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.

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

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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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#5 – Baylor Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4 – Texas Longhorns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Kansas State Wildcats

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

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

Do you have the time, to watch me hoop?

Do you have the time, to watch me hoop?

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

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

#2 – Oklahoma State Cowboys

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 – Kansas Jayhawks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Big XII Preview, Part 1 – If Thine Enemy Hunger… by longdistancejayhawk
Out with the old patsies and in with the new.

Out with the old patsies and in with the new.

A new year dawns and we’re finally getting to the part of the season where games start to me so, so much more.

We’ve been dealing with crap matchups, terrible non-conference games, and just a general lack of urgency on the part of anyone playing ball for too long now. That’s not to say that people aren’t interested in college hoops1. No people still care before conference play. It just isn’t quite the same. There’s something about remembering particular players and teams that have given your team trouble. It’s even more rewarding to beat a team that’s given you fits. For instance, was there a game that meant more to God’s Faithful than the Missouri game at the Fieldhouse last season?

My point exactly.

Even taking on Ohio State for a second round in the tournament, this time with Sullinger playing and a trip to the title game on the line, didn’t have quite the release of beating Missouri and in such spectacular fashion. There’s really no substitute for the thrill of conference play. In honor of our conference season beginning this Saturday, I’m dedicating two days to previewing the Big XII X XII, breaking down all the teams, from worst to first, as I try to see the future. As with most things, I’m going to be totally right, so if you’re looking for easy money with your bookie, feel free to use this as a guide.

Before we get into the meats of these potatoes2, let’s take a look at where the various constituents of our hallowed conference sit3.

STANDINGS AT THE END OF THE NON-CONFERENCE (tklastthreegamesstandings)

  1. Kansas (11-1)
  2. Kansas State (11-2)
  3. Oklahoma State (10-2)
  4. Iowa State (10-3)
  5. Oklahoma (9-3)
  6. TCU (9-4)
  7. Baylor (8-4)
  8. Texas Tech (7-4)
  9. Texas (8-5)
  10. West Virginia (7-5)

Yep, that’s right. We’re at the top, as it should be. A couple of thoughts on this list before I break it down. TCU is way too high. They barely score and they haven’t played anyone of note (more in a bit), so #6 in the conference is not at all sustainable for the Horned Frogs. Texas seems pretty low, which I don’t expect to last. Though, I also don’t think Texas is that good from a chemistry standpoint. Talented, sure, but they don’t seem to work well together (more on that later as well). Finally, West Virginia…what the fuck? You were supposed to give us a challenge, not suck shit in the cellar of the conference. Step up your game!

Alrighty, let’s get down to business. Again, these are all the important details about each team and how many conference games I think they’re going to win. Keep in mind, this is in reverse order. Today’s post counts down teams ten to six. Keep an eye out tomorrow for the rest of the conference.

#10 – Texas Tech Red Raiders

Non-Conference Record: 6-4
Projected Conference Record: 3-15
Projected Total: 
9-19

Ranked Game Record: 0-0
Baller Wins: 
Florida A&M sets the tone for them going into conference play; unfortunately, it’s actually the opposite tone for a still hopeless Red Raider squad
Brutal Losses: 
Probably a 15 point loss to Arizona State. I don’t know how many more ways I can say it: no one short of the worst of the worst should be losing to the Pac-12

Bobby Knight (en), coach of the Texas Tech Red...

Bad news, Tech fans. The General’s not coming back to save your garbage program.

Texas Tech is currently sitting at the eighth spot on the non-conference record. That seems a little ambitious for the perennially bad Red Raiders. Ever since the General used his grandson to announce his retirement, Texas Tech has been awful. First, they suffered through the Pat Knight era and now they’re being coached by Chris Walker, after the Billy Gillespie era ended in Hindenberg-esque fashion4. There’s no way that they manage to win many conference games. For one thing, they’ve completely overhauled their roster. I’m not saying Walker’s a good or bad coach, but he’s not John Calipari here. It would be unreasonable to expect him to coach an almost entirely new squad of players to a slew of conference victories. Especially when the conference is so top heavy. I just think there’s been too much turmoil at the program to turn it around in, what? Six weeks since Gillespie resigned?

For further proof that the Red Raiders aren’t going to be much of a factor in the conference, look at their record and how they got it. They’re just one game over .500 right now and they haven’t beaten anyone of note. Add to that the fact that they’ve dropped games to McNeese State, a mediocre Arizona State, and a exceptionally meh Alabama and you’re left with a very uninspiring entry into the meat of the season. If you’re down in Lubbock hoping for something to distract you from the fact you live in Lubbock, basketball isn’t it this season.

Might I suggest drinking or fly fishing?

#9 – Oklahoma Sooners

Non-Conference Record: 9-3
Projected Conference Record: 4-14
Projected Total: 
13-17

Ranked Game Record: 0-1 (a 72-47 blasting by Gonzaga)
Baller Wins: 
It must be heartening that they were able to beat the Mountaineers once outside of conference play. Perhaps there’s a team worse than the Sooners in the Big XII X XII…you know, that isn’t TCU…
Brutal Losses: 
From a points perspective, that loss to Gonzaga must have sucked; from a pure embarrassing standpoint, definitely losing to SFA

Don't expect big things from this Sooners squad. Kruger will tyrn things around. But not this year. And probably not next year either. But some year, yes...yes, he will.

Don’t expect big things from this Sooners squad. Kruger will turn things around. But not this year. And probably not next year either. But some year, yes…yes, he will.

This is the first of two bold opinion alerts that will happen over the course of my Big XII X XII previews: I don’t think Oklahoma is that good. I know they’re sitting pretty high at 9-3, good enough for fifth place in the conference. I see that. I’m not stupid, so lay off me. I’ve seen maybe one total game of the Sooners this season, broken over a couple of different actual games, and I saw absolutely nothing to inspire confidence in their ability to win a ton of games. I can testify that their fans certainly don’t see much to be excited about either as the Sooners are constantly playing to an empty Lloyd Noble. Which is sad because that team has been good as recent as four years ago.

