A Horns they are a changin

my-obama-me_27-03-15.jpg

What do we need sir? 

Change? 

What should we change? 

Stuff. If you don't change it. I'll have to change other things. 

Steve wants changes to be made. He wants to see improvement,” said the source, who was familiar with the situation. “If we don’t get those changes, (Patterson) will have to make a change.”

Maybe they should just play the first halves of seasons. 

Link to story. 

How Allen Fieldhouse Elevates Expectations

Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/dLTaR9

It's the week before the Sweet 16, and like last year, KU fans all across the nation are avoiding ESPN, CBS and social media so that they can feel less of the strange emptiness one feels at the end of things. 

Because for the second year in an row, with a high seed and a bench full of talented players, Bill Self's team is exactly where it shouldn't be during March. 

Bill Self and his Jayhawks are at home in Kansas.

And just as Generals are always fighting the last war, so too do Kansas fans push through the sadness and into angry practicality, where recrimination and assignment of blame begins, so that we never have to feel like this again. So that college basketball can be fun again.  

You've probably heard and read the same conclusions that I have in the last week, but just in case you haven't I'll sample some of the top ones here. 

  • Bill Self can't coach in the NCAA tournament. 
  • Bill Self doesn't know how to handle one-and-dones (hereafter OADs). 
  • The committee screwed us. 
  • Our players don't have heart. 
  • We need to stop recruiting OADs. 
  • We need to start recruiting players with heart. 
  • Wichita State wanted it more than we did. 
  • We need to start playing Wichita State like the TV guys say we should, even though it would cost us $500k to do so. 
  • etc. 

All of this is nonsense. 

We lost for two reasons. 

1. Jump Shots: 

We played a very solid Wichita State team that shot very well from the three point line.

We were a pretty good team with a battered post presence which shot just ok from the three point line. At one point during the second half, WSU had outscored KU by something like 20 points behind the arc. Unless you are dominant in the post (without Cliff and with ¾ of a Perry we were not), you are not going to compensate for that sort of gap.  

Two days earlier WSU shot 2/13 from deep against Indiana, one of the worst defensive teams in the tournament. They made 10/20 against KU and were closer to 60% when it mattered. 

Evan Wessel, who shot 12% from the three point line last year, who when no one is guarding him, manages to shoot a blistering 52% from the free throw line, made nearly 70% of his threes against KU. Despite or perhaps because of his haircut.

Forget Sam Brownback, Evan Wessel is the real King of Kansas. 

2. The Magic of Allen Fieldhouse

What does Allen Fieldhouse have to do with Wichita State? 

Well first, Bill Self would be happy for WSU to come and play at AFH all day long, but is too much of a gentleman, unlike some people, to play that card in public.

The answer which you had to wait a whole paragraph for, is seeding. 

Ask yourself a question. If KU had a 4 seed this year and WSU a 5 seed, would you uttered as many profanities and curses as you did with KU as a 2 and WSU as a 7? I doubt you would. And since you aren't here to dispute it, I'm going to say no, you would not. 

So why does Allen matter? 

Because we owe our high seeds to the Phog. Particularly for the last two years, despite the weaknesses that the teams obviously had, we got top two seeds. We were probably a 4 this year and a 2-3 last year. 

The combination of Self and AFH means that KU will (almost?) always be a high seed, even when the team has significant holes, key injuries and/or little-to-no experience. Other coaches or programs with less of a home court advantage typically see enough regular season losses that those teams (assuming they even make the tournament) have much lower seeds, thus much lower post-season expectations.

In other words, Bill's incredible regular season success, even after losing 5 starters, suffering injuries or being heavily dependent on Freshmen, sometimes gets KU higher seeds than the actual team we have available going into the post-season really deserves, so it shouldn't be too surprising when those specific teams get beaten the first weekend. 

So we aren't like the Generals fighting the last war, let's look at the teams individually. 

The Experienced and The Healthy

Self has had 7 teams ('04, '07, '08, '10, '11, '12, '13) which were reasonably experienced, mostly healthy and playing at or above their season average going into the NCAA tournament.  

6 of those 7 reached the Sweet 16, though the '04 team clearly benefitted from playing #13 and #12 seeds in Kansas City.  

