Long Distance Jayhawk


2014-15 Big XII Preview, Part 2 – …Blood by longdistancejayhawk

Welcome to Part 2 of my insanely long Big XII X XII Conference preview. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, do yourself and favor and do that before taking a bite out of this bad boy. You’ll be glad you did since you won’t have any surprises when it comes to which teams are decidedly not being discussed in this part of the preview. Also, as noted in Part 1, I wrote this Friday and Saturday of last week, using numbers going into conference play. Obviously, I’m a little late getting this out there in the world, but I honestly thought we weren’t getting into the Big XII X XII till this week. Which is what happens every year since Kansas likes to have that one last non-conference game on the Saturday that everyone else starts. I should note this for next year, but I’ll totally forget.

And then there were five.

And then there were five.

Well, we’re all here. Are you rested? Did you get yourself a little snack? Maybe you actually did a little work in the downtime between the first piece going up and this one. Perhaps you didn’t. Maybe you spent some time pondering the Dion Waiters to OKC, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland trade1. Who knows what you did, but I’mm glad you’re here. There isn’t too much to say in terms of a preamble, so let’s get down to it.

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

  1. ?
  2. ??
  3. ???
  4. ????
  5. ?????
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Oklahoma State
  8. Texas Christian
  9. Kansas State
  10. Texas Tech

I think I did pretty good there! Not to toot my own horn or anything…I think the ballsiest pick was going against TCU, but as I mentioned in the last piece, I really don’t trust them to stay nearly as good in this death valley of a conference. I’d love to be proven wrong and see the Horned Frogs make a play at relevance, though.

Now, let’s get into the top half of the Big XII X XII. Quick note: I wrote these almost immediately after Part 1. So, I kind of lost a little steam. Or maybe these assessments are more streamlined thanks to me barfing up all the detritus I felt necessary in the first go around. Whatever the case, there’s a fully 1,000 fewer words here, so you can probably get through it without having to avoid your boss too much with minimizing the browser window.

#5 – Baylor Bears

Last Season’s Shame: 26-12 (9-9) – What could have been a terrible season following a 1-6 start to conference play, Scott Drew’s Bears ripped off an 8-3 run to cap league play en route to Big XII X XII Championship game and a Sweet Sixteen appearance against the Great Kamiskies of Wisconsin.
Emoji-nal State:
Baylor
Non-Conference Record:
11-1
Projected Conference Record: 10-8
Projected Total:
21-9

Ranked Game Record: 0-0
Baller Wins:
Either win over Texas A&M or Vanderbilt, since all it takes is one of those teams pulling off the impossible and toppling Kentucky for us to ascribe the transitive property of wins and declare that Baylor could, in fact, beat Kentucky.
Brutal Losses: 
They only lost to Illinois, so by default.

Baylor kicks off the top half of the Big XII X XII picks and ranking series. This might be the second biggest stretch of my picks since this is a Scott Drew team we’re talking about. As with a lot of these, I’m going with the ol’ gut because I don’t trust Baylor to be able to replicate their pre-conference success in such a hellaciously tough conference. A huge part of my trepidation is that they haven’t played anyone of note prior to taking on Oklahoma over the weekend. And they lost that one. So…yeah, maybe I’m starting to worry a bit about putting them over Oklahoma.

Ultimately, I decided that the talent and experience of this team would overcome the curse of Scott Drew. Rico Gathers, a junior forward, is averaging a double-double. Also, there are just two frosh getting appreciable burn for this squad, while there are a whopping 8 upperclassmen (6 are juniors). At a certain point, the experience of being there has to count for something. I can’t imagine that even Scott Drew’s penchant for not getting the most out of his team can overwhelm the amount of talent collected here.

#4 – West Virginia Mountaineers

Last Season’s Shame: 17-16 (9-9) – Did you see what the Mountaineers did last year? They went 8-5 in pre-conference and 9-9 in conference which was good enough to make me at least think about whether or not they deserved to be considered a fringe bubble team. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like that was at least a conversation in March of last year.
Emoji-nal State:
WVU
Non-Conference Record:
12-1
Projected Conference Record: 10-8
Projected Total:
22-9

Ranked Game Record: 1-0
Baller Wins:
At the time, UCONN looked like a solid team defending their title, even though they were in the middle of a free fall at the time. So, WVU gets to hold on to that #17 victory.
Brutal Losses: 
Losing to actual LSU, rather than faux-LSU TSU isn’t the best thing you can do to burnish the old tournament resume.

Jesus, have you seen or heard about what’s happening in Morgantown? This team is about buckets and buckets and buckets and the only way to get buckets and buckets and buckets is to shoot. Like a shit ton. I mean, like constantly. As of Friday when I pulled numbers, they had taken a mind boggling 844 shots, outstripping number two in the conference, TCU, by a staggering 132 shots YTD. That’s nuts! They’re taking nearly ten more shots per game than the second place team in the rest of the conference. Add in the fact that they’re forcing a league high 13.46 steals per game (about 3.5 more than second place OSU) and you realize just how fast this Mountaineer team truly is.