Here’s the thing about almost all of their wins coming into conference play: they’re not quality. First off, almost all of the wins were barely there wins. Oklahoma, for instance, has only beaten three teams by more than ten points5. Let me recap for those in the back, that means that six of their nine wins have been by ten or less. Against teams that shouldn’t be keeping it that close. Look, I get it. There are times when you just can’t seem to shake another team or they’re better than you expected6.The problem I’m seeing is that this is happening too often for the Sooners to be a legit contender. Expect them to lose both games to at least four , possibly five conference teams (Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State) and split the rest of their series.

Again, this is a bold prediction. I’m willing to go down with this ship because I think the Sooners are pretenders.

#8 – Texas Christian Horned Frogs

Non-Conference Record: 9-4
Projected Conference Record: 5-13
Projected Total: 
14-17

Ranked Game Record: 0-0
Baller Wins Largest Margin of Victory: 
A total blasting of Centenary, which is D-III. Look, TCU looks so bad that any time they can basically double anyone’s score is probably a victory for them
Brutal Losses: 
An absolute shellacking at the hands of the Big XII X XII-killer Northwestern

Somehow this thing manages to be both adorable and absolutely disturbing at the same time.

Somehow this thing manages to be both adorable and absolutely disturbing at the same time.

Where the hell did TCU come from7? I have yet to see this team on TV and suspect that I’m only going to get a chance to see them when they finally play God’s Team. So, I’m basing pretty much everything I’m about to say on looking at stat lines and making educated guesses. This team seems to struggle to score. They actually have victories where they didn’t break 50 points (44-39 over Prairie View A&M, 47-45 Navy) while doing the same in three of their four losses. That’s not what you want to see from your team, especially going into conference play where you’re going to have to contend with Kansas or Oklahoma State. If you’re having trouble hanging points on Navy, you’ve got a huge problem.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “If they’re so bad, why are they eighth in the league?” That’s an excellent question, glad you asked. In their last couple of games, they’ve shown improvement, scoring over 60 in their last three. If you add the fact that they seem to be winning close games, it might be a sign that they’re just a stout defensive grinderman team. Which is boring as fuck to watch, but could result in a few upsets around the conference. In any event, I highly doubt these higher scoring lines are a complete turnaround, but it does bode well for them being able to actually hang with some of the mid-table teams in the conference. I’m not expecting this team to set the Big XII X XII on fire this season. Not by a long shot.

#7 – West Virginia Mountaineers

Non-Conference Record: 7-5
Projected Conference Record: 6-12
Projected Total: 
13-7

Ranked Game Record: 0-2 (34 point slaughter by the Zags8, a 15 point drubbing by the Wolverines)
Baller Wins: 
In a total absence of anything resembling a quality win, I guess I’ll go with the Marist game, where Huggy Bear’s squad shover their collective feet up the Ginger Foxes’ asses and walked them around like boots
Brutal Losses: 
Quite a few to choose from, but I’m feeling like losing to the Duquesne Dukes was pretty rough since they’re a marginal NIT team this season

In the most fitting recruiting of all time, Deniz Kilicli looks almost exactly like the dude who dresses as a mountaineer for WVU.

In the most fitting recruiting of all time, Deniz Kilicli looks almost exactly like the dude who dresses as a mountaineer for WVU.

Didn’t I say that I had two bold predictions coming over the course of this two-parter? It might actually end up being three, if you want to count the fact that I’m feeling good on West Virginia leapfrogging up three spots from their final non-conference spot into the seventh seat at the table. To start the season, the Mountaineers have been pretty horrific. They lined up a tough non-conference schedule, taking on #3 Michigan and #13 Gonzaga…and losing both. Those are acceptable loses, as is the Davidson one. But losing to Oklahoma? I don’t know, that seems kind of bush league.

So, what makes me thing they’re going to turn it around come conference time? Two words: Huggy. Bear. I’m not anything approaching a Bob Huggins fan9. I don’t think there’s any way that even a devoid of talent WVU team doesn’t manage to crack off a couple of big wins, finish the season strong, and give their toothless hillbilly fans something to look forward to next year. West Virginia isn’t going to be good. Pretty far from it actually. But they’re definitely going to be better than their soon to be bitter rival, Oklahoma10. All told, I don’t think six wins is unrealistic for them. I think the biggest problem is that too many of their wins are going to come from working the lesser teams in the conference, coupled with the odd upset here and there. All that translates to is an NIT berth, if you’re lucky.

#6 – Iowa State Cyclones

Non-Conference Record: 10-3
Projected Conference Record: 9-9
Projected Total: 
19-12

Ranked Game Record: 0-2 (8 point edge by the Cincinnati Bearcats, 12 point loss to UNLV)
Baller Wins: 
Pummeling BYU by 21, while Cougar fans kept wishing Jimmer would return
Brutal Losses: As their only unranked loss, I suppose it’s Iowa

In Year Dos of the Fred Hoiberg Experiment, the Cyclones look to be staying strong. Will they go up or down from last year? Only a few hardwood bloodbaths will answer that question.

In Year Dos of the Fred Hoiberg Experiment, the Cyclones look to be staying strong. Will they go up or down from last year? Only a few hardwood bloodbaths will answer that question.

Oh, Iowa State…you’re the last of the cellar dwellers. Unlike your leg-broken bretheren, mouth breathing and waiting for the sweet release of death11, you’re almost in the hunt. You’re right there, scratching at the door while the big boys get wasted and puke in buckets just on the other side. The side where the lights are on, the food is readily available and people actually know who you are outside of Ames12. Your non-conference record is admirable, if a little disappointing given that you probably could have beaten either UNLV or Cincinatti. Or both. You held your own against these worthy foes, but you didn’t manage to win. And that’s why you’re on the outside looking in.