The lone exception was 2010 and though Northern Iowa played out of their minds,  that was unquestionably a bad loss.

The Young and the Battered

Self has also had five teams which counted on multiple inexperienced players ('06, '09, '14, '15), had at least one starter out or significantly limited by injury ('05, '14, '15) or entered the post-season playing well below their season average ('05, '15).

These teams lost the first weekend 4 times. The only one to make it to the Sweet 16 ('09) had a strong veteran leader (Sherron) to somewhat counterbalance their inexperience and had the good fortune to play #14 and #11 seeds to get into the second weekend.

Why should this make me feel better? 

Because if you look at the makeup of the teams that have "disappointed," you'll see that their performance was relatively unsurprising. You (and most of the rest of us) just expected too much of them because of the number next to their name on Selection Sunday.

The concern then should be much less about how the latter group of teams, including the last two, have done, but rather how to get back to regularly having experienced teams (ideally with enough depth to better survive an injury), so that we can reasonably expect to see the type of tournament results which the first group has produced.

So no more OADs right? 

It's easy to look at he OAD era of college basketball and to dislike, even hate it. I think the one and done rule is bad for college basketball, and more importantly, mostly bad for the kids as well. But would we have won the last two Big 12 championships without Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre? No way. 

The issues that have really hurt us in the last two years are depth and inexperience.

Where did that come from? It wasn't OADs, it was underwhelming recruiting and bad luck. 

Here are KU's 2011 and 2012 recruiting classes:

2011

  • Braeden Anderson - A 6-8 forward, the Canadian Anderson was said to be gifted, but was deemed ineligible by the Big 12 due to partial qualification status. He had a decent year at Fresno State, but got into a car accident and has since left the game while focusing on getting into law school. 
  • Merv Lindsay - Played one year at UNM after leaving KU, averaging 0.6 ppg. 
  • Ben McLemore - Redshirted due to NCAA eligibility issues and had a breakout season before heading to the NBA. 
  • Naadir Tharpe - Left before this year after a turnover-filled season and embarrassing off-season. 
  • Jamari Traylor - Incredible hustler and solid, if inconsistent and undersized forward for KU. 

2012

  • Milton Doyle - Has had a solid couple of years at Loyola Chicago. 
  • Perry Ellis - Our best player this year and likely next. A fantastic ambassador for the Jayhawks who was at no more than 70% for the last 7-10 games of the season. 
  • Landen Lucas - A late bloomer who contributed a lot once Cliff was injured, but who was never expected to dominate. Will be a solid four year player for us. 
  • Zach Peters - A promising prospect (and incredibly early commit) who is no longer playing basketball due to concussion issues. 
  • Andrew White - A big guard / small forward who was stuck in a log jam at the wing. 
  • Anrio Adams - Gave up basketball for eating pretend cereal on the sidelines. 

Out of those eleven players, just three of them are still on the roster. You can add Joel Embiid to the list as well, since we had every expectation that he would be here at least this year when we recruited him. He just blew up and started hitting on Rihanna. And that was that. 

Where do we go now? 

First, we should be thankful. We managed to win two conference championships in years which we had no business doing so. We got to see some guys grow and play tough and go undefeated in conference at Allen Fieldhouse. Sure we didn't end the last two seasons how we would have liked, but we probably expected more from those teams than they were able to give, especially with the injury luck that both had. 

As fans we always remember the things that might have been when things don't go our way, but we rarely stop to remember that we've gotten our share of good bounces as well. Without Allen Fieldhouse, we would have probably won a few less games this year and last, and had lower seeds as a result. Maybe we would have lost as a 3 or a 4 seed.

Would that have been better than hanging two banners? 

No way brother.

REAL Standings: The All Chalk Edition

Image credit: Mike Yoder of the Lawrence Journal World

Image credit: Mike Yoder of the Lawrence Journal World

I hope your REAL life was full of fun and excitement during this mid-week period, because those qualities were sorely lacking on the Big 12’s basketball courts. A couple of weeks from now, they would call this “chalk” (and not of the Rock variety). To summarize:

  • Texas defeated Baylor in Austin, as projected. Both teams’ REAL records remained the same.
  • Iowa State defeated Oklahoma in Ames, as projected. Both teams’ REAL records remained the same.
  • KU defeated West Virginia in Lawrence, as projected. Both teams’ REAL records remained the same.
  • Okie St defeated TCU in Stillwater, as projected. Both teams’ REAL records remained the same.

