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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2014-15 Big XII Preview, Part 1 – There Will Be… by longdistancejayhawk
Googling Big 12 Conference brought up this gem. I'm personally super happy we ended up as Otto.

Googling Big 12 Conference brought up this gem. I’m personally super happy we ended up as Otto.

As I’m writing this, there’s snow falling in New York. We’re getting to that time of year when outside is miserable, inside is a little less so, and the basketball starts to really matter1. These are the games where you bundle up, as much to protect from the cold as to protect from the rivalries renewed and the potential blood baths on the horizon. Most years, hell, ten in a row, God’s Faithful have gone into this part of the slog with high expectations and a true belief that we can win the whole league. There’s certainly doubt, but if pressed on the issue, we all know that we would bet good money on Kansas to take the conference crown.

That confidence…where did it go?

The absence of a clearly dominant Kansas squad this season is what makes this year’s Big XII X XII conference slate so intriguing. We aren’t the clear favorite to win it all, though we’re not out of the conversation. Texas, a preseason darling to take the title, is lurking even if they haven’t made a strong, definitive statement on the issue yet. The Cyclones are frisky, playing a type of basketball that I can only describe as Anti-B1G. Meanwhile, the Bears aren’t hibernating and Oklahoma looms as a fringe contender following an impressive season last year. Yet none of these teams have an unblemished record, an achievement unique to the Horned Frogs coming into conference play.

Think about it. The Big XII X XII plays a round robin schedule, two games against each opponent. No one in this conference is a stiff, even poor K-State who barely made it .500 to start league play. There will be blood. There will be hurt feelings, tough games, bad losses, and glorious beatdowns. Don’t let anyone tell you that so-and-so upset so-and-so in this conference. Everyone could beat everyone. There are no upset when the bottom of the league is barely worse than the middle which is barely worse than the top.

This is going to be fun. Bloody, but definitely fun.

STANDINGS AT THE END OF THE NON-CONFERENCE

  1. TCU – 13-0
  2. West Virginia – 12-1
  3. Baylor – 11-1
  4. Texas – 11-2
  5. Kansas – 11-2
  6. Iowa State – 10-2
  7. Oklahoma State – 10-2
  8. Texas Tech – 10-3
  9. Oklahoma – 9-3
  10. Kansas State – 7-6

Shockingly, we’re not at the top or near it. Sixth is okay. Let’s play the vulture card, hovering in striking distance before swooping down and ripping through this conference one more time. Also, TCU? Really? Congrats, Trent. You’ve certainly turned that sinking ship around.

Now that we know where we stand, let’s get into the rankings. Each of these selections is mine and mine alone. I spent a full day looking at each team, examining their strengths, weaknesses, what got them here. Then, I picked every single matchup for every single team to come up with their conference record. And this…this is what came of all that work.

Also, I’ve decided that each team will be given an official Emoji-nal State this year. This was spurred by a joke you’ll read in like 10 minutes about TCU. Thanks to Jess for taking the time to read all these team profiles and help with the Emoji-nal States.

#10 – Texas Tech Red Raiders

Last Season’s Shame: 14-18 (6-12) – First year of Tubby Smith ends with Tubby’s first losing season as a head coach. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the vodka-fueled dumpster fire Gillespie left in his wake is the real reason for this.
Emoji-nal State:
Texas Tech
Non-Conference Record:
10-3
Projected Conference Record: 2-16 
Projected Total:
12-192

Ranked Game Record: 0-03
Baller Wins:
Absolutely none. Seriously, look at their schedule. They’ve lost to pretty much any team that you might have heard of, even if it’s because they’re a football school.
Brutal Losses: 
Not to pass judgement on the Missouri Valley Conference here, but an 18-point shellacking at the hands of Loyola University Chicago has to qualify. I have a friend who went there because they have a solid stage production program, so you know they’ve got the finger on the pulse of hoops recruiting.

I know that, looking at the record alone, the Red Raiders look like a strong team. But as you’ll see with pretty much all of these previews, everyone in the Big XII X XII is crushing their way into the conference slate. I mean, K-State (in a minute, I promise) is the worst team in the league right now and even they haven’t managed to completely play their way out of the tournament quite yet. Neither have the Red Raiders, but it’s only a matter of time before the buzzsaw of a stacked league knocks them back to their rightful place in the conference standings.

I honestly wanted to award the continuity of the Tubby Smith era4 and give them a couple of extra wins just for having a competent coach who didn’t get run out of town after a single season (Billy Gillespie). Or the nepotism selection from hell (Pat Knight). I just couldn’t do it. They’ve played mediocre basketball so far this season against some truly laughable opponents. They just can’t be as good as their record here. Once they get into league play and have to go two-fer against the top…hell, even the middle…of this conference, they’re going to be in for a rude awakening and a fun time watching the tournament from Buffalo Wild Wings5.

#9 – Kansas State Wildcats

Last Season’s Shame: 20-13 (10-8) – A solid season for Sexual Frustration that saw them take one each off Kansas and Iowa State. Naturally, they made the tournament, only to get punted in the first round by perhaps the most loathsome Kentucky team in recent memory6.
Emoji-nal State:
KSU
Non-Conference Record:
7-6
Projected Conference Record: 4-14
Projected Total:
11-20

Ranked Game Record: 0-1
Baller Wins:
Slim pickings here, but I’m going to go with a ass beating of Purdue since I can’t honestly count losing by four to ‘Zona as a win7
Brutal Losses: 
Could a team have a harder time winning gimme games? I can’t decide if a 23-point assassination by Pitt is worse than a 2-point edging by Texas Southern. At least Pitt’s a major conference team, one that most likely has a dance invite waiting for them at the end of the season.

I really wanted to put K-State higher than this. I like it when the Wildcats can hang in games and make shit interesting. Mostly that’s because I miss Missouri. Like a lot. But what has K-State done so far this year to engender any faith? Look at the record, which would be totally fine if they’d taken their talent level into, say, Kansas’ non-conference slate. It isn’t fine though. They can’t seem to win winnable games. That’s not a good sign in this conference of death.

One thing that might help is that they’ve been reasonably efficient in scoring a horrific8 68.3 PPG. I don’t see much in them to fuel any faith in them being a defensive juggernaut, but if they can figure that end of the court out, they could prove me wrong. I just don’t see that happening, though. I don’t think this is Bruce Weber’s year and, if that’s the case, he might be moving on to greener9 pastures.

#8 – Texas Christian Horned Frogs10

Last Season’s Shame: 9-22 (0-18) – I don’t think there’s much to go over here. I believe this emoji based Photoshopping tells the tale pretty accurately.
Emoji-nal State:
TCU-Poop on FIRE
Non-Conference Record:
13-0
Projected Conference Record: 6-12
Projected Total: 19-12

Ranked Game Record: 0-0
Baller Wins:
Tennessee State University is clearly the highlight of their schedule since I thought it was actually LSU for a minute. Not that LSU’s good at basketball, but that’s a team that’s probably in the running for “everyone else” after Kentucky in the SEC. Seriously. Look at the logos side-by-side and tell me that TSU isn’t totally trying to trick people:

Seriously! Look at that shit! If Knutford University was upset about our Trajan logo, I'm pretty sure LSU should be like double pissed about this business.

Seriously! Look at that shit! If Knutford University was upset about our Trajan logo, I’m pretty sure LSU should be like double pissed about this business.

