Friday Playlist

“Another Time” – Mimicking Birds. For some reason I have a hard time typing the word “mimicking.” I taught myself to type in middle school and never learned home rows and all that. I can type quite quickly, but my hands are constantly crossing over each other, violating all kinds of typing rules. For some reason that causes me to struggle with certain words. On mimicking my right index finger should hit the second M in the word. But, instead, my left index finger hits C instead. I guess because I’m already thinking about the C that comes up later. Weird, huh? Anyway, this is a nice song.

“Pirouette” – Jay Som. Melina Duterte got all kinds of praise for her debut album Everybody Works last year. It topped, or was near the top, of many of the most important Best Of lists. She’s blessed us with a couple extra tracks she didn’t feel quite fit on the album. This one is buoyant and delightful.

“No Man Shall” – A.A. Bondy. Over the holidays Timothy Showalter, the force behind Strand of Oaks, Tweeted out that A.A. Bondy’s 2007 album American Hearts was an underrated classic that people needed to check out. So I did. It’s a lovely, folksy album indeed. This track has all kinds of influences running through it: Neil Young, Elliott Smith, and Ryan Adams the most obvious to me.

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” – Laura Marling. Ms. Marling does a fine job with this Dylan classic.

“The ’59 Sound” – The Gaslight Anthem. We’re approaching the ten-year anniversary of Gaslight Anthem’s amazing album of which this is the title track. Steven Hyden just ran an interview with lead singer Brian Fallon – in advance of his new solo disk – on which they spent a lot of time looking back at that 2008 album. Seemed like a good time to bust this classic out for ya’ll.

Reader’s Notebook, 1/18/18

Two more notches on my 2018 reading belt.

Mrs Fletcher – Tom Perrotta
Perrotta’s books all feel similar. They often center on sex, although none of them can be described as salacious, and the problems that sex causes in our lives. There is usually a strong element of nostalgia, where one or more major character wants desperately to turn back the clock to a time – days, weeks, months ago – in the past before they fucked up. And they’re usually quite good.

Mrs. Fletcher ticks all those boxes. It centers on Eve, a mid–40’s divorcee who is about to take her only son off to college. Before they leave for campus, she has a very unfortunate moment: she overhears Brendan receiving a good bye gift from his high school girlfriend. Key word receiving. Wink wink, nudge nudge. And Brendan uses some language while receiving his gift that shocks Eve into wondering what kind of son she has raised.

After Brendan’s departure, the book splits between a third person accounting of Eve’s new life and a first person look at Brendan’s life on campus. Although Eve has a master’s degree, she returns to the local community college to take a course on gender. That class opens her already progressive mind to new ideas. Combined with her loneliness, she soon spends her nights looking at porn and having fantasies that both excite and confuse her. Meanwhile Brendan tries desperately to get laid at school, only to become attracted to a woman who is very different that what he thinks he wants. Secondary characters flow in and out of the tale, all with their own moments of reckoning when they find themselves attracted to people or ideas they hadn’t considered before.

As always in a Perrotta novel, both Eve and Brendan make regrettable choices, although Brendan’s is far more damaging to his life and that of his new girlfriend.

Mrs. Fletcher is equal amounts hilarious, thought-provoking, and cringe-inducing. Just what Perrotta was going for, I bet.

Golden Days: West’s Lakers, Steph’s Warriors, and the California Dreamers Who Reinvented Basketball – Jack McCallum
This is a good book about an odd pairing. Half of the book is devoted to the playing career of NBA legend Jerry West, specifically the 1971–72 season when West won his only NBA title as a player and his Lakers won a still-record 33 consecutive games. The other half looks at the current Golden State Warriors, which came out of nowhere to become the most dynamic, interesting, and popular team in American sports. West, until this summer, served as a special assistant to the Warriors ownership group and helped them make several key personnel decisions as they built around Steph Curry.

