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

Advertisements


God’s Warrior: Naadir Tharpe, Featuring OutKast at Coachella by longdistancejayhawk
November 26, 2013, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Player Profile | Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is the first installment of the 2013-14 God’s Warrior series. This is of course, a fancy name for a player profile. If you’re coming to find out some ganular analysis of the players’ actual ability, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Now, if you’re into overlong picaresques about swashbuckling or renegade coping, then are these the previews for you! Enjoy this, your first installment and my favorite current Jayhawk, Naadir “Don’t call me nadir” Tharpe!

Naadir Tharpe

image_handlerPosition: Point motherfuckin’ guard/sharp-ass dress
Class: Junior
Hometown: Worcester, MA…sorry, ahem…Whuhstah, Mass!
Nicknames: Tharpapalooza
Number: 101
Tattoos: I think at this point it counts as one.

Pros: fast, nimble, agile, killer wardrobe
Cons: he’s wearing #10, which seems like it should be Tyshawn’s number, for better or worse

spacer

Did I mention that he changed his goddamned number? Because he did. To Tyshawn’s number of all things. Don’t get me wrong, I love My Best Friend. But I feel like there’s so much tied up in that number2. That thing could be either cursed or some kind of superpower, one that helps the wearer overcome sloppy play and turnovers to make it to the title game. I don’t know that I’m totally comfortable with a number that, for me, is being worn not the player I associate with it. Even if the new bearer is my favorite current Jayhawk.

That’s right, I said it. I love Tharpapalooza. He reminds me a bit of Nate Robinson, if Nate Rob 1.) never popped off for 25 point games; 2.) smoked a ton of weed and mellowed the fuck out3. That’s what I love the most about him. He’s a leader with about the coolest head of probably any point guard we’ve had in the last decade. Think about it, outside of maybe Russell Robinson, who ran the point that wasn’t a batshit lunatic? Aaron Miles4, Sherron5, Tyshawn6, Johnson7. Tharpapalooza doesn’t fit the prototypical Kansas PG mold. When he’s on the court, you feel the calming presence keeping things from boiling over. Some might find a passive point to be a detriment, the kind of thing that kills you in crunch time, but I would contend that Tharpe is not like that. This is someone who plays with a level-headed confidence.

And I like that. I like that we have someone out there that wants to keep the game precise and make sure everyone’s involved8. It certainly helps that Tharpe couldn’t hit a shot to save his life. And why should he try the part of his game that isn’t great when he has enough scoring options around him? That’s one of many reasons to love the man. He knows his role, plays it exceptionally well, and, even if I want him to take a wide open three, he’ll probably make the smart move and pass it off. I mean, he probably wasn’t making it anyway. Besides, what’s not to love about a man that has the Batman logo with the words “My Hero” above it?

ku_bkc_media_tharpe_t960

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Which is probably the most confusing thing about this season, since Selden is running around with Tharpapalooza’s old number, 1. To confuse the issue even further, Tyshawn has switched back to 10 from his previous 41 for the Nets. All this number switching is enough to make your head spin. Back

2 – One of the most up-and-down seasons, so many turnovers, so much brilliance, the “goddamn, coach” face when Toupee called the timeout when he wanted to take it to the rack in the Mizzou game, that Mizzou game, the National Championship against Kentucky, WITHEY!’s emergence, a lot of wild turnovers, him being the coolest Jayhawk and nice enough to take a photo with me when the Morri were kind of like “get the fuck out of here.” Yeah, there’s a lot there. Back

3 – Let me state for the record all of that is hypothetical. In no way should that be read as proof that anyone smokes weed. Ever. Weed’s the devil. Sticky, mellow devil… Back

4 – His intensity came through on television, to the point that you thought your soul was being ripped out, through your eyeballs. Back

5 – “Ain’t no seats!” – Sherron Collins. Also, he was 5;10″ in heels and played like he thought he was LeBron sized. Thrilling, nerve-wracking, scary, successful. Back

6 – Refer to footnote 2. Also, he played with such a maniacal intensity that you sometimes wondered if someone could care too much. Back

7 -Lest we try to sweep it away to the detritus of memory, the Prophet’s primary defensive move was the devastating “cock punch.” Fantastically effective. Flagrantly illegal on the court and most jurisdictions off, but effective. Back

8 – For proof of his skill at the point, his assists have more than doubled on the season while only getting about a third more minutes. I’m not a math wiz, but that seems like a pretty solid jump in distribution. Back



Life During Wartime: The Spectre of the End of An Era by longdistancejayhawk
March 8, 2013, 11:45 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,
With just one game left in the season, this is the last hurrah for these guys. It also signals the first time where we have more questions than answers going into next season.

