Long Distance Jayhawk


After Battle Report: Oklahoma State Cowboys by longdistancejayhawk
January 14, 2015, 10:15 am
Filed under: Recap
In looking for a shot of the CLIFF SMASH, I stumbled on this beauty. I think it pretty much sums up the night.

In looking for a shot of the CLIFF SMASH, I stumbled on this beauty. I think it pretty much sums up the night.

Recently, I’ve been taken to task over comments I’ve made about Oklahoma State and Marcus Smart, specifically. The truth is that I want to hate Smart because he’s kind of a cocky asshole. He’s a flopper1, sure, and he did the backflip on Naismith Court which really pissed me off. But I’ve also sort of softened in my old age. These are just kids, after all. Kids trying to win basketball games. Obviously, these kids annoy us, but we shouldn’t take it to extremes2. Marcus Smart is a prime example3.

The continued hatred directed at Smart seems to speak of a burgeoning rivalry with Oklahoma State. Hell, I look forward to our games against them because they have had good players and have been a pain for us the last three or so years. But I don’t feel the complete hatred that some other fans of God’s Team seem to harbor. In a rare moment of introspection, I wanted to figure out why I get excited for OSU but don’t feel supreme hatred. I couldn’t figure it out until I thought about my parents and the Duke rivalry.

Long time readers will know that both my parents are alums of UNC and rabid Carolina fans. We’ve talked about the Duke rivalry and they’ve confirmed something strange about it: it wasn’t really a thing back when they were in school. Duke was kind of shitty up until Coach K showed up in the 1980. According to Jay Bilas in a trailer for Coach K 1K, Jay Bilas mentioned that the program was in a bad place when K got there. And then, they turned into this power. When my parents were going to games, NC State was the rival4, not Duke. They had to build their hatred of Duke long after they’d graduated.

Which is how I feel about OSU right now. I’m nearly a decade out of college, so the Cowboys were a decent team, Eddie Sutton was a curmudgeon, but they weren’t a true threat to knock us off. Besides, Missouri5 was always there, waiting to spoil our party. Oklahom State was an afterthought to me. I feel like most KU fans that have a supreme distaste for OSU were there when the flip happened. They were in school when Smart was being a brash asshole in interviews. I missed that because you get out of school, you grow up and you find you have less hatred for a team that didn’t rate when you were in school.

What I’m curious about is whether or not the hatred will come, as it did with my parents and Duke. Will I find that I’ve replaced the Missouri hatred in my heart? Only time will tell, but I can admit that, right now, I still don’t feel the bitter hatred for Oklahoma State6.

Final Score: Oklahoma State 57-67 Kansas

The Good: The first half was the most fun thing I’ve seen all year in all basketball ever (of the year). Not for basketball reasons, mind you. Anytime you get treated to a slew of technicals and Le’Bryan Nash chesting up on the Ombre Warrior, followed by Jamari threatening to eat all of Nash’s Skittles if he every tries that shit again, you know you’re in for a wild game.

Well, a half anyway.

If reports are to be believed, Iowa State has a mystery recruit they've brought in to try and stop Cliff.

If reports are to be believed, Iowa State has a mystery recruit they’ve brought in to try and stop Cliff.

That first half also saw BIG CLIFF SMASH over all 15 dudes on OSU at one time that dunk truthers will try to tell you was a layup7. Watching Cliff get that was fucking relief. I just didn’t know that I was going to need it at the time.

Outside of that theatrical slam by the big man, we shot a respectable 69.6% on free throws…

The Bad: …which is huge when you shoot 46 fucking free throws on the night. How? What? Why? Did the Big XII X XII send out a memo after the Baylor game that we should get some make up calls a week later? Seriously. What the shit was that?

For all the “let ‘em play” that was going on in the first half, the refs were hell bent on getting the game under control in the second half. Which would make sense if the end of the first involved the chest bump and double tech. I’d say you could make the argument that they needed to get it under control if all that went down with three or less in the first half. Not twelve-plus. Between the whistle heavy second and them t’ing up Cliff on the post dunk flex8, the refs were all over the place last night.

I’m all for wins. And I’m all for gritty, do whatever it takes wins. But going 32-46 on gimmies? There has to be a better way to win games. Some people knock the Rockets for going all-in on playing the most efficient basketball possible, but I’d rather watch one possession of Harden drawing a foul than what we got last night.

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: The Reporters look around, nervous that the Coach won’t be happy with just a ten point win. The Reporters have all been here before. They know what to expect. The Coach is never happy, never satisfied.

Wins are never enough. Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.

That is the only victory the Coach knows.

One of the Reporters screams. A large snake has appeared from the side door, slithering to the dais. The snake slips into the Coach’s chair, sitting there. The dead eyes stare ahead, unblinking, unflinching. All seeing.

The fearful Reporter regains his composure and raises his hand. The snake turns into the Coach. Before the Reporter can say anything, the Coach speaks.

It was a hard game to play. A hard game to coach. Probably a harder game to officiate. Good thing I didn’t drink a lot of water at halftime. I would have been in trouble.

The Reporter, undaunted, raises his hand again. “Is that what happened to Cliff? Too much water? I thought maybe he’d boned your wife or-”

The Coach is a snake again and out the side door. Storming Norman Roberts lifts the Reporter up from his underarms so that he can face Kurtis Blow Townsend’s bastard sword like a man. Standing up. The Reporter is cleaved in two with one stroke. The rest of the Reporters stand and file past the two chunks, each tearing a single page from there notepad and throwing it on the pieces. Even in such horrific death, rituals must be observed.

Mason's live reaction to finding out that he'd netted another Man of the Match.

Mason’s live reaction to finding out that he’d netted another Man of the Match.

Man of the Match: Given that the game never got into much of a flow, it’s hard to really tell who had a monster game. Other than a couple of SportsCenter Top 10 Highlights from Cliff, I couldn’t tell you thing one about anyone’s individual performance. Should it go to Cliff, just because he’s getting on the ol’ highlight reel? What about Oubre just for goading Nash into the tech? Or Magna for looking like he was saying some serious sick shit about what was going to happen to Nash’s Skittles supply? Each of these things certainly kept me on the edge of my seat in the first half. But that seems like a usual cop out for me, giving the award to someone just because of something trivial.

