Filed under: Preview
This morning on my train ride, I was making a transfer when a homeless person decided to step off the train. Not unusual since there are about as many homeless here as the population of Lawrence. What was unusual was the fact that this guy had tattered clothes covered in fringe. I’m talking Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz level of fringe. All his clothes and bags were shades of black, yet the fringe was kind of caramel colored. And the fringe was everywhere. I’m talking sleeves, shoulders, waist. Hell, even his trash bag seemed to have some fringe growing out of it. It was really fucking impressive1.
There’s really no point to this intro other than to point out that it’s a tough world out there. There are people with real fucking problems. And here I’m complaining about a college basketball team. Really puts shit into perspective. Or something.
Official Name: The University of Utah
Nickname: Runnin’ Utes2
Derisive Nickname: Missin’ Gs
Signature Win: Clearly, the one point OT win over the future home of former Jayhawk Conner Frankamp. A decisive win would have been better, but a win over a ranked opponent is a win over a ranked opponent. Since that’s the kind of thing that the selection committee really gives a shit about. Forgetting the rankings for a second, that’s a win over a team that made went undefeated through 35 games last year3 and made a Final Four the year before. They’re no slouches, so nicking one off Greg Marshall’s squad’s a feather in the ol’ cap.
Key Players: Delon Wright, who’s all over the court, racking up 15.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 4.9APG. He’s a 6’5″, 190 lbs. guard and focal point of the team. I’m worried a little bit about the match up implications here. If he’s that big and getting those numbers, or guards are going to be in for a long night, defensively. I imagine the size matchup puts Shape Shifting Lizard Man Eyes on him for most of the defensive assignments. Whether or not he can keep Wright from getting his numbers will go a long way to making this a cake walk…
Keys to Victory: …which I honestly don’t envision at all. Right now, I have little faith in our offensive production outside of the Gentleman Tailor. And the book on how to defend him is a bestseller everyone’s reading right now. Like the Gone Girl of 2014 college hoops. Pretty much every team’s strategy seems to be to double up on the poor guy. I sincerely believe he could be getting 20 points a night if we could just get some consistent production out of one or two guys. Right now, teams seem fine letting Brannen Greene score 19 points since they’re probably assuming he’s not going to be hot every night.
On the other side of the ball, I have one thing I’d like to see: no backdoor cuts. The last two games, we’ve been getting ripped the fuck apart on simple backdoor cuts. I don’t know what the answer is outside of being smarter on help and not hedging so fucking hard towards the ball. I’m guessing it’s really just a matter of focus, the kind that’s hard to expect out of young guys, but we need to do a better job not giving up points on such simple actions.
This Utah game at the Sprint Center could be a disaster for KU.
— Sarah Kelly Shannon (@thesarahkelly) December 11, 2014
I’m starting to think maybe we won’t win this onet4. Or it’s going to be ugly. I’m clinging desperately to the latter.
Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science)5: Utah 71-72 Kansas OT
1 – On a related note, when he was climbing off of the 2 or 3 train, his bag was sticking out like a foot and half off his left hip. Facing the door and too my left was a blonde woman, probably mid-20s. She was right in the way of the bag. A bag you don’t want any part of on your clothes. Instead of stepping out of the way of the bag, she kept her feet planted and bent sideways at the hip to avoid the bag. I wanted to ask her what her thought process was there, but I didn’t want to hurt the homeless guy’s feelings. Back
2 – Along with the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV, Utah sports one of the funniest affectations in marketing: the dropped “r” replaced with an apostrophe. What is this, 1995? Is that sort of thing still popular? This is probably dumber than Rider being called Broncs. Anytime I see someone going totally tits and dropping a g, I think about the classic Seanbaby piece EGM’s Crapstravaganza: The 20 Worst Video Games of All Time. He describes missing gs thusly:
The print staff also took a strange artistic license and took most of the words that I wrote ending in “g” and replaced the “g” with an apostrophe, making a good portion of the article sound like I was yellin’ it from the back of a pickup truck.
I think that about sums it up. Also, worth noting that the Battle of the Missin’ Gs will go down in Utah’s next game, as they take on the Runnin’ Rebels at MSG on December 20. Back
3 – I know I discussed it before, but that’s damned impressive. Damn impressive. There quite a few of God’s Faithful that tried to argue that them running through a crappier league somehow invalidated the achievement. I don’t agree with that at all. WSU’s run is impressive and deserves to be celebrated. Crap league or not, it’s hard to get up for every game, especially as your streak goes on. Everyone’s gunning to be the team that knocks you off. We win a lot, but we should realize that winning all those games is pretty fucking hard. Look, if you’re going to dock the Shockers for their run last year, you’re going to have to do the same for Kentucky when they bulldoze their way to an undefeated season. The SEC’s kind of shitty in basketball and Kentucky’s going to go undefeated. Won’t make it any less impressive. Back
5 – Not even. Back
Filed under: Recap
Last night, I got off the train to a cavalcade of snow. Like the kind of snow that only happens in the city. You look down 4th Ave. and all you see is a fog swirling snow. Usually, we have one of those sometime in October or November, then there’s nothing for weeks until we get into January when the skies shit out snow like bone white diarrhea. Not last night, though. Last night was typical city snow. The saving grace was that it wasn’t cold enough for the shit to stick, so now the only things with any trace of the snow fog are cars1.
The snow, my friends, was like the Georgetown defense. A swirling dervish of arms and blocks and steals and gritty, grinderman basketball that didn’t let up for 40 straight minutes.
Last night, to borrow a phrase from Kevin Garnett, was a bar fight. A bar fight that we ended up winning, so hooray for dubs.
The Good: Outside of the obvious win, we seemed to be way better at dealing with the pressure than we did in our only other real test of the season2. Despite storming out to a solid start, we gave up a ton of points to make it a two point game at the half. But that didn’t deter us or make us completely fall apart3. We played through their runs and answered them in kind. Along the way, we got great contributions from some starters (Ellis and Mason) as well as a playing-out-of-his-fucking-mind Brannen Greene. We had some good ball movement even if it wasn’t particularly effective. These are the kinds of games that make you optimistic that, as we develop and gel as a team, we’ll be able to take the good things we’ve done against the lesser teams in Orlando and the mistakes that made Georgetown a tough one and marry the two.
My favorite thing we did was easily our transition game, especially during the Greene outburst. Greene isn’t a world beater by any stretch, but he is an incredibly effective catch-and-shoot guy on a fast break. This wasn’t the only contest where he showed that ability in spades. It was, however, the game where he did it in important moments, hitting threes when we needed a spark to get going. I mean, the guy had 19 points on the night, which is waaaaaaay more than I would ever put on the guy’s shoulders4. But if he’s going to get it and coming off the bench? Fuck yeah I want that5.
