Long Distance Jayhawk


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

6 – Nope, not. At. All. Back



After Battle Report: 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



After Battle Report: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn by longdistancejayhawk
This is the photo that should be used as bulletin board material in the locker room. See this, God's Team? Never, ever let this happen again.

This is the photo that should be used as bulletin board material in the locker room. See this, God’s Team? Never, ever let this happen again.

For those who are interested, the blizzard was something of a non-event. Sure, there was a lot of snow and watching it fall Friday night, it was somewhat magical. I love snow. But this blizzard was something of a non-event. By comparison, two years ago, we had a blizzard that essentially crippled the city for a number of days. During that one, I went out in Park Slope and saw cars and busses abandoned all up and down 7th Avenue. That was a blizzard. What we had this weekend was nothing compared to that one, nor was it anything compared to Hurricane Sandy earlier this year.

I was supposed to go upstate to Alex’s parents place. Thanks to a little poor planning on my part, that didn’t happen. By Friday night, the MTA shut down MetroNorth and didn’t reopen it until 11am Saturday, which was an inopportune time for me to catch a train and head upstate. At the time, I figured this situation would be okay since it would give me a chance to catch God’s Team rebounding against Oklahoma at the lifeless1 Lloyd Noble Center from the comfort of my couch. I thought I’d be able to take notes and have a personal cathartic moment while people shoveled the sidewalks outside. I never imagined we’d have our first three game skid in eight years. This game was one we should have won, maybe not handily, but we should have won.

In hindsight, I probably should have gone upstate and tried to enjoy myself. Since it’s clear that my enthusiasm for the ‘Hawks and watching the games live, decked out in Kansas gear and rubbing the 2008 floorboard for luck has absolutely no impact on the outcome of any competition.

Final Score:  Kansas 66, Oklahoma 72

The Good: It’s taking all my willpower to say “It can’t get any worse, right?” and leave it at that. That’s a cop out and untrue, since I kind of said that after the TCU game and we all know what happened. So, real talk for a minute. While I still don’t see the kind of intensity I want to see from this year’s vintage, we didn’t play like we gave zero fucks. It was nice to finally see us come out and play competently after the complete working we received at the hands of TCU. I’m not saying we played as well as I would have liked, but we didn’t play like we couldn’t wait to get out of building and back to Lawrence to lick our wounds and, seemingly, not learn from our mistakes. St. Benji played pretty well, netting 15 points. I also liked that, we were able to cut the lead down to two with almost no time left on the clock. There was a feeling that, maybe, this time our guys could pull out the win in a way that we haven’t been able to in the last couple of games. I also liked that Tharpapalooza got 22 minutes in the contest, chipping in seven points. While we didn’t execute as well as we have in the past, we also didn’t look like we were rushing every play in desperation. Certainly, there were a few desperation plays, but we seemed to be playing like we’d actually been on a court before.

Again, I’m not saying this was a stellar performance. If it were, we would have one. However, there were things that were heartening. Also, WITHEY! managed to tie Ostertag for the school record on blocks. Why is that a good thing? I wouldn’t want to waste such a momentous occasion on a loss or a barely-eeked-out victory on the road2. Isn’t it going to be so much more satisfying if he breaks the record during a route of K-State at home?

The Bad: It should be painfully obvious, but a three-game skid is the definition of bad. As Jayhawks fans, we’ve come to expect the occasional loss. Hell, back-to-backs come with the territory of playing in a competitive league and sustaining so much excellence for so long. A three-game skid, the first since 2005, is not the kind of thing you ever want to experience. It’s the kind of thing that forces a mandatory Internet blackout, lest the trolls come out in force and crow about how overrated your team is. If we’re so overrated, asshole, why have we been dominating our conference for so long? Why are the we the second winningest team in NCAA history? Yeah, we’re the worst team of all time ever. Also, you’re not clever. And you’re ugly. Rather than read all the trolling bastards, I had a High Life, watched Iron Man and tried to forget all about the horror of losing three in a row.

Phew. I almost lost all the zen calm I’d built up last night.