It also doesn’t help that Royce White left for the greener pastures of the NBA13, leaving you without a star. It isn’t that the rest of the squad is bad, just that you’re missing a crucial piece. But I have faith in Hoiberg to keep you competitive, to keep you always in the conversation of best in the Big XII X XII. And who knows, a solid overall record, .500 in league play, and a solid conference tourney showing might be enough to get you a slot in the Big Dance. It’s not outside of reach for you guys. Keep fighting. Keep playing hard and you might get to come join us in the regular part of the house, rather than cellar.

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Well, there you have it, part one of the Big XII X XII preview. Tomorrow, I’ll thrill you with part two. Until that time, I want everyone to know that I actually do know some of the players on the other teams, I just didn’t want to get too specific about the whole thing14.

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FOOTNOTES

1 – If I’m any indication, as well as the people who read this blog, enthusiasm is at a pretty high level already. But like most things, it could be better. It could matter for more than just a win to pad your resume. It could matter because you hate those shit bags from Norman. It could matter because Royce “Cray-Cray” White may be gone, but Iowa State still beat us at Ames and I’m still pissed about it. It could matter because all of these teams have history, demons, and ghosts surrounding previous games, previous vintages. This is when the war comes home, when these aren’t just fun games where you drop 40 on another team while seeing who can do the most hand-behind-head-BJ pose on a fastbreak dunk. This is when it matters and everyone of these shit bags must pay for having the balls to think they can stop the inexorable march towards a ninth straight Big XII X XII title for God’s Team. Shit…I think you all know who’s coming out on top of this one…or do you? Back

2 – Way better in my head than on paper, but given how much work a massive two-part preview is, there’s no time to turn back now. Onward and upward! Back

3 – You will, undoubtedly notice the addition of TCU and West Virginia. I’d like to welcome both of them to the conference. It’s been nice to see them struggle to score (TCU) or struggle to win (WVU) as we come into conference play. It’s going to be nice to have four extra wins on our resume. Plus, it’ll be nice for K-State to finally have a rival, even if, like us, it’s more of a one-way affair. Back

4 – Everything about that whole situation was fucked. First off, Gillespie managed to get 15 people associated with the program to leave. Then, he was accused of abusing his players by making them practice while injured among other things. Just before he was due to meet with Kirby Hocutt, the TTU AD, he was hospitalized for heart attack symptoms (probably brought on by the stress of the fact that they were probably going to fire him). Eventually, he had to check himself into the Mayo Clinic, at which point, he also resigned from the program permanently. Between him and Mike Leach kicking players in the jerries like he was D-Wade, I’m pretty sure the Red Raiders program is either snakebitten or only attracts psychopants coaches. There’s no in between. Back

5 – If you’re leveling the criticism at KU that we play nothing but chumps in the early going, do me a favor and look at Oklahoma’s pre-conference schedule. Go ahead, the tab will still be here when you come back. Satisfied? Yeah, that’s a pretty strong group of powderpuffs if ever I saw one. Back

6 – The faithful should have no problem conjuring up that actually entertaining, if nailbiting, Kansas tussle with Long Beach “The Beach” State last season. Casper Ware was an incredible player who made that one a fucking game. In case you were wondering, Ware is playing in Italy right now. Which is a shame because I really liked him and was hoping he’d make it to the Association. Back

7 – That’s a rhetorical question. I know they came from the Mountain West after reneging on their planned jump to the Big East. I’m more curious about where TCU managed to find a team that, based on their score lines, looks like a 1950s squad. Hey, Horned Frogs, you know you can dribble, right? Back

8 – Gonzaga might just be the Big XII X XII’s kryptonite this season. Based on their track record against our teams, I think we should do everything possible to avoid playing them in the tourney, including setting their bus on fire. You know, just in case. Back

9 – For one thing, he made things interesting at K-State for one year…until he bolted. Then, he’s spent most of his career wearing wind breakers on the sideline. Wind breakers. Who the fuck are you? Paulie Walnuts? I feel like he has to be mildly uncomfortable when he comes out for the pre-game handshake and Toupee’s on the other side wearing a $25,000 suit. Like, where are his wife and kids? Do you think they cringe when they see him out there, coaching these kids while dressed like he’s grabbing his paper in the morning? I know I would be embarrassed. Back

10 – When they first announced that the Mountaineers were coming to our conference, Schuyler and I joked a lot about the idea that now K-State would have a legitimate rival. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I started to think that most Wildcat students aren’t even going to think about it on that level. Maybe I’m alone in my rivalry narrative. Or maybe I’m creating it to try and make K-State fans feel less inferior to the real university of the state of Kansas. Who knows? No matter what, if K-State takes a hatred towards WVU, I can all but guarantee that the Mountaineer fans will not reciprocate (a pretty normal state of things for them). Now, I’m interested in whether or not Oklahoma becomes a conference rival, thanks to a loss at the hands of the Sooners in the Old Spice Classic earlier this year that adds a third game on top of the two in conference matchups. Things could get intriguing if they were to, say, meet up in the Big XII X XII tournament in March as well. Back

11 – You know, or the off season. Back

12 – I think it should be painfully obvious at this point…but the extremely bold prediction I’m making in part 2 is that Texas isn’t nearly as shitastic as they seemed to be earlier this season. It’s definitely hard to put them in the top five, but I did. Either one of two things is happening: 1.) I’m right and they’re better than they look; 2.) Sith Lord has pulled me in again with his…I don’t know, dark magic? It certainly isn’t charm that gets me to back him so often and irrationally. Back