My big reservation though comes when you dig a little deeper. Right now, Huggins’ squad is 24th in PPG (78.9) which is great…except that it comes on a truly abysmal 42.9% FG% (good for 211th in the country). Oof. That’s not the most reassuring thing I’ve ever seen. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if West Virginia was going to run into a huge problem when the pace of the game inevitably slows down. What happens when they have to take say 45-50 shots as opposed to 60-65 they’re shooting right now? I know this is Huggins’ brand of basketball and that’s ultimately what helped me rank the Mountaineers so high2. Even if there’s a bad night or stretch, Huggy Bear’s  been there before. He can get the most out of these guys, good for a fourth place finish.

#3 – Texas Longhorns

Last Season’s Shame: 24-11 (11-7) – Look at that! Another Sith Lord team that makes it through the regular season well on the right side of .500 only to fizzle out in the first weekend of the tournament3!
Emoji-nal State:
Texas
Non-Conference Record:
11-2
Projected Conference Record: 13-5
Projected Total:
24-7

Ranked Game Record: 1-1
Baller Wins:
Just getting in on the “UCONN is a quality win” bandwagon as the Huskies were free fallin’ without a parachute into ignominy.
Brutal Losses:
Losing to Stanford sticks out because fuck the Cardinal.

Honestly, this seems like the biggest gamble on the whole list. Rick Barnes is a slippery coach to figure out and his Texas teams are no different. I’m not an expert on the Longhorns, but I feel like there are only two Rick Barnes teams: 1.) the upper-middle tier talented team that flies under the radar while racking up a solid number of wins and a tournament appearance; 2.) the ultra-for-Barnes-talented squad that flies a little too close to the sun before bursting into spectacular flame out. I feel like there’s no middle ground.

Which is why this could be the biggest gamble on my list. The Longhorns are looking really good so far. They’ve got a slew of wins on their resume and just two losses. One of those losses was to the buzzsaw of Kentucky, which they only lost by twelve and surely covered the spread4. That’s a win, right? And they’ve done it all without phenom guard Isaiah Taylor since the Iowa game back in November.

Which is why I was hesitant to put them this high. With Taylor coming back from injury, I worry that this will morph back into the type of Barnes team that doesn’t wait till the tournament to shit the bed. If that’s the case, backing them is going to look stupid. But I’m prepared to look stupid. This year’s Texas team eats glass like it is their fucking job and the talent up and down the roster fits what Sith Lord wants in a basketball team. Are they a threat to win it all? Of course not, but could they sneak into winning the Big XII X XII? Of course.

#2 – Kansas Jayhawks

Last Season’s Shame: 25-10 (14-4) – No need to rehash the dirty deets here. Not my favorite vintage to watch, though going down to Stanford the first weekend…yeah, that was pretty rough.
Emoji-nal State:
KU
Non-Conference Record:
11-2
Projected Conference Record: 15-3
Projected Total:
26-5

Ranked Game Record: 2-1
Baller Wins:
Michigan State by five to take the Orlando Classic crown for the side of righteousness.
Brutal Losses: 
Two way tie: Kentucky punching straight through our faces to the tune of 32 or Temple smoking us 25. Look, if you’re going to lose, you might as well make it look like you never bothered to lace up your dunks.

I think it’s obvious what I think about this year’s vintage at this point. Especially if you read every post. To give a quick Cliff’s Notes: this is one of the weirder teams of the Toupee era. We’re bursting with a good mixture of talent, experience, and skill…yet we can’t seem to string any of it together into a workable whole for more than 20 minutes a game. If that. For every game where we get a monster, career performance from one of our guys, someone else is playing like they forgot there was a game going on. Most of the time, our sheer talent wins out, getting us the brass ring almost in spite of ourselves. Other times, mercifully few this season so far, no one steps up and we end up getting embarrassed out of the building. Which is why we need to be ready to assume crash positions at any point during any game this season.

This is not, as currently humming, a team prepared to win a National Championship, let alone a clear and convincing win for our eleventh straight regular season.

Which is why I couldn’t put us at the top of the list. At least not alone.

Look, I’ve seen enough teams under the stewardship of Self overachieve to keep the conference title streak alive and so I can’t rule us out to continue the streak. I don’t have faith in this squad. Not yet. But I have never-ending faith in Toupee. He will pull this team together, mash it together into a competitor. It’s that faith and the belief that in nine weeks, we’ll be seeing the vision of the team that we’ve had flashes of so far this season. And that team will be rounding into form at the right time. But they’ll also be tying with Iowa fucking State.

