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

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

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

But I did last night.

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

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

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

Final Score: Kansas 64-63 Texas Tech

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

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

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

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

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

God, what a shit show.

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

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

Don’t be satisfied!

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

In Toupee I Trust.

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

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FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Woohoo!

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

And the Senate didn’t disappoint.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 – Now with 100% more fiber! Back



Know Your Enemy: Texas Tech Red Failures by longdistancejayhawk

Before we kick off this preview of tonight’s Senior Night, I want to invite everyone reading this to get on the #WITHEYForThree bandwagon. The man’s never shot a single three in his career, which is understandable. But tonight’s game is his last in AFH, so I want to send him off in style. Let him shoot a trey. He’s worked hard. He deserves it. Also, if you’re going to the game, feel free to come up with a clever #WITHEYForThree sign.

Hold 'Em Back, man. Do your job. You can't hold your cabeza like it'll explode from seeing that thunderous dunk. You gotta keep our team from mobbing the court!

Hold ‘Em Back, man. Do your job. You can’t hold your cabeza like it’ll explode from seeing that thunderous dunk. You gotta keep our team from mobbing the court!

Last week was a pretty epic one for God’s Team. We watched an incredible Iowa State game that came down to a mind-boggling offensive outburst by much derided PG Elijah. We saw an incredible amount of fall out from the game, including the Big XII X XII acknowledging shoddy reffing at the end, a deranged fan trying to challenge Toupee to fisticuffs, and some truly disheartening racist ideology and specific threats of violence. I was in a bit of a funk about the whole thing, until tip, at which point I was locked in, as always. Of course, I didn’t expect to see what I saw. St. Benji continued to build his folkloric legend, rising above Danny Manning’s freshman best mark of 35 by one. If he hadn’t hit the bench, I’m pretty sure he would have blown Ryan Kelly’s comeback game out of the water, in terms of sheer impressiveness. Not that I’m a homer or anything. We played some of the best ball I’ve seen us play in months, controlling the game and making sure that, when we were on, we not only exploited it, but went out of our way to make sure that we were playing with ruthless efficiency. It’s almost sad that WITHEY! was one block away from a second triple-double and almost no one is talking about it. Almost sad, except that this is the way this Kansas team is rolling right now. Like a team of bosses.

I couldn’t be happier with the way we’ve been playing of late. Blasting Texas, avenging the TCU loss by reach ing a safe lead around the 15:30 mark in the second1. Thrilling, never-say-die Iowa State game. And now, a career game for the number one pick against WVU. Oh, and we annihilated them. The level of confidence is through the roof right now. On top of that, we’re playing more like a team of guys who work well together, rather than a disjointed, frustrating team. With tonight’s game happening on Senior Night, I feel we can reasonably expect a complete leveling of the Red Raiders. Because they are absolutely awful2.

Official Name: Texas Tech University
Nickname:
The Red Raiders
Derisive Nickname:
Red Failures

Signature Win (since last we met): Am I looking at the last thirteen games for TCU? Because there are a metric shit ton of Ls on this list. Jesus…there are only two clues that this isn’t TCU’s schedule: 1.) There’s an L next to Kansas3; 2.) They’ve beaten TCU twice. That’s almost the only thing separating them, save for beating that solid Iowa State team. Man, what the Snore-clones wouldn’t give to have a mulligan on that one. But I’m looking at the schedule and that’s the best win these poor stiffs have eeked out since we went down to Lubbock. While the Red Failures’ season is about to come to a depressing close, they can certainly hang their hat on the fact that they beat an Iowa State team that, short of a Red Sox 2011-level collapse (lose out, lose in first conference tourney game to TCU…and maybe have a murder-suicide scandal…and even then…), is making the Big Dance. Good on you, guys!

Crockett looks like he's assisting K-State here. In truth, he's using rubber magnetism to bring the ball to his hand.

Crockett looks like he’s assisting K-State here. In truth, he’s using rubber magnetism to bring the ball to his hand.

Key Players: Do they have players? I mean, you’d think if they had anyone capable of posting up on even half their possessions, they’d manage to actually win a few games. Looking at their roster, I feel like Crockett might be the only guy on their team. Similar, a bit, to the way Harriss is the only guy for WVU of any import. Crockett knocks in 12.0 PPG while also ripping down 6.8 boards. Based solely on the stat sheet, he seems to be their best two-way player. Also of note is Tolbert, who isn’t too bad on the glass either, getting 5.6 RPG. That’s really the only bright spot for Tech fans this season. That and at least you’re not TCU.