So, seriously, Francis Mason, Renegade Cop deserves the award. Francis went out and damn near got a double-double with 19 points and 9 boards. That isn’t a typo. No, he got nine rebounds. He wasn’t even close on assists (three). That stat line alone would be enough to get him the award in a regular game. But it was his Harden-lite performance at the charity stripe, going 9-11. If the refs are going to gift you that many points, make the most of them.

Looking Ahead: We have a showdown with Iowa State on Saturday, at Ames. I know I just spilt a shit ton of ink talking about not hating a team or anything…but I really hate Iowa State. Not just because of Weatherwax either. I hate them for that win they took off us in Hilton like three years ago. I’d had a perfectly charming day at Brooklyn Flea and missed the first half. I was on the G train heading home, checking the score and when I got in the door, we were well on our way to losing.

Fuck those guys. You might be the Mayor of Ames, Hoiberg. But you’re also the Mayor of Asshat Town, population you.

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Yes, he was a flopper. An eggregious one. However, how many times does Shape-Shifting Lizard Man Eyes toss his head back like he’s Kennedy in the motorcade on minimal contact? That sort of this makes sense for pre-paleo LeBron who was so big and strong that if he didn’t toss his head back, he’d never get a foul called on him. If anything, Smart’s only real floppy transgression is that he did it all the time. But you know what? It’s gamesmanship. Annoying, frustrating gamesmanship, but you really can’t be mad about the fact that refs fall for it9. Back

2 – One extreme I saw on Kansas Twitter recently involved belittling Marcus Smart for getting the number three tattooed on both of his triceps which were visible in his Celtics photo showing off his first NBA jersey. People took him to take along the lines of “Look at this dumbass! He’s got 33 on his arms and his jersey is 36! Fucking stupid dum-dum pop!” Which would be okay if the number were, say, eleventy-infinity rather than 33. Because it’s the Celtics. Basketball Jesus’ #33 jersey is in the rafters, so I don’t think it was Marcus’ fault that he couldn’t rock his preferred jersey number. Also, let’s cool it with making fun of dumb tattoos since that’s kind of a calling card of Kansas. Dearly departed Tharpapalooza had the Batman logo with a cursive “My Hero” close enough to it that it seemed like part of one piece. Back

3 – I’m not really going to get into it too much here since Smart is really meant to be more of a transition, but longtime reader Josh got off the rails thanks to me saying the following in Part 1 of the Big XII X XII preview:

A trainwreck of a season that featured a seven game losing streak at the worst possible time, Marcus Smart (justifiably, in my opinion) attacking a fan, and a mercy killing at the hands of Gonzaga in the tournament.

If I had it to do over, I would revise “justifiably” to “somewhat understandable.” I’m not saying that I back off from the general intent of my statement. Obviously, attacking fans isn’t a good look, but bear with me for a second. Who among us were 20 years old? Who among us did shit we weren’t proud of? That’s part of growing up and, if presented with the kind of vitriol coming from that fan, then I can see why he did what he did. None of us are perfect. None of us can sit on a high throne and act like being called the worst possible thing (and I can’t even speak to the venom in the particular word since, full disclosure, I’m white) and being a kid. Throw in OSU’s struggles on the court at the time which, at the risk of drawing on a cliches, was probably Smart’s refuge and I can understand why that happened. Sure, he shouldn’t have done it, but I don’t think it shows a failing of character to the point that we have to hate the guy now that he’s gone on10. I feel kind of dirty defending Marcus Smart, especially since I was reminded of the goddamned court flip, but I just wanted to put it out there. Sometimes you do stupid shit. Back

4 – The classic taunt appended to the end of “I’m a Tar Heel Born” is now “Go to Hell Duke!” but when they were in school, it was “Go to Hell State.” What a difference like 500 years since graduation makes. Back

5 – As I’m writing this, Mizzou is getting fucked with a sandpaper and broken glass covered dildo by Kentucky. They were nearly doubled up going into halftime and with 7:35 left (as of writing), a doubling up isn’t out of the question. Doesn’t that just warm the cockles? Which is more than they deserve. I guess you really don’t grow up, huh11? Back

6 – For what it’s worth, I want it to happen. I really do. I want something to look forward to every year. I want a rival that gets me pissed off and makes me want to embarrass them. It’ll probably happen. I’m just not there yet. Back

7 – Dunk truthers are the absolute worst. Who fucking cares if he didn’t rip the rim down, shattering the glass, then wear the hoop around like a necklace of his enemies’ ears? That was fucking brutal and no one can take that away from what BIG CLIFF SMASH did on that play. Back

8 – Speaking of Cliff and the second half…what the shit was Toupee doing sitting him for nearly the whole second? I know he got the black mark of three fouls, but a tentative Cliff had to have been better than fucking Brick Hands getting 12 minutes. It wasn’t like we were cruising to an easy victory at that point or anything. Back

9 – Like four years ago, I almost wrote a scathing indictment of Americans and their resistance to soccer. The main thrust of my argument is that Americans have a disconnect between what we want to believe leads to success and what actually does. We’re obsessed with the noble path to success, decrying anything that seems duplicitous. My example was the house crisis and how we react to that, but put any of us in the shoes of anyone who figured out a way to use mortgages as a license to print money and I imagine pretty much everyone would take what looks like free money. Just like soccer players should flop because it is a way to achieve free money, as it were. I think the parallel can be drawn to basketball, too. Back

10 – Pretty sure I’ve lost most of you at this point and believe me, but if you’re still reading this, Schuyler, you’re going to hate what I have to say here too. I feel that once a player has left the orbit of being a thorn in the Jayhawks’ side I can let them be basketball players. Like Anthony Davis, Destroyer of Worlds. I love watching him play! Am I bitter that he helped put the kibosh on our magic tourney run? Of course! But I also appreciate how fucking good he is at basketball and I’m not going to root against a once in a generation talent just for that. Now, comparing Davis and Smart is like comparing cara cara oranges (the best of the navel orange family) and granny smith apples (the worst of the apples while mutsu are the best of the apples), but you get the point. At a certain point, I’m going to let things go. Maybe I’m just getting older and I want to have a more Gamblero mentality. Well, unless you’re Keiton fucking Page. That guy can go die in a fire. Back

11 – And now that I’ve finished writing all this crap, the Missouri-Kentucky game went final. Holy fucking shit Mizzou got their asses annihilated. Kentucky punched the Tigers in the gut, doubled them over, then shoved their feet up Mizzou’s asses and walked them around like boots. Missouri scored 37 which would be fine it it were the Patriots. Jesus, thirty-fucking-seven? The only thing I ask, basketball gods, is that they got embarrassed worse than KU. Is that too much to ask? What’s that you say, dunk god of basketball? You say they…oh, lord. Oh, man…49. That’s too much. You’re too kind, basketball gods. Is there anything left of them? Back



Know Your Enemy: Texas Tech Red Raiders by longdistancejayhawk
January 10, 2015, 1:37 pm
Filed under: Preview

As you probably picked up from the previous post, Andrew ended up going to the Nets game with me. I’m glad he did, since he’s a Knicks fan, and I wanted him to see that the Nets aren’t much better than his woebegone Manhattanites. The Brooklyn Ballers did not disappoint.