I say that’s an odd pairing because I’m not sure those two things go together, despite West’s presence on both ends of the timeline. The ’72 Lakers really didn’t have much in common with the current Dubs. They ran, but did so in an era when everyone still ran, and didn’t revolutionize the NBA the way Golden State has done. They were built around fairly traditional personnel, with West and Gail Goodrich on the perimeter and Wilt Chamberlain anchoring the defense inside. Even Wilt, a singular player in NBA history, was on the downside of his career and somewhat limited on offense. Unlike Steph and Kevin Durant, who are in the primes of their own singular careers and helping to redefine basketball at all levels.

Those disconnects felt weird to me. “Why is McCallum writing about this?” I kept asking. Not that both stories aren’t compelling; they definitely are. He reports and writes those stories well. They just feel like stories that should have been separated into two distinct books. Or, better, the focus be between how West built the Lakers in the 80s and 90s as GM with how he helped the Warriors pick players. There’s a little of that, but it feels tacked on at the end, as if McCallum couldn’t find the common threads he was searching for and knew he needed to strengthen the old West to new West connections.

Oh well, a quick and interesting read anyway.


Another music legend dies requiring another one of these sad, memorial posts.

Dolores O’Riordan was unmistakably one of the Voices of the Nineties. The Cranberries may not have been as big and important as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but hearing her sing a single note will instantly take those of us who were alive in the 90s back to that time as easily as hearing Kurt scream or Eddie wail. Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? was a required album if you were in college at that time.(fn)

I’m not sure The Cranberries got enough credit for how good their first two albums were. Combined, I think they stack up pretty favorably against any other bands best two albums of the decade. Are they going to beat The Bends and OK Computer, or Nevermind and In Utero, or Vs. and Vitalogy? Probably not. But they’re in the argument. I listened to both albums all the way through yesterday and didn’t want to skip past a single track.

The Cranberries also came along at the perfect time in my life. I went through a stretch of 2-3 years where I made a series of poor decisions, had some bad luck, and became intensely unhappy with where I was in life. To be very clear, I didn’t make any catastrophic choices and was likely just depressed during this period. I didn’t do anything destructive to myself or others or feel like life wasn’t worth continuing. But, still, I was in a place where the sadder, more introspective music of the times spoke to me even more than music always had. The Cranberries wrote sad songs about longing and being overlooked and wishing for better things. Those songs mattered to me back then.

The initial reports are that O’Riordan’s death was not suspicious, which I hope turns out to be true. She struggled with her mental health over the years. While her death is sad regardless of cause, you hope it was just her heart deciding it was done pumping blood rather than a moment of despair that led to her making a choice not to go on.

There are Cranberries song lists all over. With what they meant to me back in the day, I would feel silly if I didn’t share a few of my own.

“Analyse” – The last Cranberries song I ever really liked, it is from 2001’s Wake Up And Smell the Coffee. Those underlying guitar chords recall some of their early classics. O’Riordan’s vocals were as great as ever. For me, this was a fine late-period reminder of their quality. I remember hearing this on the old Music Choice channels on my cable provider and thinking, “Wow, they’ve still got it.”

“Free to Decide” – 1996’s To The Faithful Departed was the end of peak period Cranberries. Plenty of solid songs on the disk, but you could feel them perhaps getting a little too broad in their writing as the intimacy of their early work was fading. This song is, in many ways, O’Riordan’s Corduroy, a song in which she reclaims ownership of her private life from the media.

“Disappointment”/“Ridiculous Thoughts” – This 1-2 punch on the back half of No Need To Argue still floors me. “Disappointment,” with it’s slow, dreamy build is a deceptively savage take down. Is there anything worse than being called a disappointment? And on “Ridiculous Thoughts,” the band dispensed with the subtleties and just rocked out while O’Riordan continued to blast whoever had wronged her.

“Linger” – This song was always just a touch too maudlin for my tastes. But judging by all the other comments I’ve read over the past couple days, there are a lot of folks who think this was the band’s best song. It certainly takes me back to ’93-94 every time I hear it, though.

“Dreams” – Their first single announces itself with those epic, jangly chords that I will never, ever forget. And O’Riordan’s voice! Who wasn’t just completely blown away the first time you heard her open up and sing without restraint? The closing stretch, where she is half singing, half yodeling, should go into a time capsule. If you were in a relationship in the mid-90s, or even just trying to start one, this song HAD to be part of the soundtrack to those moments.

