My habit during KU games is to text with my buddy Ed in Texas. We stood next to each other for three years at Allen Fieldhouse, with a few assorted games since then. This has become a cool way to, kind of, recreate that energy from the early 90s. On nights when one of us couldn’t be in front of the TV, and didn’t want to wait to watch on the DVR later, it was fun to send updates that went beyond whatever the online scoring updates offered.
Sadly, the early tip-off time of Sunday’s game against Stanford got in the way of some family responsibilities for him. He was going to do the DVR thing, so no texting.
Knowing I would be full of nervous energy, I decided to keep a (dreaded) running account of my thoughts. What follows has only been edited for spelling and grammar, and the coda was written roughly 30 minutes after the game ended.
In other words, putting a new age media spin on it, this is a real, raw look at what it’s like to be a fan as your team goes down in flames in March. And now I’m going to go throw up.
12:07 PM: Why is it kids pick up on your nervousness/tension and decide to act like idiots just before a big game? There was just yelling and issuing of threats to knock it off or else.
Just read a bunch of scouting reports on Stanford. Pretty big, an elite point guard who is their key, but otherwise a very steady, unspectacular team. Certainly a threat, but feels like a game where if KU plays smart, and sticks to what they should do, they can win with some comfort.
12:23 PM: First time out, 6-6. Scintillating! Tension headache kicking in right on schedule. S. making the good call and getting the kids out of the house for a couple hours.
12:30 PM: 10-6 Stanford, three straight KU turnovers, time out Jayhawks. Embiid’s back, Naadir’s head. It’s going to be the stupid turnovers that kill this team.
12:36 PM: Stanford 14, KU 11, under 12 TO. Cardinal is shooting approximately 97%. Which is great. Wait, 43.8%? Sure feels like more.
Why does Greg Anthony keep saying “yesterday” when referring to the two teams’ games on Friday? We all know what he’s talking about, but it’s distracting. Wouldn’t be nearly so if KU was up 10. Also feels like Stanford is owning the boards, but it’s 8-8. Weird how the nerves of the game affect your perception of it.
12:43 PM: Under 8 TO, Stanford 18-13. Just a thoroughly delightful game. Don’t know if it’s great scouting report D or the experience vs. youth factor, but Stanford doing a great job of hassling every KU cut, pass, and drive while KU not doing a good job of reacting to the pressure. You can see the KU guys thinking about every motion, uncertain of what to do.
Dwight Powell is like every Stanford big dude ever morphed into one. He has that long, lean body so many of them have had. He bears a slight resemblance to the Collins twins. He just looks like he was born to play at Stanford.
Oh, and he had to write a paper after his game Friday! No state school player has ever had to balance athletics and academics, but guys form the smart schools always seem to have that issue. Crazy!
12:57 PM: 21-19 Stanford. Huge shot from Conner Frankamp to cut the lead to two. Solid defense from KU to slow Stanford down, but just can’t get comfortable on offense. Your typical horrible March game where you’re begging your team to hit a couple shots and they can’t find a way to string 2-3 together.
Also yelled “GOD DAMMIT PERRY” for the first time. Worth following.
1:06 PM: Halftime, 24-22 KU. HUGE defensive stop and then Conner drills a 3 at the buzzer to put KU up. Massive sequence. Shame the 45 minute halftime will drain some of the energy from KU, who desperately needed a boost. 13-4 run to close half.
And it was a shitty half. Neither team played well, so don’t know if that’s good or bad for the second half. Hard to see both teams scoring 40 in the second half. Maybe Wiggins can get going, Selden can hit a shot or two, and those two 3’s will give Conner a boost and he’ll carry them through the second half.
Stanford scored just 0.69 points per possession in that half. Best KU had done in a game this year was 0.79 at Baylor. But KU shot 35.7 eFG% in the half. Only the San Diego State loss was worse. Statistics! What am I supposed to do with these???
Who is the guy sitting behind Jim Nantz and Greg Anthony who put his head down and rubs his forehead every time the camera is on them? Shy? In witness protection? Supposed to be “sick” but at the game?
1:23 PM: Second half about to start. Feeling better than I was when it was 18-11. But still kind of miserable. Good times! KU runs a lob play, and for some reason let Naadir Tharpe, the point guard who can’t throw lobs, throw his typical awful pass. Horrible start.
1:34 PM: ARGHGH. KU goes up 5 and does what they always do. A couple of forced shots, a bad turnover. Boom. 7-0 Stanford run makes it 30-28, Cardinal. And KU’s racking up fouls. Time out KU.