From the very beginning it was going to be a special night at the Barclays. No one was there, which was kind of surprising to me as the tickets were in the ten dollar range for the true nosebleeds. I guess people had better things to do than watch the Sixers take on the hometown boys? Brooklyn, as is their general approach to life, managed to piss away yet another double digit lead1. I felt bad for the guys that sat next to us on our row. I was joking around with them during the shooting skills competition how the guy at the Mavs game managed to not even get the layup. That was the only Brooklyn highlight I could really remember2.

So, the Nets got up on the Philadelphia Tankitytankers and rather than continue to hold a lead, played up to their billing as the most expensively D-League team. It was a pretty rough watch, especially since Nerlens Noel was using the Barclay as his own private YouTube clip factory3. Yet, despite pissing away a lead like that, the Nets were still in it with about five seconds to go.

Then, they ran this. I won’t really break it down because it’s hideous and Devin Kharpetian at Brooklyn Game already did a good job tackling it. Just watch that video and imagine what it was like to sit in the stands and watch that shit. The fuck is going on? Is that really how the play was drawn up? Why does everything beautiful turn to total shit?

Why the fuck didn’t they just run Chop4?

Official Name: Texas Tech University
Nickname:
Red Raiders
Derisive Nickname:
Tubby Smith’s Impending Stroke

Signature Win: Treading water by not getting blown out in Big XII X XII play counts as a win when you’re such a miserable fucking team.

Key Players: I mean, I guess it has to be Devaugntah Williams, right? He’s the only TSIS averaging in double figures. I wanted to try and dig a little deeper, find someone that wasn’t the obvious choice but look at the season stats for this team. They’re atrocious. Rec league teams have better stats than these scrubs. As a whole the team doesn’t do shit well and it shows on an individual level. Yet, despite that, I fully anticipate we’ll let this team of nobodies stick around and make it a tight one. I mean, like 13 point victory tight which is a fucking travesty because these skidmarks should be getting pasted.

Keys to Victory: Playing basketball is a solid start. Look, there’s not much to say about this other than we can’t beat ourselves. I don’t trust this team to protect a bag of flour from thieving bakers if it were in a safe that could only be opened with a Toupee retina scan. Which is why this game won’t be a cakewalk. We have so much talent up and down the roster, we just can’t seem to get a flow, a rhythm together to save our lives. Obviously, out guys are good. They just don’t play as a team at this point and that’s scary. How long can you watch us eek out victories and play disjointed basketball and legitimately tell yourself “It’s okay, we’re young, we’ll gel as the season goes on?” At what point do you admit that maybe we’ve already gelled and this is it?

I don’t know the answer and I’ll probably keep excusing our various failings until we’re out of the tournament.

Delicious Local (to the enemy) Beer to Avoid: My kingdom for Billy Gillespie to still be the head coach so I could make a bunch of DUI jokes. At least, that’s what I would be saying if I hadn’t decided to turn a little gentler these last couple of seasons. No need to bash a man for his alcohol problem because who among us hasn’t done some stupid shit at the altar of the fermented bevie gods? Let those who are blameless pour the first Guinness.

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)5: Texas Tech 68-81 Kansas

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – The Nets are in the midst of a four game skid. Not that it makes Andrew feel any better since the Knicks are currently trying their hardest to obliterate the previous franchise record for futility. Anyway, during the four game losing streak, the Nets have managed to hold a double-digit lead in pretty much all of them, only to piss it away at the end. In Miami, they just couldn’t keep it up and had a rally fail to pull off the win. Dallas they were up something like 13 only to see Dirk pull of some great moments and ultimately outlast a completely exhausted looking Nets. Followed that one up with easily the most dispirited game against the Celts where a 25-19 first quarter gave way to a second that saw a measly 14 points and the Nets sinking into don’t give a shit. Then, they lost to the fucking Sixers, who you might have heard are actively trying to lose. Back

2 – Yeah, that’s a lie. That Joe Johnson bomb from 30 feet out right in front of me. That I remember. Back

3 – Hilariously, it went both ways. In the first half, Noel was attacking the home team hard. He got some sick baseline dunks, shot over a couple of people like it was nothing and all around looked like the guy he’s billed to be. Then, in the second half, it was more of the same, except that the dunks wouldn’t go in. I honestly don’t think there’s anything funnier than a dude missing a dunk, not for the missed dunk but for the reaction. Pretty much everyone looks up at the rim in disbelief, then shakes their head in a betrayed manner. But you know, the only person that really betrayed them is them. Back

4 – At least Andrew and I got to see Lionslayer on the bench. He was wearing the most incredible outfit ever. White coat, black pants, (I swear this is true) sequined grey Italian loafers. If Rihanna hasn’t slide into his DMs yet, she probably will after seeing that ensemble.

What's with that scrub-turned-bench player covering Lionslayer's face? Get the Furk Aledmir! It's Pun Gun Time, yeeeeaah!

What’s with that scrub-turned-bench player covering Lionslayer’s face? Get the Furk Aledmir! It’s Pun Gun Time, yeeeeaah!

You can’t see the shoes in this shot, but you get the idea. I almost don’t want Embiid to ever play just so we get more outfits like this one. Back

5 – How could I be right? Santa Ape was born before science existed. Back



Basketball Related Conversation That’s Mostly (Kind of?) Funny by longdistancejayhawk
January 9, 2015, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I had every intention of writing an actual preview about tomorrow’s game against Texas Tech. I had an intro that was going to be a weird obit for Jamari Traylor that somehow turned into him rising from the ashes, thanks to the dunk getting waved off. But, you know, life. Never got around to it. I did, however, have a week long email excahnge with my buddy Andrew. Below is that exchange (technically, he only agreed to a “quoting” but in my defense, he didn’t define how much he was willing to be quoted on).