Brutal Losses: Well, if you haven’t lost a game, you don’t have any brutal losses. Really, that’s just a technicality, but zero losses all the same.

Last year wasn’t a season to remember for the Horned Frogs. Going out backwards in Cofnerence play is pretty hard when you consider that even the Red Raiders managed to win a game or two here and there under Pat Knight’s stewardship. Winning a single Conference game should be difficult, but not impossible. Hell, last year’s 0-18 TCU team was just a year removed from a two win campaign that saw them take a game off of Kansas in perhaps the worst regular season performance of the Toupee era. See, that was a horrible team that still managed to fight their way out of a paper sack and win two games. So going un-feated? That’s a pretty heady accomplishment.

Now, if you thought that Trent Johnson’s squad was going to try and give Towson a run for their money for longest losing streak11, you were dead wrong. And I mean dead fucking wrong. Rather than continue to roll over, the Horned Frogs went the opposite way and have won every single game they’ve played this season. All of them. Look, I know, I didn’t believe it myself, but there they are: a sterling 13-0.

It’s super impressive. It’s also unsustainable.

Look, Trent Johnson might finally be turning the TCU program around. However, it is a long road from complete and total doormat to respectability and even further to contending for a conference title. I can’t put faith in Johnson, a .532 career coach, to turn it around completely. One huge red flag, aside from the quality of competition, is their leading scorer, Anderson, is the only Horned Frog to average double figures on the season. That’s troubling coming into league play where the competition is better and defenses aren’t going to be fooled by Anderson. Expect TCU’s scoring to dry up considerably12.

The bulk of their scoring is on the guards and the team as a whole is shooting a staggering 48.5% on the season. That’s great! It’s just that I don’t trust that number when it comes to playing against quality competition. Amric Fields is going to need to get better on the production side of things, improving from his current 8.0 PPG. He’s hitting at an insane clip (59.6%), so if he can increase scoring without damaging the percentage, TCU should improve in conference play. I think six games is more than enough improvement13.

#7 – Oklahoma State Cowboys

Last Season’s Shame: 21-13 (8-10) – A trainwreck of a season that featured a seven game losing streak at the worst possible time, Marcus Smart (justifibly, in my opinion) attacking a fan, and a mercy killing at the hands of Gonzaga in the tournament. I’m sure I had OSU slotted to get out of the first round, but I also ignored my own “don’t back any team that melted down for seven straight games” rule.
Emoji-nal State:
OSU
Non-Conference Record: 
10-2
Projected Conference Record: 7-11
Projected Total: 
17-13

Ranked Game Record: 0-1
Baller Wins:
A 74-72 OT win over Missouri. Missouri isn’t good at all, but I’m going to give props to any team that protects the world from Missouri joy.
Brutal Losses: 
A 26-point skull fucking by a middle-of-the-SEC-pack Gamecocks squad.

This team is a run-and-gun nightmare. Who needs assists when you can have two dudes average 17+ points? Fuck ball movement, jack it up, boys! Oklahoma State features Le’Bryan Nash has come into his own this season, averaging 17.9 PPG after averaging 13.8 in his first three season in Stillwater. He’s finally the player that everyone thought he would be and he’s doing it on an insanely efficient 47.5% shooting. Meanwhile, Phil Forte III is morphing into a reasonable approximation of Keiton fucking Page v2.0. More skills, better all around game added to a bombing white dude. Between Forte and Nash, there’s a shade shy of 35 points of production. No other duo in the cofnerence that I noted was combining for more.

Oklahoma State is good and they’ve clearly found a rythm for what they want to do on the court. My main issue is the lack of assists, though. Currently, they’re 64th in the country in scoring while 240th in assists. That’s not good. I’m sure Oklahoma State is going to be fun to watch and a nightmare for slow teams in the Big XII X XII, but how can they continue their path to victory when teams force them into full 35-second offensive sets? If they’re not able to get into a flow, I don’t see how they keep the scoring up. They’ll fall off a bit in conference, but that, as it has been with most of these teams, be a function of the toughness of the league, rather than them being a shitty team14.

#6 – Oklahoma Sooners

Last Season’s Shame: 21-10 (12-6) – A very good regular season capped by two quick tournament exits. Oklahoma deserved better last year than getting bounced in the first round by North Dakota State.
Emoji-nal State:

OU
Non-Conference Record:
9-3
Projected Conference Record: 8-10
Projected Total: 
17-13

Ranked Game Record: 1-2
Baller Wins:
A convincing 10-point win over UCLA made all the more convincing when you consider it was in the Battle 4 Atlantis and their totally tits ballroom-cum-basketball court15. Also, they continued the theme of Oklahoma protecting the country from Misery happiness by curbstomping them by 19 in early December.
Brutal Losses: A two-point loss against the Creighton Bluejays, all the more shameful since Dougie McBuckets wasn’t there to score like 150 points and make it an actual rout. Also, Creighton’s going to be terrible this season, which will only make this loss look worse as the season wears on.

I like this team! Seriously! This isn’t a misprint or anything, I genuinely think Oklahoma’s a good squad this year and they’re the Maginot Line for the conference. You want into the Tournament? You need to overcome Oklahoma to ensure your entry, my friend.

The Sooners have been slowly building a decent contender, one that’s primed to erase the memory of that shit squad that Kansas routed three seasons ago16. I really like watching Buddy Hield play. Ditto Cousins. Hell, I’ll even (flow…thoughts arrive like butterflies) give some love to Spangler, who manages to be both an annoying shit and a really good fundamental college player. This season, Oklahoma does a lot of things well, and isn’t atrocious at anything while they’re at it. Lon Krueger is definitely continuing the upward trajectory of the program, even if, numbers wise, this is going to look like a bit of a slip.

One huge caveat, though: Oklahoma took advantage of a weaker Big XII X XII last season that saw a number of teams that should have performed better go into tailspins of various magnitudes. Is that door still open this season? Personally, I say no, but it wouldn’t shock me if the Sooners manage to sneak into the top three by the end of the season. Which is what made picking teams this year so hard. Everyone looks solid and at least one team that looks solid has to collapse. I feel like Oklahoma is the team most likely for that to happen, even though I think they’re really good. But being the dividing line between the good and the great isn’t to say they’ll have a bad year. Just more proof of how rough this conference slate is going to be.

*

That wraps up part one of my two-part MEGA Big XII X XII preview. Come back this afternoon for part two.

