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



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.

*

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

*

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



After Battle Report: TCU Horned Frogs by longdistancejayhawk
TCU decided to employ the incredible Kung-fu Fightin' defensive strategy, popularized byIowa State against West Virginia (see footnote 11).

TCU decided to employ the incredible Kung-fu Fightin’ defensive strategy, popularized byIowa State against West Virginia (see footnote 11).

What the fuck is with all this goddamned snow? Seriously, people. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve been outside without like 15 layers of shit on and my L.L. Bean boots that have the win/lose prospect of keeping my feet dry as toast and being so goddamned inflexible that my flattish feet feel like shit by the time I get to take them off at the end of the day1. Save for a random race I ran on Super Bowl Sunday, I haven’t been able to run in like two weeks. This is fucking bullshit. Bring on spring, dammit!

So, Saturday afternoon, I was snowed-ish in. Snowed for most of the day, basically. It was awful2, though it might be the perfect kind of weather to give you an excuse to stay in pajamas all day and watch Kansas pummel TCU into the ground. Not that we looked particularly good doing it. Let’s not fucking kid ourselves here. That wasn’t a stellar performance3. Le sigh. I suppose this is the world that we’re living in now. Never a moment of relaxing and, yet, somehow, they’re also kind of dull moments4.

Final Score: TCU 65-95 Kansas

Meanwhile, Magna employed the classic "Pewter Jayhawk strapped to stomach" strategy. That shit'll blind you.

Meanwhile, Magna employed the classic “Pewter Jayhawk strapped to stomach” strategy. That shit’ll blind you.

The Good: Honestly, there were only two things about this one that I really liked. The primary one was the first five minutes of the second half. After spending the first half batting the Horned Frogs around like a bored cat fucking around with a crippled mouse, we kicked off the second quarter with a 47-40 that swelled to 60-41 in five minutes, thanks to a 13 point explosion. It was so bad that, despite being a scant minute from a TV timeout, Trent The Corpse burned a second timeout in the second half. Jesus…who fucking does that? Two timeouts in like two minutes? And it isn’t even crunch time? What were drawing up at that point? How to better let Ellis get to the basket? Look, I’m not going to seriously complain about an opponent totally whiffing it on timeouts, but it does make me sad. These guys, their coaches, this program is supposed to be in the same league as God’s Team? Really? I don’t understand how I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief long enough to think, in any serious capacity that these guys are on the same footing as Kansas. Even if this is a frustrating, not-quite-so-excellent Kansas team.

That’s about all I can come up with. It seems weird to say that a 30 point slaughter is something that doesn’t have a ton of highlights, but it was like most routs. By the time the Black Angels of Nepotism were hitting the court, I’d checked out.

The Bad: Wayne Selden’s Shapeshifting Lizard Man Eyes were, no fucking doubt, the most frustrating thing about this one. Lizard Man Eyes looked like a less NBA-ready Benji McDunks as he repeatedly took the least efficient shot. Like every fucking time he got a touch, he was looking to score and do it from the dumbest spot of the floor. At maybe the eight minute mark, we swung the ball around to him on the right wing, wide open. Now, the wing isn’t the highest percentage spot for treys…but again, he was wide open. This is important. Lizard Man Eyes caught it, then dribbled once to 18-feet and put up a shot with a man recovering to him. Not that the guy got close enough to be a disruptive force, but…he stepped inside for a slightly less open shot that’s worth just two points. When he had a wide open shot from a spot that has like a 1% less-likely chance of going in…but is worth three. Am I the only person that gets frustrated about these things? Like, if Selden wanted to drive and posterize someone, then that would be preferable. But why go to the Garnett spot to put up a two-pointer? Ugh. I feel like this is the kind of thing that takes like 50 games to drill into kids. I like that Selden was hitting them5, but he had some terrible shot selection in this one, akin to McLemore’s inexplicable love of stepping inside for the first 25 games last year.

On a global level, Lionslayer sitting this one out definitely had an impact in the first half. I’m not delusional enough to believe that this is a tradition Toupee Vintage by any stretch, but Embiid keeps the interior on lock. With Tarik on the inside, we didn’t have the crazy wingspan we usually have to make interior scoring easy. TCU scored more in the first half close to the basket than they probably should have. Plus, without Lionslayer, we had to go to Magna sooner since Black is a fouling machine6. Obviously, we were gifted this game to rest Embiid since they’re a run-and-gun-and-do-it-badly-and-lose team. Can you imagine if we’d have to rest Lionslayer during Saturday’s Texas game7? I’m glad that Texas is actually competent this year8, but losing to them twice in on year would probably shave ten years off my life. Let’s move on before I throw up on myself.