Me:

I mean, I know it was the holidays and I kind of spaced on paying attention to the NBA for like a week, but I can’t imagine that poor Cole Aldrich did anything to deserve being mentioned in the same visual breath as Marc Gasol.

Also, it’s the most Knicks-y thing to have your official Twitter account’s name be NBA New York Knicks.
Andrew:
Ha! Cole looks like a 14 year old whose Mom just walked in on him dribbling a basketball around the living room.
Me:
Agreed. Also, WTF? Shumpert and smith in the waiters deal?
Got a seat upgrade for the Mavs game tonight. I can count each of dirk’s teeth.
Andrew:
Ah, man. That’s pretty dope! Don’t know if Waiters will fit on the Thunder. Pretty sure the Cavs traded him because of his clashes with Kyrie – you think he’s going to have an easier time with Westbrook? I highly doubt it. He just seems like a low character guy, not typical Thunder material. Fortunately OKC only gave up a protected first-rounder and Lance Thomas to get him. I really don’t get this trade from the Cavs perspective though. I’m sure the Knicks made taking JR a requirement for getting the deal done, but good Lord if the Cavs don’t cut his ass tout suite they’ve effectively traded one mercurial, mid-range gunner for another. If I were the Cavs, I would have done just a straight up Shump for Waiters deal – but again, I’m sure Phil made JR a non-negotiatable piece of any deal was going to get made. If it wasn’t clear when all that talk about Melo sitting out the season started circulating, at this point I think it’s fair to say that the Knicks are tanking.

Looks like the Nets game was pretty close. Guess you don’t have to worry about ever being out of the playoff picture in the East though.

Me:

Man, I’m on board with you probably 100%. I was having a blast at the Nets game (great atmosphere, BTW…some solid possessions down the stretch to force OT – specifically a like 25-foot bomb from Johnson on a busted play – but the Mavs were just better; especially Monta Ellis have it all).

To kind of expand on your point, isn’t this a trade with two losers and just one winner? Hell, I’d argue that Phil Jackson is the only winner out of this whole deal, since he looks like he literally put two other teams over a barrel and forced them to help him get out of a shit jam clusterfuck. I mean, look what he managed to do: waive Dalembert two days before the deadline, then flip Smith and Shump for cap relief so he can scrap this season, persue free agents in the off season, and maybe turn Melo’s career around for the better.
Meanwhile, the Thunder pick up yet another guard that brings little to the table. I feel like I saw this stat recently, but he’s like 26% on catch-and-shoot this season. And how the fuck are the Thunder going to use him? As a safety valve! A CATCH-AND-SHOOT GUY WHEN A PLAY’S BROKEN! Like, what? Do they miss Thabo that fucking much? And to your point: Kyrie is an exceptionally good player, sure, but more subtly is that he seems like (relative to the NBA) a pretty chill dude. And Dion clashed with him. Clashed with a dude who looks like he’s perma-stoned. So, naturally, the best situation to put that guy into is one that involves Russell “The only guard more combative, angry, and agressive than me is Rondo” Westbrook. These two are going to get along like oil and water, assuming that oil murdered water in the middle of a 2-7 playoffs series.
Seriously, I just don’t see what this brings to the Thunder at all. Like, Waiters just takes away shots from your pair of top ten guys, right? If that was your plan, why didn’t they make a run at Josh Smith? If KD And Russ can’t get anything, let him bomb.
As for the Cavs, I have two theories: 1.) In the face of a mountain of injuries, the Cavs are looking for instant offense to hold things down for them in the absence of LeBron and figured they could buy low-ish on two guys that might take to a change of scenery (Shumpert, maybe…JR? Keep in mind, this is the dude who order like $3,000 worth of room service on the Knicks’ dime just to see if the hotel would ever stop bringing him food). 2.) Without pretty much every player on their roster available, Dan Gilbert and their GM had ‘Nam-esque flashbacks to the Irving/Waiters brawl, and realized that, with the way things currently stand, that was going to happen again. And instead of having blood on their hands, maybe they let someone else bury the body. Which is why I think they keep both of those guys for the time being. They have until like 5pm tomorrow to make cuts, and I can’t imagine that was part fo Cleveland’s plan at this point. I think it was a genuine move with an eye at treading water for the time being, and maybe mixing the two in as bench unit bombers.
Now, all of that is to say…I think this might be the stupidest idea in the history of mid-season trades. I hope to Christ David Blatt didn’t have a hand in the trade because I’m pretty sure it’s just enough rope to hang yourself.
/rant
Andrew:
It does seem like the Cavs are going to keep JR. Maybe he can turn it around – think Rondo and Chandler on the Mavs this year – but he’s never been much of a defender, which is what the Cavs need. Also, I just want to point out that Shumpert is seriously overrated as a defender. Everyone’s talking about him like he’s Pacers-era Ron Artest or something. I mean, he’s fine, but he’s basically Anthony Morrow with better hair. The fact that anyone even talks about him at all comes down to the fact that his name EHHH-MAAAAAN SHUUUUMPERT and he’s played the last several years in the nation’s largest media market.

The internet has been saying that Waiters is an insurance policy for the Thunder in case Reggie Jackson leaves next year, which seems the same as buying a ham sandwich in case you get cancer. THAT SWEET SWEET HONEY-GLAZE WILL NOT SAVE YOU. Nevertheless, I don’t think having Waiters around will move the needle either way for OKC – though now they might be marginally more likely to let Jackson go when the time comes. The Thunder just need to focus on staying healthy right now (just as a sidenote, people always say that “focus on staying healthy” – what the hell does that mean? “Hey, KD maybe don’t go parkouring all over downtown with your ankles tied together. Focus on staying healthy!”).