1:40 PM: Two more stupid turnovers, two more Stanford layups. 36-30. Did I mention there is a lot of stupidity going on? 13-2 run overall.
1:50 PM: 40-33 Stanford, 11:21 left. Tarik Black is the only guy playing well for KU. Hmmm, only senior on the team.
Funny thing, I constantly call him tar-EEK even though I know he pronounces it TAR-ik. Well, not funny, really. But you’d think I would have figured that out back in November or December.
Damn shame KU doesn’t have a 7-footer to battle with these Stanford bigs. See, I made it nearly 3/4 of the way through the game before I brought up whether Joel Embiid would have an effect on the game. Given how the other freshmen have played today, I don’t know that he would. But he might challenge some of these inside shots Stanford is knocking down.
1:59 PM: 44-37 Stanford, 7:55 to play. Naadir takes a 3 after one pass. Wiggins finally drives, misses a tough layup. Some kid comes off the Stanford bench for the first time and buries a 16’ baseline jumper. I’m sensing it’s one team’s day and not another’s.
KU has four minutes to make a run, or this game is over.
2:06 PM: What a sequence. KU gets two – TWO – steals in the backcourt and can’t convert on four shot attempts. Stanford gets a run out, bucket, and a foul. Seven-point game 6:52 left. Feels like next possession could be the game.
2:14 PM: 51-49 Stanford, 3:42 left. KU’s pressure turning game around. Got it tied at 49-all but just turned ball over. Playing way too fast on offense. Oh, and Tarik fouled out a minute ago.
Misery index: off the charts.
2:36 PM: Stanford 60, Kansas 57, final. What a nutso last five minutes. Frankamp hit some huge shots to make it close. Needed a little more space on the last chance to tie it. Last time I saw the stat KU went 9-21 at the rim. Shades of the loss to UCLA in 2007. Make layups, win the game. Maddening.
That said, I’m sitting here roughly ten minutes later and have less immediate bummed out feelings than I normally do. Perhaps it was knowing this team had such a wide variance in how good and how poorly they could play. Maybe it was a different emotional investment knowing Wiggins would only be on campus one year. Maybe it was knowing a team full of freshmen would be more prone to crack under the pressures of March.
Damn, they fought hard late. Just couldn’t make tough shots over the big dudes down low.
The biggest bummer is we don’t get to see Jojo play again.
What a shitty way for Wiggins to end his (brief) college career. I think that charge call early (which was clearly the wrong call) shook him a little. But Stanford really put the clamps on him and, as was the case early in the season, he couldn’t figure out how to counter.
I wish Wiggs well, and am thrilled he spent a year in Lawrence, even if it ended poorly for him and the team. I loved watching him, especially on the nights he figured things out and was aggressive. I’ve had arguments with other fans, both KU fans and fans of other teams, about him all year. I think he has a chance to be a really good pro. He just turned 19 and has lots of physical maturing to do. He’s going to gain weight, get stronger, improve his ball handling/control, turn that beautiful shooting stroke into a weapon, and learn how to absorb contact and finish. But he could also be just another super athletic 6’8’’ guy who averages 10 or 12 points a game. But anyone who says it was a mistake to take him, or that his year at KU was wasted, is an idiot.
I’m not going to spend much time worrying about whether Joel Embiid comes back or not. I think it’s highly likely he’s gone. Which is a shame. I’d love to see him play another year of college ball, hopefully healthy the entire year. But I just don’t expect him to turn down the #1 pick or take the risk an extended injury next year knocks him down further for the 2015 draft.
I wrote earlier this year than Wiggs and Jojo were disguising the fact that KU was finally in the midst of a rebuilding year. For the first time in seemingly ever there wasn’t a crop of experienced guys who had paid their dues ready to step into leadership roles. And that showed every night KU struggled. I think that’s the ultimate reason I can’t get too down about this loss. They turned what could have been a bubble team into a conference champion that earned a #2 seed.
Next year three freshmen will be back. I think Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp will both play a lot of minutes and be very good players. Brannen Greene just might be the break-out player in the Big 12. Perry Ellis can get stronger and learn how to finish around bigger players better. Kelly Oubre isn’t as talented as Wiggins, but he is a slashing 6’7’’ guy who oozes talent and will play a similar role. Cliff Alexander was the Naismith high school player of the year, and while he needs to improve his body, has been an absolute beast in high school. I would imagine there will be one more addition to the roster, and it could be a surprise, depending on how the fifth-year senior thing works out at a couple other schools.
KU might not be as rawly talented next year. But they’re going to be pretty freaking good again.
So Rock Chalk, bitches.