Borrrring!

To be clear, the REAL Standings are not intended to be predictive. It just sometimes seems that way.

In REALity, the REAL Standings serve as an indicator as to which teams are in the best position to win the conference championship based not only on their current records, but on who they have played and where and who they have yet to play and where.

Oklahoma and KU took the inside track to the title early in the season (OU after two games, KU after one), with Road W’s at Texas and Baylor respectively. Those wins resulted in both teams being projected to finish at 13-5, ahead of West Virginia (12.5-5.5), Iowa St (12-6), and Texas and Baylor (11-7).

With one game left on the schedule, KU is projected to finish 13-5, OU at 12-6, West Virginia 11-7, Iowa St 12-6, and Baylor 11-7.

And Texas? OU is fond of saying they suck. (And, to be fair, the reverse is also true.) Which is hard to argue with, considering the pre-season favorite is projected to finish 8-10.

On the bright side, there are five opportunities this weekend for teams with projected L’s to create some excitement by claiming unexpected W’s. If one of those teams is KU, the Jayhawks will win the Big XII title by two games. And won’t that be fun?

As a result:

1. The Road to the Big XII title again went to, not through, Lawrence. The only Big XII team to finish the season undefeated at Home is the 2015 champion.

Imagine that.

2. What else is there?

Current Tiers

  • Tier 1: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia
  • Tier 2: Baylor, K-State, Okie St, Texas
  • Tier 3: TCU
  • Tier 4: Texas Tech

REAL Standings:

1. 13-5

  • KU (13-4) Projected Losses: at OU At risk games: N/A

2. 12-6

  • Iowa St: (11-6) Projected Losses: N/A At risk games: N/A
  • Oklahoma (11-6) Projected Losses: N/A At risk games: N/A

4. 11-7

  • West Virginia (10-7) Projected Losses: N/A At risk games: N/A
  • Baylor (10-7) Projected Losses: N/A At risk games: N/A

6. 8-10

  • Okie St (8-9) Projected Losses: at WVU At risk games: N/A
  • Texas (7-10) Projected Losses: N/A At risk games: N/A
  • K-State (8-9) Projected Losses: at UT At-risk games: N/A

9. 4-14

  • TCU (4-13) Projected Losses: ISU At risk games: N/A

10. 3-15

  • Texas Tech (3-14) Projected Losses: at BU At risk games: N/A

BIG XII SCHEDULE

Friday

1. Texas Tech at Baylor (8:00pm) * (Projected W: BU)

Baylor gets the easiest task of the weekend: The conference’s worst team at Home. Should be a Good Friday for the Bears.

Saturday

2. Okie St at West Virginia (1:00p.m.)*** (Projected W: WVU)

Okie St has lost 4 of their last 5 games, downing only TCU at Home Wednesday night. According to the doctors of bracketology, a W here assures the Cowboys of a spot in the Field of 68.

As for West Virginia, do they have anything left in the tank, even at Home, after busting a gut physically and emotionally for 45 minutes Tuesday night in Allen Fieldhouse?

3. KU at Oklahoma (3:00pm)**** (Projected W: OU)

This game decides whether future generations will look back on 2015 as one in which KU eked out its 11th consecutive conference championship or lapped the field--accurate or inaccurate as either perception might be.

4. K-State at Texas (3:00pm)***1/2 (Projected W: UT)

Texas likely avoids being subjected to further comments about the Longhorn NITwork with a W here, especially if they follow it up with a win their first game in the BOGus XII Tournament next week.

K-State, on the other hand, needs this game desperately to secure an NIT bid.

5. Iowa St at TCU (7:30p.m.) *** (Projected W: ISU)

Iowa St could lose this game. REALly!

There was even a time when it would have mattered.

--Mark

REAL Standings: End of the Road (?) Edition

Texas came into Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday afternoon as desperate as a team can be. With a coach as desperate as a coach can be. Post-season hopes were on the line. Continued employment was on the line. And they played like it. The pre-season Big 12 favorite outscored KU at the Jayhawks’ specialty, three point shooting, 18-3.They only shot 37.7% overall, but held KU to 36.2%. They had but 8 turnovers. They blocked a team record14 shots.