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: Man, you’d think in a blood bath, Toupee’d be a little more excited:

“You know what? I thought we competed as well as we have for a while. Kyan did a really, really good job of keeping us in the game in the first half, but they’re really good. They’re really good.”

Whoops, my bad. That was the Corpse Man, sounding more the like the shellshocked man emerging from his foxhole to piles of dismembered bodies of guys he was drinking and toasting with just 12 hours before.

Come the fuck on, dude! You're dunking! Look like you can't believe how fucking awesome you are!

Come the fuck on, dude! You’re dunking! Look like you can’t believe how fucking awesome you are!

Man of the Match Award: During the 13-1 run, the Gentleman Tailor was crucial, notching six of his 32 points in that five minute stretch. Ellis looked locked in offensively Saturday afternoon. Locked in to a workman like scoring barrage in the post, but still. Does this make Gentleman Tailor our MVP? No, of course not. But in this game, he looked good. The only knock I have is that he, like everyone on this fucking charisma-less squad, looked no different than any time he’s gone for eight. Would it kill him to be jazzed out of his mind to get buckets (and buckets and buckets)? Granted, I had checked out a little bit, but it just seemed like that kind of game where you don’t realize someone’s killing it until it’s over. It’s similar to the WVU game at Allen. Selden looked frustrating as he dribbled into double teams then picked the ball up and had to despearation pass out of the trap, but then I looked at the scoreboard and Lizard Man Eyes had 17 points. I was a little shocked about it. Obviously, Ellis didn’t do anything nearly as frustrating, but I didn’t really realize how many points he’d gotten until the end.

Here’s hoping that the next MotM decides to showing a little emotion so I can actually come up with fun things to talk about instead of making a tenuous analogy to a strange Selden game.

Looking Ahead: We travel to Lubbock to take on Tubby Smith’s thoroughly mediocre Texas Tech squad. There’s little here to get to excited about. They beat the teams that they should and they lose to the teams that they should lose to. Part of me misses the x-factor of Bobby Knight on the sidelines, but I also like being able to pencil in two wins that don’t involve the execution of one of our players thanks to flying chair.

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Not to mention the fact that they do. Not. Breath. At. All. Which leads to your socks smelling like soggy nuclear death cloths and your feet smelling only slightly better than that. Alex and I have a perpetual argument about how I hate having to do anything once I’ve gotten in bed and she hates that my feet will infect all of the sheets with gross smells. She’s probably right, but that doesn’t mean that I want to get uncomfortable to clean my stank feet. Back

2 – Good thing that Alex and I went to see The Wolf of Wall Street Friday night because I can pretty much assure you that, had Valentine’s Day been the snowy day, I would have probably ended up going out…but I would have complained about the goddamned snow the whole time. Yeah, I’m kind of a disagreeable person, all things considered. Anyway, Wolf was at turns incredible and overlong. Jonah Hill deserves anything and everything he gets for his performance as Donnie. He’s so fucking weird that you can’t take your eyes off him. The scene at the party where he fwaps away to Leo’s future second wife is absolutely incredible (not to mention the bit before that when he’s bellowing about Steve Madden). Some crazy genius in that flick. I’d recommend it to anyone who has  strong constitution, both for debauchery and length9. Oh, and there’s a scene towards the end of the movie that managed to be both my favorite and the scene I thought could have used the most trimming. Back

3 – Yeah, yeah, I know. Sour grapes and all of that, right? Like how many other fans would be fucking amped to get a chance to watch their team play a mildly competitive first half, only to jam rebar into their opponent’s trachea in the second half? Would any of those people ever complain about what we saw on Saturday? Probably not, unless they’re really into guys not stepping over the line to take a long two when a three was quicker, easier, and slightly less guarded. Back

4 – This might betray the absolute depths of my sickness with hoops but I’ve been going back to  the NCAA Vault and watching some of my favorite tourney performances from God’s Team. Yeah, I know. It’s sad, but sometimes, I just want to remember what it was like to watch a great team that executed like they knew what the fuck they were doing. Back

