Ah, the trip to Morgantown, where so many good/great KU teams have gone and dropped total turds. It didn’t matter that this year’s WVU team is kind of bad and sitting in 10th place in the Big 12: this game should have frightened KU fans because of our past experiences there.
(You could tell this West Virginia team kind of sucks by the way Bob Huggins coached. That was as docile as I’ve ever seen him. He knows he has some good kids and they’re trying hard, but they just aren’t good enough. He understands there’s not need to berate them when he’s already getting all he can out of them.)
There were some scary moments Saturday night, but KU rallied and actually closed out a game strong for the first time in weeks to get a nice road win. Sadly, it was just matching Texas Tech and Baylor, who had both already won there. But it still felt big.
We’re at the point in the season where every team pretty much knows what they have. I think we know what we have in KU: a very talented team on offense that throws the ball away too much, can rebound the hell out of the ball against all but the most athletic opponents, and plays pretty middling defense.
Those turnovers and defense plus the team’s struggles to be poised late in halves say that this isn’t a Final Four team. They have too many weaknesses that will get exposed when March rolls around. It’s a really good team, but I don’t think they have greatness in them.
Which is fine.
They are still really fun to watch at times. Ochai Agbaji seems to have re-found his mojo. David McCormack is playing really well. Jalen Wilson’s transformation has been spectacular. Christian Braun always finds a way to affect the game.
It just doesn’t feel like they have the right mix to hang a banner of their own.
Thus the focus is on adding their own notch to the Big 12 banner. With five games remaining, going 3–2 guarantees at least a share of the title. Go 4–1 and neither Baylor nor Tech can catch them. It’s right there in front of them.
It’s not a done deal, and KU could certainly slip up and turn 3–2 into 2–3. But I’ve decided to enjoy the next five games and the Big 12 tournament, and then figure this team won’t play to their seed and end the season on a disappointing note. Maybe they’ll win a couple so their loss can come in the second weekend of the tournament while I’m on spring break and have distractions. I’m hoping the end will be easier to take since I’m already accepting it a month in advance.
NCAA Tournament Preview
I think it’s kind of weird that the NCAA started releasing these bracket previews a few years back. Partially because there are seemingly hundreds of bracket previews out there, why do we need another, even if it is the officially-sanctioned one? I guess it dominated college hoops news for an entire day, so it serves a purpose.
I don’t know that there’s a good time to release it that doesn’t render it temporary, but a Saturday morning seems like an especially fluid time. Nearly every ranked team plays most Saturdays. Within an hour-or-so of the preview’s release Auburn and Kentucky were both trailing. Kentucky came back to win, but Auburn came up short in their comeback. Immediately non-NCAA bracketologists were sliding Auburn down in their overall seedings.
More annoying to me are people who argue about these projected brackets. They literally do not matter because the season does not end on February 19 or whatever. The teams that are fighting for the top seeds will all play anywhere from 6–9 more games before the final brackets are posted. A LOT can happen in that time. A team that looks like Final Four material now can have a big injury or just go cold on offense. A team that is struggling to find themselves can get an injured player back, or the coaches can make an adjustment that suddenly helps them cover up some warts.
Drew Magary said on Twitter last week that Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir needed to stop acting like the Olympics figure skating controversy was the Cuban Missile Crisis, which I thought was amazing. Same goes for people who take these early brackets way too seriously.
Along those lines, bitching about rankings is dumb. There’s a KU podcaster I follow who rips rankings from various writers each week. His issue isn’t always with where they have KU, but it often is. None of it matters. Now it is whack to have a team that everyone else has in, say, the top seven, #18 or whatever on your list. But in the era of NET and Quadrants and all the other advanced rankings, the media poll is a meaningless artifact of a bygone era.
L’s team hasn’t really had a close game this season. They lost one game by four, but trailed by close to ten most of the game. Just about every other game has been 10+ points either way. They finally had a tight one Saturday.
We were up 16–10 midway through the first half then gave up a 6–0 run to tie it. Our best player was on fire, though, and we went into halftime up two thanks to her 10 first-half points.
The second half was a bit of a slog. Neither team hit a shot from the field until eight minutes into the half. By then we were down because they had hit six free throws to our two. As usual they were running way better offense than we were, so it felt like the game would get away from us. It didn’t help that we had just six players, and our only sub was a girl called up from the B team (which is really a C team).
But our girls hung in there. We tied it up, took a brief lead, then fell behind by 3 with about 3:00 to play. We have a girl who has the craziest shot you’ve ever seen. She’s about as big around as your pinky finger and shoots the ball from below her hip, twisting her body as she heaves it toward the hoop. But she somehow makes a lot of them. She kept getting fouled Saturday. She missed her first two free throws, then hit seven straight, four of those in the closing minutes.
We had a one-point lead, playing defense, with about 15 seconds left. Their best player had fouled out so another girl tried to drive and dribbled it off her foot. We were inbounding with five seconds left. They stole a long inbounds pass in their backcourt, pitched it ahead to a girl who fumbled the ball twice near midcourt, then recovered and threw a perfect, cross-court pass to a teammate who was wide-open from about eight feet. She turned, flung the ball, and it banked in. I was keeping score and it looked good to me. One ref didn’t make a call, typical for the general quality of refs. I don’t think he was even watching. The other ref casually waved the basket off. The other team’s entire bench went nuts, coaches and players. Our girls sheepishly celebrated.
One of our parents was recording the game for grandparents. We looked at the tape and the ball was still in the shooter’s hands when she shot, so it was a legit call by the ref. But it was damn close.
L scored a season-high 10 points, hitting four shots, including a break-away layup that gave us a 3-point lead with under a minute to play. She was also 2–4 from the line, hitting one of two when their coach got T’ed up. After the game I jokingly told her she should go thank him. Her response, “No way! He’s crazy!”
It was nice to get a win, nicer to do so in a close game. One more game next weekend followed by the tournament and then she’ll be all-in on travel ball for four months.