13 – And has been trying his best to set said pastures on fire. Back

14 – Or not. I mean, 3,000+ words…about the conference…and I’m not even done. Anyway, here’s a short list of enemies I’m excited/terrified to face, either because they’re good or because they’re the kind of person that pisses me right the fuck off: Texas Tech – vaguely remember Jamal Williams…so, actually, no one15; Oklahoma – Steven Pledger, Romero Osby, Jimmy Bo Fraschilla; TCU – not to re-betray your trust in my analysis, but I’d like to reiterate that I haven’t actually seen this team play; West Virginia – Jabarie Hinds, Deniz Kilicli; Iowa State – Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee. See, I know some of these players. Back

15 – To paraphrase Mr. Show, it’s perfectly understandishable based on the turmoil swirling around that program. Back



Life During Wartime: On Victories and the Factors of Success by longdistancejayhawk
Can you imagine a time when this was cool? Or that a man who would wear your grandmother's couch upholstery as a sport coat could win 900 games?

Can you imagine a time when this was cool? Or that a man who would wear your grandmother’s couch upholstery as a sport coat could win 900 games?

Earlier this week, Jim Boeheim reached a lofty plateau in the college hoops world, getting win number 900. That’s the kind of benchmark that only two other coaches, Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski, have managed to pull off. Boeheim will inevitably best the General this season, short of some kind of disaster happening. Naturally, when a milestone like that, one that speaks to the longevity of a coach and a certain level of excellence at their job, it’s only natural that there will be a backlash1. Doug Gottlieb jumped on the bandwagon quickly, trashing Boeheim for being good, not great2. The main crux of Gottlieb’s argument centers around player success in the Association3, staying clear of the NCAA4, whether or not anyone replicates your style5, and success in the tournament6. Obviously, everyone would love to win the tournament, and most fanbases want to win the tournament every year, but if you seriously follow the sport, you know that it’s a total fucking crap shoot who wins. If there were a magic formula to tournament success, I’m pretty sure we’d see more dynastic runs along the lines of John Wooden’s UCLA juggernaut. The fact that, after winning 900 fucking games, tournament wins seems to be a concern in Boeheim’s legacy is frustrating. I don’t believe that what Boeheim achieved is less significant because tourney success is fickle mistress, one which involves luck as well as coaching accumen, and, ultimately, sustained excellence should matter more.

One thing that’s so attractive about the tournament to non-hoop junkies is the chaos, the randomness of the thing. Imagine having to win that many games straight against teams that range from the best of the best to fired up for a Cinderella run and every state of being between. There’s no way to perfectly pick the tournament, let alone pick the eventual champion by anything other than luck7. Quick, name the last ten coaches to win the tournament. Most people probably couldn’t name the teams, either. Most of the winners are solid programs and there are quite a few instances of repeat winners. But some of these guys aren’t necessarily hall of fame material. Yes, Gary Williams, I’m talking about you. Billy Donovan, I know everyone thinks you’re the bees knees, but I don’t. Benedict Williams is getting the benefit of the doubt, not for the fact that he’s in the conversation this year, but because the Naismith HOF already inducted him8. What I’m getting at is you have to be a good coach, sure, but winning the tournament is kind of like winning the lottery. Some times you hit big, some times you don’t. More often you don’t. Obviously, as a fan, you want to win every year. That’s just not realistic, though.

The General wore nothing but the best in strange ass suits. I'm pretty sure Boeheim took his style cues from Knight.

The General wore nothing but the best in strange ass suits. I’m pretty sure Boeheim took his style cues from Knight.

I’m only being mildly sarcastic here. If you’re inclined to whipping dicks out and measuring, there are really only two coaches in the 900-win club with Boeheim, as mentioned above. The other two guys have seven titles between them, three to Knight and four to Coach K. Boeheim checks in with just one title, which he got over Benedict’s final Kansas squad9. So, does that make Boeheim a worse coach? Does that mean that, when I’m telling my grandchildren about the coaches I used to hate for little to no reason other than they weren’t Toupee, Boeheim’s name will come up? Will he fade from the basketball memory because he achieved a level of sustained success but never sustained it in the one thing that people genuinely remember? These are all great questions, the kind that make for fun bar arguments, but are ultimately meaningless for what’s most important to basketball fans10, winning games and being competitive.

Measuring a coach’s success down to whether or not he can win a crazed tournament11 is a reductionist viewpoint because most people who care about college sports and those that care more than might be healthy about their alma mater, winning is nearly as important as winning it all. Watching your team dominate, game in, game out, is worth more than a tournament victory, on the whole. I mean, look at the 2010-11 UConn team. They could barely win regular season games, winning only in do-or-die situations. While UConn fans probably loved winning the title, I feel like there’s something missing when your team goes .500 in the Big East. For my money, I’d rather have a ton of wins leading up to a title, than a mediocre team somehow backdooring their way into a title. Winning all games is important, not just tournament games. Personally, I’ve enjoyed watching us roll through the Big XII X XII for 8STR8 has been more entertaining than a single tournament victory. Maybe it’s an unpopular opinion, but I’ve enjoyed the unmitigated success of the last eight years on the whole more than the 2008 National Championshipt12. It’s just the way I see it.

So, let’s get down to the reason we’re all here. Why should God’s Faithful give a fuck about Gottlieb’s criticism of Boeheim? It should be obvious, but let me break it down for you: right now, Toupee is in the same boat as Boeheim. I’m not saying that Self will never win another title. That’s pretty far from what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, as long as nothing compels him to leave Kansas and he maintains his current career win percentage13, Toupee is on pace to break 900 wins in just over 15 years, tying Coach K’s age when he made the plateau14. If nothing matters but tournament wins, then Bill Self has to start winning more tournaments or he’s going to be getting the same treatment Boeheim got from Gottlieb. I think that Toupee’s a better coach than Boeheim15 and I don’t want to see him thought of as good not great. Honestly, I think there’s something more impressive about winning 900 games because that speaks to a coach’s ability to get players to play, to focus on winning as a practice, to ensure that their program is always in the spotlight. Maybe a fanatical devotion to winning, as Toupee has shown himself to possess, should translate to tournament success. Maybe it shouldn’t. After all, the tournament is an entertaining, obsessive way to crown a champion, but it isn’t easy and it shouldn’t be used as an water mark for a coach’s success16.