5 – But not enough to be hyped about it on Twitter, unlike certain KU fans. Look, points are awesome and all, but taking the wrong shot, early in the shot clock, or passing up a wide open three that is infinitely makeable for a 18-footer is not something to be happy about. Lizard Man Eyes might have been on fire, but I would prefer him to have been on fire in a smarter way. Back

6 – By 17:53 he’d managed a layup, a foul and the always-appreciated foul-turnover twofer. It’s staggering that Black hasn’t, in like 15 years of college ball, the nuances of the reffed game. Do you think those guys in stripes are just snazzy dressers who paid for the On-court Workout Seats? It’s like he’s a physical monster who plays like he’s on the most brutal Ruckers Park team of all time. It’s almost impressive to the point that I’m rooting for us to let him start senior night and leave him on until he fouls out. I suspect it would take maybe six minutes of gameplay. This is like the polar opposite of my campaign of #WitheyForThree. Back

7 – Fuck me. As I typed that, I got goosebumps. Embiid will be coming back for tomorrow’s Texas Tech game, but what if he’s coming back prematurely? What if he reaggravates his injury and has to sit against Texas? Fuck…I’m the worst. If that happens, I give Jayhawk Nation permission to come out to bring out the torches and pitchforks. Back

8 – Speaking of the Longhorns, Lunardi projected them as a tourney team as conference play tipped. I thought it was a little bit of a reach, since the Sith Lord is never to be trusted until Selection Sunday. However, what I’ve seen of them, coupled with their signature win over us, makes them almost a lock to make the tournament. While Texas has surprised me thus far, the most surprising thing about this season has to be the swap of tourney teams in the Big XII X XII. I certainly thought Oklahoma State was overrated, but I never thought that they’d meltdown like Chernobyl. And that was before Marcus Smart justifiably shoved the Tech booster. And Baylor is getting Scott Drewed…all the talent in the world and you get beat by considerably less talented squads like Oklahoma. I still think we get six teams in the tournament (Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State) with an increasingly remote seventh (Baylor and Oklahoma State clawing each others’ eyes out for that slot) as a possibility. I can’t wait until ESPN has to explain why we got more teams than the B1G since all their announcers have to qualify any Big XII X XII comments with “Well, I love the Big Ten, but I think there’s a possibility that the Big 12 might…possibly, be the better league. But Izzo! Crean! Beilein! They’re winners! And that league is so strong!” Back

9 – On a related note: THERE WAS A COUPLE THAT BROUGHT A CHILD TO THE SHOWING! WHAT THE MOTHERFUCKING FUCK FUCK? I’m not talking a baby, one that might sleep through the endless scenes of drug abuse, but a full grown, capable of communicating on a level that 95% of people would be able to understand (the other 5% being babies, of course). I’m really shitty with kids’ ages, but Alex swore that thing was like 8-10. She knows better about these things, so I’m inclined to believe her. Which makes it all the more fucked up! That kid is old enough to understand that’s a fucking dick! There’s a dick on screen and it is clearly…unambiguously a dick! Fer reelz. One of the more fucked things I’ve seen in a while. Look, guys, I know it’s Valentine’s Day and you want to have a romantic evening out11 but you have a responsibility. Hire a fucking babysitter. Trust me, there’s nothing that your sister’s daughter will ever do to that child that will fuck her up more royal than seeing Jonah Hill’s (presumably prosthetic) ding-dong. Back

10 – The photo was added after I wrote everything. Obviously, this should be footnote 1, but I’m lazy. ANYWAY…if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and check out this video clip from the Iowa State-West Virginia game the devolved into a late-period Patrick Swayze movie late in the second half. The best part about the whole thing is that the announcers are talking about Ron Artest/Metta World Peace and the Malice at the Palace as dude gets Ryu kicked in the chest. It’s both insane and perfectly done so as to seem like a totally normal part of a basketball game.

11 – Not to get back into David Foster Wallace level footnotes-in-footnotes here, but I find it kind of funny that Wolf of Wall Street ended up having a nice turnout on Valentine’s Day. For one thing, I hate the holiday, so I assumed it would be full of a bunch of young intellectuals who are too big of pricks to talk to a woman for more than like 10 minutes (or me if Alex didn’t put up with me being a dick…), but I decided to do something for it. Alex wanted to see a movie, which I agreed to. My options were Wolf, Her, or Monuments MenI was also told the following:

“And I do want to see the Lego movie with you, but that is not a movie that will be not as good when watched on Netflix, just saying.”