With just one game left in the season, this is the last hurrah for these guys. It also signals the first time where we have more questions than answers going into next season.

To take in the dismantling of Texas Tech on Monday, the Ex-Pats and I went to Pourhouse on 3rd Ave. It was a good atmosphere, despite the oddly 80s-centric musical selections. We all know that WITHEY! hit the three, propelling himself into legend status to go compliment his record-setting career. It was how this chapter of the Jayhawks had to close. It was a great cap to an incredible career in God’s Colors. But once we put the game completely out of reach, we started talking about random KU-related shit, ultimately coming around to Andrew asking a very important question.

“Who the hell is going to start for us next year?”

I can’t imagine I’m alone in having that question fluttering around the edges of the season. I’d been avoiding confronting it, but now that Andrew broached the subject, it’s there, in all it’s hideous darkness. I’ve been bummed for a week thinking about the fact that this is the last ride for an entire group of starters. Starting four seniors on Senior Night is a rarity now, but it also raises so many questions about the future. I’ve never started reflecting on a season before the season actually ended. This is uncharted territory for me. Sadly, the only way for this to work out completely in our favor is to win the tournament and we all know that winning it is about as likely as winning the lottery. It’s really fucking hard to pull off.

Now, I’m waiting for the guillotine to drop, as I do every year. However, instead of the optimism for the future that usually accompanies the tournament, I realize now that we’re going to be a complete unknown coming into next season. During the Toupee era, I can’t think of a team that lacked some level of starter continuity between years. Every year, I had a reasonable idea who would start for us in the subsequent season. We had Miles into Chalmers into Collins into Taylor into Johnson. We had Kaun into Aldrich into Markieff (not really a center, but that’s where we ran him) into Withey. We’ve had guards that came off the bench morph into starters for two or three years, like Rush, Reed, Releford. Next year’s going to be different. I know last year I talked a lot about having no idea what to expect in the Tyshawn/T-Rob year, but I have literally no idea what to expect next season.

Right now, I can only speculate that we’ll see Tharpapalooza running the point and substantially increased roles from both Traylor and Ellis. After that, I don’t know what to expect. I know we have a robust recruiting class so far and we’re still waiting for final commitments from Wiggins and Randle. I’m not sure if we’ll get either guy since I try to only take a passive interest in the recruiting trail. That said, based on what I’ve read, I feel that Randle was impressed with KU and I have no idea what Wiggins thought of his visit. The pessimist in me feels like we’ll only get one, not both. We’re not Kentucky, after all. Would either be ready to start? Would they be that good? Of the guys that are still here, will Traylor and Ellis get considerably better? I know they’ve been playing very limited minutes and when they have been on the court, they’ve been inconsistent, but they’ve also shown promise. And never discount Bill Self’s ability to make diamonds out of a pile of dirt.

The point I’m trying to make is that, right now, I feel like we’re staring down the end of an era. We created a program of sustained excellence built around chemistry and continuity. We’ve always had guys that worked their way into a starter’s job while also mentoring the guys below them. By the time our seniors were moving on, you felt comfortable knowing that we had two, three, sometimes for guys who had been playing alongside those guys long enough that you knew what to expect. Next season, we don’t have that safety net to fall back on. So, right now, I’m already feeling a little nostalgic for this team, long before I would otherwise feel that way. It’s inevitable that our season will end prematurely, that’s the nature of the game, but I can’t help but hold out hope that this is the year that the magic comes together. That we’re able to pull something completely crazy out of the hat and make this a year to remember.

I don’t doubt that we’ll be fine next season, probably better than anyone expects given the circumstances. I don’t doubt that Toupee can make something magical out of any team he puts on the court. I just know that sometimes, you know you’re watching the end of something without having any idea of what tomorrow will bring. Let’s make these last games count. Because next year could be a rough one.



After Battle Report: Oklahoma State, Redux by longdistancejayhawk
February 22, 2013, 11:10 am
Filed under: Recap | Tags: , , , , , , ,
I hope Cobbins enjoyed this Wicked Shit dunk celebration since it was probably the highlight of his night. The lowlight? Fouling out and watching us win it from the sidelines, duh.

I hope Cobbins enjoyed this Wicked Shit dunk celebration since it was probably the highlight of his night. The lowlight? Fouling out and watching us win it from the sidelines, duh.