Kid Sports

Boy did we have a Sunday. Nine-plus hours of kid sports!

Things started with L and I leaving the house just before noon for week three of basketball, once again playing about an hour from home.

Game one was a barn-burner. We have exactly two plays on offense, variations on the same theme where the point guard either comes off a screen at the free throw line for a (hopefully) good look at the bucket, or passes off to a trailing teammate for a shot. We spend about 15 minutes of every practice running these plays. So when the other team ran this exact play on their first possession of the game, you’d think we would be able to defend it, right? Nope, easy layup, and we three coaches were all looking at each other like, “It’s going to be a long day if we can’t guard our own plays.”

Luckily our girls were on it. We were getting all the rebounds, played really solid D, and mostly controlled the game the rest of the way. Of course, in third grade basketball “controlling the game” means you have a four-point lead because you shoot roughly 10% despite all those rebounds. Man, our girls were good on the boards, we just could not buy a shot. I think we got the lead up to six in the fourth quarter, but when both teams could press after the 3:00 mark, everything kind of fell apart.

Seriously, those three minutes are the longest minutes in sports. It seems like there’s a turnover, foul, or timeout every 4.9 seconds. It’s just brutal. We were up four and kept forcing turnovers, but since all ten girls were grouped together, that TO would turn into an immediate held ball. Line up and do it again. I think we literally had eight changes of possession on the other end of the court in a 30 second span.

Their coach finally called a timeout and had his best player loop around some screens and run up court. Of course we were totally unprepared for it (coaching!) and she hit a nice, guarded 12-foot jumper to cut it to two with a minute left. Literally a lifetime in this game.

We missed a couple shots, they won a held-ball, and we called timeout. Instead of pressing, we decided to pull four of our players back to the midcourt stripe. Our girls all looked crazy confused but we told them just to pick up there like normal. Meanwhile, we would going to have L pressure the ball.

Fucking genius.

L got a steal, missed a shot, we got the rebound, she ended up with it, and then hit a crazy baseline shot in traffic to push it back to a four-point lead. We were on the opposite end of the court so I was screened and just saw the ball go in, but a coach waiting for the next game looked at me after her shot and said, “Damn! How’d she make that?”

We held on and got our second win of the year.

A good start.

We had an hour between games so went and watched the game on our next court. One of the teams was Ben Davis, which is the west-side Indy school that went undefeated in 6A football this year, won boys 4A basketball last year, and has a long history of turning out great athletes. The school is racially mixed, primarily working class. Their team had two tiny girls who were little speed demons. They could both really handle the ball and would get rebounds and just beat everyone downcourt. Then they had a couple big girls who were kind of thick. They were both at least two inches taller than our biggest player and out-weighed her by over 15 pounds. And then they had a girl that, I swear, was taller than M and weighed 140 pounds. I’m guessing she was 5’5” already. This girl was big and skilled. They’d throw her the ball, she’d take a dribble, spin, and lay it in off the glass.

“Good Lord!” I thought, “That is a kick ass fifth grader!”

BD was playing another team sponsored by the high school we’re playing for, so I asked our head coach what grade those girls were.

“Third grade!”

Holy crap. This Ben Davis girl would probably have been able to play with our 7th and 8th grade CYO teams and she was just a third grader! And she was playing in a B league! [1]

On to our second game, which went about as well as we could have asked for. We were up 15–0 before they hit a free throw and cruised to a 29–6 win. Our girls literally had 15 break away, unguarded layup attempts and maybe hit three of them, so it could have been even worse. The girls weren’t running any offense and kept getting lost on defense, which was driving the head coach nuts. I leaned over and said, “We’re up 15. Just let it go until halftime and we’ll get them refocused.”

A rare moment of clarity from me during a youth sporting event!

L scored seven in the first game, eight in the second, and was the leading scorer in both. She, and the team, had a really good day.