Here’s the thing about last night’s loss. It wasn’t nearly as painful as the loss to TCU. That one was like getting kicked in the balls right before getting kneed in the mouth. There were no positive takeaways from a game that we had no business losing. In the Oklahoma game, I wasn’t happy to lose. Far from it. But I didn’t feel like it was the end of all things holy. Part of it might be that Oklahoma’s a decent team this season, despite my feeling that they’d be like seventh in conference. A bigger, perhaps the biggest part of it, was that I felt so emotionally drained after the TCU loss that I couldn’t muster any more emotional reaction than literally “Well, fuck. This sucks.” Finally, a small part of it is that, as the clock was winding downt3, a lyric from Florence + the Machine’s “Shake It Out” popped in my head.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Let’s stay strong, Jayhawk Nation. Florence knows. It can only get better from here. Shake it out, shake it out…shake it out, shake it out, oh-whoa-oh.

Encouraging Bill Self Quote of the Night:  That’s right, even Toupee couldn’t kill his team after this one4.

“Obviously three in a row is not good, but this game to me today, I’m not leaving out of here disgusted with my team at all because we actually played better today…We played a good team today, and they shot the heck out of the basketball.”

I think Toupee was rocking “Shake It Out” before meeting the press.

JCTD Award: It’s been a while since I’ve been able to give this award out. Almost all of the games offered no one that deserved the award. But I know who deserves it after this one (technically, three, but I digress). Jayhawk Nation, this is the long, dark tea time of our soul. If you’re a bandwagon jumper, here’s your chance to hop off. We won’t hate you (maybe a little), but there’s no place for people who don’t live and die with this team. If you’ve been here a while, those two first round exits…worse than this. Losing to a hopped up on confidence and trans fats UNI team in the first weekend…worse than this. Watching our guys fail to come up with an answer to Shaka “I get way too much credit for being a mediocre coach an a sub-optimal Brad Stephens” Smart’s VCU Rams, resulting in a lose for one of the strongest (if waaaay too cocky) teams we’ve put on the court since 2007-08….worse than this. Watching Syracuse spank us in 2003 as McNamara hit enough threes for a whole season, as Melo smugly won a title, watching as Hinrich’s three-pointer clanged off the rim and sealed our fate, then having to wait five years to have peace with that night….worse than this. All of us who are still here, will still make every game appointment viewing, will be excited to hear the Rock Chalk chant, will cheer for the team despite recent poor results, this one’s for you. Kansas has the best fans of any team, in my admittedly biased opinion. We aren’t out, we’re never out. Stay strong, Jayhawks. Stay strong.

Looking Ahead: A frisky K-State team comes to  Allen Fieldhouse. I offer no true predicition on what’s going to happen in the game. I don’t think we’re going to lose, but I’m not ready to act like victory is inevitable. For me, this game is the true test of this team’s mettle. How we respond to this streak, how we look from a purely attitude standpoint, will go a long way in my book to giving me a true sense of this team. I want to see passion, I want to see execution, I want to see the results of that post-TCU team meeting coming to fruition. If it’s close, it’s close. That’s not going to suprise me. I just want to see this team gel around adversity and come out with the intensity befitting the Kansas name5.

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Lloyd Noble tends to be the most lifeless arena in the Big XII X XII. There are certainly other arenas that lack the character and oppressive intensity of Allen Fieldhouse, but Lloyd Noble comes off the worst in all capacities. It’s a stadium so dead you can tell that no one gives a shit when you see it on TV. Hell, on the first couple of Kansas possessions, there were more people chanting for God’s Team than there were OU fans chanting for a defensive stop. I think the most obvious example of Lloyd Noble being a terrible venue was during the 2010-11 season when we beat the ever loving shit out of them so badly that Sooner fans started leaving in droves with about 15 minutes left in the game. Back

2 – While it was a home game, think about Keiton fucking Page setting all kinds of Oklahoma State records last season at home, then having to watch all of his good turn into a twelve point loss. While he might look back on his achievements fondly one day, I can assure you that he probably would have preferred winning the game en route to breaking records. It’s kind of like a win-lose situation. Back