This time, there were no atom bombs. Just the sheer joy of my ex-pat Jayhawks and I jumping around Justin’s living room. Backs were slapped. Fives were highed. Throats were soared. Most importantly God’s Team had pulled it off. They had gone in to Stillwater, a place where Toupee has trouble of all kinds, and managed to take a win off of the home team’s hands. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t really thrilling, but it was a win. And that’s what really matters. Well, that and the fact that Oklahoma State fans can’t be thrilled about the karmic comeuppance they received at the end of the game1.

Final Score: Kanasas 68, Oklahoma State 67 (2OT)

WITHEY! was out with a vengeance Wednesday night, taking advantage of the fact that he's a fucking monster.

WITHEY! was out with a vengeance Wednesday night, taking advantage of the fact that he’s a fucking monster.

The Good: WITHEY! came back on FTs in a big way Wednesday night. On the night, he was 11-14 from the charity stripe, which puts him at roughly 78% on the night. Your eyes aren’t tricking you, I promise. For the bulk of the season, it looked like he’d spent the summer working out at Shaq’s Big Men Who Don’t Give a Fuck camp and winning the daily who can brick the most freebies contest. Which was made all the more upsetting when you remembered that last year, he was the calm, guiding hand that hit oh so many from the charity stripe. On the season, he was hitting 69.5%, and after Wednesday’s performance, he’s managed to nudge that up to 70.3% on the year2.

Brass Balls. Brass fucking Balls. If I weren’t so married to the Tharpapalooza nickname3, I would seriously consider changing it up to Brass Balls. Because that’s the only way to describe what I saw form my favorite Jayhawk on Wednesday night. First, he spent the first 30 or so minutes of the contest throwing down enough bricks to build the Great Wall of Lawrence. During that stretch, Andrew guesstimated that Tharpapalooza had taken around 25 shots and missed everyone of them4. Naturally, I looked it up on my phone. As I did so, Brass Balls over here hit his first shot of the game, which brought him up to like 1 for 7 at the time. Ouch. Of course, being cadaver cold from the field to that point didn’t stop him. He took three more shots, all misses, of course. You would think at that point Toupee would have called a timeout just to bark “For the love of fucking Christ, Naadir, stop shooting the ball!”5 Finally, with time winding down in the second OT frame, Tharpapalooza slashed inside, going hard to the lane in a way he hadn’t done most of the night. Given his performance to that point, most of the Faithful were holding their breath, their ears ringing in the way that only comes from seeing something teetering so dangerously on the edge of total success or epic failure6.

Of course it went in. Why wouldn’t it? Someone up there likes us7.

The Bad: Other than Tharpe’s stat line versus his import? I mean, that’s definitely one of the worst parts of the game. My buddy’s stat line reinforces the fact that he was absolutely atrocious on the night. Yet, he hit the one shot that really counted. So, (almost) all is forgiven. No, there are two things that stand out from this contest8. First, our three point shooting. Granted, our deep threat this season (and last, if we’re being honest) has been non-existent. Teams know this and pack the paint against the Master of Puppets and force us to shoot the deep ball. If St. Benji McDunks is on fire, they have to make sure to never, ever leave him open. If we’re putting the deep threat in the hands of Prophet, Tharpapalooza, and Swashbuckler, it’s a 50/50 whether or not they hit 40% in a game. By 50/50, I mean that they’re either hitting 40% or they’re hitting 8%. There’s really no in between. Teams know this, and OSU knew it better than anyone. They got us to take eleven shots from distance and we made one. Just one. I can’t fathom the fact that we managed to win a game where we only got one three ball to fall, short of the other team dying at halftime.

The other stat that sticks out like a sore thumb is turnovers. We committed 16 of them in the game. Just like three-point shooting, turnovers have been a problem for us for two seasons now. We haven’t had a true point guard since Collins and it shows in the way our team executes. We don’t protect the ball at all positions and I think it starts with the fact that our point doesn’t really protect it either. Look, we still won the game, despite it being a pretty sloppy effort. But the turnovers kill us. If we did a better job keeping the ball in our hands, we wouldn’t have these nail biters as often and we wouldn’t be on the court, sweating out whether Tharpapalooza’s shot is going to fall or not.

Not quite the Hammertie gif, but still a pretty classic Toupee shot.

Not quite the Hammertie gif, but still a pretty classic Toupee shot.