Can’t believe KU doesn’t have anyone scoring over 13 ppg. Then again, Kentucky may not have anyone scoring over 10 and they’re the best team in the country, so what do I know?
Me:

Confession time: I’ve probably spent more time saying “EHHH-MAAAAAN SHUUUUMPERT” than I have actually watching the man play basketball, so you’re right on that count. All I remember about him (and let’s talk about these dudes in the past tense since the only reason any of us really cared was because Walt Clyde Fraiser was saying their names on a telecast) was the flattop and that documentary MSG pimped the shit out of when he was coming back from the ACL tear. Other than that, I honestly cannot think of a single basketball moment featuring him. Wait, I take that back…I think he had a big oop or dunk the Nets/Knicks game at the end of the season in Brooklyn.

I think, but I wouldn’t want to bet my life on it.
I think you get to the heart of JR Smith and the problem with him as a player (and Shumpert, who I would argue is better than JR, in that you would rather have Shump as your seventh man than JR on your team): he’s in a perpetual state of “turning it around.” AT some point, we have to admit that either he’s turned it around or that this is it and there’s no turning around. In either case,that’s scary since turning involved going, what? Like 5-degrees tops? Personally, I enjoyed watching him play. Not that he was great or even consistent, but that he had the most insanely outsized ego I’ve ever seen. Look at the way he carried himself during that unconcious stretch like two years ago. Look at the face when he hit that clutch game winning three. Those are memories.
 
Of course, none of that really means anything when you’re paying him an ungodly sum of money and he’s more known for that minor outburst of production and Tweeting about how that ass “want the pipe.” You realize that, right now, the most important thing happening on a basketball court is Mason Plumlee. And that’s scary. This is the Mecca, dammit!
 
The more I think about this trade, though, the more upset I get about the stalled Williams to Sacto talks. Watching them ship off Smith and Shump made me happy from an NBA fan perspective (massive trade happening in the middle of the season) and sad from a Nets fan perspective (look, the incompetent Knicks are out competenting you, Billy!). There are trades to be had, even for head case guys. The Knicks proved it. Billy King, the gauntlet has been thrown. What’s your plan*?
 
God, I don’t think there’s a scarier contract situation that you could possibly be in if you’re the Thunder, right? Reggie Jackson is fucking awesome! Now, Waiters is just going to be the dead weight you drag in after Jackson possibly leaves for more lucrative pastures? Balls to that. To further your sandwich-as-cancer-insurance analogy, if Jackson leaves, you’ll realize he was the delicious ham sandwich all along.
“Hey, KD maybe don’t go parkouring all over downtown with your ankles tied together. Focus on staying healthy!” – you win this topic, so I’ll leave it at that.
Me (the next day or so after the Timofey Mozgov deal went through):
Dude, the Cavs are like someone who gets loaded on a Tuesday night and starts making like 100 fantasy trade offers. God only knows what other trades they’ve shopped around that we’re not hearing about. Is it possible that the Cavs could have like 93% turnover on their roster from entering free agency last summer and the playoffs? Obviously, the NBA is a transient game, even if you are a superstar, but this is ridiculous. Of the current roster, just four players were rostered on the Cavs last year (Delladevdova, Irving, Thompson, Varaejao). That seems pretty insane, especially when you consider the fact they made that extreme roster surgery as an anti-tanking maneuver.
Andrew:
I liked the Mozgov deal. And they did suck last year, which makes keeping the same players around less appealing. I can’t remember where I read/heard this, but some Grantland/ESPN person said something along the lines of “Continuity doesn’t matter if you’re terrible.” I agree with that. I will say this – Lebron has definitely lost a step. He’s still one of the Top 5 guys in league, but he doesn’t have the same explosiveness he used to. What’s more, I haven’t been that blown away by Kevin Love this year. Athleticism isn’t everything, but the guy barely gets off the ground. What’s more, he can’t play defense and doesn’t move that well off the ball. Then they’re picking up all this “veteran talent” (a coinage that’s synonymous with “washed up” about 75% of the time, cf. the Clippers) like Shawn Marion and James Jones. What the hell are those guys giving you? Maybe I’m jumping the gun in saying this, but Lebron might have been better off staying in Miami. I think the Heat still would have fallen off significantly, but at least they wouldn’t be struggling to figure things out in the middle of the season. What’s really crazy is that with all the talent in the rest of the league, I think that Lebron is probably done winning championships. Isn’t that nuts? I mean, he’s 30 years old and in his 12th season. Sure, he could probably play another 8 seasons – and he might – but the Cavs would have to pull some real alchemical magic to surpass the Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, Blazers, Bulls, Hawks, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Clippers, Spurs, Raptors, and Suns (teams that are better than they are right now) as well as the Pelicans, Kings, Timberwolves, and 76ers (teams that almost certainly will be in a few years).
And another thing about Kevin Love – when do we start saying that those fucking outlet passes are kind of a gimmick? I don’t know that they are necessarily and I don’t feel like engaging in a rigorous statistical analysis to prove my point, but Jesus Christ, man, I don’t want to hear about it anymore. “Outlet pass” might as well be his goddamn middle name at this point.
Me:

His middle name is outlet pass? Could has sworn it was WesUnseld, since I’ve never seen the 2014-15 Cavs play without a comparison video. And one of those games was at Barclays and they put the comp video up on the Jumbotron.

Jokes! They didn’t do that. That didn’t stop me from imagining Ian Eagle waxing on Unseld while Mike Fratello drew a dog catching the pass over the clip on YES. Czar of the Telestrator, baby!