And they busted a gut for forty minutes.

And they lost, as projected.

That’s life on the Road.

Or, in KU’s case, life at Home, as the Jayhawks remained the only Big 12 team unbeaten on its Home court.

In other action, Oklahoma won at Home, as projected over TCU; K-State completed its sweep of At-risk games for the week at Home, dropping Iowa St a half game in the REAL Standings and effectively out of the race that was its for the taking three days earlier; and Texas Tech completed the Saturday sweep by Home team with an un-projected W over Okie St.

As a result:

1. Forget all that talk about the Road going on forever and the party never ending. The Road to the Big 12 title still goes through Lawrence, and that Road just might come to an end Tuesday night. And the party, well, it will end someday. I think.

2. Just when it appeared that TCU might earn a late season promotion to Tier Two and put Oklahoma out of its misery, the Sooners went all Barry Gibb. Not only did OU stay alive to fight another day, they remained in total control of their own destiny. A win in Ames Monday night followed by a W at Home on Saturday will assure OU of no worse than a share of the Big 12 championship. And, yes, we’re talking basketball.

3. Everyone else is playing for seeding in the bogus even in Kansas City next week. Or praying that West Virginia, whose best victory of the season was in Stillwater, will rise up and hand KU its only L of the year in Allen Fieldhouse and bring 12-6 into play for the REAL Big 12 championship.

Current Tiers

Tier 1: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia

Tier 2: Baylor, K-State, Okie St, Texas

Tier 3: TCU

Tier 4: Texas Tech

REAL Standings:

1. 13-5

KU (12-4) Projected Losses: at OU At risk games: N/A

2. 12-6

Iowa St: (10-6) Projected Losses: N/A At risk games: N/A

Oklahoma (11-5) Projected Losses: at ISU At risk games: N/A

4. 11-7

West Virginia (10-6) Projected Losses: at KU At risk games: N/A

Baylor (10-6) Projected Losses: at UT At risk games: N/A

6. 8-10

Okie St (7-9) Projected Losses: at WVU At risk games: N/A

Texas (6-10) Projected Losses: N/A At risk games: N/A

K-State (8-9) Projected Losses: at UT At-risk games: N/A

9. 4-14

TCU (4-12) Projected Losses: at OSU, ISU At risk games: N/A

10. 3-15

Texas Tech (3-14) Projected Losses: at BU At risk games: N/A

BIG 12 SCHEDULE

Monday

1. Baylor at Texas (6:00pm) ***1/2 ( Projected W: UT)

Texas has 6 wins: two each against Tech and TCU, one versus K-State when Marcus Foster was suspended, and their one pretty good (but not great) W of the year, West Virginia at Home. Now they must beat Baylor Monday night and K-State in Austin on Saturday to be on the NCAA bubble heading into Kansas City.

2. Oklahoma at Iowa St (8:00p.m.)**** (Projected W: ISU)

An Iowa St Home victory secures KU at least a share of its 11th straight Big 12 title.

Tuesday

3. West Virginia at KU (8:00pm)**** (Projected W: KU)

A Home victory secures the Jayhawks at least a share of its 11th straight Big 12 title. If Iowa St downs OU in Ames the night before, and the Jayhawks’ stand alone far above the golden valley.

Wednesday

4. TCU at Okie St (8:00pm)** (Projected W: OSU)

What would Joe Lunardi have to say about a fifth straight loss and a 7-10 conference record heading into Morgantown? “Bubble”? “First Four out”? Okie St does not want to find out.

--Mark

REAL Standings: The Big Jake Edition

Fain (Richard Boone): Who are you? McCandles (John Wayne): Jacob McCandles.

Fain: I thought you were dead.

McCandles: Not hardly.

Moments later, Fain is dead. John Wayne is hurt, but, though limping, collects his sons and grandson and heads Home to Maureen O’Hara.

In Big 12 mid-week action, KU dropped a half game in the REAL Standings Monday night, dropping an At-risk game at K-State. With a Projected Loss in the season finale at Oklahoma, there were those who thought KU’s Quest for its 11th straight Big 12 Title was dead.