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – And now, it’s snowing when this gets posted, too. Funny how that works. Of course, the snow’s a minor annoyance comapared to be a horrible cold snap coming. Consider yourself lucky if you get to drive places rather than walk to the subway in brutal cold. Back

2 – Yes, I’m well aware that I just blamed Tubby’s first losing season on picking up the chunks of limbs scattered around Lubbock following the departure of Billy Gillespie, but there’s just no way, no fucking way he manages to right that ship this season. The Big XII X XII is just too strong. Like, to the point where this preview is packed with some total judgement calls, rather than any strong feeling about a particular team. Back

3 – I mentioned it on Twitter, but I wrote this prior to the Big XII X XII Conference season starting…but then published it after the season started. So, yes, I’m aware that Tech just got through dropping their conference opener to Texas, but for the purposes of this, let’s just stick with non-conference ranked wins. As if I believed that shit held any water. Back

4 – Two years without a DUI or a player assault! Let’s pop some champagne! Back

5 – Hopefully, Tubby springs for a trip up to the city and a huge post-season feast for his squad at the Buffalo Wild Discotheque up in Times Square. Back

6 – I mean, every year they’re loathsome, but usually, they have the good graces to be unstoppable, like this year. If this year’s team doesn’t win it all, then they probably died in a plane crash or something. They’re that good and that makes them loathsome. No, last year’s Kentucky squad was a different breed of awful. That team of world-beaters managed to stumble their way to 11 losses. Eleven! All this while over-zealous Wildcat fans are getting tattoos to commemorate a 2014 Championship that never came…except that it very nearly became a reality. What’s worse than that? The universe finally give us what we all want (Kentucky shame) and they very nearly turned it into yet another National Championship. What I’m saying, there’s clearly no higher power or anything. Back

7 – Even though, as terrible as this team is, that’s totally a win. Anytime you can take a favorite for the title down to the wire, you’re doing something right. Even if only for a minute. Back

8 – Yes, yes, I know…Kansas struggles to score and all that jazz. Look, I’m freely admitting this is one of those “pot calling the kettle black” situations. Back

9 – Read: somewhere with a solid base of talent that’s already been recruited so he can look competent for a couple years before his inability to recruit becomes apparent and, like shampoo, he’s lat(h)er-r(un)se-repeat. Further reading: see Illinois tenure of Weber, Bruce. Back

10 – From here on out, I think the teams are not evenly matched, but considerably closer then the previous two. As such, the next seven previews are probably going to be more in-depth than the last two. Look, I want to bring you the kind of analysis you deserve, but seriously…Texas Tech and K-State are garbage and there’s no need to spend too much time worrying about them. Back

11 – Trent Johnson certainly isn’t winning any coach of the century awards for his career body of work, but he isn’t a slouch either. TCU retaining his services despite the debacle of last season is a testament to how little of a shit TCU gives about their basketball programt17. Back

12 – Somehow, they’re 47th in the country, scoring a ridiculous 75.2 PPG. Again, look at the competition they’re playing. I’m pretty sure a pickup team could notch that many points against the types of teams TCU has gone against so far this season. Back

13 – Seriously, having TCU end up in the seven spot might have been the toughest call here. I think they’re legit, but I think they’re legit the way that Baylor is three out of four years. Good players, well coached, terrible situation. If you moved TCU back into a mid-major, I’m pretty sure they’d be ripping limbs left and right. In the BigXII XII? They’re in a shitty situation and there’s little hope for more of the redemption narrative that’s taken place in their non-conference slate. Back

14 – It should be noted that I think this is the line for tournament teams from the BigXII X XII. Oklahoma State is probably in, but they have work to do. Same with the next team on the list. Back

15 – Full disclosure: I watched a lot of that tournament over Feast Week, thanks to my parents’ beloved UNC playing in the tournament. I tried to explain that they should be prepared for quite possibly the worst aesthetic basketball ever. Seriously, Atlantis…you’re not broke. Build a goddamned basketball court. Back

16 – I remember watching that one at my friend Jane’s spot with her former roommate Kyle. It was a typical game watching experience with Kyle, since he loved to make fun of Kansas’ dominance. In this particular matchup, Oklahoma fans left Lloyd Noble with like 15 minutes left in the second half. I’d like to blame an incoming snowstorm on the mass exodus that left the stands empty for a convincing KU win, but that’s not true. No, Oklahoma was just a train wreck that game (and really, that whole season). Back

17 – And honestly, they shouldn’t care too much about it since they’re like a reverse Kansas in that regard. Sure, they had some rough season on the gridiron the last couple of years, but the absolute demolition they delivered from start to finish on Ole Miss in the Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Did they deserve to be in the playoffs? Probably. But they shouldn’t be disappointed with the hardware they did take. I mean, it isn’t like the hoops team’s going to be bringing anything home for the trophy case any time soon. Back



After Battle Report: Texas Tech Red Weddings by longdistancejayhawk
I'm so glad Embiid was back last night. Mostly because he figured into a couple crucial plays in the stretch and, with Mapes, scored like 75% of our points.

I’m so glad Embiid was back last night. Mostly because he figured into a couple crucial plays in the stretch and, with Mapes, scored like 75% of our points.

Last night, I was in the zone at work. You know what I’m talking about? When you have a bunch of shit that you’re working on and you end up looking up at some point and realizing that it’s like 6:15 and you need to get home to catch the game? Yeah, that happened. Usually on game day, I tend to leave on time because I want to make sure that, even if the F train decides to crap out and sit in a tunnel for 30 minutes, I have a two hour buffer and enough Starters, Tuesday Club, and B.S. Report podcasts to keep me from getting too panicked. Fuck, I wear KU shirts and specifically pick my button down based on whether or not it includes God’s Colors in the scheme. So, I tend to not forget or zone out on game days.

But I did last night.

Probably because I figured it would be a pretty easy win for us. I don’t think Tech’s atrocious, but I think they’re thoroughly mediocre. They win games they should, lose the ones they should, and are poised to end in a three-way tie for like 6th place in the Big XII X XII. I got home, fixed some dinner and settled in for an early game.

I was alone in the lobby of the Long Distance Jayhawk office. Which makes it all the funnier to think about me experiencing the range of emotions that I went through. There were a few highs, mostly lows. I was screaming invective for roughly 35 minutes, getting darker and darker in mood as we bumbled our way through a pretty horrific basketball game. I wanted it to be over, so I could just move on. It wasn’t even pissed I was feeling. Just a bleakness that could only be remedied by the game fucking ending.

Then, we managed to steal the win. When the Embiid “pass”1 found its way into Wiggins’ hands and he had that little floater to put us up for good, I screamed. I clapped, I jumped up and down, I screamed. I might not be in love with this year’s vintage, but my god if a dramatic finish doesn’t get the blood pumping.

Final Score: Kansas 64-63 Texas Tech

The Good: Was there anything good about this one? Seriously? I’m trying to avoid starting off with “Well, we won” because that schtick is overused around these hallowed pages. But that’s really the best I can muster for this game. We started off alright, getting up ten on the Red Weddings, before letting them get back in and keep it close until the bitter end. There wasn’t a single moment after the ten minute mark where I felt at all confident, and it got worse from there.

Since Tech beat us in shooting from the floor, I’m happy we got the win. If we hadn’t gotten the win, we would have netted out with the same game lead on Texas2. With the Texas loss and our win, we’re in pole position right now and could, with two straight victories, cinch up the Decade of Dominance.

As far as actual plays, there were a couple of great plays, like Maple’s drive from the wing and two handed jam 3 and the Lionslayer bailing out the Wiggins’ jam that missed at around 25 seconds left in the game. It was probably the most excited and dominant we looked all game on that second play. I like that Wiggins went strong, even if he missed, and that Embiid put that shit down like the rim had just eaten his mom. That’s what I want to see more of. I fear that those sorts of plays are going to be few and far between over the next 5-14 games4.

The Bad: We looked like we didn’t understand how to play basketball, let alone team basketball. Our defense looked even more like decapitated chickens than we do most nights and our offense seemed totally out of it, trying desperately to put this team away. I still can’t believe that we were in range at the end to even have that crazy ass play work out for the win. Tech hit 47.1% from the floor vs. our 45.2%5. Ugh. I feel like we didn’t do anything well.