Back in the car and across town to M’s preseason volleyball scrimmages. Her team was playing a bunch of other Cadet (7th & 8th grade) C teams in 13-minute sessions where you could substitute freely, no score was kept, etc. I missed her first game, but apparently she served 13-straight points in it. I think we got to see her play twice before they wrapped up that session. She was also asked to play with one of the B teams, as they were missing three girls. So we ran out to get a quick bite then had her back in the gym for the evening session.

M played really well in both sessions. She’s a setter and does a pretty good job. She’s also become a pretty good passer. She was really disappointed that she didn’t make the B team, but seeing the girls on that team I understand why. They all serve overhanded, most of them can hit at the net, and while her setting is good, it probably needs to be just a touch better if she wanted to play up.

She was excited to get the chance to play so much, though. The B coach never subbed her out, which we didn’t really understand but also didn’t complain about. Last night her team scrimmaged against that B team and she was a little frustrated afterward at how the B team was better than hers. That’s good; she needs a little athletic fire in her. Hopefully that will push her to keep improving. She’s come a long way in two years and I like that she’s not satisfied with just playing with her friends anymore.

We rolled into the house around 9:30 Sunday, so L and I had a hell of a day. Good thing Monday was a holiday and the girls could sleep in.

Thankfully despite the windchill being –20 this morning, school was back in session and on time today. A four-day weekend immediately after Christmas break was not cool for any of us.

  1. We’re in the C league. We’ve heard there weren’t enough A teams this year so all the A and B teams got thrown together, so her team likely would have been in the A league otherwise.  ↩

Monday Playlist

Apologies for the lack of rocking on Friday. We got the call at 5:45 that the girls would be having their first snow day in nearly four years. I never really got back to sleep after that, which wasn’t all bad as I had an eye exam at 9:00 and needed to get up anyway. The exam took entirely too long for some reason and I had to cancel another appointment I had lined up for after. When I got home, S, who also had a snow day at work, and the girls had every single Lego we own scattered on the living room floor for sorting purposes. So I helped with that, read some, and took a nice, long nap, which I don’t do often. Never got around to building a playlist for ya’ll.

As today is a holiday, I guess it is appropriate to offer up some tunes today instead. I just had to completely take apart and reassemble a toilet with new parts, first. I’m so handy!

“Elizabeth” – Long Neck. Those bright, open chords feel so springy on this cold, snowy day.

“Stones” – Alyeska. Don’t recall if I’ve listened to these guys before, but I’m really enjoying this extra track that was left off their late ’17 EP. There’s a lot of Sonic Youth in their music, and some Karen O. in the vocals.

“Night Shift” – Lucy Dacus. The first great song of 2018. This track is amazing. 

“MLK” – U2. They obviously have another more famous song that would work today. But I prefer the understatedness of this one. We’ve come a long way, but still have a long way to go.

“This Is It” – Lo Moon. This song had been popping up on SiriusXM late last year, but I didn’t realize I would be seeing them open up for the War on Drugs so didn’t really pay much attention to them. This isn’t a bad song. I told my friend who was at the concert with me that Lo Moon sounds like if you crossed the War on Drugs and Mr. Mister. Which may be a little harsh on the later half of that comparison. But Mr. Mister did have a couple solid songs, so I offer it with love. Doing some reading this morning, a lot of folks are hearing Talk Talk and Peter Gabriel in this song, which also sound right to me.

My favorite part of their appearance here last month came during TWOD’s set. The four members of Lo Moon stood on the stairs opposite from us, and the lead singer was just a little too into things, jumping around, bouncing his head with the beat, etc. Not sure if he had just had a few, or he was trying too hard to impress the headliners with his fandom.

Reader’s Notebook, 1/11/18

Two books down already for 2018.

Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World – Rob Sheffield
Oh no, another book about the Beatles?!?! That was my first thought when I saw that music critic Sheffield was releasing his take on the Beatles last year. My initial plan was to skip it even though I was a fan of his earlier books. But seeing this land on several Best Of lists made me reconsider.

Not a bad decision.

