It's all basketball this week as the WRNL staff celebrates Kansas losing in Stillwater, talks about how Baylor could be a real threat down the stretch, and then scratches their heads over what happened in Norman on Monday night. Another week, another WTF inducing set of games in the Big XII. And boy, does Fred look tired.
On to the discussion.
Oklahoma State finally stepped up to the plate and knocked off Kansas. With West Virginia's loss to Baylor, Iowa State now holds down second place by itself and is a game back of Kansas. Is this team still realistically in the conference hunt? And where can Kansas falter down the line to make the final few weeks of the season interesting?
And let's discuss Baylor. Don't look now but the Bears have figured out how to shoot and the defense is once again slowing teams down to a grind. Could they be the team that makes a run late in February and in to March?
We will realistically be in the hunt if with a win in Norman even though the toughest part of our schedule is still ahead of us. A win guarantees nothing but lose that game and I'm not sure it is possible. Kansas has three games left I could see them losing but we can probably only count on them losing one of the three if any. Baylor at home, Saturday, February 14th; not very likely, but possible as well as Baylor has been playing lately. At West Virginia, Monday, February 16th; Morgantown is still a tough place to play even if the Mountaineers have lost their home games to the league's top teams. At Norman, Saturday, March 7th; probably the toughest of the three and is their last of the conference season. Iowa State plays at TCU the same weekend. If we enter the weekend tied at the top, some new banners could be coming to Hilton next season.
Baylor seems to go through a similar scenario each season. Do well in non-con, slow start in conference play, come together, "potential matchup problem come March", fizzle and done. I'm not concerned about the Bears. That said, I'm glad we don't face them for another two weeks.
The question of if we are still realistically in the conference hunt comes down to two things: the continued unpredictability of the Big XII, and our own ability to win on the road. Kansas still has a couple challenging games left, but there is still the possibility of a team coming alive and shocking the rest of the conference. Oklahoma, OK State, and Baylor are all prime candidates, and our schedule has four of our remaining eight against those teams. Additionally, five of our last eight are on the road, which means this is the stretch that will decide our fate. Score key wins tonight against OU, next week against OKST and Texas, and we're still definitely in it. Drop more than one of those games, and we're effectively out, barring a major KU collapse.
Baylor could make a run- but so could Texas or either of the Oklahoma teams. They may not look poised to do so now, but we can't forget that there's still an entire month left of conference play. TEXAS TECH COULD STILL END UP WITH 10 LEAGUE WINS. They obviously won't, but eight games is a lot of time for anybody. All four of those teams are dangerous, and one big win could kick start them in to top form.
From the words of Dumb and Dumber - So you're telling me there's a chance. Yes!
Now while ISU is clearly the 2nd best team in the conference, Texas, K-State, West Virginia and Okie State have all fallen off the map. Clearly Oklahoma and Baylor are 3 and 4 right now. But this is what makes the Big 12 Conference great - anybody can beat anybody! (ask Kansas) Who knows, maybe Texas will start winning again, and Baylor and the fighting Scott Drews will fall into one of their funks at end of season.
All ISU can do is take care of their own business. This team can beat anybody at home, but on the road - it's a different story. The emergence of Jameel McKay could pay huge dividends off in the future. Nader has found his role. And if BDJ is ok with coming off the bench (aka he doesn't pout) then this team can make some noise the rest of the season.
The hardest games remaining on the schedule are going to be at Oklahoma, at Texas, at Okie State and at Kansas State. Now if this is the same team as old, they will lose 3-4 of those. If this team has truly turned the corner, then they will either split or go 3-1. Time will tell, but then again, I would much rather win a Conference Tournament than the Regular Season.
As for Baylor - as long as Scott Drew and his temporary hair piece is concerned, it wouldn't surprise me if Baylor wins out or they lose out. That team is a bottle of fireworks.
Niang's NBA chances took a solid dump last night with Buddy Hield on him throughout the night. An athletic guard giving up a few inches can completely unwind Georges in a heartbeat. That said, I think Fred was painfully slow to adjust to some of Oklahoma's defensive changes in the second half. What do the rest of you take away from the game in Norman?