Finally, I like Renegade Cop. Which is what half of KU Twitter seems to feel too. The other half? Well, they’re not so high on him. I compared his game to Westbrook in the past and I feel like last night’s game was a pretty good encapsulation of that. Obviously, I’m not trying imply that Mason is anywhere near Westbrook’s level, but I think he might be another player in that mold. What I mean is that there’s Good Mase/Bad Mase the way there’s Good Russ/Bad Russ. Both of them like to slash to the rim as a means to create their own shot. Both of them do it pretty much without regard for what else is happening on the floor in that particular play. And both reward your with some breathtaking finishes through traffic or dick kick you with a stupid layup that gets blocked into a transition dunk that Mason somehow manages to foul on and give the and-one to.
This is a craiticism, sure, but something I’m willing to live with. The reason is that some of my favorite Kansas teams featured mercurial point guards, guys that would try to take over a game, regardless of whether that was a good idea. Ain’t No Seats and Tyshawn were the most successful. Those bridge years with Tharpapalooza and the Prophet didn’t have the same gunner/do-or-die attitude that Collins and Taylor brought. Mason is that guy. You’re going to get some big balls layups or the trey he drilled in the second like an assassin. You’re also going to get some “THE FUCK DUDE EVERYONE IS OPEN EXCEPT FOR FUCKING YOU!” moments.
Can we all agree to just ride this roller coaster and enjoy it all? I know he isn’t the best point, but he’s our point. And he’s going to spend his career running the line between stupid and fearless, no matter what we think.
The Bad: Backdoor cuts, man. They’re killing us. We’ve given up a lot of them this season, but Georgetown was actually dangerous. We need to solve that problem sooner rather than later. I know it’s hard, especially for young guys, to not key in on the ball, but the Hoyas were basically taking us apart on pretty simple actions. We hedge to hard and leave a wing guy open for an easy bucket. Giving them up is fine when the competition can be overwhelmed by talent. Not so fine when you’re in a dog fight.
However, back doors don’t worry me as much as the fact the teams have figured out that Gentleman Tailor is our key offensive cog. In the last two games, both Florida and Georgetown have doubled up on Ellis, forcing him to make tough shots or bad passes out of the double teams. He’s still scoring in double figures, but he should be a 20 PPG guy and he’s getting shut down hard. We need to establish more offensive game to try and open up Ellis a bit. I’m waiting for Big Cliff or Rufio6 to force defenses to ease up on Ellis, but that’s been slow coming. Of course, it probably didn’t help that seemingly every pass we sent Elli’s way managed to result in an interception. Maybe last night wasn’t his night. I certainly hope so anyway.
Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: The gathered reporters in the visiting media room stare straight ahead, waiting for the carnage. Everyone is afraid to blink, especially after the last time someone deigned to ask a question. No one wants to end up in the carpet, thrown out alongside the Taco John’s refuse that litters K-10. Did everyone blink simultaneously or did the lights flicker for a brief second. It doesn’t really matter as the table where Toupee takes his questions is suddenly populated. Himself sits there, mute, as does the severed head of Bill Rafferty with a single, small-sized notecard reading “I don’t truck with jokers7.” Blood drips off the front end of the table. A slow, metronome of fear as each drop hits the oddly large pool, considering how recently the head actually appeared.
A reporter raises his hand, timidly, as if he’s afraid to cut the air and risk bodily harm. Toupee raises a hand.
The reporter lowers his head and stares at his feet. Sweat drops down, drowned out by the still flowing blood from the severed head of Bill Rafferty. The twin shadows of Stormin’ Norman Roberts and Kurtis Blow Townsend are behind him, a cudgel lifted exactly six feet above his head. The perfect distance for instant coma, if not death. The reporter nods in assent. The cudgel comes down. The rest of the reports leave the room, single file, afraid of saying anything lest they be the next to take the wraith.
Man of the Match Award: This wasn’t a well played game by any stretch of the imagination. Both teams turned the ball over like that was the point of the exercise and we weren’t able to really lock into a rhythm for any prolonged stretch of the game. Sure, we had our moments, but nothing approaching a sustained stretch of excellence that made anyone in Jayhawk Nation feel like we were assured the victory. Amidst that roughness, one light shone brighter than the rest. That was none other than Brannen Greene. Hitting those back to back treys were huge and gave God’s Team a boost in the second half. Throw in the fact that he netted 19 on a perfect 5-5 from downtown and he could be the most important bench player we have8. Enjoy the trophy, which I swear is in the mail, buddy.
Looking Ahead: Saturday, we’ve got a frisky Utah team that’s #13 in the rankings9. I’ll be doing some research on them, but I feel like this could be a fun tilt on a nominally neutral site (it’s the Sprint Center, so, you know…). I can’t imagine the same level of throttling defense will meet us Saturday, but who knows? Either way, I’m kind of wishing this had been a powderpuff game to give us some sturdier sea legs.
1 – I feel compelled to mention it, since the Georgetown players made their stand during the anthem tonight. I went to the Cavs/Nets game on Monday10 and there was a protest going on outside. I wasn’t upset that it made it harder for me to get in because the protestors are right. Eric Garner was murdered. I don’t care if you don’t agree with me politically, look at the video. He was choked out by a hold that even MMA fighters would shy away from. That video is the most chilling thing and the fact that the grand jury didn’t see enough to indict is unconscionable. While the Barclays shut down my main backside entrance, I still wasn’t bothered. When I got to my seat, I was greeted to a shoot around that featured many players wearing “I can’t breathe” shirts. Adam Silver has expressed concerns about the “on court attire” but I can’t imagine him making a move to fine the players for actually wearing them. Obviously, there’s the Adidas deal to consider, but I doubt he’s going to make a statement either by fining or telling stars not to wear the shirts. And that’s what’s so great about the NBA. I’ll never forget last year, during player intros at game 3 of the Raps/Nets series when the Donald Sterling shit blew up, when Michael K. Williams came out doing the Omar whistle and before saying anything about the Nets, dropped “There’s no room in the NBA for Donald Sterling.” It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen and I would hope that Silver would see the shirts in the same way. As there’s no room in the NBA for Sterling, there’s no room in society for someone like Eric Garner getting choked out by a police officer for doing basically nothing11. Back
2 – Which would be Kentucky, a game where we dealt with pressure about as well as a delicate blossom chilling out on the sun. Back
3 – I say that with full awareness that there were a lot of turnovers throughout the game, especially any pass that might have been directed at the Gentleman Tailor. Look, we didn’t play our best basketball nor did we look defeated at any time during the game. It was a nice feeling to see that we were able to keep coming, keep attacking, despite the fact that Georgetown was managing to shut us down often on the offensive end. Back
4 – I may or may not have lumped Greene into the basketball incompetents group with Landen Lucas early in the year. Look, I know they play for Kansas, but they also weren’t the kinds of guys I enjoyed watching. Lucas had stone hands at the outset and Greene was…well, he was Brannen fucking Greene. As the season’s gone on, both are shaking that label, Greene in particular. I like having Greene come off the bench as a weapon, similar to Conner Teahan. Only, you know, able to knock down big shots without much warming up12. I don’t like Greene starting, but if he’s coming off the bench and knocking them down? Might be pushing his way into Favorite Non-essential Jayhawk status. Back