Breaking with tradition, Coach K decided to dress like a Mercedes sales man in a nice place like Beverly Hills.

Breaking with tradition, Coach K decided to dress like a Mercedes sales man in a nice place like Beverly Hills.

Ultimately, I feel like this is the kind of argument that will never have a resolution. The ins and outs are too complicated, too tied up in loyalty and passion, to be easily untangled. From an outsider’s perspective, the perspective that Gottlieb is employed to pander to, the only thing they understand is winning titles and bold, statements meant to engender the bloggers like me to write 2,500 words defending a man I don’t even particularly like. Keeping the bar at the lowest common denomiator creates a situaton where casual fans believe that Boeheim isn’t a great coach without engaging with the statement, just accepting it as fact. If I haven’t convinced you that there are bigger things than winning a tournament to worry about, that winning is huge, allow me a final anecdote.

Last St. Patrick’s Day, my buddy James and I went to Black Horse Pub in South Slope. We were there to use Irish rugby as an excuse to drink too many Guinness and get up to no good. Naturally, this was during the tournament, so the minute that college hoops appeared on the TV, I stopped watching the rugby. While getting a beer at the bar, I watched some of the K-State/Syracuse game. Next to me was a woman with her daughter17 wearing a Cuse shirt. We talked a bit about basketball. Eventually, we got around to discussing Boeheim as a coach. I asked her if she wished that he’d won more titles in his long tenure there. “Yeah,” she responded. “Who wouldn’t want more titles? But you know what else I like? Winning. A lot.”

From the horse’s mouth. Winning matters. A lot.

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FOOTNOTES

1 – If you’re at all turned off by politics, you might want to turn away from this footnote. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…believe you me, I’m not a Boeheim fan, mostly because his 2002-03 team beat us in the title game and he comes off as being kind of a coarse dick. But the one thing that I thought was admirable of him in the wake of the momentous occasion was not pulling any punches on the topic of gun control. Given the horrors that happened in Newtown, there’s no doubt that weapons like the Bushmaster are not at all made for civilian use. I loved that Boeheim, an avid hunter, came down hard, saying that “If one person in this world, the NRA president, anybody, can tell me why we need assault weapons with 30 shots – this is our fault if we don’t go out there and do something about this. If we can’t get this thing done, I don’t know what kind of country we have.” He’s absolutely right because you don’t need that kind of weapon to hunt an animal and, besides, it makes it patently unfair to use as a hunting weapon. Enough soap box. Back

2 – Here’s the full quote:

In college basketball you are judged by four things. 1.Do you compete consistently for a national title? 2. How do your players play in the pros? 3. Do you stay clean of NCAA infractions? 4. Is your style replicable because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

Well, let’s break it down. Boeheim has been to just four Elite eight’s and beyond in 40 years at the helm. His players for the most part have underachieved in the pros. His school has been on NCAA probation and oh yeah, by the way, no one copies his style. I’m not saying he’s not very good, but he’s obviously not great.

Doug Gotlied, not afraid to shit all up in someone’s Cheerios on a night that should be a celebratory one. What can you expect from a guy who used to start OSU games with his pants on backwards. He was like Scott Pollard’s personality mated with a shitty prop comic. Anyway, I think Gotlieb was being unduly harsh on a successful coach for reasons that will become apparent shortly. Back

3 – I guess Carmelo doesn’t make up for all the other players? What if Fab Melo manages to become the next Jordan? While I do think college coaches prepare kids for the NBA, I don’t know how you can penalize a guy for what his players do once they’ve made it to the pros. Because it isn’t like Boeheim’s summer job is making sure that his guys live up to their college careers in the pros and don’t coast now that they’ve gotten paid. Seriously. Specious argument. Back

4 – Given the draconian nature of the NCAA’s rule book, I’m pretty sure wiping your ass with anything other than industrial strength bodega toilet paper is against the rules. Schools have a whole department stocked with lawyers to try and make sure that teams don’t break the rules…BECAUSE THE RULES ARE INSANELY CONVOLUTED. Back

5 – I think that’s the most idiotic thing of the whole list. Boeheim, ever the contrarian, embraces a style of play that’s I don’t find all that entertaining to watch and a ton of people criticize. But there’s nothing immature about winning a ton of games. Back

6 – I think it’s obvious that, by dismissing the other three criticisms in footnotes, you know exactly what I’m going to discuss with this piece. Back

7 – I make educated guesses and strategize the bracket, but I can’t claim to be a seer in this regard. I mean, one of my strategies (the “top four seeds in each region bye” strategy) proved disastrous last year. As a man, who everyone acts like he drafted the Magna Carta, shit all over my bracket. Who, by the way, has also cracked 900 wins. Back

8 – How fucked up would it be if they could rescind that invite based on the fact that Roy Williams has been either incapable or unwilling to sustain any form of consistency during his UNC years. Yes, he’s won a slew of games and coached some incredible kids, but it seems like his distaste for winning conference tournaments is bleeding into the regular season a little too often (especially for my parents). Back

9 – I remember the narrative of that one centered around the notion that Boeheim was a great coach who hadn’t won a title. Which is kind of funny, because at the time, I remember thinking the same thing about Roy Williams. It’s interesting the way the media picks a topic and runs with it, even when it could actually go the other way. Back