On the whole, our defense was atrocious, typified by Tharpapalooza looking more like he was high on LSD in the second half than K.Dot killing it at All-Star Weekend. Those two turnovers in the second were like getting stabbed in the heart by the player I love more irrationally than any other. Of course, those turnovers weren’t the worst part of our defense. That would be our ability to rebound on defense. How many fucking points did Tech get off second- and third-chance attempts? Tech out shot us on the night, 51-42 and, I’m guessing, that at least 10 of those came form OUR INABILITY TO REBOUND THE MOTHERFUCKING BALL! It’s not rocket surgery! Fucking grab that shit when it misses! Look, I’m aware that a shit ton of those misses were flukey caroms and shit, but we were boxing out with two. I’m not a mathemetician, but that leaves three guys around. Even if one leaks out for a transition bucket6, that leaves two dudes who should gauge the arc of the ball and at least try to disrupt the offensive board.

God, what a shit show.

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: Stealing a win from a Tech team that really should have gotten the win would be enough for most coaches:

“It’s big, it’s big, but it doesn’t mean anything unless we win Saturday. That’s the game that would give us some serious breathing room, although we’ve got a little bit now, and it was big tonight.”

Don’t be satisfied!

Men of the Match Award: I’m going with pure emotion for this one and awarding a co-MotM to Maple and Lionslayer7. I don’t want anyone to think I was happy with the performance, but as I went into crunch time Twitter blackout, I felt like we would run The Chalmers or a variant thereof. Maybe we were and it just didn’t happen. Maybe we were running a new variant called “Wiggins, just stand there, they know you’re gonna catch and shoot off the screen, so let’s see what else we can get.” Maybe Gentleman Tailor was the first option and Lionslayer was the dump off. Maybe Toupee told them in the huddle to drop it and see if Tech was so shocked that we’d turn it over at a crucial moment that they’d let Maple in for the game winner. Maybe it really is just how Toupee drew it up. Maybe I need to stop worrying and love this team. Maybe I need to do what I do all the time and just believe that anytime Toupee makes a call for the final play of the game, it’ll go exactly as he wants it, shin pass and all.

In Toupee I Trust.

Looking Ahead: Right now, we’re heading home for a tussle with Texas and the Sith Lord with a two game lead in the Big XII X XII standings. I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous for a match up. I believe that we’ll be ready for this game, in terms of strategy. Adjustments will be made after the first Texas game where the brute strength and size of the Sith Lords negated all athleticism and length. What we look like, how we execute on Saturday will tell us a lot about this team. Do we handle them with ease? Do we win by 20? Do we win at all? Most importantly, do we play with focus, confidence, and, above all, the fire that we’ll need to take this shit to the next level?

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FOOTNOTES

1 – I’ve rewatched the play like 15 times and I still can’t tell, from the ESPN angle whether or not Lionslayer passed it to Maple of if he just dribbled it off his knee. I was also trying to figure out if we were running The Chalmers for Maple and if Gentleman Tailor’s pop was supposed to be the outlet. I still can’t tell and the fact that it worked is staggering in a way that I’m in no way qualified to competently asses. No matter what, I’m 101% confident that everything that happened was just how Toupee drew it up. Back

2 – I’m glad that ISU showed up for that game last night and beat Texas. I honestly thought Texas would win that one, making our game a must win to keep pace with the Sith Lords. Iowa State just didn’t seem to have the size advantage to abuse Texas inside, something that worries me for Saturday’s matchup at Allen Fieldhouse. More on that in a bit. Back

3 – I loved that play. Mostly because it was the opposite of most Wiggins drives. On that one, he caught the pass didn’t hesitate, blew past his defender and put the ball in with a two-handed fuck-you jam. It’s the kind of thing that happens all too infrequently on the offensive side for Wiggins. How many times does he drive into the lane and immediately after contact lose the fucking ball and throw his hands up like a preacher screaming “TESTIFY!” at a tent revival? Like 20 times a game? That seems conservative. Look, Paul Pierce has made a career out of doing that, trying to always get it in the act of shoot, but it’s frustrating to watch. Maple is currently the all-time leading scorer at KU for a frosh, with 15.1 PPG (per ESPN’s in-game graphic), besting Benji and Manning. By a rough estimation, I feel like 65% of those points have to come at the charity stripe. Watching him on offense is fucking frustration. Like Dwight, but you’re always wondering what could have been if he’d finished strong. Back

4 – We have the five conference games left, then up to three conference tourney, and six tourney games. I do not think we’re a threat to actually get 14 more out of this season, but I’m still pulling for it. Back

5 – Not the worst advantage, save for the fact that they hit a staggering 50% from distance to our equally staggering (in the other direction) 28.6%. A more optimistic person that me might chalk that one up to them shooting like 3-6, but they went 6-12. And we went 4-14. Which might as well be the same number of attempts, as far as I’m concerned. Which is fucking brutal. Moving on, before I go find that bottle of bleach under the sink. Back

6 – Which is almost anathema to this fucking vintage. I feel like this team doesn’t get opportunistic buckets in transition like previous squads. Which sucks because I believe easy buckets like that are just the kind of thing you need to really get the team amped up and ready to kill. Back

7 – Which isn’t to disparage their offensive games, combining for 37 points on 67% shooting. They seemed like the only two guys who were somewhat locked in for this one. I mean, it’s pretty easy when the rest of the squad goes for a steaming pile of dogshit (also known as 27 points on 29% shooting). Back



Know Your Enemy: Texas Tech Red Raiders by longdistancejayhawk
I'm sure she wouldn't appreciate being in these hallowed pages, but congrats to Wagle for helping end the threat of codified discrimination.

I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate being in these hallowed pages, but congrats to Wagle for helping end the threat of codified discrimination.

Woohoo!

Around the Long Distance Jayhawk offices, yesterday was a good day, what with the Kansas State Senate doing the right thing and kneecapping the idiotic anti-gay discrimination law1. Those of you who come here often are, no doubt, familiar with the anti-discrimination tirade I went on after Julian Wright went insane on Grammy night. So, it was pretty sad to me that the bill in question not only made it to a vote in the house, but that it got passed through that house. Thank fucking god for bicameral legislature, since it then had to go through the Senate.

And the Senate didn’t disappoint.

Slate has a pretty quick recap that comes to the conclusion that, by and large, the people voting against the bill didn’t want to look like bigots to their (current and future, presumably) grandkids. Which might be true. But I don’t think it matters, in toto, how you come to the conclusion that people need to be treated not only as equals, but not subject to arbitrary an capricious discrimination codified into law2. What’s important is that you treat everyone like you’d want to be treated.

Because if we didn’t the subway would be a fucking zoo. Let alone, you know, supermarkets and everything else that we use with the understanding that “I’m gonna be chill over here by the green peppers…you be chill by the arugula and we’ll all get out of here alive.” I’m glad that the Senate showed not only a spine, but human decency.

Which makes it harder for me to talk about the hopelessly mediocre Texas Tech Red Raiders…but, I have a job to do. And this is basketball. Let’s hit it!