5 – Which brings me to a concern I have with this year’s vintage? Are we too talented? Do we have too many guys that want too many touches? I don’t know since I’m not in practice, but that seems to be the case here. We’ve run a fairly diverse starting five and it seems like our minutes rotations vary pretty substantially from game to game (for instance, Svi got zero burn tonight after starting the last couple of games…he might be in the dog house or he might not be trusted in high intensity situations…either way, he’s just another casualty of having too many guys last night). I’m sure Toupee knows what he’s doing more than I do…yet, it seems like there’s a lot of variance from game to game. Maybe we shore that up or maybe we keep running whoever’s looking good out there and take our chances every night. Back
7 – I wanted so, so bad to leave this section bereft of footnotes this year, but I figured this one deserved some explanation. Eagle-eyed (or short-term memory excellent) readers might remember a footnotes (within a footnote) earlier talking about Rafferty being great. Well, that didn’t change. However, after talking to Ellis, Rafferty made a crack about the game being easy and Toupee responded with a “fuck you, that wasn’t easy” response. I like to imagine that Self killed Rafferty over it. This is satire, so you know, don’t get too bent out of shape or anything. Back
8 – Quick digression: speaking of bench players, my Nets have, according to sources, agreed to ship Andrei Kirilenko, draft picks, and cash to Philly for Brandon Davies. I’m not making that up. That’s what the report I read says. Look, AK-47 managed to get into Lionel Hollins’ dog house somehow, so it’s better to unload a useful player in exchange for something. The key part of the previous statement is something. Rather than do a like for like or even a straight salary dump, Billy fucking King has done what he’s always done – send way too much away for little in return. For a single year of Paul Pierce (favorite Jayhawk, so last year at the Barclays was magical!) and two of KG, we shipped off the future for mediocrity for years to come. Boston’s laughing all the way to the bank. Boston is now in the enviable position of deciding whether to tank or not, given that they get our picks for years and can decide what to do with their own, more or less. Now, we’re packagaing picks to get rid of Kirilenko and his hilarious dragon tattoo? It’s like this franchise knows that suckers like me are going to pay for season plans regardless of whether or not the team’s any fucking good. Back
9 – If you care about those things since they’re total garbage. I mean, G’town isn’t ranked at all and they looked really fucking good. Back
10 – Hold off on reading this footnote for a hot second or until you’ve finished the above note…which was an enjoyable game for the visiting team. The royals came out in the third quarter to a huge round of applause. Which might have cause Kevin Love to miss a free throw. Of course, evertyhing they did after that was beautfiul basketball. Again, if you weren’t a Nets fan. LeBron went floor general and fed Tristan Thompson a series of alley oops that were back breaking. They went on something like a 17-5 run to cap a 35-18 quarter that forced Hollins into clearing the bench with eight left in the contest. But all of that was overshadowed by what I’m talking about in the first footnote, assuming you skipped my previous instruction. Back
11 – Full disclosure: I had a good friend murdered by a cop. Ever since, I’ve been unable to see a cop without thinking about what happened to Paulie. The thing is that I’m in a demographic that shouldn’t fear cops, yet I do. I do because what happened to Eric Garner (and Michael Brown and countless others) reminds me of what happened to my friend and no one should have to live in fear of the people employed to serve and protect them. No one should live like that. Watching the video of Eric Garner makes me nauseous because I lost a friend to a violent cop. I can’t imagine what that’s like to lose a father, husband, brother, whatever. And I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to live in fear of cops either. As much as I love things in this world, this is one that makes me disappointed with the human race. Back
12 – Which Raffery noted with a yell of “HEAT CHECK!” on the second consecutive transition wing three. Speaking of Rafferty, how great was it that Bill Rafferty was calling the game (side note: how great is it that he’s filed a petition to trademark his catchphrases like “Onions!”)? The man is excited about basketball almost as much as he’s excited about life. Going into a timeout in the second half, he was going ape shit about the highlights and the FOX Sports 1 producers were only happy to oblige (presumably because they’d run out of spots to run that featured a bunch of G’town kids chanting “We are” and “Georgetown!”). I got the impression that they faded him out, but left the highlights running and just let him freestyle for the entire 60 seconds of commercials. Somewhere, there’s like 45 hours of Rafferty going bananas on highlights that we’re never going to see and America is the worse for it. Back
Filed under: Recap
The other night, I caught this band called Zambri. They were weird. Good weird. You should really check them out. Anyway, the band is these two sisters who make some really weird gothic pop music. Kind of dark, but dancey. Think if the Faint had a lovebaby with Chelsea Wolfe.
Anyway, I did that the night that we were playing the Gators. Yeah, I know, turn in the cred card1. Get off my back! I hate the Gators and I figured, what with my phone dying, that I could just get up in the morning, skip the internet, and watch it on Chromecast or what-have-you. I made it through the Arsenal game without checking on any places that might ruin it for me.
Until I logged into Facebook. Which had a post from the KU Athletics page discussing how we stormed back or something to that effect.
“Aw, shit, this is going to be a good one,” I thought, almost immediately forgetting that they ruined the game for me on the vague promise of a thriller. Against a team and coach I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire.
I hunkered down, ready for some fun. What I got was the opposite of fun.
Final Score: Florida 65-71 Kansas
The Good: Did I mention that we managed to come back from an 18 point deficit to win the contest? Did I mention that someone said we stormed back? That was pretty much the highlight of the game. A headline asserting that we stormed back. Because what I saw was a storming so much as a slow chipping away at the other team’s lead. Hell, we barely contained the disastrous turnovers and insanely poor swtiching we exhibited throughout the first half when we got into the second half. I mean, I guess if you cough the ball up nine times in one half, getting that down to half the total is a positive, right?
I don’t know. I thought we looked discombobulated for most of the first half and the second half we just managed to pass the ball twice on offense instead of immediately turning it over. I really wanted us to play well and make up for losing to these bayou backwater asshats, but we just sort of farted our way into a victory. I want to say that we did everything right and really showed maturity, but I’m pretty sure the only reason we ended up winning the game is because Florida did us the favor of missing about 100 shots during a five and a half minute drought.
The Bad: We turned the fucking ball over like the object of the game was fucking golf rules. Lowest score wins, boys! Fuck that noise. Play like you’ve seen each other before. During the first half, we weren’t playing the way we played in Orlando2. Given the body of evidence, I’m assuming that Saturday’s game is the anomaly, not Orlando.
I know I’ve mentioned this, but I honestly can’t think of an explanation as to how we managed to pull off the win. Has there ever been a game where you’re down huge and you end up winning that feels less inspiring than this one? I’m thinking of other down big games and this has nothing approaching that level of tension. I mean, we managed to have a 9-to-14 assist-to-turnover ratio. Who does that and manages to win a fucking game? I kept waiting for a monster dunk or the exctiement that accompanies a run and outside of Dickie V shrieking3 about smelling a run, it just didn’t seem like we were storming back or anything. All we did was just win, like Tim Tebow.