Aren’t most things that guys do gimmicks, though? There are certainly people who would say the same thing about the Rockets’ philosophical approach to the game of basketball. Anyway, I think too much is made of it, especially since the Cavs get so much national TV love and, at a certain point, saturation is reached and everyone who gives a shit has already heard Mike Breen and Reggie Miller discuss it. Sure, they’re a functional part of the game. That’s not in dispute. I think Love gets so many of them because of the types of teams he plays on. If you’re a run and gun team or you have guys like LeBron, you’re probably going to connect a lot more often. Look, we all get it: the dude knows how to bust out a long distance chest pass.
Honestly, I don’t mind the wheeling/dealing or the moves at all. Just the flurry of them. I just imagine Dan Gilbert shooting off Comic Sans emails every fifteen minutes that contain a single players’ name. Continuity is probably garbage if you’re bad, too. I was more getting at the idea that, should the Cavs win the Finals, it would be the ultimate evidence of rooting for laundry. The roster will be radically different by the end of the season*. I’m not quite ready to say LeBron won’t win another title. Sure, the talent in the league is fucking deep, but I think he’s smart enough and good enough to adapt his game, the way Jordan did, to try and maximize his chances. Which is maybe what he’s doing, in terms of the paleo thing and losing all that weight. That said, I agree he doesn’t look the same. There are bursts of the former LeBron, just not anything sustained (I think to him eviscerating the woeful Nets in the final five minutes of the third quarter at Barclays). Initially, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he might just be trying to both play and recoup from four straight Finals. Now, I’m not so sure. Is there something more to it? Is it just age? Am I prepared to live in a world where LeBron is no longer LeBron and ages just like nearly every other superstar (Duncan and Jordan, the counterpoints)?
Given that we’re the same age, maybe I’m just trying to avoid facing my own mortality by refusing to accept a diminished LeBron.
Finally, fuck veteran talent. Shit’s overrated. You think the Clippers are the best example? Try watching the Nets, my friend. We’re about to veteran talent our way into a five year rebuilding crater.
* – as a quick aside: after JR got traded, my desire to see the Cavs lift the trophy quintupled, overriding my feeling that LeBron winning another would be sort of meh. Remember what he’s done when playing for a non-contender? Can you imagine what kind of crazy shit’s going to happen if he’s drunk on Championship? I’m pretty sure he’d end up burning down a club and the party keeps raging as the place is reduced to ash all around him.
Apropos to the conversation: this. The leader image alone is worth the price of admission.
Andrew:
Ha! You going to the Nets v. 76ers tonight? Tickets are dirt cheap, so I was thinking about checking it out. Obviously it’s like the platonic ideal of a shitty NBA matchup, but I heard the Sixers play hard at least.
Me:
Yeah, on two counts. The tickets are totally dirt cheap…hell, we might see the first tie in the history of the NBA. And yes, I’m going to the game tonight. We could probably arrange the same deal we did for OKC if you want to sit in the 204 with me.
Andrew:
Mike Fratello absolutely would draw a dog catching a pass on the YES calendar.

You could call everything a gimmick, I suppose. I guess I’ve just reached peak outlet pass. I also feel like a lot of the time he makes kind of reckless throws down court.

Where’s your seat again?

Me:

Haha, seriously. I love Fratello, mostly because he’s like the goofy basketball loving grandfather I never had.

Anyway, I also included it above but with no context, which probably made it seem liked I stroked out and jammed a couple of keys.
Cyprus works for me, buddy. I’ll get out of here at 5:30, so be there a little after six.
Andrew:
Cool. Just wanted to see Henry Sims play before I die.


After Battle Report: Baylor Gonna Baylor by longdistancejayhawk
January 8, 2015, 10:30 am
Filed under: Recap

What the fucking shit? What the fucking shit? WHAT IN THE EVERLOVING ALL THINGS HOLY FUCKING SHIT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?

God…that was…what was that? I don’t even know. I don’t have words to really capture what I just watched. This was a scorching, tight contest that ended in the most insane finish ever. For everything the Benji McDunks triple over Iowa State three years ago was, this was like the opposite. Everything about the end of regulation in that one was thrilling, well-played basketball. This? I don’t even know what the shit that was.

Final Score: Kansas 56-55 Baylor

The Good: It’s always nice to be reminded to thank the ancient Egyptians for inventing obelisks to keep track of time. Had they not figured out a way to keep track of that fiendish truth of reality, time, we might not have gotten to the point where timekeeping devices were sophisticated enough to not only time athletic contests, but to be tied to a red LED frame around a backboard. Without clocks, Baylor couldn’t have been bested by one last night and this recap might have turned out a little differently.

Ultimately, the good is going against Scott Drew1 because Baylor gonna Baylor. The ending of last night’s game couldn’t have been more Baylor if an actual Bear came out on the court and slaughtered everyone. The entire final minute was so fucking crazy that my notes are completely unintelligible. Here’s a sort of translation:

last off – Mason-> oop. Bad jump? Cliff lands, kick out, Mason brick trey. Blue shirts everywhere…no board, Baylor fast bk. Miss? Block? We got a hand, more us everywhere. Ellz heads it OoB. Oubre’s Gadget arms. KU ball. Foul. Shots. Greene two-good. [completely illegible scribbles] THE FUCKING CLOCK?!?! WHAT?

The sad thing is that I wrote all of that after the fact. It was like a fever dream, especially the part where I ended up writing the scribbles. I have no idea what I wanted to write, honestly. There’s nothing that could really capture whatever we just witnessed.

I don’t know if Mason knew what he was doing on the last free throw. I don’t know if he bricked it intentionally. Maybe he did, knowing that Baylor, lacking timeouts, would probably figure out a way to fuck it up. You know, Francis, I don’t think you knew that the grenade in his hand was a fake, what with all the hostages everywhere, but you neutralized the threat. That’s some damn fine detective work, Francis. Damn fine.

I mean, we won. We won a game that we probably shouldn’t have. Look at the box score for fuck’s sake. You’re reading that right. Selden, Ellis and Oubre combined to go 7-24. You’re not reading that incorrectly. Those three were one make better than Kobe Bryant in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. Hell, that number might even make them look better than they were in the game. Had S-SLiME not stepped it up for 1:45 from the 3:02 mark and hit three straight clutch shots. Selden has a knack for going full Houdini in games, but in this one, he knew when it was time to burst out of that barrel right before it went over Niagara Falls. Or whatever waterfall might be close to Waco.

The sad thing about this one is that the sheer insanity of the ending completely overshadowed Magna and Greene having monster second halves. Traylor popped off for 13 points, 5 boards and 2 blocks before fouling out. Most importantly, he  scored the first seven KU points in the second half. Meanwhile, Greene went 4-5 (2-3 3PT), chipping in 12 points. Much like Selden, two of Greene’s points were huge, clutch free throws.

Seriously, I wanted to write a whole post about Jamari to try and troll avid reader Josh, but instead, I decided to talk about clocks. Clocks! Fucking Jamari and Greene giving huge contributions…it just feel like an after thought.

The Bad: Can I admit that the first half was damn near unwatchable? Given that I can’t remember anything specific other than us sucking balls about it, last night’s Baylor game was easily the worst first half since the Topeka YMCA debacle. The first frame in that one ended 13-22, bad guys, to last night’s 18-22. We looked like crap in the first, mostly because the zone seemed to completely dismantle anything we wanted to do. It certainly didn’t help that, in attempting to dismantle the zone, we routinely passed the ball around without much movement. Had we been more active, maybe we could have gotten some of the cross court skip passes and reverses we had in the second half going. Instead, we exwecsettled for not probing the defense, a lack of action reflected in us taking zero free throws in the first half2. More staggering might be the fact that we ended up taking six on the night, only one of which was not the result of an intentional foul at the end of the game3.