Uh, what? WHAT?! The Lego Movie will be just as good on the computer with crap speakers as it will on the big screen? I beg to fucking differ. In fact, I would argue that the only movie of those four that needs to be on the big screen is Lego Movie. Back



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



After Battle Report: #WITHEYForThree by longdistancejayhawk
Big Jay knows what's up. WITHEY!'s 3-point field goal percentage, that's what's up.

Big Jay knows what’s up. WITHEY!’s 3-point field goal percentage, that’s what’s up.

My head exploded last night. The one thing I wanted to see more than anything else in the world (or this season) happened. WITHEY!, the Master of Puppets himself, put a three ball up and into the net. If you haven’t seen it yet, click the link…WITHEY!’s parents are worth the price of admission. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen and proof that, if you wish for something hard enough, it can come true (and apparently somewhat premeditated). It was gravy that we completely worked Texas Tech like a bunch of interns, routing them more or less from the get-go. We looked good last night. Damn good. I don’t know what to expect, come tournament time, but I do know that, right now, I wouldn’t want to play us in a do-or-die scenario. Which is pretty shitty for Baylor, but thems are the breaks.

Thanks for that, WITHEY! You seriously made my night. I went bonkers. Most people at Pourhouse seemed confused, but hey, that’s why I’m better than them. Also, thanks to our incredible class of seniors. This hasn’t been the smoothest ride, but damn if it hasn’t been entertaining. Stay strong and let’s keep it going through March.



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



Know Your Enemy: WVU Bearded Shames by longdistancejayhawk
March 1, 2013, 10:50 am
Filed under: Preview | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve had a miniature crisis of conscience as of late. On Monday night, I was amped about a crazy competitive game, one that typified everything I love about college basketball. Tons of scoring, neither team ever gave up, and the crowd was completely into it. Everything about that game was everything I could have wanted in a late-season conference game. It didn’t help that we won. I was riding on high for the rest of the night after that one, high on the fumes of an OT victory where we dominated. The Prophet scored his 39 and Toupee got his 500th win. Monday night, everything was right with the world.

Then, Tuesday came and I woke up to a world where I was somewhat soured. Was it the fact that we won on a very suspicious no-call, call combo? No, because that’s a part of hoops. If you want to complain about officiating, this game was a prime example. However, if you watch enough basketball, you understand that the hosing call goes both ways. Sometimes you get the benefit. Sometimes you get screwed. Sometimes you get screwed twice in roughly 1.5 seconds1. Was it the guy who confronted Toupee after the game? No, because that was funny. For one thing, the guy looked like some weird Casper Milquetoast midget and if he’d actually tried to take a swing at HCBS, I’m pretty sure he’d still be picking up pieces of his jaw. If anything that storyline was funny rather than alienating.

No, what made me so concerned and the thing that I’ve been thinking about for most of this week was mentioned in the final footnote of my last piece. The problem with the racist tweets being sent to Elijah is that they took something that should have been special, not just for Kansas fans or college ball fans but also for Iowa State fans2, and made it horribly ugly. I can understand being passionate about your team and being pissed at a loss. I can understand the frustration of watching your team try everything they can to stop a guy who couldn’t stop hitting buckets and finally coming up short. I can understand being pissed about that final dunk, being offended because the game was so far out of reach at that point there was no reason for Prophet to do that. I can understand all of that.

What I can’t understand is making racist statements nor threatening legitimate violence towards a guy wo’s playing a game. I cannot understand how anyone would ever want to use that word to describe anyone, let alone a college kid that’s doing what he loves. What’s even more confusing to me is that it came from a guy who, ostensibly, loves basketball. What the fuck does he think of his own team if he’s willing to describe Elijah Johnson that way? Is there a double standard in his mind? When this Iowa State team that, again he seems to love, sees these tweets, how do they feel about them? On top of that, on what planet does it ever make sense, in his friend’s case, to state in a pretty unambiguous way, that you’re planning on attacking the KU team bus with a gun?

I know I’m a homer, but if any of my fellow Jayhawks ever said anything like that, they would not be my friend. There’s an ocean of difference between rooting for your team, being passionate for them, bleeding your school’s colors and using incredibly offensive words and thoughts towards an opponent. I have argued with people about the fact that sports fans are not the neanderthals which is an all too common perception of us fanatics. And then, these assholes have to go fuck it up for us. There’s never an appropriate time to say anything approaching what those two guys said. Never.