Schuyler thinks the crowd willed the team to victory. I think that’s as good an explanation as any.
Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: A black carpet rolls through the door, the perfect length to stop right next to the podium. The other end disappears into the hallway. A chill rolls through the room, though no source of the cool air is readily apparent. The carpet sits. Unmolested by foot or shoe. The gathered reporters start to get restless, one leaning forward and scratching his ankle. He doesn’t have time to raise up before the voice of Toupee booms from the dais. No one saw him enter and it is unclear whether or not he even used the carpet.
It was a terrible start and our best players were not very good at all in the first half. The roles reversed in the second half.
The reporter who’d previously bent over to scratch his ankle is nowhere to be seen. Stormin’ Norman Roberts and Kurtis “Blow” Townsend, however, are nearly done rolling the black carpet back out the door. The carpet is suspiciously thicker than when it first rolled its way into the room.
Man of the Match: No one really deserves it, honestly. But I’m giving it to Shape Shifting Lizard Man Eyes, mostly because I love a stat line of 21 points, 1 assist, 1 block. Low bar to be the stat leader on ESPN these days, I guess.
And here, too, I guess.
Looking Ahead: We’ve got the Hoyas of Georgetown. For whatever reason, I always imagine them as slow, plodding people. Some kind of tree person. But I might just be conflating the whole team with one wooden player, Patrick Ewing.
1 – Another thing totally harshing my cred here is that on Saturday night, I was asked what would happen if I received a KU football jersey as a gift. I only semi-jokingly said that I wouldn’t wear it, since I find crossing sports weird (or put another way: I wouldn’t wear it to watch basketball games, so I don’t know when I would ever have a chance to wear it). This statement, naturally, brought out the “you’re not Kansas enough” arguements. Look, I like misery as much as the next guy, but pretending like football isn’t actually happening on Saturday’s is the best feeling in the world. You can do things like rewatch a particularly atrocious basketball game while eating cinnamon rolls and Cheez-Its4. Back
2 – I never got around to posting it, but I did write a recap of the whole tournament. The main gist was that we looked like we were starting to get a rhythm among the guys and we were starting to have solid ball movement. Which would have looked incredibly stupid if you read it as a primer for this year’s vintage then watch Saturday’s game. Back
3 – Dickie V used to be entertaining in a doddering old man sort of way, but he’s really starting to drive me fucking insane. During the broadcast, he kept talking about things completely unrelated to the action on the court. Used to be that there’d be some mayhem to his madness, but he kept digressing, unprompted by poor Jon Sciambi (who probably has to pop a Viagra after broadcasts after getting contact impotence). Out of nowhere, he shrieked about Yale upsetting UCONN. I mean, super loudly. Without any context whatsoever. This was after he’d talked about Kentucky struggling. At least I think he was talking about Kentucky. And football. God, he went on and on about like 500 different teams that deserved to be mentioned as possible contenders for the playoff, presumably because they qualify under the “must be a football team” rubric. And these are just the things I remember him talking about. Just hang it up already (full disclosure: he also looks like my dead grandfather, which is a whole other level of unnerving). Back
a – On a related note, I’ve put on like 20 pounds since my collar bone accident. Actually, that’s not entirely true. That’s been in the last month or two. So, you know, not happy about that. If only there weren’t a fucking nor’easter getting ready to ejaculate snow and rain all over everything, maybe I could get a fucking run in this week. Back
Filed under: Preview
Obviously, today is Thanksgiving, so I’m genuinely questioning why you’re here. There’s family to hate, festive races to run and puke after (one, never puked after any race; two, my first race post-collarbone was the annual Turkey Trot and I did 28’31” which isn’t bad considering I’m gingerly reintroducing running to my life), turkey to eat, football to watch, and hoops to get overly into and alienate all those relatives you never liked anyway. Since that’s the case, I’m going to keep this one short and sweet.
Official Name: University of Rhode Island
Derisive Nickname: Hams
Signature Win: Well, you could do worse than besting a pretty solid Nebraska team in OT. I can’t believe I’m even typing the words “pretty solid Nebraska team” since when they were still in the conference, they were a pile of hot garbage on a hotter summer afternoon. But a win over a rank opponent’s a signature win in my book. The Hams (so named because…I don’t know…something about weirdos who eat ham instead of turkey on Thanksgiving, I suppose) were led by a monster night from their guard E.C. Matthews. Matthews set the pace with a double-double, 26 points and 10 boards, netting six of those points in the extra frame.
Key Players: Clearly, Matthews is a gamer who is liable to pop off. Same with Jared Terrell, who chipped in 12 in the Nebraska win, and Hasan Martin, who averages 15.7 PPG so far this season. Looking at the schedule, I assumed, as most of us probably did, that this would be one of those erasable penned in wins. Not so much, now. I’m worried a little bit that if these guys get hot (and really, they only need like two of the three to go bonkers), we could be in for a long night.
Keys to Victory: Luckily, the stats seem to imply that this is a team that executes a dribble-drive style offensive. Haven’t actually watched them this season (a recurring theme when it comes to the early going of the season for me), but the numbers seem to imply that they finish at the rim frequently. Three pointers seem to be average, in terms of attempts, but atrocious on finishes. I can’t imagine that they’ll want to test our guards defensively from distance. What we need to win this game is good, collapsing defense on any drives to the paint. If we can manage our switches and help isn’t a total catastrophe, we should be able to keep a team that averages 77.8 PPG to a lower total. At least, I think we can anyway. I’m not to worried about our interior in this one. I’m more worried with our guards keeping up.
Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (Backed Up By Science): Rhode Island 72-76 Kansas
Filed under: Director's Cut
A little over four years ago, I started this blog and here we are five years later. Five years of fury, which will be the name of the omnibus I put together of my favorite pieces from the five year run. The blog started as something unfocused, though there were some gems early on1. A lot of staples developed out of that first year’s stumbling attempts at execution. Nested parantheticals morphed into HTML footnotes2, which offered less of the wheels-within-wheels of the nested, so I started adding footnotes within footnotes. Borrowing a page from an old Something Awful series, I changed the free-flowing, improv jazz previews into a templated series of pieces. Which led to the same treatment for previews.
It hasn’t been a smooth process3 to be sure. But I think we’re in a good place. I’m happy that amidst all the basketball talk, I can throw in abstract things like Dunktopus or the new approach to the Withering Bill Self Quote and feel like it adds a new texture to the overall proceedings. I’m also proud of using IRL stories as intros isn’t as off-putting as I thought it might be.
Now, four years on, I’m reminded of the first feature piece I wrote for this space4. I always loved the Seinfeld bit about sports and rooting for laundry, so I wrote a piece about how much I hated the Euroleague styled uniforms we wore up until this season. Despite not reading it again since I first posted it, I was always proud of that piece for its preview of what I thought this blog could become5. So, in the spirit of tomorrow’s holiday, as a thanks to all of you for reading and sticking with this shit for so long, I present a director’s cut of that piece6. Read this and see how full of self-loathing I might be for my four years ago self. Then, hug a family member and eat some turkey or something.