Outside of that, rebounding was an issue for most of the game. Various times throughout the matchup, we let Baylor get two and three offensive boards. Given how many boards we let them get, it’s a fucking shocking we actually won last night.

Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: An empty field, a lone highway edged by towering power lines. A sweepingly dramatic location for a press conference. Four figures stand around in a circle. In the distance, the sound of a delivery vehicle. The portly gentleman walks towards the road, greets the delivery driver, and takes a box from him back to the other three. The reporter, stressed from the longest two hours of his life, holds his pen above his notepad. He stares a the box in the other man’s hands. His pen trembles.

The box holds the secret to the end of the world, the reporter is convinced.

The coach sets the box down at the feet of the reporter. No one moves. The report stares at the coach, hoping that this isn’t how it ends. He stares so long that he starts to stare through the coach. The coach doesn’t make eye contact and gestures towards the box. The reporter sighs, knowing that resisting will only prolong the inevitable.

He crouches and looks at the box. Sweat starts to collect on his forehead as he moves his pen towards the tape. A single drop of sweat stains the cardboard as the tape is cut. Of its own accord, the box pops open. The reporter opens  his eyes and looks inside.

Nothing. A brief moment of relief washes over him. Maybe he’s been spared.

Impossibly, the coach is behind him without seeming to move from his position five feet in front of the reporter. His breath smells strongly of Iguana Dip as he leans in and whispers in the reporter’s ear.

Wayne didn’t play a lick, in my opinion, until it counted, and then he played great,. He was terrific.

A garrote wire, a splatter of blood. In the last seconds of his life, the reporter sees Storming Norman Roberts pulling a saw out of bag. He knows his head will soon be inside the box. Kurtis Blow Townsend makes a final yank on the wire and then, darkness.

Man of the Match: There are certainly worthy guys, based solely on single moments, rather than a whole game of good work. Giving it to one of them, though, would marginalize the great games from Traylor and Greene. Greene deserves the award for putting together a good game coming off the bench, plus the previously mentioned clutch free throws. Mari gets his due for beasting in the second half4. I mean, the seven straight KU points to open the half would have probably been enough, but Mari wasn’t going to settle for anything other making a statement to the haters. Specifically me and my hatred of his new favorite pet shot: the 16-footer. I tremble every time he takes one, so when he caught it at the elbow around the 14:00 mark, I just assumed he’d jack it up. Instead, he made a feint, then hit BIG CLIFF SMASH OOP5! That’s the move, Mari. Keep it up, buddy!

Looking Ahead: Texas Tech on Saturday. Who’s ready for a red ass beatdown of the Red Raiders? I don’t trust this team to guard a ham sandwich, but there’s no way the Red Raiders make this the kind of rough ride we’re quickly growing accustomed to, right?

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – The cameras caught him point wildly coming out of a timeout last night and I was struck by the fact that he looks kind of like a guy who fancies himself a mafia don. You know, the kind of guy that would order things at a Luby’s pointing with index and pinkie finger like he wants that Salisbury steak whacked. That’ why you’re never going to be a true player, Baylor. Toupee orders his Salisbury steak like a regular person. Now, executions? Those he orders like a don. Back

2 – Which seems insane, but true. Back

3 – Yet, despite the complete lack of freebies, we attacked inside harder in the second half. Lest you think the refs were letting them play, Baylor went to the charity stripe 14 times last night. Either the Bears were playing the cleanest fucking defense of all time ever or the refs were giving them a hell of a home court advantage on calls. Back

4 – So much so that he fouled out with like 6:30 left in the game. Cool it, man! You were playing so well. You didn’t deserve that. Back

5 – Has there been a KU player that calls for the ball more than Cliff? Every time down, he’s got his hands up for the rock. It’s kind of endearing to see a guy that’s so convinced that he’s not only always open for a pass, but can basically crush any defender in his way. Back



Know Your Enemy: Baylor Bears by longdistancejayhawk
January 7, 2015, 10:15 am
Filed under: Preview
That's the view from my seat at the Mavs game. I was so close I could count Dirk Nowitzki's fucking teeth.

That’s the view from my seat at the Mavs game. I was so close I could count Dirk Nowitzki’s fucking teeth.

Real talk: as an amateur basketball writer-type person, I’m a little worn out from hammering out 7,000 words in the last two Big XII X XII Conference preview posts. That’s a lot of words for someone with a full time job and a somewhat robust social life. I might have dried up the well, so to speak. So, I’m apologizing in advance if this isn’t up to snuff for those of you who expect a certain level of writing to show up for you on game day. Anyway, without further ado, yadda yadda…let’s get to it.

Monday night saw the Mavericks come to the Barclays. This was my second night getting to witness the Dirkus Circus in person and for the second time, the big German’s performance underwhelmed. He looked good, sure, but he wasn’t the kind of player I’ve seen on TV countless times. Well, other than the 17-footer he made with 2 seconds left in the third that got a completely flummoxed Sergei Karasev to foul him for the and one that tied the game. I can’t describe how hilarious it was to watch him hit the shot, then turn around, arms outstretched like Cyrus from The Warriors. “Are you not entertained?” he seemed to say at the jeering crowd.

And the best part of it was that I was ten rows back behind the Mavs bench when he hit it. I got to see Dirk hit a huge shot and turn around to bath in the hate being rained down upon him1. He was larger than life and, despite the insignificance of the game in question, Dirk made it seem like the biggest shot of his career.

As the shot above can attest, I was close to the action Monday night. Thanks to my ticket rep at the Nets for hooking me up with the surprise seat upgrade. I love my seat in the upper deck because I love the baseline corner angle2, but there’s precious little that can compare to the thrill of watching a game from nearly point blank range3.

The only thing that could have made a basketball junkie’s life a little more thrilling would be a ridiculous trade…oh, wait4. Shit, the trade was such a thing that I didn’t even think about the fact that I witnessed Dirk move into 7th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list5. I mean, he did the three guns for like a solid minute when he hit it in OT.