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: Toupee’s message to Tharpapalooza is pretty straightforward. Before you were crap, now, you are man:

“Neither team had any offense and he certainly made a huge play there late. Just huge. Biggest play of his life, I’m sure.”

JCTD Award: I’m loathe to award something so sacred to a guy who had probably the worst game of his career9 since I don’t want guys going out thinking they can get the hardware by playing like pure shit for 99% of the game and knock one down in the clutch. I don’t want to set that kind of precedent. However, given the fact that Justin’s living room was a ball of tension you could have felt all the way in Manhattan, which could have easily swerved into a room of anger, hostility, and depression, I think it’s fine to award it to Tharpapalooza. I mean, dude hit the shot when it mattered after missing just about every other shot that mattered in this tight contest. But sometimes, that’s all that matters10.

Looking Ahead: Tomorrow, we have TCU. Yes, that TCU. The TCU team that is in the running for worst college team of the year and beat us. Not only that, they controlled that game. We’ve already delivered retribution in Stillwater. Will we be able to come home and hold serve on our homecourt? I’m not trying to be cocky or anything, but yes. Yes, we will.

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – If you’re unsure of what I’m talking about, you haven’t been paying attention this season. When we played OSU at the Fieldhouse, we had a chance to tie on a desperation three pointer. When Prophet came across halfcourt, he slipped lost the handle, and OSU converted into two more points at the buzzer. How great was it that OSU lost on a similar play at the end of this one? If only Benji’s dunk could have counted. Now, that…that would have been sweet. Back

2 – Funny story: while we were watching the game and made a crack about the World Wide Leader exaggerating the WITHEY!’s free throw percentage. Since numbers can be fudged and all. Now that I’m writing this out, I wish I’d actually remembered what I’d said since it was about 10x funnier than this footnote. Let’s move on. Back

3 – Which is funny since I have to always ease up on the typing for about five seconds to make sure I type Tharpapalooza correctly. Something about the back to back “pa” combo that makes me think I’m doing it wrong somehow. Back

4 – This prompted a quick conversation about perception and reality. I deal with that a lot when I write these games up. So often, I watch a game and see nothing but rushed three pointers or ill-advised 18-footers that clang iron. When I sit down to write up the After Battle, I’m shocked to find out that we shot like 50% on the day and only took ten threes. In the heat of the moment, I feel like every miss must count for three in your brain case or something. Back

5 – Which I’m sure he would have done had we not burned through timeouts like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Back

6 – “Well, believe me, Mike, I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid, and…I went ahead anyway.” – Crow T. Robot. Back

7 – Also on the side of the Good: T-Rob got dealt to the Rockets at the trade deadline, which is probably the best thing that could possibly have happened to his career. First, it was jaw droppingly strange that the Kings would draft him in the first place, since, you know, they had Boogie playing power forward for them. Who also happens to be the world’s most gifted nutjob. Throw in the fact that the team has little to no diversity amongst the positions (nothing but points and power forwards), and you’re looking at a situation where Robinson was in danger of having his career completely tanked before it got off. He would never get minutes and the minutes he did get would be mediocre at best. And that’s not to mention that fact that having Cousins as a mentor is a kin to Mr. Miyagi on angel dust. Getting shipped off to Houston was the best thing for him. For the remainder of the year, he gets to work with Harden and Lin and get more consistent minutes in an environment built for player success. Which is awesome, since I really want my man to do well in the Association. Back

8 – Other than, of course, Releford shaving off his signature Swashbuckler Van Dyke. It was…weird. My buddy Evan offered up Homer’s buddy offered up Carl as a reasonable substitute for a nickname. Not bad. Not bad at all. I’m hoping that the loss of the beard was just some kind of shaving mistake and Relly’s one of those genetic freaks who grows a full beard by sundown. Because it’s really strange to look at him right now. Back

9 – I’m just saying that because I’m too lazy to dig in a little deeper and see. At the time of writing, I don’t remember him playing worse than he did prior to knocking down that most important shot. Back

10 – It occured to me just now that this is like the polar opposite version of the Beatification of St. Benji. Benji had a stellar game that night and hit the big shot. Tharpe had a putrid game and hit the big shot. Basketball’s funny that way, I suppose. Back



Know Your Enemy: Oklahoma State, Redux by longdistancejayhawk
Who knew that I'm one of the lucky many who were apparently included in a stranger's will?

Who knew that I’m one of the lucky many who were apparently included in a stranger’s will?