Yes, yes, I’m aware that non-sports people like to reference the Seinfeld joke about rooting for laundry and I admit that, well, it is true. Now more so that ever in the era of one-and-done players (thanks NBA for diluting the college experience to either stop gap stat monsters or Turkish league players). Xavier Henry stole the Kansas faithful’s collective heart last season as the second coming of Brandon Rush (swagger, smiles, always knew when he was killing it). Then, he left as we all knew he would to the NBA. One and done. So, he’s gone and a new guy will take his place, wear his number, bring the swagger and everything else. That’s just the way sports are now. It fucking sucks, but…well, short of forcing David Stern and the NBPA into making it two years, we’re going to be stuck with a whole lot of these six month love affairs (Selby, I hardly knew thee).
Ha, look at that. I’m making fun of the NBA. To think that four years later, I’d watch more NBA games than college games. I always loved the NBA, but I got a little derailed from watching it, thanks to moving to Brooklyn and not having a TV or cable for the first three years that I lived here. Anyway, I still think that the NBA should move to a two-year rule. Or let kids who are ready come out of high school7. Or join the D-League for, say, two years if the NBAPA isn’t willing to give up vet roster spots to cheap talent. Look, I don’t think there’s an obvious right answer, but anything’s better than the situation as it currently stands8.
See? It only took four years, but I was able to string together a series of sentences that make more sense and present a case with more clarity than I did back then. And I did it without incorporating a Simmons-ism (“swagger, smiles, always knew when he was killing it”)9. Also, given hindsight, I like that preemptive pot shot at Josh Selby. High fives!
However, I’m going to have to take issue with the Jayhawks’ current laundry situation. Our program invented basketball and we take that shit way too seriously. I mean, I was -90 or so when Naismith wrote the first set of rules in Canadian. Our uniforms should reflect that tradition. Our new uniforms (in my opinion), piss all over that tradition. They look like the kind of shit a community college would have. What do I mean? We used to have fucking classic uniforms, which I loved. Other than the university spending the GDP of Nigeria to get a new logo (in Trajan font and, hilariously, almost identical toKutztown University’s logo), our unis haven’t changed much. This year, adidas and KU decided to take on the look of OSU or something. It’s just not what I want in a uniform. There are too many little finishing flourishes. On top of that, the stripes down the side are like lightning bolts (the kind found on box car derby entrants, not the band). What the fuck is that about? Straight lines down the back, zig-zags on the side. When did Kansas become some kind of Euro League version of a basketball team? A jersey, to me should be elegant and tasteful (funny since I’m keeping myself entertained by using profanity in blog about a basketball team full of questionable characters). The name of the team, the number, the player’s name, if you’re so inclined. That should be it.
Well, there’s some good thinking in there, as well as some evergreen jokes. The writing though? Leaves a lot to be desired. I’m kind of like a raw talent in this graph: you can see what I’m going for, but I really fail on execution. Particularly painful are the jokes about how much the university spent to settle on the movie poster font and the completely broken joke about forgotten Blink-182 side project Boxcar Racer. The gist of this is good though. I really did hate those uniforms when we started wearing them (though I grew to not really care enough eventually). I felt like they were just too of-the-moment. The multi-directional accents on the shirts and pants lacked a classic feel and seemed more akin to a program like USF. The sad thing is that I would have liked them probably if they’d been Florida Gulf Coast’s uniforms during their magic tourney run.
I’ve been having a problem with the college uniforms for a couple of years now. It all started when Carolina started to make their unis more “modern.” Last year was an orgasm of terrible uniforms, propigated by Nike. You see, they started making these uniforms that feature a watermark-style image on the back. Kentucky, Duke and Texas all have this style of uniforms. They’re all goddamned confusing (Texas’s the least so; I’ve been able to make out the Lone Star over the Austin Capitol building, rather than UK which, I suppose features Ashley Judd and Duke which features Christian Laetner (Meredith, a rabid Duke fan,
claims that itsays it reminds her of a circuit board…because Kyle Singler was clearly built in a robotics lab…ZING! (I wrote that joke before I saw Singler’s trick shot video, so I realize now it was a not fucking joke, it was the truth))). Just stop adding shit to the jerseys, please. I thought I was safe with adidas since they seemed content to draw as little attention to themselves as possible to avoid anyone pointing to their Nazi sympathizing founder.
So many parentheses…total mystery how anyone kept reading this shit with all those asides within asides within asides. Two thoughts here: the aerogram Nike uniforms have gotten better in recent years since the silhouetted designs on the back are way more visible than they were in the past; I’d just read Sneaker Wars at the time, so clearly I thought it was funny to reference the fact that Adidas and Puma were founded by Nazi sympathizing brothers. Kind of an abstract reference unless you already knew that about the two companies. Believe me, they’re like ten steps removed from that part of their shared history at this point.
Maybe this is small gripe. It really probably doesn’t matter what the uniform looks like, just who is wearing it. I just kind of long for the days of solid color jerseys and no fucking accents. I mean, if I’m admitting that Seinfeld is right, I’d kind of like to be proud of what’s in the wash.
Nah…it matters what the uniform looks like since we’re nearing peak turnover here.The fuck was I think back then? We barely have time to figure out who is wearing the jersey before they’ve left campus. That said, I love this years regular uniforms. While we wore the grey alternates from last year against Rider, the home whites that we wore in our opening contest were gorgeous. Simple and classic. While maintaining the Trajan logo and word/name plates, they call back to the 1952 uniforms (as well as the throwbacks we wore two years ago). It’s a good look. Understated and elegant.
Now that I’ve gotten that shit out of the way, I need to address tonight’s game and, ah, fuck it, Tuesday’s game as well (don’t worry, there’s another player profile coming this weekend). Tonight, God’s Team is taking on the Green Machine of North Texas. I already ripped these jokers for having a lame, barely-out-of-middle-school team name (mascot? Who the fuck wants to be on a team whose mascot is a goddamned robot?). I really shouldn’t rag on them anymore for that. What I am going to say is I’m kind of intrigued by this match up after they beat Texas Tech. I love Bobby Knight (this is how he motivated players when he wasn’t throwing chairs). I wanted to love his son, but for some reason, the fucker doesn’t want to strangle players. Which leads to the Red Raiders losing to North fucking Texas. I didn’t see the game, but it seemed like there was no fire from Tech. Hey, Pat, if you want to inspire your team, throw a fucking chair! It’s not rocket science. If you don’t believe me, here’s some homework. Take a photo of your trophy case, then drive to your dad’s house. Go to his trophy case and compare it to the photo. Exactly. Grow a pair and at least become “The Lieutenant.” My guess, 53-87. If you see a bonfire in Brooklyn on Friday, I’m just burning a giant wooden 62 that I built.
Man, look at that vitirol. Uncontrolled rage. At college kids! Playing a game! I like to think I’ve come a long way from being a complete and total asshole to a mild asshole who talks more about the games and less about the hilarious foibles of personality or logo design. I tell myself that anyway. I’m pretty sure I’m only 50% more tolerable now. Also, Pat Knight was terrible at coaching. I mean, like really, really bad. Though, as a kinder, gentler man, I’d like to distance myself from my pro-chair-chucking stance.