10 – Well, me anyway. Back

11 – It’s called goddamned Madness for a reason, people! Back

12 – Which is saying a lot since that weekend involved so many wonderful memories like exorcising the Williams Demon, watching my dad turn catatonic as I frantically grabbed him shrieking “I can’t believe this is happening, I can’t believe Hansbrough is playing like complete shit,” having my dad threatening to kick me out of the car outside the Alamodome parking lot, sitting there listening to every asshole Memphis fan talk about how great their team was…oh, and you know, blacking out immediately after Mario’s Miracle. Back

13 – When I crunched the number, I used this rather than his Kansas win percentage, just to give him some breathing room for wining 900 games. I’m nothing if not nice to those I love. Back

14 – There are a ton of assumptions being made here, so bear with me. Back

15 – Admittedly, I’m biased. So, take that into consideration when you’re reading this. Back

16 – I realize that Gottlieb specifically took issue with whether or not Boeheim “consistently competes for a national title.” I took that to mean “do you make the tournament?” because if you’re making it to the tournament, I’d say you’re competing. To the question of consistently, in 36 years, Syracuse has made the tournament 30 times. He’s been bounced in the first round five times (shit, not making me look good here), the second round seven times (fuck). He’s made eleven the Sweet Sixteens (okay), two Elite Eights (meh). All three times he’s made the Final Four, he’s gone to the title game. So, maybe he’s not the most successful when it comes to the do-or-die tournament, but it isn’t like he’s coached consistent NIT teams, here. Every great coach is going to crap the bed sometimes. Roy Williams won a fucking title with UNC and then managed to not make the tournament the next season. Back

17 – I live in Park Slope where a woman would never bring their child to a bar like Black Horse on St. Patrick’s Day, let alone drink as much as she’d been drinking that day. That’s the real difference between Park Slope and South Slope, if you’ve ever wondered. Back



Hydrahawk, Classless Wildcats and 903 by longdistancejayhawk
November 20, 2011, 11:00 am
Filed under: Recap | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Schuyler and Jane made three massive Jayhawk heads for the Champions Classic. We had high hopes that Hydrahawk would become the token good luck charm of the season. Despite Schuyler giving him some love, Hydrahawk was no match for the Wildcats and their classless fan base.

Last year, when we went to the Dickie V Classic at MSG, there were so many KU fans that I renamed the stadium Allen Fieldhouse East. I’ll still call it that, but after Tuesday’s up and down night and the insane number Kentucky fans (more on that in a bit), I felt a little out of place. Wildcat fans were everywhere. We were tucked comfortably in a little enclave of Kansas faithful in section 337. Aside from the overwhelming number Kentucky supporters, I noticed something else that was considerably differnt from last year. Most of the fans didn’t do the student section traditions this time around. In fact, I think Schuyler, Meredith and I were the only people who threw confetti when they announced the starters for Kansas. It was kind of a bummer since that, along with Rock Chalking as Burrito Killah stood at halfcourt1, were some of the highlights of last year’s trek to MSG. I mean, shit, Schuyler and Jane made giant Jayhawk heads that Justin dubbed Hydrahawk. I think we were the only people who went balls to the walls for this game. Oh, well. There were some incredibly nice Jayhawks sitting to Mer’s left. They asked us questions about being from Kansas in living in the city, remarking that there seemed to be a ton of us2 in the city. We agreed. Once the game got underway, the lady sitting there pulled out the game program and a notecard, on which she began scribbling notes about the starting lineup.

What can I say? Kansas fans are rabid.

Let’s talk about the actual game shall we? I had a miniature meltdown in the second half, when the talented and far-more experienced Kentucky team stopped playing like they were trying for career bests in scoring and started playing like a legit team. What was so fucking frustrating for me was that we were actually guarding really well in the first half. Justin Wesley, of all players, was playing incredible, bulldog D during the first half3. He wouldn’t let anything go on the perimeter. Taylor was his usual self, but Tharpapalooza was absolutely impressive. Yes, he’s a freshman and he wasn’t 100% bad-ass, but he’s definitely got some promise. Toupee put Tharpe in early in the game and he handled himself impressively well. His play bodes well for my theory that we’ll be running more two and three guard sets with Taylor and Tharpe rotating on court between the 1 and 2 spots. Absolutely looking forward to more from him.

The guy that most impressed me on Tuesday, though, was Jeff Withey. Dude was a monster4 on both ends. His 7 points are a nice addition to the 4 blocks and 6 boards he ripped down. Last season, I really didn’t think much of Withey, mostly because I thought him being like a lumbering Pony Boy Aldrich would just slow us down. This season? He could be at the very least 80% Aldrich. If he continues to play hard and bang for boards and balls then he’ll get my vote of confidence.

Part of our inability to hang with Kentucky could be blamed on the Jayhawk on Jayhawk violence pictured here. Of course, three brawling UK fans in front of us didn't hurt their team all that much so I might be wrong.

All of this praise is clearly me trying to avoid talking about the fact that we lost. Here’s the thing: I figured we’d lose a couple of games this season. In fact, 6-8 seems like it would be a solid season for us, given the crew we’ve got. That said, this match up was absolutely on my list of games that we’re probably going to lose. Kentucky, unlike previous Calipari squads, actually has some continuity. They returned Lamb and Jones and added three star freshmen. Given Cal’s “let ’em run wild” approach to coaching, this squad is a buzzsaw of talent, with both depth and chemistry. They’re scary good when they get going. Which is what they did in the second half, peeling off runs and screaming after every dunk. The predominately Kentucky crowd exploded every fucking time and it became clear that the 2011-12 Jayhawks were out of their depth. The fact that we managed to close the gap to ten is victory enough for me.

