Long Distance Jayhawk


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

Out with the old patsies and in with the new.

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

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

My point exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

#10 – Texas Tech Red Raiders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Might I suggest drinking or fly fishing?

#9 – Oklahoma Sooners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#8 – Texas Christian Horned Frogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

#7 – West Virginia Mountaineers

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6 – Iowa State Cyclones

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 – You know, or the off season. Back

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

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

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

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


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[...] to part two of my mega-conference preview. In the previous installment, I knocked out all the teams that are going to be in the cellar of the Big XII X XII, covering each [...]

Pingback by Big XII Preview, Part 2 – …Spit On Them From Such a Lofty Perch « Long Distance Jayhawk




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