The other game coming up is Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. There is just so much wrong with this team. I mean, they’re playing three Big 12 teams (broken up only by Ohio proper University). They’re the fucking Islanders – IN TEXAS (click the link…that’s not a fucking island)! Sure, Corpus Christi is a port town, but come on. Who are you kidding? Is this some kind of Viking trick, a la the Greenland/Iceland Boobby Trap? Seriously. I’m amazed at the scrubs that come into the Phog to thank us for a flailing. Anyway, they’re stats are terrible. The only thing they have going for them is that they’re mediocre at field goal percentage. Otherwise, they’re barely scraping by in assists (233rd, which puts them right above D-II schools). I’m calling this one another blowout (is 62-120 too much?), Marcus “MC Double-Deuce” Morris notches just shy of a triple-double (to totes negate the nickname I just made up for him) and I end up setting fire to that number 63 I built following the burning of the number 62 (see above).
And yet, I do love making fun of a team for being called the Islanders when their university is situated on what is decidedly not an island. That’s gold! The rest of this is a little harsh since I’m an adult and these guys were still teenagers when I wrote about them being scrubs. They were trying! They just weren’t very good. It’s sad really. Also, I’m glad I abandoned the premise of offsetting nicknames within the regular names. You guys are smart. You can figure out who I’m talking about10.
* – I found this cover hysterical. Look, Julian was a great player. Great. But the fact that Mario Chalmers is standing behind him is…it’s just ridiculous. Not because Chalmers was necessarily a better player, but because a year and a half later, Chalmers became immortal with his three pointer to force OT in the national championship. Wright is just a blip in the history of KU. As my friend Schuyler says, “Julian was the best thing that ever happened to us. He left, we won a championship. Couldn’t have done it without him.”
Just as true when I wrote it as it is today.
That’s it, everyone. Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me. I also hope you didn’t spend too much time reading the old parts and only read the new stuff because that…that was some painful stuff to reread.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, everybody!
1 – Including the fun but highly sporadic God’s Warrior series. That first year, God’s Warrior posts came quick and easy. Most of the guys on the team at the time had been around long enough that you knew something about them. Other years? Not so much. This year should (all things being perfect) be like that first year, where I get something up about all the key players. Please don’t hold me to it, though. Back
2 – Which are just annoying enough to make me want to port this bad boy over to a hosted WordPress site so I can install a footnote plugin and call it a day. As I invalidating the annoying factor making a footnote about how annoying adding in the HTML for the footnotes actually is. Back
3 – I mean, shit…it took basically a college career’s worth of writing to iron out enough kinks that, save for my refusal to reread anything I write for editing purposes (if you know a free editor, hit me up!), I feel like I’m in a good place with tone and presentation. Though, I think the theme could use a facelift at this point. Back
4 – In my mind, feature pieces are anything that’s not a straight preview or recap. Things like God’s Warrior are like a half feature, while the Jayhawk Holiday Shopping Guide is a true feature despite being an annual series. Back
5 – For reasons that should become abundantly clear shortly, I might not actually be proud of this piece anymore. We shall see… Back
6 – Kind of a director’s cut. Rather than cut and paste the whole thing, I’ll probably just pull out some choice nuggets and make fun of myself for them. Otherwise, you’ll miss Thanksgiving dinner altogether trying to get through this shit. Back
7 – Because examples abound of successful guys coming straight from high school. Guys like LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, or Kobe Bryant. Or Andray Blatche (whose success is measured more by extracurriculars than on court achievement). Back
8 – For what it’s worth, I would like to see something like the MLB’s system where you can declare out of high school, but if you choose to go to college, you’re locked in for a certain number of years. Technically, that would still make college something of a pro bono farm system for the NBA. However, it would also give kids more time to learn a system and show that they can master something more complex than the dumbed down schemes that guys like Calipari have been forced to run due to high turnover. It would also give college fans something more rewarding than the fleeting glory of a flash of raw talent11. Additionally, I wouldn’t be opposed to the expansion in utilization of the D-League. Right now, it’s more of a Google Labs for NBA teams than a place that you send guys to help them develop their skills. Having a player who comes out of high school spend a mandatory D-League year or two could make that league something more than a passing attraction for hoops junkies outside of a major market. Back
9 – Obviously, Bill Simmons was an influence on me. As he was for a whole mess of writers out there. When I first started writing Long Distance Jayhawk, I clearly copped a lot of his phrasing and ideas. I like to think that as I’ve gotten better, I’ve also shed the crutch. But maybe I haven’t. So, if I’m just being delussional here, please don’t bring it to my attention. I’d rather live in blissful ignorance. Back
10 – I hope, anyway. Back
1 – Obviously, the narrative angle for college hoops fans isn’t something that anyone at the NBA level (or even really the college level) give a shit about. They’re chief concern is winning since that has a material impact on the bottom line. Back
Filed under: Recap
“The Russians are strangling me.”
Not making that one up, but that’s a quote from my father while we were in halftime of last night’s Rider game. He was talking about how his email address is apparently a spam magnet and, in some indirect way, it was leading to his credit card numbers getting boosted1. I don’t know. He’s a weird guy sometimes.
I’d forgotten what it is like to watch a game with my parents, since it’s basically been a year. When it isn’t UNC, they talk through the action and about some really random things. Like spam filters. And their new dog Ocie. Sometimes, I want to be like “Yo, trying to watch and take notes here!”
Kidding! My parents are great. Plus, people chit-chatting through an important mudhole stomping of Rider is a small price to pay to spend Thanksgiving at the beach. You know you’re jealous. Especially since I get to enjoy Boulevard while I’m down here2. Well, I guess if you never left you get to enjoy Boulevard all the time.
But do you get to spend your holiday on the beach? Or with this bad ass puppy?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Final Score: Rider 60-87 Kansas
The Good: The first half was a highlight reel of good, solid basketball plays. The ball was whipping around the court crisply and we were making that extra pass or playing good help on offense. Plays like the Green three-pointer off a few passes and a beautiful Cliff pick or the Greene miss that Gentleman Tailor knocked to Selden for an assist in to Cliff who bruised his way inside were the kinds of plays you like to see. Especially coming off a red ass beatdown at the hands of the Undeservings. Sure, the competition is probably like 20% of what we ran into against Kentucky3, but to see us execute like we’d played basketball once before in our lives was refreshing.