Official Name: Texas Tech University
Location: Lubbock, TX
Nickname: The Red Raiders
Derisive Nickname: The Red Weddings3

Signature Win: Knowing what we know now of Oklahoma State and Baylor, Texas Tech’s wins over both might be more indicative of how overrated they were or how far they’ve slipped since conference play started. If this were a year ago, the Red Weddings could hang their blood spattered dirks on the fact they’d beaten two solid conference opponents. As it stands, it really does look like Roose Bolton and the rest of Walder Frey’s men getting Robb’s bannermen wasted so they’re too blotto to fight.

Of course, if this were last year, Billy Gillespie would still be coaching. And holding 15 two-hour practices per day. And strangling players.

So, that leaves an eight point win over Oklahoma as their signature win, in my opinion. Lon Krueger’s squad has looked solid, if unspectacular this conference season and I think they’re going to make it into the tournament. So, on Tech’s resume for the NIT, that win should translate to a higher seed4.

Look at that fucking hair! It's like those awful Old Spice commercials with the living hair hitting on women come to life.

Look at that fucking hair! It’s like those awful Old Spice commercials with the living hair hitting on women come to life.

Key Players: The Red Weddings feature the Tubbs and Crockett of the Big XII X XII, Tolbert and Crockett. Man, you guys really fucked that one up. Tolbert, you couldn’t change your name to Tubbs, just for me? Okay, fine. Crockett is a familiar face for Tech and this year he’s having a respectable season with 14.8 PPG on 53.8% shooting. Which would be really good as the second option to Tolbert’s 10.8 PPG (56.2%). You know, if Tolbert’s numbers weren’t significantly worse that Crockett’s. I don’t think either of them is having a coming out party tonight, since neither of them seem to be a dominant player.

But lets ignore the two most productive players and focus on the player you’re destined to love-to-hate: Dusty Hannahs! If that weren’t enough, he’s the Red Wedding’s answer to the riddle of “What until recently had a hideous haircut, is super white, and hits three pointers like some kind of Kyle Singler clone?” While Hannahs wasn’t the kind of distance shooter that kills us all the fucking time (a la Forte or Heslip), he did have a very solid game against us in the Big XII X XII tournament last year (25 mins, 15 points, 3-4 3PA/M) and he’s taking a team high xx shots from beyond the arc for 39.4%. Expect to scream “Guard the white guy with the Mike Miller hair goddamit!” a lot tonight.

Keys to Victory: Look, no one on this team is going to be mistaken for a world beater. In fact, up and down the roster we have the edge. Tharpapalooza is averaging 5.3 assists per game, while their assist leader is checking in 1.2 and no one else is even averaging 1. You could make the argument that they’re really spreading the ball around, what with everyone having at least a couple, but I’m pretty sure it just means that none of them is particularly good at passing in traffic, let alone passing to an open man. On the defensive end, they’re blocks leader, Kravic, is only getting 1.2 per game, which Lionslayer is crushing at 2.5 BPG. What that tells me is Kravic isn’t nearly the imposing interior threat the Embiid is. I fully expect Gentleman Tailor to expand on his post-ups and interior moves in this one en route to another impressive game (for points, anyway).

The only way this doesn’t go our way is if we get caught looking to the revenge game on Saturday against Texas. Unless that happens, I expect this one will be totally fucking sad, an exercise in Tech futility. Even at our worst, we should be able to clobber the Red Weddings, playing Roose Bolton to their Robb and Catelyn5.

Delicious Local (to the enemy) Beer to Avoid: Any ex-pats going to Lubbock are advised to avoid Yellow House Brewery. Never had it6, so I can’t actually attest to it’s quality and/or deliciousity, but you know the rules about no quarter. Drink only Shiner if you’re in Texas. If you’re anywhere else, I think you drink whatever you want with impunity.

Lionslayer vs. Red Raider: In a vacuum, Embiid would dress like a seven-foot tumbleweed and roll up next to the Red Raider, slip out of the disguise, whisper in his ear “You are the one who has been Raided!” before Dikembe laughing and snapping his neck. But since he’s coming off that back injury, I don’t think curling up into tumbleweed costumes is an optimal choice. As it stands, I think it comes down to whether or not Lionslayer can block bullets. Hint: he can. Embiid for the win!

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)7Kansas 86-69 Texas Tech

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FOOTNOTES

1 – While it isn’t officially voted down as of yet, Wagle has said that there’s a majority of Republicans in the Kansas Senate opposed to the bill which means it’s doomed to fail. Which definitely makes me feel better about the great state of Kansas. I like to think that it was rationality winning out, but I’m pretty sure it was me quoting the greatest movie with built in drinking game, Wild Zero, what did it:

Okay, I’m going to leave it there, because I could go on forever trying to unknot the lunacy of the Kansas Republican party. Back

2 – If you’re interested in understanding the reasons behind the House’s votes, the Lawrence Journal-World has you covered here. I read through all of the explanations. Some of them were an admission that, you know, this bill was attemting to legalize discrimination on shaky grounds. Some decided to make some “Yeah, I’m voting NO, but the schools! Let’s not forget that we don’t put nearly enough money into schools in this state!” But the one that I found the most horrifying came courtesy of Charles Macheers, Keith Esau, Mario Goico, and Jim Howell:

The bill’s opponents have made false representations about new discrimination. States enacting same sex marriage – from New York to Hawaii – have also enacted specific protections for religious liberties as it relates to same-sex marriage, including Progressive governors like Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley. Kansas is consistent with those states. It maintains the status quo.

Perhaps he’s talking about the other New York state, but that’s not the one that I’m currently a resident of. Yes, we do allow churches to decline to officiate a same-sex marriage (as if a gay couple would want to get married in a Westboro type of church…so much tacky early-90’s nylon!), but that’s about as far as we go. Hey, shit for brains’, YOU DIDN’T STOP THERE! You were trying to make it so that someone could discriminate in any capacity, including government services. Not the same. At all. Also, we don’t have it in the provisions that you can discriminate on a hunch, which is what this bill seemed to condone. Like what’s to stop someone from kicking a Middle Eastern person out of their establishment then claiming they thought said person was a homosexual? It’s ludicrous! Thank fucking god the bill got shot down. Back

3 – What Roose Bolton is to Robb Stark the Red Raiders are to enjoyable, aesthetically pleasing basketball. Back

4 – I’m not going to as far as Myron Metcalf’s not-likely prediction did in the ESPN Selection Sunday prediction column, saying that we’d get eight teams in the tournament because I think that’s just too far, even for such a strong league. The selection committee isn’t going to want to load it so far in our favor, even if we are the best conference. Mostly because if they have to leave out someone with a slightly better resume on the season only because of a 7th place finish in the Big XII X XII is “worth more” than a fourth finish in the American Conference. I think the committee is going to want to avoid that sort fo thing. That said, I think we get nine teams into post-season play, probably seven to the Big Dance and two to the Not In Tournament. Now, if you read through the above link, C.L. Brown’s bold prediction is that Texas is going to knock us off for top of the Big XII X XII. Really, Brown? You think so? The weird thing is that his reasoning read to me like he thought we had like six games with them left. I’m looking at the schedule, Brown, and I think we’re winning this one, outright at 14-4. Texas will be right there with us at 13-5, but God’s Team is taking the day here. Back

5 – Yeah, I know…that’s the opposite of what I said earlier about them being the Roose Bolton of basketball. It’s free! What do you expect from me! Back

6 – Though I’d be a lying sack of shit and a half if I didn’t admit that I’m intrigued by their Down the Hatch Green Chili Ale. I’m a sucker for combining beer with hot sauce, so this would just take that step out of the process. And I’m not going to argue with anything that saves me the seven seconds of having to put the sauce in there myself. Back

7 – Now with 100% more fiber! Back



After Battle Report: TCU Horned Frogs by longdistancejayhawk
TCU decided to employ the incredible Kung-fu Fightin' defensive strategy, popularized byIowa State against West Virginia (see footnote 11).