While Sheffield doesn’t dredge up any new details about the Fab 5 we didn’t know before, he does place them into a different context. Specifically, he views them through the eyes of Gen X, especially those on the back half of our generation who came of age well after the Beatles initial domination of pop culture had passed. Sheffield argues that the Beatles were in fact at their most culturally significant and influential in the 1990s, when new music was being created free of their direct shadow for the first time ever. Brit Pop, most notably, was a direct evolution from and new interpretation of everything the Beatles had done 30 years earlier. Also in the 90s came the Anthology and 1 releases, which both sold in massive numbers. Combined, that meant the Beatles were, arguably, the most significant music act of the 90s.

That may be a stretch, but I enjoyed reading Sheffield as he got there. Born in 1966, he grew up on the Beatles and is fanatic about their history. As he goes through the life of the band he ties individual songs and albums to both the band’s broader history and to cultural touchstones of Gen X.

This is not the book to read if you want to know every detail of the recording of each album or a deep dive into the band’s final days. But it is a fine book to read if you love the band, already have some knowledge of their history, and want to tie their story to our generation’s.

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living – Nick Offerman
Good, clean fun here. This serves mostly as a memoir for the actor/comedian/woodworker/whisky drinker most famous for playing Ron Swanson on Parks & Recreation. It is hilarious and worthy of your time and effort.

The Footballs

Good gracious, what a CFP championship game Monday night.

Like most folks who were unaffiliated, I was pulling for Georgia. Those downtrodden, underdog Dawgs from Athens.

I found it funny that Georgia has this big reputation as a somewhat cursed program. Maybe my humor stems from when I first started paying a lot of attention to college football, and Georgia was one of the best programs in the country. I know they’ve had some rough patches, but I’ve never not thought of them as a top tier football program. And I’d be thrilled if my alma mater could have “disappointing” 8–4/7–5 seasons year-after-year.[1] But it’s not like they have been averaging three wins a year for 50 years and suddenly jumped up into the elite.

But I understand where that comes from, with each of Georgia’s biggest rivals having won a national championship more recently than the Dawgs’ only title. And most of those schools have multiple titles over that span.[2]

So UGa was a very good story and easy to root for, especially with them playing Alabama and evil Nick Saban.

Naturally everything went exactly like Satan, err Saban, wanted it to.

  • Georgia steadies themselves after some nervy opening minutes, grab a lead, and slowly build it.
  • Saban benches his starting QB, who has lost two games in three seasons, to play a true freshman who had yet to take a meaningful snap. IN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME. There will be books and movies and documentaries about that decision alone.
  • Eventually Georgia is up 20–7 and Dawg fans, die hard and casual, were beginning to think, “OK, they can do this.”
  • But the Tide start chipping away, their defense morphs into Ferocious mode, the offense starts moving the ball, and ties it on a gutsy fourth-and-goal play.[3]
  • They get the ball back, set up for a chip-shot field goal at the final whistle, and freaking miss it. Overtime! Even for those of us rooting for Georgia, you had to feel for the Alabama kicker in that moment. It’s not like SEC football fans are the most stable folks in the world, especially the most entitled of the bunch from Tuscaloosa. That kid was going to have problems had Alabama not pulled off the win.
  • Georgia gets the lead on a field goal, make a huge sack on first down, there is a deep roar of anticipation building in the stadium, and then Tua Tagovailoa throws an insanely beautiful ball that Da’Vonta Smith hauled in for the win.
    Yep, that’s exactly how Saban drew it up before hand. Give the anti-Alabama contingent hope, yank it away, give it back when it seemed impossible to give it back, then rip it away on a play that will live forever in sports history.


Throw in a handful of very controversial officiating decisions, a fight on the Alabama sideline, an Alabama player having to be removed from the stadium on a stretcher, and the President of the United States not knowing all the words to the National Anthem, and this game had about everything.


Now was it better than last year’s classic between Alabama and Clemson, that also came down to the closing seconds of regulation? I guess that depends on how you like your football.

Last year was all offense, fitting for the current era.

Monday had some big offensive plays, but was dominated by the defenses, a throwback to an older age.

The crazy thing to me is even without tons of offense, it still took roughly four hours to get Monday’s game in. (Old man grumble, grumble, grumble.)