Apparently today’s my lucky day, as you can see from the photo above. You see, I just received word that Robert Adler, father of Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler, has died and left $20 million to me and “undisclosed recipients.” God, if only I’d know this was going to happen, I wouldn’t be feeling so fucking nervous about playing Oklahoma State tonight.

First, before we get to the preview, let me tell you a bit about the Texas game. Yes, I know that we didn’t get to spend any time reveling in the glory of such a slaughter. That’s totally my fault. I took the long weekend as a chance to somewhat recharge the ol’ batteries and relax. You know, things that are the opposite of writing tightly-wound blogs about the skill (or occasional lack there0f) of God’s Team. I could talk abou the gorgeous 360 Benji dunk, but I think we’re all talked out on that subject. I will, however, advise you strongly against going to Roebling Sporting Club, if your aim is to actually watch sports at night.

Roebling, which lives in what used to be K&M, has the look of a hipster sports bar. I’d liken it to a speakeasy with large TVs and a bartender with a waxed mustache. Of course, it’s in Williamsburg. I got there about 30 minutes before the Texas game and it was completely dead. Technically, the place had just opened up, so being sparsly populated didn’t seem that strange. A couple of other people showed up and we took over a table to watch the game. At halftime, a few of the gathered Jayhawks left for any place that offered food and drinks. Which left me sitting at the table with Alex and two other friends.

That, chummies, is when the WTF happened. As the second half got under way, I noticed that there were more and more people entering the bar. In fact, there was some kind of organized party going on, as people would come through the door and scream like they hadn’t just seen these people at Levee last night, too. Then, the All-Star Weekend audio feed got cut. This was because the DJ had arrived and was there to drop only the best in late-90s hits. I tried to focus on the rest of the game amidst the deafening volume and the elbows to the head. I think I did the best I could given the circumstances. The final nail in the coffin for this place was that a guy spilled basically an entire beer on my 8STR8 shirt. Granted, he bought me a beer as a peace offering, but still. I was soaked and reeking of beer after that.

Between this and the horror show that was Off the Wagon, I’m coming off as a nofunnik here, I know. But, that place said it was a sports bar, dammit! It wasn’t supposed to turn into a dance club! I’m in fucking basketball mode. Needless to say, I will not be returning, at least not for any Saturday night matchups.

Official Name: Oklahoma State University
Nickname:
Cowboys
Derisive Nickname:

Signature Win: Have they had a signature win since they beat us? I mean, wouldn’t beating us trump any and all other wins that they may have racked up? From pretty much every standpoint, I believe that to be the case. However, I would say winning an OT thriller in the Bedlam Series is probably a pretty important step in this team’s season.

Key Players: Too many to count. I kept harping on LeBryant Nash because I wanted him to live up to the hype and, more importantly, the potential. Of course, my insistence that Nash was a superstar made me turn a blind eye to the rest of the Cowboys squad. This is a solid team, top to bottom. I don’t know that they have a player that classifies as “key” only because I feel like most of their players have important roles and execute them well. That said, Markel Brown can fuck off.

Keys to Victory: I know it might seem like the intros to these things are rambling and barely related to what I’m going to get into when it comes to the preview/recap. Sometimes, that’s actually the case. However, today, that is far from the case. The keys to victory, personal victory, are watching this game from home, surrounded by the accouterments of my fandom. The last time we faced OSU, I was at Off the Wagon. And we all know how that shit went down. So, my key: stay home.

For real keys to victory, I’m not so sure. This is one of those games that always makes me nervous. Prior to the round-robin scheduling in our conference, I only had to get nervous about a trip to Stillwater every other year. Now, it’s once a year. I don’t know that I really like that. I hate losing. I hate losing to OSU, especially. For this game, I think the only thing that I can offer is that we play the way we’ve been playing the last couple of games. If we come out with the enthusiasm that we’ve shown in the last two games, we can take this one. Execution would help, but the spirit to win this game would go further in my book. I want to see this team kick it up a notch in the revenge match. Otherwise, we could be seeing more backflips at center court.

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)1: Kansas 73, Oklahoma State 72

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – As much as I’ve loved the way we’ve been playing the last two games, I almost want to pick against us in this one. It isn’t that I don’t think we can beat OSU in a series, it’s just that Gallagher-Iba is a tough spot to get a win. Especially if you’re Kansas. Since Toupee has been there, we’ve had a hard time cinching up victory there. If it weren’t for the fact that they beat us at the Fieldhouse, I would almost certainly pick against us in this game. But, as long time readers may know, I believe in stupid things like luck and jinxes, so I can’t bring myself to actually pick against God’s Team. We need this win (not really, but you know, I don’t want us to lose another game, dammit). Back



Know Your Enemy: Texas Bum Steers by longdistancejayhawk
Bum Steer

These bull asses are so big, we shouldn’t have much of a problem kicking the shit out of them.