I wasn't able to watch the game, but losing to Oklahoma on the road is nothing to be ashamed about. However champions find ways to win in tough environments. I still believe this is a very good team capable of a deep tournament run in March, but unless they prove me wrong down the stretch, they do not have the mental capabilities of a championship team. That said, we are still in better position today than we were a year ago today, so there is plenty to be excited about and I will enjoy the rest of this season and postseason's games albeit with slightly modified expectations.
I refrained from giving you my take until after the Oklahoma game. Now that the Oklahoma game happened, my take just got a little hotter. The defense got exposed. Again. They brutalized us down low because mostly we weren't doubling. We weren't doubling because they were shooting lights out. Do one, get burnt on the other. A good ol' Catch 22.
But yes, the Big XII is still within reach. But with each loss it becomes more and more apparent that winning it is unlikely. Iowa State still has some hazardous road games. And if trends mean anything, is not good. In my opinion, Iowa State is going to have to pull off at least three wins out of the games at OSU, UT, K-State, and TCU to stay in contention at the top. But their is some hope here. Kansas still has to go OU and OU still has to come to Hilton. So there's a chance for this last game to even out, per say. Get a few teams to help us out and we are back to pumping sunshine again. Always possible in this year's version of the Big XII.
The thing I can't stand the most about this team is how easily they seem to let other teams make big runs on them. We've seen it in most of our losses and a few of our wins now... Last year it seemed like when we needed a bucket, someone would step up and get one. I think Fred got a little spoiled in this regard last year, and we're seeing him not use his timeouts very effectively now because of it. There were a couple times last night when I was thinking that Fred should call a timeout to stop momentum, but didn't. Both times we failed to score and OU added to their lead.
How about a trend that's been developing in these runs other than Fred's lack of timeouts: adjustments. It's hard to tell sometimes who is doing what Fred told them and who is freelancing, but how do you not get Niang on to the block immediately after you see Hield is his primary defender? For as much as this team is learning to navigate the rough patches I think Fred is having to do the same.
As underwhelming as Fred's adjustments may have been yesterday, I fully expect the game plan for when we play the Sooners in Hilton to address whatever issues we had in Norman. I bet the Mayor will spend more hours watching film of the game this week than he will sleeping.
He looks tired doesn't he? More tired than any other season.
Do you think Infiniti made him dance too much?
Editor's Note: Go vote
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm not sure we really knew what we had in Doc Sadler until he left. I used to think it was a cute little scenario. Former head coach, well-known, well-respected, quite a few years Hoiberg's senior, lands on his feet with the Iowa State coaching staff -- and sure, why the hell not, let's call this perpetually disheveled old man the "defensive specialist."
Yet here we are. And are we scheming any differently? Nope. What has changed so drastically in less than a year that causes the defensive lapses we're seeing on a weekly basis? It's painful to watch six or seven guys stroke it and then come completely unraveled at the other end of the floor. And shit, how bad might it be without Jameel McKay?
I don't know the answer to any of these questions. But the takeaway from the game in Norman, yet again, is that Iowa State has got some SHIT to figure out defensively. If they don't, someone's going to bounce these guys straight out of the tournament come March, far sooner than any of us care to see.
This league is tough, toughest in the nation in fact. Would I have loved to have won at OU? Yes of course I would have. Did we have a chance to do just that? Not in the second half. But lets take a step back and take a look at just what happened. The first half of the game was one of the most entertaining games I have ever seen. That is the way that basketball is supposed to look, and Jay Williams agrees with that sentiment. Did the loss suck? You bet your cardinal ass it sucked. But I'm not too worked up about losing to Oklahoma at their home. I think that fans in general are overreacting about this loss.
I have noticed some things that need to be corrected though, and which I believe will be corrected by Hoiberg. I've noticed that when we get down by 6+ we stop passing, and when we stop passing we stop scoring. Our team is built off of passing, and nothing good happens when we stop the assist machine. I think that this is fixed by getting out of the mindset that we need to hit a big shot to get back into the game. I think once the players see that we are in the middle of the opposite teams run, they need to make something happen. What they really should be doing is passing more and trusting in each other. This will happen, mark my words, Fred will get it figured out. Our team's defense is not stellar, but our team is built on offense, and passing will help cure what ails the Cyclones.
Time to kick WVU in the stomach, or at least let Hogue do that.