TCU decided to employ the incredible Kung-fu Fightin’ defensive strategy, popularized byIowa State against West Virginia (see footnote 11).

What the fuck is with all this goddamned snow? Seriously, people. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve been outside without like 15 layers of shit on and my L.L. Bean boots that have the win/lose prospect of keeping my feet dry as toast and being so goddamned inflexible that my flattish feet feel like shit by the time I get to take them off at the end of the day1. Save for a random race I ran on Super Bowl Sunday, I haven’t been able to run in like two weeks. This is fucking bullshit. Bring on spring, dammit!

So, Saturday afternoon, I was snowed-ish in. Snowed for most of the day, basically. It was awful2, though it might be the perfect kind of weather to give you an excuse to stay in pajamas all day and watch Kansas pummel TCU into the ground. Not that we looked particularly good doing it. Let’s not fucking kid ourselves here. That wasn’t a stellar performance3. Le sigh. I suppose this is the world that we’re living in now. Never a moment of relaxing and, yet, somehow, they’re also kind of dull moments4.

Final Score: TCU 65-95 Kansas

Meanwhile, Magna employed the classic "Pewter Jayhawk strapped to stomach" strategy. That shit'll blind you.

Meanwhile, Magna employed the classic “Pewter Jayhawk strapped to stomach” strategy. That shit’ll blind you.

The Good: Honestly, there were only two things about this one that I really liked. The primary one was the first five minutes of the second half. After spending the first half batting the Horned Frogs around like a bored cat fucking around with a crippled mouse, we kicked off the second quarter with a 47-40 that swelled to 60-41 in five minutes, thanks to a 13 point explosion. It was so bad that, despite being a scant minute from a TV timeout, Trent The Corpse burned a second timeout in the second half. Jesus…who fucking does that? Two timeouts in like two minutes? And it isn’t even crunch time? What were drawing up at that point? How to better let Ellis get to the basket? Look, I’m not going to seriously complain about an opponent totally whiffing it on timeouts, but it does make me sad. These guys, their coaches, this program is supposed to be in the same league as God’s Team? Really? I don’t understand how I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief long enough to think, in any serious capacity that these guys are on the same footing as Kansas. Even if this is a frustrating, not-quite-so-excellent Kansas team.

That’s about all I can come up with. It seems weird to say that a 30 point slaughter is something that doesn’t have a ton of highlights, but it was like most routs. By the time the Black Angels of Nepotism were hitting the court, I’d checked out.

The Bad: Wayne Selden’s Shapeshifting Lizard Man Eyes were, no fucking doubt, the most frustrating thing about this one. Lizard Man Eyes looked like a less NBA-ready Benji McDunks as he repeatedly took the least efficient shot. Like every fucking time he got a touch, he was looking to score and do it from the dumbest spot of the floor. At maybe the eight minute mark, we swung the ball around to him on the right wing, wide open. Now, the wing isn’t the highest percentage spot for treys…but again, he was wide open. This is important. Lizard Man Eyes caught it, then dribbled once to 18-feet and put up a shot with a man recovering to him. Not that the guy got close enough to be a disruptive force, but…he stepped inside for a slightly less open shot that’s worth just two points. When he had a wide open shot from a spot that has like a 1% less-likely chance of going in…but is worth three. Am I the only person that gets frustrated about these things? Like, if Selden wanted to drive and posterize someone, then that would be preferable. But why go to the Garnett spot to put up a two-pointer? Ugh. I feel like this is the kind of thing that takes like 50 games to drill into kids. I like that Selden was hitting them5, but he had some terrible shot selection in this one, akin to McLemore’s inexplicable love of stepping inside for the first 25 games last year.

On a global level, Lionslayer sitting this one out definitely had an impact in the first half. I’m not delusional enough to believe that this is a tradition Toupee Vintage by any stretch, but Embiid keeps the interior on lock. With Tarik on the inside, we didn’t have the crazy wingspan we usually have to make interior scoring easy. TCU scored more in the first half close to the basket than they probably should have. Plus, without Lionslayer, we had to go to Magna sooner since Black is a fouling machine6. Obviously, we were gifted this game to rest Embiid since they’re a run-and-gun-and-do-it-badly-and-lose team. Can you imagine if we’d have to rest Lionslayer during Saturday’s Texas game7? I’m glad that Texas is actually competent this year8, but losing to them twice in on year would probably shave ten years off my life. Let’s move on before I throw up on myself.

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: Man, you’d think in a blood bath, Toupee’d be a little more excited:

“You know what? I thought we competed as well as we have for a while. Kyan did a really, really good job of keeping us in the game in the first half, but they’re really good. They’re really good.”

Whoops, my bad. That was the Corpse Man, sounding more the like the shellshocked man emerging from his foxhole to piles of dismembered bodies of guys he was drinking and toasting with just 12 hours before.

Come the fuck on, dude! You're dunking! Look like you can't believe how fucking awesome you are!

Come the fuck on, dude! You’re dunking! Look like you can’t believe how fucking awesome you are!

Man of the Match Award: During the 13-1 run, the Gentleman Tailor was crucial, notching six of his 32 points in that five minute stretch. Ellis looked locked in offensively Saturday afternoon. Locked in to a workman like scoring barrage in the post, but still. Does this make Gentleman Tailor our MVP? No, of course not. But in this game, he looked good. The only knock I have is that he, like everyone on this fucking charisma-less squad, looked no different than any time he’s gone for eight. Would it kill him to be jazzed out of his mind to get buckets (and buckets and buckets)? Granted, I had checked out a little bit, but it just seemed like that kind of game where you don’t realize someone’s killing it until it’s over. It’s similar to the WVU game at Allen. Selden looked frustrating as he dribbled into double teams then picked the ball up and had to despearation pass out of the trap, but then I looked at the scoreboard and Lizard Man Eyes had 17 points. I was a little shocked about it. Obviously, Ellis didn’t do anything nearly as frustrating, but I didn’t really realize how many points he’d gotten until the end.

Here’s hoping that the next MotM decides to showing a little emotion so I can actually come up with fun things to talk about instead of making a tenuous analogy to a strange Selden game.

Looking Ahead: We travel to Lubbock to take on Tubby Smith’s thoroughly mediocre Texas Tech squad. There’s little here to get to excited about. They beat the teams that they should and they lose to the teams that they should lose to. Part of me misses the x-factor of Bobby Knight on the sidelines, but I also like being able to pencil in two wins that don’t involve the execution of one of our players thanks to flying chair.