Both great games and I guess you choose based on how you feel about Alabama. For me, these games are just further proof that the football gods hate me. As much as I dislike Alabama, I respect them. And since I’ve never liked nor respected Clemson, I was reluctantly pulling for Bama a year ago. Two years in a row I went to bed after midnight after watching a scintillating game that my team-for-the-night came up just short. Football is dumb.

As for the NFL playoffs, I believe this is the first year ever I’ve not made predictions. I didn’t feel comfortable offering picks since I haven’t watched the NFL this year. And, besides, we know that New England is winning again. Why bother?

I watched most of Sundays games, and then parts of the Chiefs-Titans game. We were hanging out at a friends house so that game was in the background. We had kind of lost track of the game, but knew the Chiefs had jumped out early. We also missed most of the controversial calls. But I did look up in the fourth quarter, saw the Titans had narrowed the margin, and said, “Chiefs still have plenty of time to blow it.”

Which I can’t take too much credit for because, based on catching up with Twitter later in the evening, most Chiefs fans were saying the same thing.

I’ve softened some in my stance about the Chiefs. I think some of that stems from the Royals 2014–15 runs, and seeing my hometown explode in pride in joy. Although I’m never going to be on the bandwagon for a Chiefs Super Bowl run, it would be cool to see Kansas City fired up as it was in those Octobers again. I wasn’t pulling for them Saturday – to be fair I was neutral as I wasn’t pulling for Tennessee either – that loss seemed a little cruel to me.

Which I know makes my Chiefs fans friends feel a lot better.

  1. Winning three games in a season would be cause for burning things in celebration.  ↩
  2. Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn. Plus LSU and Bama, which are both lesser rivals. OK, that does suck!  ↩
  3. I would have kicked the field goal, let me defense get the ball back, and won the game in regulation. But then again, kicking wasn’t such a sure thing, was it?  ↩

All Together Now

My first book of the year was about the Beatles. So it was a nice coincidence that I was hipped to this website over the holidays. The author is ranking all the Beatles songs in order, roughly one per day. His commentary isn’t a rehash of all the commentary you’ve read a thousand times before about Beatles songs. Which makes it a must read if you’re into music at all.

The Beatles 205

Big 12 Hoops: A Very Different Year

Last day of Christmas break. The girls go back to school tomorrow. I guess the teachers need an extra day to get grades processed, settled into their classrooms, etc before beginning the second semester.

Meanwhile the temperature is finally above freezing for the first time in two weeks. It might hit 60 Thursday! We may be able to see our (dead) front yard by this time tomorrow.

Seems like a good day to dive into Big 12 basketball!

First thing first: KU isn’t winning the Big 12 this year. Fans all over the conference can pop their bubbly in celebration of the Jayhawks’ 13-year title streak coming to an end in March.

Finally, FINALLY, after all these years we’ve hit a season where KU is both down enough and the league is tough enough so that the field will have the advantage over the perennial champs. That was shown last week, when Texas Tech went into Allen Fieldhouse and won for the first time ever. Texas Tech! Who, granted, are a really good team. But if they can win in Lawrence, you figure this might finally be the year when West Virginia doesn’t blow a big lead and can do the same. Maybe Oklahoma and TCU can win in Allen, too. KU always knew they’d win nine home games in conference, something no other team could ever be certain of. In really weird years they’d only win eight home games, but that was still better than everyone else. Do that and you just have to find 4–5 road wins to get the title. But slipping at home changes the math dramatically. Even with KU already owning two road wins – and they were both good wins against teams that will likely take down at least one contender each at home this year – once the Allen bubble is popped it’s a whole new ballgame.

The Billy Preston saga might get resolution soon. Silvio De Sousa is on campus and practicing, waiting for the NCAA to clear him to play. Even if KU gets both of those guys back, I’m not sure they are enough to change KU’s Big 12 math. You figure it’ll take a couple weeks for Preston to get in the swing of things. And even then, is he ever more than a 15 minute per game player after missing over two months? And De Sousa is learning everything new. He’s physically imposing and had a fine prep career. But he seems like a 5 mpg player who gets on the court, commits a dumb foul or messes up the offense and Bill Self yanks him off the court. His minutes this year are more about getting him ready for next year.