Keys to Victory: Breathing seems to be a pretty reasonable indicator of success for this one. Look, I’m trying to be nice to these guys, but I think they’re terrible and coming into Allen Fieldhouse at the worst possible time. There’s no way we don’t kick the game off by thrashing them. I’m not forseeing a TCU Redux level evisceration, but we’re probably going to be up 20 by the half. The biggest problem is that Tech seems to have a bit of an inside focused game. Unfortunately, we have Master of Puppets clogging up the paint. Additionally, they might be just as ba as us at turning the ball over. Given that we’ve been playing pretty well in the transition game averages just 66 PPG, I can’t see our turnover woes translating to anything other than maybe 8-12 points. If we’re playing as fluidly as we did on Saturday tonight, there’s no chance that Senior Night isn’t a celebration of how big WITHEY!’s dick is or that he made good on #WITHEYForThree, Prophet  growing a full on Moses beard, and Swashbuckler challenging Toupee to a fencing duel. As long as we’re breathing at 7pm EST tomorrow night, we should have this one in the bag.

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)4: Texas Tech 57, Kansas 835

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FOOTNOTES

1 – In case you didn’t know, baseball nerd and Kansas treasure Bill James came up with a formula to find out when a game is out of reach for the opposition. It’s essentially taking the difference of the score, crunching a few numbers, and comparing it to the total number of seconds left in the game. I went back to the play by play and crunch the numbers until I found the first time the score broke the inevitability point (according to James, once you’ve breached the safe lead mark, the game is over, regardless of whether or not the other team gets back into the unsafe territory). Based on the spreadsheet I made to check it, the game was shockingly not officially over at halftime, when we lead by 29. Based on my calculations (English major, not a math major, so I could be wrong), the game was officially over 15:30 left in the second half. Which goes a long way to explaining why I stopped paying attention for huge stretches of the second half. Back

2 – Everyone thank the scheduling gods at the Big XII X XII league offices for giving us a team that, in addition to being in a complete tailspin leadership-wise, but also just plain bad. What better way to see our seniors off into the sunset thank a ruthless demolition of Texas Tech? Quick tangent (related to Senior Night): if anyone remembers the original Judge Dredd with Stallone, does Senior Night’s pagentry kind of remind you of the retirement thing where they send retired judges into the wasteland to fend for themselves, knowing they’ll never come back? It’s bittersweet, since we’ll get to follow their progress through the tourney, but we’ll also never get to see them celebrate a big win atop the monstrously large Jayhawk on Naismith Court. I’m going to move on before I get choked up. What? This? It’s really dusty in Long Distance Jayhawk HQ. It’s dusty, alright, LEAVE ME ALONE! Back

3 – Just typing that sentence, I ralphed a bit in my mouth. I just had to do it, because looking at both team’s records, it’s one of the only defining characteristics. Of course, I like to think that, based on our performance in the next month, the TCU loss might move from “watching your family clawing at the windows of a bus that’s slowly sinking into a shark infested lake made of blood” to “wasn’t it fucking hilarious when that year’s vintage lost to TCU? I mean, pure comedy gold, am I right?” That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. Back

4 – Glad to see that picking a score against us, just to be a nice guy, didn’t backfire. In fact, I was toying with the idea of picking against us again, just to see what kind of magical, record breaking performance would come out of it. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. Back

5 – I purposefully avoided any discussion of the importance of this game, vis a vis the 9ISASI9 (pronounced “nine is asinine”) possibility. I think it’s obvious that I feel like we’re going to win this game. Assume that happens. There’s no way that K-State loses to TCU tonight, either. Leaving us both in a dead heat for top of the conference. Which means that Saturday’s games would mean pretty much everything. It sucks that the Big XII X XII didn’t take a page from the EPL and make everyone play at the same time, but the day’s still going to be thrilling. K-State’s game with OSU (assuming, also, that they win over ISU on Wednesday) will be playing to win, only because they could lock up a tie for second. If K-State wins, then we’re playing for a tie for first, and hold the tie breaker for tourney seeding purposes. On top of that Baylor’s on the bubble, probably on the outside looking in. Wouldn’t a final game victory over mighty Kansas be the kind of resume win that they’ll be looking for? Jesus, it’s five days away and, while the possibilities are endless, it’s no less exciting. Back



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

Out with the old patsies and in with the new.

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

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

My point exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

#10 – Texas Tech Red Raiders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Might I suggest drinking or fly fishing?

#9 – Oklahoma Sooners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#8 – Texas Christian Horned Frogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

#7 – West Virginia Mountaineers

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6 – Iowa State Cyclones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 – You know, or the off season. Back

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

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

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

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