There were two plays in particular that typified the kind of basketball I want to see from God’s Team. First was the Shape Shifting Lizard Man Eyes oop to Cliff that elicited the STFU hand motion. Seriously, the oop itself, as well as the exciting jog back were near perfect in both their executions. The second play was around the 10:50 mark when Magna got trapped on the baseline4 and managed to thread a bounce pass between the defenders and into the all-too-willing-to-score5 Cliff’s hands. That’s the kind of brainy, wonderful basketball that you can either execute or you can’t. And luckily on that play, Magna did…
The Bad: …because, my god, the baseline trap he managed to get into in the second half was attrocious. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to the rest of the play, but there was no outlet, no safety valve around that could have bailed out that busted play. Which seemed to be the game plan of the second half. Where we were once moving the ball, reversing it around the key and generally, you know, moving around on offense in smart ways, we did none of these things in the second half. At least none of them particularly well. We might have been moving, but ask Traylor if he thinks anyone was moving during that trap and I suspect the answer is no.
Look, it’s hard to look a largely one-sidded affair in the mouth and not be satisfied. Of course it is. But that’s just it, something the announcers touched on: we didn’t seem to play with any focus in the second half6. Seriously, there was certainly movement. It just looked like no one knew where they were supposed to be moving to. And the guys passing to them seemed to expect them to be in place where they most assuredly weren’t. Or, you know, in immediate danger of getting drilled by a double-team. I get that it’s tough to play 40 minutes of quality basketball7, so I’m not trying to be the “dump on some 18 year-old when I couldn’t do five minutes of what he does.” But guys, just stay focused for like 30-35 minutes. That’s all we’re asking. Then…then, you can think about all the Marshawn Lynch flavored Skittles you’re going to wreck8.
Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: Swagger bursts through the door, the malakhim to Toupee. Swagger comes before Bill Self, for Bill Self is above swagger. He sets his Red Bull and vodka, mixed in the can, down on the press conference table. He glances momentarily at the backdrop, a smirk spreading across his face. The room waits for him to speak. Fear mounts that he will speak only in blast beats or that, like Hal Incandeza in Infinite Jest, an unknown ailment will have rendered his speech to be nothing more than a hideous shriek. A banshee wail that makes you wish he still laid straight f-bomb napalm all over the court. But luckily, this isn’t that day. Toupee opens his mouth to speak:
He’s old enough to know how to do what we want to do. He’s a good example for the other guys.
Having spoken, he points to the first reporter that raises his hand to confirm if Toupee is talking about Shape Shifting Lizard Man Eyes. Stormin’ Norman Roberts and Kurtis “Blow” Townsend materialize from nowhere, one pulling a burlap sack down over him so fast it is almost as if there was always a burlap sack standing there. The other takes him out at the ankles. A single, smooth motion that is over in the time it takes to blink. They are disappeared. And then it is over.
Man of the Match: In any match where you smoke the opponent by 27, there are a lot of deserving candidates. Hell, plenty of guys had to score a metric shit ton of points to carry the day by that many. I like to appreciate the guy that makes it all possible, though, so the Man of the Match is none other than Shape Shifting Lizard Man eyes. You don’t need any points, Selden. You just do you and dish out nine assists in a game and you’ll quickly earn your way into God’s Favorite Warrior status (until the next game when you give up like 15 turnovers).
Looking Ahead: Rhode Island. Is that even a state still? Why doesn’t Connecticut or Massachusettes just annex the fucker already and call it a day? Having an even 50 states is overrated9.
1 – First off, that was the wrong time to be asking me about how to get a better spam filter for your email address (the short answer: switch to Gmail). Second off, I don’t know that the amount of spam he’s receiving has much to do with identity theft. Trust me, I had a four month run earlier in the year where my cards were getting compromised roughly every ten days. Turns out someone had managed to hack a ton of self-service card swiping machines in my neighborhood. For about a month, I was 100% convinced that all my computers were fucked and that I’d have to start from scratch, computer-wise. Still, I’m pretty sure that the spam had little to do with all the theft happening. Back
2 – Supposedly, Boulevard’s sale to Chimay has allowed the brewery to spread its wings to reaches approaching Brooklyn, if you consider New Jersey to be proximal. It isn’t. Though, I have heard rumors that John Brown Smokehouse up in Astoria carries it for like $8 a bottle. Reports are, as of yet, unconfirmed. Back
3 – On the comments of the After Battle for that one, the question of how do you watch that team came up. Initially, I thought of it as a global question, not one specifically honed in on this season. It’s a really good question. How do you watch that team? Isn’t part of the fun of a sporting event the tension that comes with the unknown? Sure, I go into most games thinking we’re going to win, but I don’t believe we’re going to win every single game. Besides, I’ve watched enough Toupee teams to know that there’s always a new and profound way to lose to a shit opponent. With this Kentucky team, though? I mean, how long will any of their games truly be in doubt? Three minutes? Sure, there will be monster dunks and oops, but will Wildcats fans ever feel that tide swinging oop that brings the house down? There’s no way that, outside of the first few minutes they ever get the joy of something like that Cliff jam we had last night10. Back
4 – I love me some Magna, but if this game is any indication, his ability to play his way into a baseline trap might be the basketball move he’s best at. Optimistically, two times in one game (as we’ll see in a bit) are an anomaly and not the good Mari/bad Mari dichotomy that so many hoops players get saddled with (the good would be what he did at the end of the first baseline trap). Back
5 – Well, unless we’re talking about that Shaq-esque whip into the back iron in the first half. Like, it was so flat and so bad, my mom said “The hell kind of free throw is that?” I’m sure Cliff’s ears are burning as you read this. Back
6 – Some other fun things they discussed: whether or not Naismith Court should be wider because dudes were stepping out of bounds11; getting inside each others heads and how scary that would be, presumably because Chris Piper is so fucking anodyne that most normal people would die of boredom inside his head; everyone having a career night12. Gotta love the Jayhawk IMG Network dudes. Back
7 -I’m a Nets fan and I can vouch that they can barely string together two coherent plays in a row, let alone even 24 minutes of solid, NBA basketball. Don’t let the dismantling they dealt to the c-string Thunder and the woeful Knicks fool you. They’re not a good squad and they’re paid to do this shit. So I can totally see how it would be hard for some student-first athletes to focus for a full 40 minutes. Back
8 – I didn’t mention poor Svi! God, the ending of the first half where he was popping all over the place was a thing of beauty. Especailly the play where he catches a well-executed catch-and-shoot on the wing, hoists and misses. Rather than just marvel at his own beauty, he hustles in, manages to snare his own board which set up that nice little Mason back to Svi lob. It’s been a while, chums, but just like Toupee drew it up. Back
9 – Fun side note: I really thought our first game in this little pre-conference tourney was against Santa Clara. Which is a shame because I actually know someone that went to school there and I was looking forward to some good natured shit talking leading up to the game. Then, him slowly melting down via text. Sadly, I’ll just have to sweat out their matchup with the Vols and hope. Back
10 – Was it just me or was Cliff’s assist props also a “shh” hand gesture? Who was he shushing? The crowd? Someone talking shit on the other team? Anyone who called him soft after that Kentucky massacre? I’m guessing it was that third one. Back
11 – This isn’t the EPL (and presumably all of soccer) where you can just arbitrarily decide how wide or narrow your field is to try and maximize the strengths of your killer squad. Or, I suppose, minimize the weaknesses of your inferior squad to try and avoid relegation. Which is something that The Starters actually touched on in last week’s episode of The Drop. I knew that about the field widths in EPL, so it was funny to hear someone discussing what it would be like in the NBA. Though, the idea that hoops should be played outdoors for any serious game is…one…I’m not really down with. Back
12 – Ugh…I watched the game after the fact since I was flying when it was actually happening (thank god for Watch ESPN replays!), so I didn’t get on Twitter at all while it was actually happening. I didn’t bother to go back and scroll the timeline for references to it, but they were trying to be humorous with the whole career night thing, right? I didn’t hear any hints of chuckling, really, so my other thought that it was the a snarky commentary about one-and-dones and career highs being kind of meaningless when you only play 32 games. Which has to be wrong since neither of those guys seem savvy enough to drop that on us. Back
Filed under: Preview
I should have been a shoe model, am I right? Look at that subtle, coy pose I’m busting in my new Adidas1. I really missed my calling there.