Those two do provide value, though. They’ll give Udoka Azubuike some support, allowing him to rest a few more minutes and maybe play better defense because he doesn’t have to be as careful with fouls. And on the nights when Udoka has to sit, both Preston and De Sousa are bigger than Mitch Lightfoot, KU’s current backup 5.

Lightfoot can also shift to the 4-spot, which fits his skill level much better. Kid has done an incredible job filling a position he is not suited for. He basically won the TCU game Saturday with his defense. But I think he’ll provide even better, and perhaps more, minutes if he slides over a spot.

All that will make KU better at the end of the conference season, in the Big 12 tournament, and in the NCAA tournament than immediately. I don’t think it’s enough to put KU back in the regular season championship driver’s seat.

Oh, and all that is assuming either kid plays. There’s a decent chance neither Preston or De Sousa will play a minute for KU this year.

Too many questions, too many holes on the roster, and too many good teams in the Big 12 for it to happen for the 14th-straight time.

So who wins?

I think the answer is pretty obvious: West Virginia.

Trae Young is a spectacular, awe-inspiring player. And I thought OU was underrated to begin with this season. But as amazing as Trae is, he’s still one freshman on a team full of role players. He has yet to not put up huge scoring and assist numbers, but he also is a chucker of the first order. As KU proved against Sooner Buddy Hield in Norman two years ago, if you can get those guys to take 30 shots to get their points, it destroys the rest of the team. Trae is going to have some crazy nights where he scores a ton, but no other Sooner does, and they go down. I can’t wait to see how Tech, the best defensive team in the league, tries to slow him.

But it’s really not about Trae, who should give the Big 12 its third-straight National Player of the Year.

West Virginia is deep. Experienced. Hungry. And plays a style of ball that is maddening for opponents. They already have two road wins and a win over Oklahoma. I think that whole team, from the coach down to the last player, is burning to finally get a win in Lawrence and be the team that ends the streak. I think they’re good enough to get it done, especially in a year when so many of the Big 12 teams are built around very young talent.

One of the biggest things about KU’s streak is how no one has ever stepped up to take it away from them. There have been several years, in mid-February, where KU was tied for first, or even in second place. And then they always closed out the year 6–0, 5–1, 4–2, while the teams that were ahead or with them would scuffle to 3–3 finishes. Every. Single. Year.

That’s not happening this year. KU closes with Oklahoma, at Tech, Texas, at Oklahoma State. I’d be thrilled with a 2–2 finish, which most likely would put KU at five or six Big 12 losses.

West Virginia is going to have fewer than five losses and will be Big 12 champs.

Beyond that, I think the Big 12 season is going to be great fun. There isn’t a bad team in the conference this year. Iowa State, currently in last place at 0–3, is going to finish the season with at least three wins against whoever the top four teams in the conference end up being. TCU was undefeated coming into conference play and are off to a 1–2 start. Baylor is likely better than their 1–2 start would show. And while I don’t think Texas is all that good, Mo Bamba is the most unique defensive player in the league and will make them a tough matchup if their guards can ever hit a shot.

It may not be one of the glory years, where you can look at the top four or five teams in the league and think they all have a chance to get to the Final Four. But it is going to be a year where every game should be a dogfight, and the gap between the #2 team and the #10 team is a handful of shots over the 18-game schedule.

As a KU fan, I’ll be watching this Big 12 season with a different eye than in the past. I’ll be hoping that KU gets Preston and De Sousa and can develop a new identity in time for March. But I’ll also probably watch more random games than in recent years. Because I think every game as a chance to be a great one. And with everyone knowing KU is vulnerable, I think every team is going to be fighting like never before to try to be the ones to put the final dagger in the KU streak.

Friday Time Waster

Here is one of the greatest things I saw over the holidays.

“Euverus” used the game Cities: Skylines to test how traffic would flow at a 4-way intersection using 30 different road configurations. I love the examples with no controls, especially the little software glitches that allow vehicles to pass through each other. And some of the higher-end examples are just mesmerizing to watch.

I believe we can label this as Good, Clean Fun.

Via Kottke