So, yes, I’ve been dealing with that. I don’t think that anything’s happened to me in all my years of sports fandom to make me feel this disturbed. I’ve been disturbed and this shit has made me question what I do here, as I wrote in that footnote yesterday. It has made me wonder how far the difference between what I say here is from what they said. I like to think there’s a genuine difference between the hyperbolic gladiatorial contest metaphors, but I don’t know if there really is. Am I perpetuating a problem that I’ve tried to combat in my personal life? I like to think no, that people who read this blog know I’m being over the top for entertainment purposes. That what I say here should be taken as a joke on passionate fandom. That’s what I tell myself, anyway, but the truth is I don’t know.

Here’s what I propose for this weekend. I’m sure people reading this will watch KU take on West Virginia. Perhaps you’ll catch some other sporting event, maybe you’ll be at a sports bar. Maybe you’ll be at the game or another game. I want everyone who reads these hallowed pages to make an effort to do two things this weekend. One, say something nice to a fan of the opposing team. Compliment a player. Acknowledge that Kilicli is probably the most literal Mountaineer that’s ever existed. Say something nice about Huggy Bear. It might be hard, but I have faith that you can do it. Two, when you’re celebrating victory which is most likely to occur against this surprisingly bad WVU team, do it in moderation. Be kind to anyone who can’t understand why you’re so jazzed. Hell, sit down with them and explain in a calm and rational way why you love sports. Shy away from anything that would make it seem like you’re some kind of knuckle dragging mouth breather.

I have faith that we can all make this world a better place. Because I never want to hear anything like what I heard after the ISU game ever again.

Okay, enough of my soap box. We’re all here to get a preview of tomorrow’s WVU game and, in the spirit of what I said above, I’m going to try and be as complimentary of West Virginia as they come into the Fieldhouse. But before that, allow me a moment of levity…

Oh, dear god...everybody stay calm. Everybody stay...FUCK IT I'M FREAKING THE FUCK OUT.

Oh, dear god…everybody stay calm. Everybody stay…FUCK IT I’M FREAKING THE FUCK OUT.

Official Name: West Virginia University
Nickname:
The Mountaineers
Derisive Nickname:
The Bearded Shames3

Signature Win: Since we last played, West Virginia has racked up four wins, which has tripled their record in the Big XII X XII. Good job, Huggy Bear! It’s almost like you got all the fan letters I drew in Crayon, pretending to be a sick kid, begging you to help me win a bet I made that you would finish seventh in the conference. Thanks, buddy! All of those wins were solid wins over teams in a competitive conference. However, I think that the most impressive of the wins is easily the thirteen point hurting you guys put on Texas. Sure, Texas is struggling in pretty much every game they’ve played, but you made sure they knew who the Bearded Shames were4. But that’s a Texas team that, in a regular year, would be pretty damend good. Plus, each loss that Sith Lord suffers this season weakens his Dark Side powers just a little bit more.

Stick a plastic rifle in his hands and a coonskin cap on his head and he is the mascot.

Stick a plastic rifle in his hands and a coonskin cap on his head and he is the mascot.

Key Players: Deniz Kilicli rebounds very well. Plus, once he fouls out of the game, he relieves the guy playing the Mountaineer of his duties. That’s pretty rad of him to do, since he doesn’t have to. That relationship between the players and the fans is really hard to replicate and goes a long way to explaining why Morgantown is a really tough place to play5. Outside of Kilicli being such an awesome dude, you’ve got leading scorer Eron Harris, who puts in 9.3 PPG. That’s not too bad. I mean, I averaged about 0.8 PPG when I played in elementary school and that was against significantly weaker competition. So, good on you for being so great at scoring buckets. I’m pretty sure that you and the Prophet will finish with the same number of points. I mean, 39 points was a fluke and even a homer like me can admit it6. Also, the Beareded Shames roll ten players deep, giving appreciable minutes all up and down the roster. So, that’s got to count for something, right?