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FOOTNOTES

1 – Not to mention the fact that they do. Not. Breath. At. All. Which leads to your socks smelling like soggy nuclear death cloths and your feet smelling only slightly better than that. Alex and I have a perpetual argument about how I hate having to do anything once I’ve gotten in bed and she hates that my feet will infect all of the sheets with gross smells. She’s probably right, but that doesn’t mean that I want to get uncomfortable to clean my stank feet. Back

2 – Good thing that Alex and I went to see The Wolf of Wall Street Friday night because I can pretty much assure you that, had Valentine’s Day been the snowy day, I would have probably ended up going out…but I would have complained about the goddamned snow the whole time. Yeah, I’m kind of a disagreeable person, all things considered. Anyway, Wolf was at turns incredible and overlong. Jonah Hill deserves anything and everything he gets for his performance as Donnie. He’s so fucking weird that you can’t take your eyes off him. The scene at the party where he fwaps away to Leo’s future second wife is absolutely incredible (not to mention the bit before that when he’s bellowing about Steve Madden). Some crazy genius in that flick. I’d recommend it to anyone who has  strong constitution, both for debauchery and length9. Oh, and there’s a scene towards the end of the movie that managed to be both my favorite and the scene I thought could have used the most trimming. Back

3 – Yeah, yeah, I know. Sour grapes and all of that, right? Like how many other fans would be fucking amped to get a chance to watch their team play a mildly competitive first half, only to jam rebar into their opponent’s trachea in the second half? Would any of those people ever complain about what we saw on Saturday? Probably not, unless they’re really into guys not stepping over the line to take a long two when a three was quicker, easier, and slightly less guarded. Back

4 – This might betray the absolute depths of my sickness with hoops but I’ve been going back to  the NCAA Vault and watching some of my favorite tourney performances from God’s Team. Yeah, I know. It’s sad, but sometimes, I just want to remember what it was like to watch a great team that executed like they knew what the fuck they were doing. Back

5 – But not enough to be hyped about it on Twitter, unlike certain KU fans. Look, points are awesome and all, but taking the wrong shot, early in the shot clock, or passing up a wide open three that is infinitely makeable for a 18-footer is not something to be happy about. Lizard Man Eyes might have been on fire, but I would prefer him to have been on fire in a smarter way. Back

6 – By 17:53 he’d managed a layup, a foul and the always-appreciated foul-turnover twofer. It’s staggering that Black hasn’t, in like 15 years of college ball, the nuances of the reffed game. Do you think those guys in stripes are just snazzy dressers who paid for the On-court Workout Seats? It’s like he’s a physical monster who plays like he’s on the most brutal Ruckers Park team of all time. It’s almost impressive to the point that I’m rooting for us to let him start senior night and leave him on until he fouls out. I suspect it would take maybe six minutes of gameplay. This is like the polar opposite of my campaign of #WitheyForThree. Back

7 – Fuck me. As I typed that, I got goosebumps. Embiid will be coming back for tomorrow’s Texas Tech game, but what if he’s coming back prematurely? What if he reaggravates his injury and has to sit against Texas? Fuck…I’m the worst. If that happens, I give Jayhawk Nation permission to come out to bring out the torches and pitchforks. Back

8 – Speaking of the Longhorns, Lunardi projected them as a tourney team as conference play tipped. I thought it was a little bit of a reach, since the Sith Lord is never to be trusted until Selection Sunday. However, what I’ve seen of them, coupled with their signature win over us, makes them almost a lock to make the tournament. While Texas has surprised me thus far, the most surprising thing about this season has to be the swap of tourney teams in the Big XII X XII. I certainly thought Oklahoma State was overrated, but I never thought that they’d meltdown like Chernobyl. And that was before Marcus Smart justifiably shoved the Tech booster. And Baylor is getting Scott Drewed…all the talent in the world and you get beat by considerably less talented squads like Oklahoma. I still think we get six teams in the tournament (Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State) with an increasingly remote seventh (Baylor and Oklahoma State clawing each others’ eyes out for that slot) as a possibility. I can’t wait until ESPN has to explain why we got more teams than the B1G since all their announcers have to qualify any Big XII X XII comments with “Well, I love the Big Ten, but I think there’s a possibility that the Big 12 might…possibly, be the better league. But Izzo! Crean! Beilein! They’re winners! And that league is so strong!” Back

9 – On a related note: THERE WAS A COUPLE THAT BROUGHT A CHILD TO THE SHOWING! WHAT THE MOTHERFUCKING FUCK FUCK? I’m not talking a baby, one that might sleep through the endless scenes of drug abuse, but a full grown, capable of communicating on a level that 95% of people would be able to understand (the other 5% being babies, of course). I’m really shitty with kids’ ages, but Alex swore that thing was like 8-10. She knows better about these things, so I’m inclined to believe her. Which makes it all the more fucked up! That kid is old enough to understand that’s a fucking dick! There’s a dick on screen and it is clearly…unambiguously a dick! Fer reelz. One of the more fucked things I’ve seen in a while. Look, guys, I know it’s Valentine’s Day and you want to have a romantic evening out11 but you have a responsibility. Hire a fucking babysitter. Trust me, there’s nothing that your sister’s daughter will ever do to that child that will fuck her up more royal than seeing Jonah Hill’s (presumably prosthetic) ding-dong. Back

10 – The photo was added after I wrote everything. Obviously, this should be footnote 1, but I’m lazy. ANYWAY…if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and check out this video clip from the Iowa State-West Virginia game the devolved into a late-period Patrick Swayze movie late in the second half. The best part about the whole thing is that the announcers are talking about Ron Artest/Metta World Peace and the Malice at the Palace as dude gets Ryu kicked in the chest. It’s both insane and perfectly done so as to seem like a totally normal part of a basketball game.

11 – Not to get back into David Foster Wallace level footnotes-in-footnotes here, but I find it kind of funny that Wolf of Wall Street ended up having a nice turnout on Valentine’s Day. For one thing, I hate the holiday, so I assumed it would be full of a bunch of young intellectuals who are too big of pricks to talk to a woman for more than like 10 minutes (or me if Alex didn’t put up with me being a dick…), but I decided to do something for it. Alex wanted to see a movie, which I agreed to. My options were Wolf, Her, or Monuments MenI was also told the following:

“And I do want to see the Lego movie with you, but that is not a movie that will be not as good when watched on Netflix, just saying.”

Uh, what? WHAT?! The Lego Movie will be just as good on the computer with crap speakers as it will on the big screen? I beg to fucking differ. In fact, I would argue that the only movie of those four that needs to be on the big screen is Lego Movie. Back



After Battle Report: Iowa State, Redux by longdistancejayhawk
Just like the three Musketeers, but with some fresh pairs of beats and the NOLA ASG Durants in their closets.

Just like the three Musketeers, but with some fresh pairs of beats and the NOLA ASG Durants in their closets.

All rational description of this game is going out the window. After three years of irrational faith and hope in the talent and ability of Tharpapalooza to be the leader of this team, I’ve been rewarded with an incredible run starting with Toledo and running almost unimpeded to last night’s match up with the Snoreclones. He’s been in double figures five times, including last night, making a smart shots while also making sure that the offense runs on all cylinders. He’s been assisting, he’s been scoring. And he’s been like the anti-Sherron or Taylor, doing it all with a cool head. I love seeing passion of course, but his icy demeanor helps set the tone for the rest of God’s Team, keeping us from going off the rails too much. So, it was a fucking treat to see him notch his first career double-double last night. My Twitter feed melted down towards the end of the game, practically begging us to give him the ball.

Then, he got fouled in the bonus. He made both shots. The confidence that he’s grown into during this season has been a treat. I have always loved this kid. When the season started, I worried that the faith would be rewarded with competent play, someone who manages to get 4.5 PPG while dishing some assists while taking care of the ball. In other words, I would have felt great about my irrational love if he’d managed to grow into a very competent point guard. That’s all I wanted.