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Unless you stumbled on here because you thought this was actually a blog about god’s team, you probably know that Coach K passed Bobby Knight as the all-time winningest Division-I head coach with 903 on Tuesday. Congrats to Coach K on so many years of dominance5! I’m happy I got to see it live. As I’ve mentioned before, seeing the records and milestones is part of what makes sports so much fucking fun. With this one, watching at home I would have had a reaction. Seeing it in person was much more meaningful, especially with Meredith the Duke Fan in attendance. The most touching part was when they showed on the Jumbotron Coach K walking over to the announcer’s table and hugging The General. Coach K teared up, clearly couldn’t get much out and tried to walk away. Knight said (and this is a pure guess) “Fuck that, Mike. Get your ass back over here before I throw a chair at you! I’m fucking proud, goddammit and I want you to know!” For Coach Knight, those are all terms of endearment. Anyway, great to see it in person6.

Undoubtedly, seeing this was the highlight of Meredith's night. Her favorite coach surpassed one of my favorite coaches and re-upped on his subscription to the Tony LaRussa Hair Club for Men in Athletics.

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One final thought about the Allen Fieldhouse East experience 2k11. Kentucky fans, on the whole, seemed to be a rather classless lot. Obviously, there are plenty of Jayhawks out there who drink too much and get rowdy. The Kentucky fans took that to a whole other level. At one point, we saw three Kentucky fans that seemed to be fighting each other. They got escorted from the building, but shit. You’re not Jets fans7. Show some fucking class.

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Since you’re probably reading this because of some love of Kansas, college basketball, or sports in general, I’d like to send out my sincere condolences to the Oklahoma State family. Losing a pair of coaches to a plane crash just over ten years after the plane crash that devestated the men’s basketball team is unfathomable. Around the Long Distance Jayhawk offices8, we spend a lot of time making fun of players and teams. Sometimes in a hurtful manner. But this is something that there is no humor or reason to fire shots over. It sucks and that’s all there is to it. I can’t imagine what the families and the teams are going through right now. Don’t worry, it’ll get better. Meredith and I went to Stillwater in the East Village to watch some of the OSU/ISU game. I wanted OSU to win it for a lot of reason, but the primary one was that, sometimes, winning a game can mean more than just a victory, more than just a shot at the BCS Championship game, more than another notch in Weedon’s Heisman campaign. Sometimes, a win means something to everyone who cares about their team and school. But more often than not, the victory doesn’t come and that’s probably the hardest thing to deal with9.

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FOOTNOTES

1 – I mentioned it at the time but I’m still confused about why he did that. We had the ball with about 50 seconds left on the clock. He just stood there, ball tucked under his arm grinning like a maniac. Memphis had already fallen but we still needed to, you know, make a play to avoid turning the ball over on a shot clock violation. Additionally, why was Markieff so high on the court? Why wasn’t Taylor doing this so that we could at least run a quick 10 second play? Second most baffling thing about last year’s squad after the Cal melee. Back

2 – Meredith and Patrick are not actually Jayhawks but we’ll let that one slide. Back

3 – So much so that the following day, my search results were stuffed with “justin wesley kansas profile view”. I’m not sure what these people (though it may have just been one person 30 times) were looking for. Also of note: write the phrase “God’s Team” 13 times an article and you’ll start getting hits for that too.Back

Turns out someone LOVES Justin Wesley. Also, one person wants to know how to get in God's Team. The answer is apparently 20 minutes of strong defense and two first names.

4 – Or as much of a monster as one can be when faced with Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and the three freshman that started and could be in the NBA right now probably. Back

5 – I have conflicting loyalties regarding Coach K, Duke and the Tar Heels. Suffice it to say that, for that one night, I was 100% rooting for Duke with no caveats, backpedaling or “only if Ryan Kelly hits the game winner with 3-seconds, then awkwardly tries to chest bump Rivers before jogging over to the bench, grinning like he just won the lottery” stipulations. Back

6 – Would have been nice if the game had been a little less Big Ten GrinderBall and more Acc/Big XII FastBreak-o-rama. Back

7 – Speaking of Jets fans, a buddy of mine went to the Pats/Jets game at the Meadowlands. While there, he rocked a Pats jersey and hat. Naturally, some Jets fan started some shit with him. According to my buddy, he was riding the escalator and the guy was basically dropping some of the m0st vile shit on him. The Jets fan also threw his hat off of his head. When my buddy told him to knock that shit off and knocked the Jets fan’s hat off, the guy got livid. My buddy said “Let me know when you have five Super Bowl rings” to which the guy replied “I’ll let you know once I get done raping your girlfriend.” The story ends with both guys in handcuffs. Needless to say, that’s the epitome of class. Back

8 – Okay, the desk in my bedroom with my computer on it. Back

9 – Think back to the Texas game last year and how much you wanted God’s Team to rip Texas’ throat out after Robinson’s mother died. Think about how deflated you felt when, after one half of dominance, the Hawks wilted from physical and emotional exhaustion. Sometimes, you just can’t win one to heal. Back



It’s a Goddamned War and They Started It by longdistancejayhawk

Mario Little gets the Jersey Chaser Triple Dip Award for his gutsy performance last night. The JCTD Award goes to the player that absolutely killed it each night (the prize is nailing three jersey chasers after the game, or in the case of road games, when you get back to Larry). Enjoy it, Mario...though, not so much that you throw any of them into a sink.

Last night was the kind of game that I’m always excited to see. There was drama (what the hell was that technical that Markieff pulled? Why are you hitting people for shits and giggles? Didn’t you learn anything from your brother’s suspension), close scores (at least for the first half) and…well, a good old-fashioned ass whipping. God’s Team showed up in force last night. I mean, we played nine guys and only one of them (The Prophet), didn’t score. On top of that, everyone who did score notched at least eight. EIGHT! That’s a hell of a performance. I think my favorite part is that noted woman beater Mario Little managed to get 17 points on the night (what’s most impressive is that Bobby Knight didn’t seem too concerned with the fact that Mario beat his girlfriend [two thoughts on this: 1.) Bobby can sympathize with someone who gets so angry they, you know, do something crazy like throw a salad at a defenseless college student or punch their way into someone’s apartment; 2.) Despite what Patrick said about Mario last night, he did receive a diversion of justice (he has to complete an anger management course) and the victims decided not to press charges. Maybe he’s a terrible human being, but he’s one that isn’t awaiting trial or something like that] and, to my knowledge, didn’t mention it. I could be wrong for aw couple reasons, most notably, I was at a bar that played the sound, but I wasn’t paying that much attention and…I was at a bar. So, you know, those Brooklyn Lagers may have impaired my ability to understand Bobby Knight). So, kudos to Mario for getting the Golden Jayhawk for the week.