Not hardly.

Enter Scott Drew. It is common knowledge that Drew is the most disliked coach in the Big 12 by his peers. But Wednesday night, even if only for one night, he was the most popular man in Lawrence, Kansas. Iowa St’s Projected W vs. Baylor turned L cost the Cyclones not merely half a game, but a full game in the REAL Standings, dropping them a half game behind the Jayhawks.

It was there for the taking, but Iowa St refused to take it.

Thanks, Scotty.

In games of zero consequence, West Virginia took care of Texas, as Projected, at Home, and TCU did the same to Texas Tech.

As a result:

1. The Road to the Big 12 Title STILL goes through Lawrence. In fact, the Jayhawks are in their best position of the year to claim at least a share of the crown: The number of games they need to win in order to clinch a co-championship is the number of Home games (2) they have remaining.

You could say the Jayhawks are dormie.

2. Iowa St, which was in control of its own destiny for two days, is, again, dependent on the kindness of others.

3. Oklahoma and West Virginia ARE in control of their own destiny. Win out, and they are assured of at least a co-championship with KU, each other, or Iowa St. Of course, winning out for either team will be no small feat. For OU, it will involve beating Iowa St in Ames and KU in Norman. For West Virginia, winning in Waco and Lawrence.

4. Baylor now possesses the best Road Win of the Big 12 season. Should the Bears be reinstated to Tier One? Well, they also have the third best Road Win of the season, at West Virginia—following which, they promptly lost at Home to Okie St. Otherwise, they would be in the conversation for the league title.

Baylor might be the best of the Tier Two teams, but their “body of work” is, still, that of a Tier Two team. And here they will remain.

Current Tiers

Tier 1: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia

Tier 2: Baylor, K-State, Okie St, Texas

Tier 3: TCU

Tier 4: Texas Tech

REAL Standings:

1. 13-5

KU (11-4) Projected Losses: at OU At risk games: N/A

2. 12.5-5.5

Iowa St: (10-5) Projected Losses: N/A At risk games: at KSU

3. 12-6

Oklahoma (10-5) Projected Losses: at ISU At risk games: N/A

4. 11.5-6.5

West Virginia (10-5) Projected Losses: at KU At risk games: at BU

5. 10.5-7.5

Baylor (9-6) Projected Losses: at UT At risk games: WVU

6. 9-9

Okie St (7-8) Projected Losses: at WVU At risk games: N/A

7. 8-10

Texas (6-9) Projected Losses: at KU At risk games: N/A

8. 7.5-10.5

K-State (7-9) Projected Losses: at UT At-risk games: ISU

9. 4-14

TCU (4-11) Projected Losses: at OU, at OSU, ISU At risk games: N/A

10. 2-16

Texas Tech (2-14) Projected Losses: OSU, at BU At risk games: N/A

BIG 12 SCHEDULE

Saturday

1. TCU at Oklahoma (1:00pm) **( Projected W: OU)

OU has shown that it can lose to a Tier Two team in Norman (K-State). If it happens again, the Sooners are history.

2. West Virginia at Baylor (3:00p.m.)** *1/2 (Projected W: BU)

The Mountaineers try to accomplish in Waco what they could not in Morgantown. If they fail, they are history.

3. Iowa St at K-State (3:00pm)**** (At-risk game)

Another court-stormer in Manhattan? If so, the Cyclones are history.

4. Okie St at Texas Tech (3:00pm)*1/2 (Projected W: OSU)

No history in the making here.

5. Texas at Kansas (4:00p.m.)**** (Projected W: KU)

The Jayhawks are the only Big 12 team without a Loss on their Home court. As long as that continues, History awaits.

--Mark

REAL Standings: The February Final Four Edition

Four games remain in the 2015 Big 12 season, and Iowa State has pulled into a flat-footed tie for the REAL lead in the Big 12 standings courtesy of its second consecutive At-risk victory, this time in Austin. Both ISU and KU are now projected to win 13 games, with a 14th just sitting there for the taking in Manhattan. For the first time in recorded history, the newspaper standings are relevant. They reveal that KU, at 11-3, has one advantage over ISU at 10-4: the Jayhawks are in complete control of their destiny. ISU is not. The Cyclones can only hope that the REAL Standings projections ae true to form and Oklahoma defeats KU, as projected, in Norman on March 7.

