The Big XII Tournament begins today! Four glorious days filled with basketball, barbecue, and beer for those lucky enough to be within driving distance of downtown Kansas City. For poor unlucky souls such as myself, who tried valiantly to convince my non-sports-loving wife this would make a wonderful mini-vacation for the two of us, we are relegated to viewing the games on the telly.
However, my smoker is ready. My meat is prepared. And two cases of assorted Boulevard beers are chilling in a cooler nestled right by my couch. My wife may have prevented me from contributing to the economy of Greater Kansas City this year, but that doesn't mean I can't dress up in Cyclone gear, drunkenly throw insults at a Jayhawk doll, and pretend that I'm there. Because that, my friends, is what I will be doing.
Game 1 - #8 Kansas State (8-10) vs #9 TCU (4-14)
January 7, 2015
TCU 53 - Kansas State 58
Marcus Foster showed his coach he really did care about winning, sometimes, scoring 23 points in 29 minutes off the bench during the early conference win. Luckily for coach Bruce Webber, his disciplinary move paid off, if only for the short term. Foster would find himself in the doghouse a few more times during the Wildcat's up and down season.
The Horned Frogs kept the low scoring game close, but never really threatened to win. Trey Zeigler led TCU with 19 points on 7-14 shooting (5-6 FT).
Feburary 18, 2015
Kansas State 55 - TCU 69
The Wildcats managed only 15 first half points and were unable to overcome a 20 point halftime deficit during their mid-February rematch with the Horned Frogs. The win gave TCU its first Big XII winning streak in program history, after beating a slumping Oklahoma State team the game previous. They would go on to win just one more conference game.
For a team that was predicted to finish fourth in the Big XII, it is safe to say the Wildcats were a huge disappointment to EMAW Nation. The talent is certainly there, but Webber was unable to put a consistent product on the court night in and night out.
At their best, Kansas State was able to beat some of the nation's top teams including: #9 Kansas, #13 Iowa State, #15 Oklahoma (twice) and #16 Baylor.
At their worst, they were, well downright awful - they lost to Texas Southern (RPI rank of 131) at home! The Webbercats actually played better against the nation's top 25 RPI teams (5-6) than against teams 26-200 (5-10).
Kansas State opened conference play 4-1, lost 8 of their next 10 games and finished the regular season with a loss at Texas. The NIT hopefuls need to win the tournament if they hope to upgrade their postseason plans.
I'm not really sure if TCU fans yet acknowledge basketball as a competitive sport, therefore I cannot say with certainty if this year's team met expectations or not.
What I can tell you is the Horny Lizards finished exactly where the pre-season pundits placed them, 9th place. This is actually an improvement for Trent Johnson's team and you can tell momentum is building within the program as long as you don't judge them on their current arena or latent fan apathy.
An undefeated non-con record had TCU flirting with some Top 25 polls, and four conference victories later there is zero argument that this was the best team Fort Worth has "witnessed" since joining the Big XII in 2012.
At least you have football, TCU faithful.
Cruel, un-rewarding football.
At the risk of sounding non-committal, each of these teams have a seemingly equal chance of winning or losing the rubber match in the series. Kansas State was one of the strangest teams during conference play, sweeping Oklahoma and splitting with Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State, yet somehow finishing with the 8 seed. They have talented players, but suffer from suspect coaching and motivational issues. TCU seems to work hard every game, but just doesn't have the talent, outside of a couple players, to compete yet in the nation's deepest conference.
The Webbercats are kind-a/sort-a/maybe-if-they-win-it-all in the discussion for an NCAA tournament bid, so you figure they have more to gain from this game than TCU. Which means, they'll probably lose.
TCU 68 - K-State 58
Vegas Line - KSU -2
KenPom - TCU 61 - K-State 59 (59% probability)
Tip: 6:00 PM
TCU SB Nation Site - Frogs O' War
K-State SB Nation Site - BOTC
Game 2 - #7 Texas (8-10) vs #10 Texas Tech (3-15)
January 3, 2015
Texas 70 - Texas Tech 61
In a tale of two seasons, this game marked somewhat of a turning point for the Texas Longhorns. The still ranked (#11) Texas squad brought an 11-2 record entering conference play and led Texas Tech 60-40 with 5:49 left in the game. The Red Raiders then went on a 19-6 run over the next 4 ½ minutes, providing contrasting hope and despair among the rival fan-bases. Texas would hold on to win this contest, but lose 6 of their next 8 games, ultimately failing to live up to their early season promise or predictions.
February 14, 2015
Texas Tech 41 - Texas 56
The rematch in Austin pitted a now 6-6 Longhorn squad against the 2-11 Red Raiders. This was the last of a Texas three game winning streak allowing them to get back to .500 in conference play. Texas Tech, fresh off back to back poundings against the league's top two teams, offered little resistance this time and were dominated in both halves.
If this were football, I'm not sure we would have heard anything other than the loud cries of frustrated fans calling for the coach's head. This Texas Longhorn squad was supposed to challenge Kansas' run as ruler of the Big XII. Instead, they challenged K-State for most depressed fan base.
Right state, Texas. Wrong road.
Texas' talent is apparent - KenPom still has them ranked as the 20th best team - yet failed to do much of anything with it inside conference play. Myles Turner, the heralded Texas Forward, won the Freshman of the Year award as expected as well as a place on the Big 12 All-Defensive Team, All-Newcomer Team and All-Big 12 Third Team where he joined teammate Isaiah Taylor. Johathan Holmes received an Honorable Mention.
At this point, a decent postseason showing could be the only thing that stands between Rick Barnes and the unemployment line (I hear Shake Shack is hiring in Austin). Texas fans, even as dispassionate as they can be when it comes to bouncy-ball, will tolerate mediocrity only so long before a change is necessary.
Even with a win, change could be necessary for both parties.
Remembering Texas Tech
There isn't much of a storyline here. Texas Tech was expected to be bad and lived down to the hype. It wasn't a complete disaster for Tubby's boys, however. A late January upset over then #9 Iowa State provided a stress relieving court storming for the taco faithful, and additional wins against K-State and OSU were probably more than any reasonable fan could have anticipated during yet another rebuilding year in Lubbock.
However, as long as Tubby Smith is coaching in that West Texas hamlet, the Red Raiders will continue to improve. This is good news for raiders of every color, yet less than ideal for those of us who prefer to have at least one sure win on our conference schedule.
As stated above, Texas has talent. Just large, under-performing talent. Texas Tech played well the last two games of the season, albeit in losing efforts, but they are just not built to handle Texas' bigs.
I believe Texas wants this win. I believe Texas needs this win. I believe Texas gets this win.
Texas 72 - TTU 58
Vegas Line - Texas -11
KenPom - Texas 64 - Texas Tech 54 (84% probability)
Tip: 8:00 PM (I'm going to go ahead and say 8:30 or later)
Texas Tech SB Nation Site - Viva the Matadors