Instead, Worcester’s finest has decided that he is king shit of fuck mountain, you do not want to fuck with him. And he will not be fucked with1. At one point in the game Rock Chalk Talk tweeted out:

I rose to the occasion, tweeting the following:

Other than a few people, I felt like I was the only one out there that loved Tharpe so much. In fact, I was convinced I was getting trolled. I made a crack that Tharpapalooza could have done anything short of being secretly from Missouri and I’d still want to get a Dodgers-font Jayhawks jersey with “10” on it. But I still wasn’t confident that I was opening myself up for outing the myself on the worst kept secret on this blog.

Luckily, I wasn’t. And Tharpe had a fucking game last night. It wasn’t just the scoring or the assists, it was the way that he did it.

Final Score: Iowa State 81-92 Kansas

The Good: It should be really fucking obvious, but Tharpapalooza was practically transcendent in this one. Stats-wise, his first double-double was epic, but it was the eye-test stuff that really impressed me. He was, as I mentioned above, calm, cool, collected last night. You could see how that impacted his confidence in the way he passed with precision on a seemingly endless series of Chris Paul-esque passes. Behind the back? No problem. Sideways between two defenders? Fucking money. No look while calling out for a pick to draw the defense away from the nearly unstoppable Maple and Gentleman Tailor? Made that shit look easy. I cannot overstate how stunningly beautiful his passing was last night. It was the kind of shit that made me salivate at just how good he can be and just how confident I feel with him leading the team going into the stretch run of the season.

Do I need to reconsider MotM? Mape's fucking sky walking here!

Do I need to reconsider MotM? Mape’s fucking sky walking here!

Lest you think I only watch for the artistry of Tharpapalooza, let me call out two stellar performances from Maple Jordan and the Gentleman Tailor. P-Ellz had an excellent game, going for 20 points and 6 boards. After a lackluster offensive outing against TCU, he looked good playing more on the interior, getting more efficient looks closer to the basket. He should have had this many points against the Horned Frogs, but I’m glad he was able to bounce back against the Cyclones. Now, his performance was great and all, but how can we not talk about Wiggins? Maple was a monster offensively. After setting a career high of 27 Saturday, Wiggins wanted to prove that he could do it against quality competition by going two better than his best last night. And he was making them by being aggressive all over the floor. In the first half, he was selling hard on crashing the rim before stepping back for jumpers. But instead of letting that be his bread and butter, he switched it up in the second half, getting crazy acrobatic shots to fall while splitting defenders. This is the kind of performance I want to see when we take the floor, not just against teams like TCU, but the teams with legitimate DI players.

The Bad: Honestly, the worst things I could come up with is that we let them shoot over 50% in the first half and we still struggle to guard against the long ball. ISU ended up shooting 48.4% after going like 57% in the first2 which isn’t a great defensive effort. But shaving off nearly 10% of makes was a good adjustment in the second half. The thing that we managed to do, though, was answer most of their shots during the entire game. I would have liked to see a much lower shooting percentage, as it is Toupee’s bread and butter, but you can’t always get all you want.

As for the threes, I’m not sure what we can do to help that, save for changing our man defensive strategy to be less reliant on the help defender coming off the three point shooter. The problem there is that we would give up a lot of 18-footers, as Zach Lowe discussed in his excellent breakdown of the Trailblazers’ defensive strategy this season. One problem, I suppose, is that Niang is technically the Cyclones’ center, so you’re liable to let him take wide open threes on the assumption that he’s going to miss. But the problem with that thinking is that he’s, you know, not really a center the way that Lionslayer is. Of course he’s going to make threes. It’s a tough thing to deal with and my fear isn’t so much that we’ll get burned by the Niangs and Fortes of the world but that we’ll end up meeting a team in the tourney that has some asshole jacker that gets hot. If we don’t figure out a way to limit our opponents on threes now, I fear that we’ll end up getting burned later3.

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: Knowing that he’s a wrecking ball of dominance, Toupee deflects the question with the obvious:

“We haven’t done anything yet, all we did is win at home tonight…”

Nothing all that impressive about winning at AFH, ammirite?

Man of the Match: There are certainly a lot of worthy players from this one, but did you read the 500 word preamble? Do you think I’m giving it to any other than Tharpapa-motherfucking-looza? Of course he gets it! I don’t doubt that he will have future games worthy of the honor and Maple topping his career best one game after setting it is impressive, I have to give it to my favorite player on the night that he notches his first career double-double. Everything about what I’ve seen from Tharpe, especially since we’ve entered conference play, has been impressive and this was the absolute apex of all of the brilliance. It was taking what he’s flashed and strung it together for a full game. If you don’t agree with me, just remember this is a guy who wanted to show off some Chris Paul shit to the point that Selden wanted to rip off his swag and caused a turnover. Let the master handle that shit, Wayne.

Looking Ahead: We’ve got a  shockingly resurgent Texas team on the docket. God’s Team will be traveling down to Austin to see just how weird the Erwin Center actually is. I have a feeling that, despite the impressive stretch that Rick Barnes has put together recently, we will carry the day. This will, of course, trigger the inevitable flameout of Texas. Sure, this won’t be nearly as impressive as the 2009-10 complete meltdown, which saw them attain the #1 ranking before losing two in a row, and going nearly win-for-loss (save for back to back losses to Oklahoma and us) the rest of the way4. No way they manage that level of ineptitude, but I could see the patented Sith Lord six week choke-your fans as you choke away the season finish starting on Saturday5.

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FOOTNOTES

1 – If you’ve never seen Mr. Show, you probably don’t get that reference. I feel like that show is probably to me what Rocky references are to Bill Simmons.Back

2 – I wish I’d made a note before the half was over, but alas I did not. And since I’m writing this in a hurry before bed (temporal physics…since I’m also saying last night’s game…), I don’t have time to go back and double check makes and misses. Sue me. Back

3 – A couple of things: I’m well aware that the Blazers are actually mediocre to bad on defense this season, so I’m not saying we need to do this all the time. But it might be interesting to experiment when the pressure is a little less than do-or-die. And if you think my concerns are borrowing trouble, don’t forget getting torched by McNamara in 2003 or UNI in 2010. This is a real problem and, as good as HCBS is as a defensive mastermind, he has yet to solve this riddle consistently. Back

4 – On a related note: despite literally all of my better judgement, I was convinced that there was no way those shit bags wouldn’t make it out of the first weekend. Which is insane because, when you’re going win-lose to end the season, it stands to reason that you’d never be able to win two in a row. Naturally, they lost their first game. Still bitter about that Sweet Sixteen pick. Back

5 – Also worth mentioning, but before I get to see us take on Texas, I’ll be in the Barclays for the Thunder-Nets game. This was a happy coincidence as I bought a small ticket plan based on the desire to see KD in person. Lucky for me, he’s decided to go on his massive tear. If I’m lucky, and I’m reasonably sure that I will be, I’ll get to see him go for 13 straight 30+ point outings on Friday night. This is nice because I’ll get to see a part of history (either he’ll tie McGrady in the subsequent game or I’ll see the final 30+ point game in the third best streak in like 10 years or I’ll be in the building the night the streak ends…it’s a win-win-win!) and, assuming he gets his 30, 13 is my favorite number. Back



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.

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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