Dirk might be the funniest guy in the NBA just because he celebrates everything like it's Game 7.

Dirk might be the funniest guy in the NBA just because he celebrates everything like it’s Game 7.

Official Name: Baylor University
Nickname:
Bears
Derisive Nickname: 
Scott Drew’s Impending Aneurysm

Signature Win: Didn’t we just go over this? I mean, losing to OU by 10 in their conference opener wasn’t going to change what I picked in the conference preview6. Mostly because it doesn’t meet the minimum criteria of being an actual win.

Key Players: Rico Gathers is probably the guy I’m most worried about in this one. No one on the Bears scores more than 12 PPG, which seems like a poor recipe for success7, yet they still manage to average 70 a game. That seems like a little cause for concern, since I don’t feel they have a focal point to key in on. While Rico, my nightmare fuel, isn’t scoring in double figures, he is tearing down 10.6 rebounds per game while chipping in 9.6 points. Sure, he isn’t the focal point of the offense or anything, but he is a two-way threat. I fully expect him to try and abuse our inside players early and possibly net 10+ on the night8. I feel like we’re going to see a lot of Big Cliff tonight, assuming he can stay out of foul trouble.

Keys to Victory: Guys! Everything’s going to be cool! I looked into it and the Scott Drew’s Impending Aneurysms aren’t that good at blocking! After suffering through a few recent block parties that saw pretty much anything inside of the three point line batted into the upper deck, it looks like Baylor might offer us many, many chances to actually get the rock to fall on those easy interior. I’m feeling a confidence booster for our boys on the inside!

This should be big news for S-SLiME who was scorching from beyond the arc Sunday, but managed just one inside shot. Selden’s offensive woes prior to Sunday aren’t entirely his fault. Sometimes, you think you’ve got a layup and next thing you know, the ball’s cratering in Topeka. I’m looking for him to hopefully get a few gimmes to fall. Same with Ellis, who has been forced into expanding beyond low post back downs thanks to teams sharing crib notes on baseline trapping him. Rico leads the team in blocks with 0.9 per game. I mean, I’m not over 6′ and I think I could probably block like one shot a game. Why you slacking, Rico? What’s your fucking problem? I think we’ll be getting some to fall.

Also, Baylor doens’t protect the rock well enough, at least not when going against the transition hungry Francis Mason, Renegade Cop. They’re averaging 12 per contest, but that’s against some pretty crap competition. Watch out, Baylor. Francis is here to make your life a living hell.

Delicious Local (to the enemy) Beer to Avoid: This is a Baptist university in Waco. Unless there’s still some Natty Ices stocked up in the charred remains of the Branch Davidian Compound, I don’t think there’s any beer within a 50 mile radius of the place.

Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)9: Kansas 68-63 Baylor

*

FOOTNOTES

1 – Hate might be a strong word, since the Brooklyn crowd didn’t really get keyed up until the tail end of regulation when Joe Johnson hit a pretty ridiculous 30-footer (that’s the official distance, though I’m pretty sure he was on the center court logo when he pulled up). That tied the game and the crowd went absolutely apeshit. Probably the loudest crowd I’ve heard in the Mausoleum this year. Double that ape shit when Jack hit a jumper to tie…only to have Plumbles foul Monta Ellis Have It All on a fucking shooting foul and the Mavs forced OT. At which point, you just knew the Nets weren’t going to pull it out. As a ticket holder, I feel compelled to like this team, but it’s like rooting for a husky kid in a footrace. At a certain point, they’re going to get winded and just cede the victory. Back

2 – I’m well aware that half of the action is like a million miles away from you in this position, but personally, I like being able to perceive the width of the court. Spacing is something that I’m obsessed with in basketball and I feel like sidelines and the traditional TV angle don’t really do justice to the beautiful artistry of a team moving around and working the empty spaces in the half court. Back

3 – Which is another thing that occured to me as I was watching the game. From my regular seat and TV, basketball players only have each other, for the most part, as a frame of reference. You know that guards are shorter than centers, obviously, but they’re relative to each other. It doesn’t quite register that there people are massive. Like Nowitzki is indescribably strange looking thanks to height and how flat he looks. Plumlee is cartoonishly tall. Though, I think Charlie Villanueva is the weirdest person to see that close. Like, he’s half hunchbacked and impossibly lanky of arm while being stout of body. He looks, in real life, like an ork from Lord of the Ring. Which might partially be a result of the alopecia, but I digress. Back

4 – I had a pretty funny email exchange with my buddy Andrew about the Waiters for Smith and Shump trade starting that night and running through yesterday. Initially, I was just going to footnote my thoughts on it, but I think I might post a chunk of the conversation as a little bonus piece sometime this week. There’s some real gold in there that I feel like the world really needs to see. Back

5 – I was also in the building when Pierce scored his 25,000th point. Most people were pretty genteel in their applause, but I nearly cried. Watching Pierce, one of my favorite NBA players and my favorite Jayhawk, soak in the clapping, glance up at the jumbotron to see the tribute image, then get back into game mode was something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Back

6 – Speaking of the Sooners, I might have made a terrible mistake putting them in sixth in the preview. Mike Silverman on Twitter was quick to point this out. Between beating Baylor by ten and delivering a complete depantsing of the Longhorns, we might be living in a world where Oklahoma is not only “for real” but “a real threat to actually win the fucking league.” Not that I’m backing down from my predictions…yet. Back

7 – Anyone want to point out that we don’t have anyone averaging more than 14 and just two averaging double figures? Because you know where the door is, fella. Or dame. I’m not discriminating. Back

8 – Me thinks this will be a long night for long suffering Magna. I had to defend myself earlier this week over my love of Jamari, which is fair. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that, a lot of times, I become irrationally attached to players based on things like “he’s really funny on Twitter” or “his afro is the coolest thing to wear a Jayhawk uniform in like 10 years, easy.” The heart wants what it wants and sometimes, that’s at odds with the ribbons and ribbons of tape evidence telling you to run away. After thinking about it, I really think I like Jamari because I want him to be the next Kevin Young (who would be the second example above). We just aren’t there yet. I’m still holding out hope that he can pull off a great run or just not scare me every time he touches the ball with anything less than twelve seconds outside of six feet. I mean, I’m an irrational Jamari backer and even I break out in mad hives whenever that happens. Back

9 – Suck on it, Trebek. Back



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.

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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.

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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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