. Knowing that my team is going to war for what could be the last time for the next eight months will do that to you. Part of it is that I know that, for Taylor and Robinson, there’s going to be a final game, the last one that they suit up as Jayhawks. Of course, I would love for that last game to be capped with cutting down the nets, but that’s unrealistic. Winning it all is incredibly tough. Making it to the Sweet Sixteen isn’t anything to sneeze at either. One of these games is going to be the last. It’s the though fact of March but also the reason it’s the most entertaining sporting event every year. But let’s not dwell on the Grim Reaper nipping at our heels. Let’s focus on this game and see where we are Saturday morning.

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FOOTNOTES

1 – Everyone out there should probably understand that I don’t know any of the characters’ names. I have nicknames for them. I call the leader of the Dothraki Dave Navarro. Tell me that guy doesn’t look like Dave Navarro. Hurry, DVR an episode of Ink Master then when Game of Thrones comes back, flip between the two whenever the Dothraki guy’s on screen and tell me that guy doesn’t look like a less ghoulish Navarro. Also, the king’s son? Yeah, I call him Little Lord Twatleroy or Twat for short. Seriously. I can’t even call Sean Bean’s character Ned, choosing instead to call him Nederick. Apparently, his real name is Edward or something. What’s with George R. R. Martin giving his characters regular names. Nederick is so fantasy it hurts. I guess these thoughts are the reason I call WITHEY! Master of Puppets to an audience of like twenty while Mr. Martin is the jovial, sea captain hat rocking author of a hugely successful book series. Back

I'm not making this up. Look at them!

2 – Sex is something that, so far in Game of Thrones, happens with almost reckless abandon for propriety and/or blood relationships. And Dave Navarro’s marriage to the Baby Dragon Girl is no exception. During the sex scene with the ghostly specter of Navarro’s wife (who, by the way acts like she went to the January Jones School of Acting where they teach you that supreme vacancy and random emotional attachment is the best way to keep viewers interested in your character) I said that it seemed like Dave Navarro was “totally donggrinding” on Baby Dragon Girl and that all she was to him was “a dick cushion.” I’m pretty sure that wasn’t supposed to be the take away from that scene, but, hey, that’s just my opinion. Back

3 – Stanton is one of my all-time favorite “I’ll watch that just because s/he is in it.” There are certain actors and actresses that I’ll watch just about anything they’re in. Others include Ewan McGregor and Kelly Macdonald (both in Trainspotting), Sam Rockwell, and Frances McDormand. Allow me a brief anecdote about Sam Rockwell, if I may: one time, I was talking on the phone to my buddy Charlie. I’d just ripped through a series of Rockwell movies, includeing Choke and Matchstick Men. I mentioned that I would literally watch Sam Rockwell in anything and that my ideal Sam Rockwell movie would be him talking to himself. Charlie said “You’re in luck. There’s a movie called Moon. It’s basically a sci-fi movie with Sam talking to himself.” I’ve seen it and it rules. Back

4 – At the risk of sounding completely homer for Kansas, we’ve done a decent job so far this season of coming back from a shot in the jaw early. Look, I don’t like being the team having to claw our way back into the lead, but it’s better than losing. There’s something to be said for resilience. Being able to never feel like you’re out of it, even when you’re down by ten and Robbie Hummel’s knees seem like they can’t be stopped, you need to never give up. As a fan, I’m guilty of giving up on Sunday. As a team, the Jayhawks did not. And that’s why we’re in the Sweet Sixteen now. Back

5 – I mentioned this yesterday, but I don’t count anything after the second round an upset. The seeds are largely irrelevant after the first two games (mentioned this before, but the First Four is not the first round, regardless of what the NCAA tries to get me to believe). Once you’re in the Sweet Sixteen, I feel like you’ve earned the right to be considered on roughly equal footing with the rest of the teams. Are there teams that are better than others? Yes. But I feel like getting this far means you played well enough to deserve it. Back

6 – I couldn’t help myself. I love the drama. I want to see Calipari try to explain how he lost twice on a season to a team that is physically way less athletic than this year’s Wildcats. Do I honestly think the Hooisers are going to win this one? Not really. But I think Head Coach Dwight Shrute is going to give it his all to try and make that a reality. No matter what happens, I think this will end up being a tight game. Unless the refs decide to go against their previous pro-low-seed stance from last weekend and give everything to Kentucky. Upsets are like servin’ cold cuts, Hoosiers, and you need to serve ’em up hard! Back

7 – This might be a little late, but all times eastern. Yeah, I know that I’m a Jayhawk and all, but I’m writing from Brooklyn. I’m too lazy to subtract an hour from all the times that ESPN autogenerates. Back

8 – It’s worth mentioning that Benedict Williams has said that, regardless of everything, Marshall will not play tomorrow night. In fact, he went on The Mike and Mike Show and, clearly feeling he was being railroaded, slipped into his consternated Southern self for a few seconds:

“If he comes running in here now and says, ‘God, I can play!’ I’ll say, ‘Well, let’s talk about it.’ But he’s in a frickin’ cast. … I cannot give you any answers. I’ve given everybody all the answers I can give, because I have said honestly, I do not know.”

He’s in a frickin’ cast! You sound like you’re screaming off the back of a pick up truck, Roy! Also, I don’t know if Daggum knows this or not, but Marshall’s no long in the cast. Instead, he’s got some kind of splint. Either this is the greatest feint of Williams’ career or “he’s sick and doggone tarr’d of ans’rin’ que-shuns ’bout daggum Murshull.” Back

9 – Please don’t confuse that word with “confident,” “convinced,” or “totally assured that we’re going to win this game without a shred of doubt in my mind.” That’s not what I’m saying at all and I can never underestimate the desire of a team on a roll with a desire to win facing off against a goliath of the basketball world. It happens all the time. So, no, I’m not telling you that expect to be watching us on Sunday. I’m just saying that I feel good. Which is better than I felt about an hour before the Purdue game. Back

10 – I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous about this game. I’m always nervous about games in March. I do want us to win because I still have the hope that we can make it to the Final Four and sort out things from there. That’s a hope I have not because I think we’re the best team this season, but because we’re still in it and anything’s possible. That said, I couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining season from God’s Team. Sure, it wasn’t the dream boat basketball we’re used to, but shit, these guys ended up being fun to watch, for both good and bad reasons. I’m not writing the obituary on the season yet, but everything that happens from here on out is more than I could have hoped for going into the season. That said, I will be screaming at a TV come Friday night, so if you’re randomly in Brooklyn, feel free to come out and join me. Back