Travis Releford, why are you so bad ass? I wish I could give you an award, but Mario overshadowed your accomplishments last night. Though, the post three point celebration pictured here was such a fierce lion roar that I felt it in my scrotum (that's a Mr. Show reference, yo).

This brings me to the most important takeaway from this game. We are an incredibly deep team. We have an alpha dog (Marcus), a “just shy of alpha” dog (Markieff) and a solid 2-10. Any given night, at least three or four guys are showing up to play. In the last two games, two dark horses stepped up (Brady against Nebraksa) and now Mario Little. It’s the kind of play that makes a champion (to wit, Cole Aldrich had his breakout game when he took Hansbrough to task. When the game started, I couldn’t figure out why the hell Sasha Kaun wasn’t starting. I doubted Toupee for about six minutes before, you know, we’d blazed to a dominating lead over “the best team in the country in 2008” in the Final fucking Four. No joke). Marcus and Markieff are good for their points, but every game someone else (or two) steps up and says “Guys, I got this one.” Meredith is waiting for a D.J Conner/T-Rob night (which is frightening to me. She clearly like Reed since he’s a white dude who shoots the three and…I’m not sure why she like Robinson so much. She has started referring to him as an Adonis recently and she’s made me start going to the gym to watch non-Kansas games, rather than sit on the couch and drink a beer. I’m not that worried right now. Check back later, though). I’m waiting for Jordan Juenemann (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I don’t know how to spell that kid’s name) to have one of those nights. I think that Meredith will probably get her wish Saturday against Iowa State. I will probably be the one waiting (kind of like that Green Day song on American Idiot, which brings up something I wanted to talk about, but I couldn’t find an appropriate segue or anything. My all-time favorite band is most likely Green Day. Dookie was the first record I ever bought with my allowance and I wore that shit out. I love it. So, I went to see American Idiot the musical tonight. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. In fact, it was kind of fun. The story is loose [just like the record] and there are some extra songs thrown in for the fuck of it. What was most interesting, to me, was that I didn’t feel the sense of sell out that I think some might. Here’s the reason. Billie Joe Armstrong clearly likes being rich and it isn’t like he has a ton of street cred to protect. So, if you’re in the area, I’d recommend checking it out. Plus, there are four songs [“Holiday,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Whatshername” that are aces (the only song that they could have added to have brought the “I get misty eyed” quota up was “Redundant” [the encore was “Good Riddance,” so they got that one in there])]. Oh, and Billie Joe is playing St. Jimmy…though not in the performance I saw).

By the end of the game, things had gotten a bit out of hand. Toupee stopped coaching and decided that he'd rather do the cool jerk. The crowd was unimpressed after seeing the Big Jay, Baby Jay flash mob dance earlier.

The only thing I wasn’t too keen on in this contest was Kansas’ defense. Where the fuck were you guys? I’m glad that we were quintuple teaming Denmon, but what about the rest of the team (Denmon was held to a scant 11, which for him is next to nothing. He sneezes that many points on a non-game day)? You guys let two guys nearly crack 20 points. I don’t like that. I also don’t like the one Tiger who was shooting threes from wherever he felt like it. SHUT THESE PEOPLE DOWN! It wouldn’t be that bad for one kid to get hot and started jacking up threes from half court. That happens. The problem is when this happens in a tight game (yes, last night was kind of tight for a bit and then turned into a non-issue). If you let them hang, it’s going to be bad news (like that truck from UNI who kept hitting threes [tangentially related to this, I don’t like that we’re Memphis 2007-08 level of terrible from the charity stripe. When a close game happens and we’re letting some PG get any three pointer he wants, we have to be better from the free throw line. This entire season, we’ve been woefully bad (as every ESPN announcer likes to point out, worst in the Big 12). We need to step that shit up or never ever let a team hang with us. You know, one or the other]).

Of course, I’m beginning to wonder why I bother writing all this crazy shit when I’ll probably never get as many hits as this video of the flash mob at The Fieldhouse last night (which, by the way, my table had a long conversation about. I figured it was some kind of stunt for Boys and Girls Club of America since, from my vantage point, the logos on their shirts looked like the logo for that organization. According to Justin, they’re the Jayhawk Buddies [or something like that] and they’re against three things [only one of which I agree with]: fun, drinking and slavers. If you haven’t seen it already, check it out. Big Jay and Baby Jay even get in on the action).

Suck it, slaver.

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As they say on ESPN, Rivalry Week continues. Tomorrow, I have an appointment with the UNC-Duke game. I knew that this would happen, but I kept hoping that it wouldn’t. Meredith, Duke fan that she is, is expecting me to root for the Blue Devils. My parents (and I guess my blood and strange allegiance to Roy “I don’t give a damn about North Carolina…oh, wait, you meant in general? I was talking about right now. Tomorrow, I’m going to board a plane and fly out to Chapel Hill to assume the head coaching gig, but uh, for tonight, Rock Chalk?” Williams) expect me to root for the Tar Heels. I’m not sure what to do, honestly. Tomorrow isn’t going to get any better. I wonder if it’s possible to text my parents during the game so that Meredith doesn’t know that I’m complimenting the Tar Heels.