Today is a good day for the Faithful. Miracle Mario’s getting his jersey retired. As his shot doubles as the greatest moment of my life, I have a feeling it’s going to get a little dusty up in here when they show highlights and a clips from the jersey retirement. What can I say I’m an emotional guy.

Going to the 2008 Final Four with my dad was probably the greatest moment of my life. I’ve said it a few times, sure, but I doubt that much would be better than that. I should have just retired from life after that night. I remember so much about that weekend, except for the first minute of overtime. Watching Ain’t No Seats nearly lose the handle, then hit Chalmers for the three was nothing short of magical. Demons were exercised, happiness blackouts were had and we ultimately carried the day. Given the import of that moment and the full-circle nature of the jersey retirement ceremony tonight, I’m totally wearing the snakeskin Adidas dunks I wore during that weekend in San Antonio. Bringin’ it around full fucking circle.

Oh, and we’re playing Texas tonight, too.

Official Name: University of Texas
Nickname:
Longhorns
Derisive Nickname:
The Bum Steers

Signature Win: Since we last met, Texas knocked off that solid Iowa State team that’s starting to seem like, maybe, it isn’t as good as we thought it was. Sure, they took God’s Team to overall in the game that will forever be known as the Ascension of St. Benji McDunks, but they also let a mediocre Texas team do the same to them. Part of Texas suddenly getting frisky has to do with the return (finally) of Myck Kabongo. After getting hosed on an impermissible benefits beef, he made his season debut against Iowa State and chipped in 13 points as a starter. For those of us who like OT and epic performances (McClellon put the Bum Steers on his shoulders and scored their final 10 points that night), this was a great one. The fact that Texas was able to pull it off at the expense of a good in-conference team makes it doubly sweet.

Key Players: Myck Kabongo is going to be the x-factor in this one. When we tangled with them last, they didn’t have Kabaongo, as I mentioned above. While he wasn’t totally impressive in his return game, I have a feeling he’ll rise to the moment. The biggest thing for God’s Team is just to control him, should he go off. Honestly, I can’t remember what his game looked like last season, but his stat line’s solid enough. I don’t really expect Kabongo to be a huge factor, just because he’s going to have a few games of getting reacclimated to college hoops. However, he’s the kind of kid I could see wanting to make a statement at AFH. Another concern I have is that, regardless of what he actually seems to be doing in the game, we’re going to key in on him, allowing McClellon to pop-off in Kabongo’s stead. I don’t really think the year’s Bum Steers are all that good, but they could definitely give us a scare. Shit, they already tried to do it once without Kabongo. Moving on, before I start to curl up in the fetal position.

Keys to Victory: Are you a member of the Faithful? Do you remember what we looked like when we pummeled the Sylvester Wildcats on Monday? We looked good, real good. The kind of good where you could tell that adrenaline, passion, and pride were all running so high they threatened to explode in a fiery ball of devestation, erasing the past, present and future of the entire K-State hoops program. Remember WITHEY!’s dunk, where he posterized Jordan Henriquez so hard, they’re still finding angles with which to make posters for it. Master of Puppets dunked so hard, dude’s lip exploded. Then, he punctuated it with the whole Cam Newton Superman celebration. Yeah, that’s the kind of psyched up insanity I’m looking for tonight against Texas. Don’t come out flat, come out with intensity. Also, Tharapalooza needs to keep his playing time up, since I really like when he’s on the court right now.