3 – Probably the most infuriating part of the game was that not only did we lose, but we were embarassed in a deja vu fashion to end the game. Almost exactly one week to the second prior, Prophet carried the ball across half court, cutting from center to the right side, slipped, lost the handle, turnover into transition punctuation-score to really drive home the fact that we’d lost the game. While the odds are pretty extreme for the final plays against the two Oklahoma-based teams to end the same way, I felt a sense of inevitability to the turnover, muttering under my breath “Of course it ends this way. Of course.” I know it seems like I’m being flippant here, but maybe I’m just trying to not go into a eff-bomb laden tailspin. Yeah, that’s it. Back

4 – Not to guess his mindset or anything, but perhaps this was a calculated move. If executing your point guard to the media didn’t work, maybe offering up a little kindness will. Back

5 – For a glimpse behind how the donuts are made, I didn’t totally know how this piece was going to go when I started. I needed to write about it, obviously, but I also had such a strange numbness about it that I couldn’t figure out where to start and where to end. So, I just let it fly. Interestingly, I think the Florence quote ultimately proved a great tie up at the end, since it offers a bit of an opening up of the fog I was in. Also, it’s a hopeful reminder that, no matter how shitty things seem, there’s always another day, the world doesn’t end just because your team goes off the rails for a few games (let’s not talk about the murder’s row of a schedule we have left…let’s just keep it positive). Though, I’m pretty sure Florence Henderson wasn’t thinking about American collegiate basketball when she wrote the song. It was probably about wood elves or something. Back



After Battle Report: TCU Horned Frogs by longdistancejayhawk

See the title? They beat us in  a game that they deserved to win, so I can’t kill  them with a bullshit hate-name.  Good job, TCU, you deserved to win.

This is a dead-eyed, soulless team with no passion, no charisma. We deserved to lose last night. We’ve deserved to lose a few others so far this season, but somehow we were able to come away with victories. Last night was not one of those miraculous wins. It was the culmination of all the things we saw game in, game out, writ large. It was also the most brain-crushingly disastrous game I’ve ever seen us play. And that’s saying a lot.

Final Score: Kansas 55, TCU 62

The Good: This season seems to be all about snapping streaks, so why not throw 264 games without consecutive losses out the window. Good job, boys. You’ll be remembered by this writer for all the streaks you helped end. Aren’t small numbers easier to remember anyway?

The Bad: Oh, I don’t know…maybe it’s the fact that we lost to the worst team in the Big XII X XII, a team that’s in the conversation for worst in all college hoops. What could be worse than that? Well, aside from the void of enthusiasm on this year’s team. That’s actually the more devestating takeaway from this one. No one on our team gives a shit. Which begs the question, why should I?

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: Toupee seemed disoriented after this one, convinced that he was coaching a rec league team:

“It was the worst team that Kansas ever put on the floor, since Dr. Naismith was there. I think he had some bad teams when he lost to Topeka YMCA and things like that in the first couple years.”

Of whatever.

JCTD Award: Get the fuck out of here. No one deserves anything after that performance.

Looking Ahead: Oklahoma, a team we beat by like thirteen. Which makes it seem like we were in control of that one, when in reality, Oklahoma just sucked. I have zero confidence that we can actually win this game right now. Zero. So little confidence right now that I’m seriously debating not watching the game. It might make sense, given that I don’t have any KU shirts that isn’t soaking in the stink of defeat right now.



Know Your Enemy: Oklahoma State T-Bones by longdistancejayhawk
Don't worry, Soothsayer of the Faithful. It's not going to be that bad. Please tell me it won't be that bad. I do NOT appreciate your silence.

Don’t worry, Soothsayer of the Faithful. It’s not going to be that bad. Please tell me it won’t be that bad. I do NOT appreciate your silence.

Last night, I watched the Grizzlies/Thunder game on TNT and was struck by just how good Darrell Arthur looks in the NBA. The man is a fucking beast. In the first quarter, he received a pass on the wing and stormed his way to the basket, making a crazy athletic layup as he sailed out of bounds. Everything about it was fluid, graceful, and, most of all dominant. Between watching him in this game and talking about how I had about the biggest man-crush on Brandon Rush, I was struck by something about that phenomenal 2007-08 vintage: we were fucking incredible. Everything about that team was built not just to win, but contend for the title1.