Keys to Victory: This is sincere: we absolutely have to control the tempo of this game in order to win. I know that WVU’s record is pretty bad but if you’ve watched them play some this year or just look at their box scores, it becomes apparent that they’re good at controlling tempo and keeping the game low-scoring. They have a lot of close losses which speaks to an inability to finish out games. But they’re in most of the games, even when they lost. Think back to when they played us. We won but we only won by five. What I remember from that one was that we were in the midst of our malaise prior to the Fall7 and West Virginia controlled tempo, keeping us from getting into much of a rythm. It was a solid performance from them, even if they did lose. Plus, I feel like they’re the sneaky team that’s going to break some opponent’s hearts in the conference tourney. In fact, if we wear those eye-fucking abortion jerseys during the tournament and we have to play WVU, I can promise you we will lose8.

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)9: West Virginia 65, Kansas 6410

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FOOTNOTES

1 – I mentioned it before, but the refs were completely in another level of incomprehensible calling at the end of the game. If you’re going to let them play on (as the no-call on the charge indicated), do it. If you’re going to call it tight so no one gets fucked (as happened on the subsequent foul after the no-call), do it. You shouldn’t go both ways in a matter of seconds. Back

2 – That would be an exceptionally thrilling game that, despite ultimately losing, showed that Hoiberg’s success from last year wasn’t a fluke and he can assemble a solid team and keep them toe-to-toe with one of the titans of the game. Back

3 – Hey, I’m not going to go through this thing completely toothless…shit, fucked that one up. Whoops! I’m pretty sure everything you’re about to read is going to come off as a backhanded compliment, but trust me, I’m trying. Back

4 – In a similar way they made my Wednesday night go from about zero to awesome in a matter of 15 minutes. Did anyone catch that game? That come back was ridick and Kabaongo’s crazy collapsable jumper at the end of regulation that went in when everything about that shot screamed “FUCK YOU DUDE! NOT GOING IN!” That’s what’s great about college ball, you never, ever know what’s going to happen. That and the burnt orange sweater rocking oil magnate with the baseline tickets who fist pumped like beating Oklahoma was winning a national title (the way this season’s gone, it probably is). That guy ruled. Never graduate, my man. Never graduate. Back

5 – That’s what ESPN tells me, anyway. I mean, the evidence on the season speaks volumes to the contrary, but I’m not going to argue. This is a kinder, gentler LDJ11 after all. I bet Morgantown is just like Allen Fieldhouse. Back

6 – This is about 500 times harder than I thought it would be. I’m pretty sure the second half of this paragraph is not at all what I was trying to accomplish in this piece. Either I’m a bad writer or I’m completely incapable of sincerely complimenting another team. Or at least another team that really doesn’t have a hell of lot going for them…goddamn it! Back

7 – That’s what I’m going to call that three-gamer. Like Icarus we were flying, but maybe a little too close to the sun12. I mentioned it quite a few times prior to us losing, but there was a stretch of games there when we weren’t entertaining to watch. We didn’t execute the way that we should have and, as I believed, we were winning games because we are Kansas more than anything else. That first Bearded Shames match up was a good example of one of those. Back

8 – Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s a stretch, but those new Adidas jerseys are an affront to everything Kansas stands for. Tradition? What’s that? Is that something your grandmother gives a fuck about? Who needs tradition when you can wear some unsettling, two-print camo/zubaz abomination. Yuck. Yuck. Fucking yuck. I can’t believe we’re even considering wearing them. Toupee’s sort of flippant press conference demonstrates that he doesn’t rate these unis, only as much as he knows where the money comes from. Hell, this is the man that skipped withering and went straight to bad mouth when Baylor wore them last year. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Eurobasket style uniforms we started wearing three seasons ago. I felt like they were a little too trendy and ignored the tradition that we pride ourselves on. But in these three years, I’ve come to like them. I don’t love them, but I do like them. However, I will never want to see us in those fucking horror shows. I’m puking a little in my mouth just thinking about having to watch us annihilate Texas Tech in the Big XII X XII tournament wearing that shit show. We’re going to be a laughing stock of the fucking internet. And that should never, ever happen. Back

9 – Phew. I thought I wasn’t going to make it being all nice and kinder. I promise that we will return your regular snarky programming by the next post. Back

10 – I don’t actually believe this score will happen. I’m just trying to be kind to the Bearded Shames and I figured the finest compliment I could pay them was that they might actually best God’s Team. Don’t tell them what I wrote in this footnote, though. That would go against my whole “be nice” thing from earlier. Back

11 – For today, anyway. I don’t think I can keep this up for more than about another 250 words. Back

12 – “You let him go in the sun?!” – Lucille Bluth. Back