#1 – Iowa State Cyclones

Last Season’s Shame: 28-8 (11-7) – Probably the best season in Ames in a while, especially since they didn’t have the Prophet to be the focal point of their intense self-esteem issues. They capped off a great regular season with their first Big XII X XII title since 2000 and a Sweet Sixteen exit to eventual champion UCONN.
Emoji-nal State:
ISU
Non-Conference Record:
10-2
Projected Conference Record: 15-3
Projected Total:
25-5

Ranked Game Record: 1-0
Baller Wins:
An 18-point win over then #18 Arkansas is only eclipsed by a 50-point ritual sacrifice of the Mississippi Valley State Sun Devils. I swear they’re D-I despite the insane logo.
Brutal Losses:
Probably losing to the Gamecocks a mere three days before the start of conference play.

Obviously, the Mayor of Ames has done this before: had an impressive start to the season, only to get into Big XII X XII play and watch life pump the breaks a little bit. I’m sure, given the talent on the roster and what they’ve been doing under Hoiberg, an 11-7 finish in Conference wasn’t an ideal way to end the season. Which is why I’m worried that this team is out for blood now.

Iowa State is like West Virginia, in that they’re scoring and scoring a lot. But they’re doing it considerably more efficiently. Currently, they’re in the top-20 nationally in both scoring (82.4 PPG, 14th in country) and percentage (49.4%, 16th in country). They’re doing what WVU is attempting, but doing it better. I fully expect both of those to cool off when we get into the thick of conference play. But I can’t imagine it falls off nearly enough for them to not win at least 80% of their league games. If there’s ever a year for us to lose our seat at the top of the Conference, this is the year. And if there’s a team to knock us off, I don’t trust Texas to do it, mostly because that wouldn’t fit with the Sith Lord’s narrative. No, Iowa State, this year, is the biggest threat to our streak. It would cap the story that started with Melvin Weatherwax and the Prophet dunk. This is how these things work. I’m not happy about it, but here we are.

Of course, at the risk of giving up my Jayhawk cred here, I’d like to point out that I do have us tying with the Cyclones. However, the only reason they’re slotted above us is because of the previously mentioned feeling that we’re going to drop both to these shits only to redeem ourselves in the Big XII X XII Tournament.

God, I hate this season already.

*

That’s it. I’m sure you’re all like 80% as exhausted reading this shit as I was writing it. I believe I did the best I could, at least in terms of ranking the teams if not their actual records. If you have a problem with any of them, come at me, bro. Now, if you’re interested in a little peek at how the sausage is made here is the spreadsheet with all my predictions on it (and if you’re really interested in like how I slaughtered the pig for the sausage making, here’s a scan of all the notes that ultimately grew into this twin behemoth). The first sheet is me literally picking every game for every team. A “1” means I think they win that game and a “0” should be pretty fucking obvious, but just in case…that’s a loss, Jimmy. Sheet 2 is conference standings at the end of the year, based on my picks for the individual games. Yes, for like the hundredth time, I think ISU is going to beat us twice in the regular season. It just feels like it’s coming back on us for reasons I can’t quite understand. Finally, I threw in a conference tourney bracket that I filled out, mostly to make me feel better about picking against us. Nothing quite like the tantalizing possibility of embarassing Weatherwax at what should be his team’s crowning glory, ammirite?

Ok, that’s it. For making it through about 6,300 words, you deserve a medal. I don’t have any handy, so rain check? Now get out of here. I’m sure you all have families and shit you need to hug and feign affection for.

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Okay, confession…I wrote that intro graph after I got home from the Mavs/Nets game and wanted to talk about something timely. You know, because the temporal physics of the internet allow me to write things in the past, update them, then post them in the future. OoOoOoOoO! What a world! Anyway, I have some thoughts on the trade (shocker!) that I’d love to get into, but I’ll save that for another time. Just know that I find it insane that the Cavs would want to ship out one chucking head case for another in Smith (Andrew, your email was spot on in terms of why this trade is insane). Are they really that hard up for scoring with LeBron out that they want to bring in another guy to clash with Kyrie? What are the chances they end up waiving the guy just because? Seriously, I don’t totally understand it from the Cavs side. From the Knicks side, sure. Just not sure what Cleveland hopes to gain here. Back

2 – And apparently the hottest start for the Mountaineers since like 1981, according to Seth Greenburg during halftime of the Notre Dame-North Carolina game. That’s kind of shocking, since I figured they’d had at least a few good seasons during the Huggy Bear reign. Back

3 – Yes, I know, I know…but come on! At least we make it to the second weekend sometimes. Back

4 – Is it possible for us to create a new set of rules for the 2014-15 Kentucky team? Can we only count wins for them if they cover the spread? I mean, they’ve got to be getting like 18-plus per game, so at least that would make this season sort of competitive. Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#5 – Baylor Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4 – Texas Longhorns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Kansas State Wildcats

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

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

Do you have the time, to watch me hoop?

Do you have the time, to watch me hoop?

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

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

#2 – Oklahoma State Cowboys

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 – Kansas Jayhawks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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