KU, on the other hand, can close out Iowa St by winning its Final Four games. Doing so would give the Jayhawks an uncatchable 15-3 record.

In spite of Iowa St’s heroics Saturday in Austin, KU maintained a share of the REAL lead by winning as projected vs. TCU in Lawrence.

Perhaps the most interesting result of the weekend was West Virginia’s Road win in Stillwater. Suddenly, everyone is beating Okie St everywhere. Does Travis Ford get a bonus if he keeps the Okie St alum from winning his 11th straight title at Kansas? That would be kind of spiteful, don’t you think? But who can tell what Boone Pickens would do for spite?

In other games, K-State went into full-fledged withering-away mode in Waco, losing by about four touchdowns. Probably saving their energy for Monday night.

And Oklahoma needed overtime to take its projected Road W at Texas Tech.

As a result:

1. The Road to the Big 12 Title still goes through Lawrence. That is unlikely to change before March 7; but if K-State beats the Jayhawks Monday night in Manhattan, all bets are off.

2. West Virginia, which was on the verge of being demoted to Tier 2 with 4 seconds remaining in last Monday’s game vs. KU, remains a factor in the Big 12 race, at least in theory, and a spoiler in fact. Get your tickets for their March 3 game in Lawrence while they’re hot.

3. Iowa St--well, we have already talked about Iowa St. For a team that lost in Lubbock, they are sitting pretty at the moment. They just need a little help from their friends.

Current Tiers

Tier 1: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia

Tier 2: Baylor, K-State, Okie St, Texas

Tier 3: TCU

Tier 4: Texas Tech

REAL Standings:

1. 13.5-4.5

KU (11-3) Projected Losses: at OU At risk games: at KSU

Iowa St: (10-4) Projected Losses: N/A At risk games: at KSU

2. 12-6

Oklahoma (10-5) Projected Losses: at ISU At risk games: N/A

4. 11.5-6.5

West Virginia (9-5) Projected Losses: at KU At risk games: at BU

5. 9.5-8.5

Baylor (8-6) Projected Losses: at ISU, at UT At risk games: WVU

6. 9-9

Okie St (7-8) Projected Losses: at WVU At risk games: N/A

7. 8-10

Texas (6-8) Projected Losses: at WVU, at KU At risk games: N/A

8. 7-11

K-State (6-9) Projected Losses: at UT At-risk games: KU, ISU

9. 4-14

TCU (3-11) Projected Losses: at OU, at OSU, ISU At risk games: N/A

10. 2-16

Texas Tech (2-13) Projected Losses: at TCU, OSU, at BU At risk games: N/A

BIG 12 SCHEDULE

Monday

1. KU at K-State (8:00pm)***1/2 ( At-risk game)

Just like the good ol’ days when KU vs. K-State decided the conference championship. Think Kruger v. Kivisto. Hartman vs. Owens.

Of course, in the good ol’ days, the winner of this game won the championship. That will probably be the case this year if the Jayhawks come away victorious. If K-State wins, they can make a video.

Tuesday

2. Texas at West Virginia (6:00p.m.)** (Projected W: WVU)

Sometimes, the announcers who get paid handsome sums to talk about basketball just leave you shaking your head. In Saturday’s game in Austin, how any times did they mention that UT had recently won three straight games. Yes, vs. TCU in Austin, K-State with Marcus Foster suspended, and Texas Tech somewhere or other. So what?

In this game, Texas are playing a nominal contender on the Road. What do you think will happen? Who cares as long as they don’t suddenly right their sinking ship and come into Lawrence Saturday with a legitimate Road Win under their belts?

Wednesday

3. Texas Tech at TCU (7:00pm)* (Projected W: TCU)

Get some exercise. Go bowling.

4. Baylor at Iowa St (8:00pm)*** (Projected W: ISU)

Scott Drew vs. Fred Hoiberg on the Road. This is what Dickie V referred to, in his more lucid days, as an M and M’er (i.e., a Mis-Match). Of course, having more PTPer’s than Drew doesn’t hurt.

--Mark