Two more wins, one entirely too stressful, the other had too much sloppiness but 15 of the better minutes of the year to balance.
Saturday against Oklahoma, KU looked slow and uninterested for much of the game. Like they saw the line was KU –10.5 and figured they would just walk onto the court and the game would be over.
They got their shit together in time to turn it into a comfortable win…until they started missing free throws and turning the ball over. It was a needlessly close, too stressful, two-point win.
After the game KU sat at 9–2 in the Big 12, a game ahead of Baylor, two ahead of Texas Tech. This was the second last-minute win over Oklahoma. There were late wins over Iowa State and Kansas State. It took two overtimes to beat Texas Tech. They blew the game in Austin in the final minute.
I sense a trend.
As a fan you can’t help but wonder what this means. Is this a team that can’t put people away, or a team that is tough as nails and unfazed by late-game stress? Are you concerned that they are playing so many close games that can turn on a single basket? Or is this team finding its identity and developing confidence that will help them weather tight games in March?
Fans love these debates, and the over-analysis that comes with them. Which is silly because the winning argument will be determined by how KU plays in March. The 1996–97 team had at least four huge comebacks to get wins over the course of the season. When they couldn’t complete their comeback against Arizona in the Sweet 16, we decided those games from November to February were all signs that something was wrong. Had they come all the way back and continued on to the Final Four and perhaps a title, that Arizona game would have been the ultimate sign of how tough that team was, how you couldn’t stop them on offense, how they were destined for greatness.
And that team had five NBA players on it. This year’s has, likely, just one. Doesn’t bode well for what’s coming.
After shaking off a very sluggish start Monday, KU played about 15 great minutes and had Oklahoma State down 26 before they decided to miss 16 of their last 17 shots. Not quite the 19-straight misses KU had in Stillwater last month, and a bunch of these were by the bench, but still an ugly end to a satisfying win.
The big takeaways were getting Ochai Agbaji back on track after two sub-par scoring games, a complete effort by the starting five, and more good minutes from Zach Clemence, who returned Saturday after missing a month with a foot injury.
Clemence is raw, fouls on every rebound, and apparently can’t hit a free throw if his life depended on it. But he battles and doesn’t appear to be afraid of the moment. He was the only KU big who had any idea what to do against Tanner Groves on Saturday, changing the game with his defense as much as his three that gave KU a lead they never relinquished. I’m not sure how much you can expect from/trust a kid who missed a month and wasn’t exactly getting big minutes before his injury. But having a 6’10” guy who is versatile and confident could be a nice bonus, especially on the nights when David McCormack is a mess and Mitch Lightfoot can’t do anything other than hack people.
Oh, the other takeaway from Monday’s game was the uniforms. Egad, man! I had not heard a good explanation for them before the game, just that KU was honoring the 1922 national championship squad. As they were white/gray, I assumed this was some dumb Adidas thing where they were overthinking how the only pictures of that ’22 team were black and white, so why not have black and white uniforms? ESPN’s Boog Sciambi finally gave a better explanation late in the game: the ’22 team did, in fact, wear gray and white, but with gray jerseys and white shorts. KU flipped that look so the jerseys would be home whites.
OK, that makes a little sense.
Still I hated them.
I hated it because if a random viewer turned on the TV, their first comment would probably be either “Who is Oklahoma State playing?” or “Why is Kansas wearing black?”
And why in the hell do you bust these out against Oklahoma State, a team that actually has black as a primary jersey color? Granted, they would have looked weird against anyone. And I think I would have hated them against anyone. But wearing them against OSU, Texas Tech, or any other school that features black in their own uniforms was super dumb.
I get what Adidas/KU was trying to do, and they get some points for intent. But the execution was terrible. KU might have worn gray 100 years ago, but there was no reason to wear it in 2022, especially against a team wearing all black. They could have made the lettering and shorts blue. Or wore the all whites the ’22 and ’23 teams wore.
Rumor has it Adidas has another alternate uniform lined up for sometime in the next month. Based on what some other Adidas teams have already unveiled I fear I may hate them, too.
Adidas has made some decent alternate uniforms for KU over the years, notably the Chalks and Phogs. But they keep messing up the regular uniforms then throwing out at least one bad alt set each year.
They really should let me design the uniforms. I would do a better job.
Man, Kevin Pritchard came strong before the trade deadline! Three deals made some major changes to the Pacers’ roster going forward.
He shipped out Caris Levert, who in a nice player but dominates the ball too much and got an expiring contract and some draft picks in return. He sent his best player, Domantis Sabonis, and others, to Sacramento for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Tristan Thompson. Then he sent Torey Craig to Phoenix for Jalen Smith.
The trade with the Kings got the most attention, with a lot of the Internet freaking out over it. Haliburton is a darling of the NBA analytics movement, while a lot of people struggle with their thoughts about Sabonis. Sabonis is the better player right now. But he doesn’t play defense, isn’t a great shooter outside the paint, and I’m not sure he has much more upside. Haliburton is younger, under team control for a lot longer, already shows a lot of promise and seems to have a lot of upside. Plus he seems like a great dude.
Whether this series of trades would have been made if Myles Turner was healthy is an interesting question. Regardless, seems like the Pacers are going with him after trying to force him and Sabonis to work together for four years.
So the Pacers got some draft picks, a potentially great young player, cap space next summer, and some other pieces that can either be moved or fill the gaps until new players can be brought in. It seems like the new talent matches what Rick Carlisle wants to do better than the old. And there’s the familiar mantra of “When Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, and TJ Warren get healthy, this team is pretty solid.” I would not be surprised if the Pacers trade some of their draft capital and returning players to move up in this year’s draft, or find a better match for their younger guys. It’s not a full rebuild, but probably as close as owner Herb Simon is willing to come to one.
The Pacers have blown leads in their first two games with their new lineup. But at least they are interesting again. Those were the first games I had watched since the holidays.
L’s CYO team has had a rough couple of games.
A week ago they got hammered by a really good sixth grade team. I think they lost by 24. It’s crazy watching these year-round teams run offense like high schoolers and have 12 year olds that can hit pull-up 3’s on the break. I keep telling L if she works hard, that’s the kind of game she can have by the end of this summer after three months on a travel team.
Saturday they played another seventh grade team. Strangely they hadn’t beaten a sixth grade team but were undefeated against seventh graders. We jumped out 4–0 then gave up 15 straight points until early in the second half. We cut it to 17–16 with about four minutes to play, but threw a bunch of bad passes and airballs and lost 24–20.
Other than her first CYO game of the calendar year, when she went scoreless, she had scored six or seven points in every game she had played in 2022, whether for her CYO or travel team. A week ago she broke that string by only scoring four. Saturday she scored just two. She missed a ton of shots Saturday. She was angry and didn’t talk all the way.
I know she’s frustrated by the CYO team. They don’t really do anything on offense, so they’re easy to guard. There are two girls who are always in the wrong spot on defense, so they give up easy shots. They don’t rebound. I told her to keep her head up and try to have fun. When travel ball starts next month, with more frequent practices and better coaching, things will get better.
We got her travel schedule last week. They will start practicing in early March then playing shortly after, continuing through the end of June. Most of it is local, although they will go to tournaments in Louisville and Knoxville.