Watching Arthur made me nostalgic for that team. First, we ripped off an incredible 20-0 run to start the season, then continued to crush pretty much every foe in our path, up to and including Memphis. All throughout, we played damn good ball. Even though we ended up losing three on the season (K-State, Texas, and Oklahoma State), that first stretch and our impressive post-season run had a totally different vibe from pretty much every season since. I distinctly remember watching every game expecting to win. I didn’t feel that nagging sense of doom that so often accompanies my grind through a season. Even though I never thought we’d win the tournament that year, I also didn’t feel like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop2.

I definitely felt that sense of impending doom more acutely last season, when we had to go to Ames to play a frisky Cyclones team. I can’t explain it, but I just felt like we were going to lose that game. I was vindicated, unfortunately. Which is why I’m starting to get nervous about this Oklahoma State game. The way we’ve played in the last eight games, I don’t feel confident in our offense to make up for a team that gets hot. More than that, I always fear Oklahoma State for the fact that Toupee has always had trouble playing at his alma mater. With our team unable to produce consistently on the offensive side and OSU (in my opinion, anyway) being better than their record suggests, I’m starting to worry about getting upset at home. I’m not quite to the level of anxiety I was at leading up to Iowa State last year, but there are a lot of things working against us going into this one.

Can Toupee get our offense firing and blow OSU out of the building? Is this going to be another slugfest where we crush on the defense, miss a slew of shots, and manage to win by eight? Will Marcus Smart go straight for the chest piece, holding our still-beating hearts up at center court while screaming “Are you not entertained?” Will this be the game where we snap out of our funk? Or will this be the wake up call we need to remind us that sleepwalking through games is no way to fucking hoop?

I don’t know3.

Official Name: Oklahoma State University
Nickname: 
Cowboys
Derisive Nickname: 
T-Bones4

Signature Win: Hands down toppling an NC State team I’m basically penciling in to make another Sweet Sixteen5 by 20 points. If that’s not a solid win, I don’t know what is. I’ve watched about five NC State games so far this season, including the Jimmie V Classic game against UConn, and they’re impressive. Between Howell, Leslie, and Brown, the team’s a force in a garbage ACC6 that has at least two draft picks (Howell and Leslie) who play like they’re ready to go pro. Given OSU’s struggles, that’s an impressive win if you ask me. I mean, christ, twenty points. Of course, this is also a team that lost by nine to an Oklahoma team whose record makes them look less inept than they are in reality.

Maybe the Soothsayer was hiding from Smart's crazy mohawk. That's what I'm telling myself, just to feel better.

Maybe the Soothsayer was hiding from Smart’s crazy mohawk. That’s what I’m telling myself, just to feel better.

Key Players: The T-Bones are, on paper, a legitimately scary team, boasting what I’d consider two-tiers of excellent players. First tier, is the Brown-Smart combo. Between the two of them, they’re averaging over 28 points on the year. Brown’s the most impressive since I barely remember him from the last couple of season, but he’s a junior and he’s pretty efficient in his scoring (44.2%, which isn’t great, but he’s also a decent deep threat, hitting 34.7% on the year). While Brown’s scoring’s impressive, Smart has to be the most impressive Cowboy, chipping in 13.6 PPG on 41.9% shooting. Throw in the fact that he’s also hitting open guys for 4.6 assists per game and he’s a guy I’m legitimately scared to face tomorrow.

The second tier of guys is the much loved Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte, both scoring in double figures, along with Jurick, who rips down 7.5 boards per contest. Seriously. This team has four guys averaging in double figures. Granted, none of them are blowing it out, per se, but that’s a pretty impressive distribution of shots. On top of that, the T-Bones might be the best team we’ve faced, percentage wise, since they hit 44.3% from the field. Will we be able to shave that down to our season average of 37%? Or will they unlock our defense just enough to kill that streak7?