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)1Texas 64, Kansas 76

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Never, ever. Though, I would like to call attention to something Andrew brought up during the K-State massacre. I have never picked against us. I know, I know. I claim to be somewhat realistic when it comes to my favorite team’s performance, so it only stands to reason that I would pick against us at some point, right? The problem is that when I thought we could lose to Oklahoma State prior to the game, I didn’t have the heart to pick against us, for fear that I’d jinx the game (specious argument…). When we took on TCU, I clearly didn’t think we were going to lose to that abortion of a team (because they’re one of the worst teams in the country, let alone conference…). Even though I thought we wouldn’t lose three in a row, I did toy with the idea of picking against us in the Oklahoma game, but elected not to since I felt like I needed to believe we could win that game (yep, a guy who says he approaches this team with a realistic attitude is making arguments based on “luck” and “arbitrarily putting numbers next to team names is a way of showing solidarity…) and wanted the enterwebbes to know that. Oh, well. Maybe one day I’ll pick against us, just for variety’s sake. Today isn’t that day. I don’t want to be blamed by anyone if we somehow lose to this Beyond Disappointing-dome Texas team. Back



Do I Love You, 2012-13 Hawks? by longdistancejayhawk
February 14, 2013, 11:00 am
Filed under: Life During Wartime | Tags: , , , , , ,
There's no snarky comment here, just the fact that it was such a sweet dunk. That and Jamari looks like he's about to blast off with excitement in it.

There’s no snarky comment here, just the fact that it was such a sweet dunk. That and Jamari looks like he’s about to blast off with excitement in it.

In an annual celebration of Valentine’s Day, I like to reflect on the season thus far, looking at whether or not I truly love the current year’s vintage. In the previous two years, I’ve always started out by going through the good, the bad, some previous team comparisons, then, in a shock to probably no one, come to the conclusion that I do love the team. The thing is that a lot of the love is predicated on the fact that God’s Team is the only team I root for where I try to be objective, but ultimately fail. The problem is that, even at our absolute worst, I still love this team. Perhaps it comes from the fact that college was such a formative time in my life and, since college basketball was an ever present thing in my life given context through my four years at KU, I use Kansas hoops as a way to stay in touch with the person that I became during college. Maybe a part of it is the concept of connection across the country even after moving far from Lawrence, which I’ve expounded on throughout the history of this blog. The thing is that there are a lot of reasons why I can never, ever hate this team, all interconnected, and hard to pinpoint in terms of a finite reason for this love. Just know that, this year, I’m throwing away the conceit. I’m just going to talk about this year’s squad in terms of where we are right now.

I’ll admit, this is a strange time in Jayhawk Nation and an extremely strange time to be asking this specific question. Those of you who read these hallowed pages religiously know that I’ve been run through the emotional ringer as of late. After entering conference play with a lone loss to Michigan State, we ran through a gauntlet of tough teams and came out on the other end unscathed. Then, things got a little dark. I know we have to lose games and the bulk will come in conference play. That’s just the way this sport we love is built. I never thought we’d go on a three game skid, especially not a three-gamer that involved losing to one of the worst college basketball teams I’ve ever seen. All of a sudden, I felt like I was experiencing college hoops just like any other fan of a middling team in a power conference. Sometimes, you’re good. Sometimes, you’re bad. Sometimes, you lose to the worst team in the conference. They have to get wins too. Maybe you get ranked, maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re on the bubble. Yeah, I’m being melodramatic, since, short of losting six of our last seven, I think we’re still a lock for an at large bid1. I just haven’t felt quite this way in…maybe ever? I don’t know what it’s like to truly root for a mediocre team, one where you don’t go into a game believing you’re going to win it. I haven’t even had a season like that in my years of rooting for Kansas. Besides, any other rough season we had, I was drinking my way through college, so it barely registered.

Hashtage Rock Chalk for Life in-fucking-deed.

Hashtage Rock Chalk for Life in-fucking-deed.

What’s been interesting, aside from the douche drinkers coming out of their roach motels to shit all over us on Twitter and elsewhere, has been the amount of stats that have been bandied about, proving that it’s not time to throw ourselves off the ledge yet. Like this one from right after the TCU game, asserting that everything’s gravy since “the last time Kansas lost three straight, they ripped off ten straight wins.” Which is all well and good, except that the ending of that sentence is “then lost to Bradley in the first round.” Real talk: no one wants to relive that disaster, not the fans, the players or Toupee. Another I saw involved the 1987-88 team. This was the last time we dropped three in a row to unranked opponents2 watching this and I don’t have to tell anyone what happened at the end of that season. Just know that we’re listed as the third worst team to win the tourney in ESPN’s College Basketball Encyclopedia and we didn’t make the tournament the next year3. Putting aside the idea that somehow a team anywhere from seven to twenty-five years ago has any bearing on the actual performance of the current team4, these are just nice panacea to ease the suffering of the wounded among God’s Faithful.