That’s from the other night when a couple of friends and I went to the final night of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic2. It was a special night, the special kind where you don’t remember having a photo taken of your shoes. Or you decide that the best chaser for a double-dose of square slices is a Nathan’s all the way3.
Yeah, that kind of night.
But definitely fun. The weird thing about the night was that the game was sparesly attended. What happened, Dukies? Couldn’t handle the bridge and tunnel to support your Blue Devils? The vibe was kind of sad, given that this was a Saturday night and there’s like 90% of all Duke grads living one state over.
Travel better, you entitled pricks.
Official Name: Rider…what? College? University?
Derisive Nickname: Missing Os
Signature Win: Since I did all my research over the weekend, I realize now that I took zero notes on games they’ve actually played. Now that I’m wrapping this thing up on a plane heading to visit my parents, I don’t have the ability to look up their signature win. Not that it matters. They’re playing bullshit Ivy League schools like Princeton, so it isn’t like they’re challenging themselves or anything4.
Key Players: The London Strangler, Teddy Okerafor, a 6’4” Junior guard that’s averaging a respectable 15.7 PPG hailing from London, England. I mean, 15.7 PPG isn’t that impressive until you remember that this kid might be the most important British basketball player since Luol Deng and Luol Deng wasn’t actually born there5! Kidding. I’m sure there are plenty of solid basketball players from England. I just don’t know anything about them. Anyway, I expect our guards to have their hands full keeping this kid from popping off for a career night.
Keys to Victory: See above. The obvious answer is how our guards play on the defensive end. I can really only see one of two outcomes: The London Strangler takes any and all shots he wants, torching us for like 30 points while no one else on the Missing Os manages to crack ten; we shut this kid down, only to see one or more of the other Rider players have a career night6. I’m assuming that Renegade Cop will get the assignment to start across from Okerafor since he’s our most tenacious defender and won’t shy away from the pressure. Should that not work out the way Toupee envisions, I could see some of Devonte’ Graham on him too7.
The second scenario could also be in play. My candidate for a different Missing O to pop off for a career night is their true center, the 7’ Lopez. He’s listed at 245 lbs, which seems a little slight and might explain his lower average (7.3 PPG). However, nothing that I’ve seen in our first two match ups gives me much confidence that we’ll be able to contain him. Unless he’s slow as shit8, I could see him working us over and abusing our interior the way Williams did9.
Look, I don’t think we’re going to lose, but I don’t think this is a cakewalk like we need to get over that Kentucky curb stomping.
Delicious Local (to the enemy) Beer to Avoid: Didn’t research this topic either before hopping on this plane, so I don’t have much to contribute to the suds and buds conversation right now. Your best bet, as always, is to stick with Free State.
The Battle of the Haberdashers: Our uniforms are gorgeous this year10, marrying the multi-million dollar branding initiative and those ’52 throwbacks we rocked during the WITHEY! Block Party. How am I going to go against those beauts?
Completely Mathematically Accurate Projection (backed up by science)11: Rider 68-Kansas 82
1 – It’s really weird, but I tend to buy two pairs of shoes in like August or September of every year. One pair is a black pair of sneakers for every day wear. The other is a (most often) Kansas themed pair of Adidas. Last year, it was a pair of red and blue Sambas. This year, I’m rocking those bad boys. Not quite KU colors, but close enough. Plus, they have safety reflective panels that are totally bad ass. Back
2 – I swear at some point, someone told me that an invitational is a tournament, while a classic is a multiple game, one-night event without an overall winner. But I could be wrong about that…highly likely, since I really don’t see any rhyme or reason to the naming of these damned things. Back
3 – I have a half-season ticket to the Nets (you end up in section 204, hit me up, I’m probably there), so I spend a lot of time at Barclays. Once you’ve been there like 50 times, you stop doing things like buying food and beers. You’re just sort of there, you know? I was trying to explain it to people, but going to the arena isn’t like an event to me at this point. I still love watching hoops there, but you know, it’s just another way to consume a basketball game at this point. Like watching at home on YES, but without the dulcet tones of Ian Eagle and the Czar of the Telestrator, Mike Fratello. Also, a Nathan’s footlong all the way involves chili and melted Velveeta. Between that and the pizza, I wasn’t doing my waistline any favors Saturday night. Back
4 – Correct me if I’m wrong, but I kind of remember seeing that they lost to Princeton, too. Way to go, guys! That’s the way to start the season right! Back
5 – Fun fact: back in 2012, like a week before the Olympics started, I’m about 90% sure I saw Deng at the beer garden at The Standard in SoHo. I wanted to go over and confirm, but I also find it tacky to talk to celebrities, so I just sat there and stared at him from across the open bar, like a total creeper. Back
6 – It’s really stupid, but based on the early returns, I feel like we’re primed to be a team that wins like 85% of our games while also letting a ton of guys on the opposition have career nights. I don’t think that’ll last forever, but I can totally see us letting dude’s score as many as they feel like on a nightly basis. Makes me long for the Morrii’s Junior year when we basically started the season in conference play form and went from there. Back
7 – Small sample size, yada yada, but I was really excited to see Graham’s defense in the UCSB game. Sure, the Kentucky massacre wasn’t a great showing (by anyone, really). In that first game, though, Graham looked really good. He played with an enthusiasm that bordered on recklessness at times. That kind of spark, that kind of energy is the kind of thing we need, either off the bench or in the starter’s role. I can totally see some sets and rotations that put Graham on Okerafor to try and force turnovers, especially if Renegade Cop is ineffective or in early foul trouble. Back
8 – Full disclosure: I haven’t watched a single minute of Rider basketball. Definitely not this year and most likely never. Back
9 – There’s still an outstanding warrant in Lawrence for Williams abusing our interior players, if I’m not mistaken. Back
10 – More on this topic coming Wednesday, so be prepared! It’s a call back/director’s cut/what have you of the first feature piece I ever wrote for this blog. And it’s about uniforms! Back
11 – The kind of “science” Kurt Schilling likes to throw around. Transitional fossil record? I’LL SHOW YOU TRANSITIONAL FOSSILS, YOU BLOODY SOCK NINCOMPOOP! Back