Keys to Victory: Allow me a moment of subtly  don’t suck on offense. Not subtle enough? Don’t fucking dick around on offense, move the ball around, and, above all else, don’t fucking suck on offense. I have no fear that our defense will, at the very least, disrupt what the T-Bones do on offense. However, we will have to play flawlessly in order to make sure that our offensive mediocrity doesn’t bite us in the ass. I keep hoping that our boys will go out and give the Faithful one of our patented annihilation games, but I’m starting to think that’s never going to happen again. Especially against this team. As long as we take care of the defensive side of the game, we should be okay. Right? Right?! RIGHT?!

…breathe…breathe…

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)8Oklahoma State 71, Kansas 74

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FOOTNOTES

1 – Which was fortunate since we, you know, won it all. Seriously, though, think about that team. We were stacked with NBA talent. What’s interesting, in hindsight, was how ballyhooed that Final Four was. If you look at the teams (us, UNC, Memphis, UCLA), there were tons of incredible players in those three games. I remember, when we made the final against Memphis, thinking I was watching the greatest collection of NBA-caliber talent in any tournament ever. Which ended up being mostly true when you consider the fact that we have four guys in the league (Rush, Chalmers, Arthur, Aldrich) and, until CD-R was waived by the Mavs, Memphis had two (Rose, Douglas-Roberts). Back

2 – Yeah, yeah…I know what anyone who roots for the vast majority of teams is thinking: “At least you win all the time.” To that, I’d counter that, for the savvy and overly invested fan, there’s always an unshakeable sense that you’re doomed to never win the tournament. Because it’s one of the hardest gauntlets to run through. Plus, there’s the narrative of the scrappy underdog coming out of nowhere to knock off some of the blue bloods. Look, I’m happy for anyone to have even a taste of the glory, but I also hate being on the receiving end of an upset. How hard is it to go to ESPN.com and see the snarky headlines. What I’m getting at, VCU fans, try to imagine it from the other side. Also, fuck you for 2011. Back

3 – There’s a distinctly different confusion to this year’s team compared to last year’s. Last year, I couldn’t believe we were winning so many games despite the fact that I thought we were not just one-dimensional, but also led by a maniac who was at turns thrilling and exasperating. Oh, and we had practically not shooters, as evidenced by the fact that Teahan was our deep threat…off the bench…and he was kind of like Brady Morningstar crossed with Tyrell Reed if they had no hands.Last year, we were winning because, as I described it, we were essentially a Rube Goldberg machine of broken plays that was winning because we had Robinson and gumption. This year’s team is a totally different animal. After showing all those flashes of brilliance, we seem to be winning more so because we’re incapable of losing than anything else. Needless to say, it’s been a weird two-year stretch for me. Back

4 – So named because 1.) there are actually teams named that in the world (specifically, KC), 2.) I’ve always thought it was a busted name for a franchise, 3.) it’s almost OSU’s biggest benefactor’s name and anytime you can rub it in an opponent’s face that all the money is a certain man’s bank account couldn’t lure a certain coach away from a certain university, you have to take that pot shot. Just saying. Back

5 – My mom’s probably rolling her eyes right now. Mom, I’m sorry Benedict Williams is trying his best to force every UNC fan over the age of 50 to die of disappointment, but NC State’s a solid squad. Side note: nothing was quite as fun as seeing all the Wolfpack fans at MSG in the Jimmie V Classic proudly wearing their Sweet Sixteen shirts. All I could think was “That’s cute…good thing I’ve seen enough Sweet Sixteens that I don’t have to buy shirts for that.” Back

6 – A shame that Duke and UNC fans will poo-poo State’s sure-to-be great season because the ACC’s a joke this season. I mean, how good can the conference be if fucking Virginia is in the mix to take the regular season title? Virginia! Have they been good since Ralph Sampson? Back

7 – I don’t think I can stress this enough: tomorrow’s game scares the shit out of me. Fuck, man, I was scared just from a narrative standpoint, then I looked at their scoring. Not the most efficient team ever, but they are scoring 71 PPG. I fear for us if they score that many on us, since we’ve been struggling to get to that plateau ourselves as of late. Back

8 – At this point in the season, I can’t even remember why I thought the recurring footnote would be a good idea, let alone trying to pick our scores. It’s like playing a bi-weekly, never ending game of Russian Roulette. In related news, I enjoy torturing myself. Back