So, this is what I propose to you, chummies. Let’s start over. Right now, we have the perfect opportunity, with God’s Team making a point of throwing Sexual Frustration on the train tracks, running the train over them, then backing up. This is where we hug each other, hold on tight, and get ready for the last part of this ride. So, let’s agree to put aside all the anger, animosity, and disappointment. Let’s put the broken streaks, the disappointing losses, the embarassment behind us. Let’s recommit to loving this year’s vintage because there’s so much to love. There’s WITHEY!, our freakishly tall Master of Puppets, adding all-time block leader in Kansas history next to his all-time single tournament block leader record. There’s St. Benji McDunks who is still in the conversation for number one overall pick, a man who radiates magical possibility every time he gets a touch. There’s the limitless possibility of what he can do now that he’s asked for more of a role during that team meeting. There’s the Prophet, disappointing as of late, but remember, he’s doing something noble. In the tradition of Mr. Mercurial5, he’s playing out of position, knowing that there’s no one else to do it. Let’s embrace Swashbuckler, who remains a defensive stopped even as his offensive game has fallen off recently. And the bench…oh, the bench. Let’s give a big bear hug to the bench. There’s Tharpapalooza, a talented true PG who has been growing in confidence this year, giving hope for our future at the point. There’s Jamari Traylor, he of the tough background, who has been playing smarter and smarter with each of his appearances on the hardwood. And who could forget P-Ellz. While you haven’t been the revelation I expected, you’re also not as terrible as I thought and you will be a worthy heir to the presidency of the Hair Club for Men, Lawnrece Chapter once Releford moves on. Let’s laud Toupee, just for being the baddest mother fucker stalking the sidelines in any conference.

More than all of this, let’s take this Valentine’s Day to renew our vows to the Mighty Jayhawks. We’ve stuck with them through worse, we’ll be here through worse. This is just a bump in an otherwise smooth road. We’re better than how we played in those three disasters. Let’s all go out and proudly proclaim our love for this year’s vintage, regardless of what anyone else thinks about us. If you’re with us, you have to be with us through everything. If you’re not, this is your last chance to jump off.

I love this team. Do you?

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your 2012-13 vintage. Embrace them, love them.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your 2012-13 vintage. Embrace them, love them.

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – And event then, I say there’s a good shot we’d still make the dance. For one thing, at that point our season still wouldn’t be as bad as, say, Carolina’s (not that I think they’re making it this year, per se, but they’re a bench mark of a power team that’s playing like total shit and I don’t think we ever got that bad, nor will we). For another, I mentioned this in an email to Paul from Queens recently, but none of the teams that have made the top of the rankings are truly dominant. In fact, I would argue that they’re all really good, not even great. And that was before Michigan, who I’ve enjoyed watching this season, got completely shellacked by the wretched Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team on Tuesday night. Back

2 – Poor Oklahoma State. I’ve seen so much college ball this year and so many games where my only thought was “These guys could get worked y the Cowboys.” If it weren’t for their record and inability to string together a run of great games, they’d be in the rankings. You know, if the rankings meant anything6. Back

3 – Granted, that was because Transient Brown got us into recruiting trouble, but still… Back

4 – I love my hoops history and our legacy of dominance as much as anyone, but I’m not kidding myself into beleiving that 25 years later, Danny and the Miracles have any impact on the current vintage. There’s no connection period, and certainly none now that Danny’s down in Tulsa. Just saying. Back

5 – For most of last season, Andrew and I were co-presidents fo the Free Tyshawn movement. We thought he should spend his senior season back at the shooting guard spot he occupied during the final Collins season. Given that we made a title game with Taylor at the point, I think it’s clear why we’re not NCAA coaches. Back

6 – Editor’s Note – I’m going to have to take a mulligan on this one. You see, I wrote this piece over the weekend, with a few edits called out for after the K-State game. Naturally, those made it in there, but I made a HUGE error when I stated the Oklahoma State wasn’t ranked. I wish I could blame it on the fact that they weren’t ranked when I actually wrote the piece, but they’ve been ranked for two weeks now. I also wish I could blame it on the fact that I could give a fuck about the rankings, since they’re a completely assinine way to assess the relative worth of a schools’ hoops program in a given year. However, I should have taken the 30 second to look up the situation before just going off without any real fact-checking thrown in. I wish I could, as an extension of the fact checking motif, say that if I had an editor, this sort of shit wouldn’t happen, but I don’t have an editor and never have, so I should just take the 10 minutes it takes to edit my own shit, but I don’t. Because I’m lazy, sue me. Long story short, I made a mistake and I’m man enough to admit that. Even though I hate having to admit it. Back