Like the great Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson once said, “It’s preview season!” (alright, maybe they didn’t say exactly that). With the college basketball season greatly approaching, CHD is bringing you the most important, up-to-date information on your favorite NCAA basketball conferences. We’ll even throw in a little dash of nonsense and a heaping plate full of hype to go along with it (all for free!). Hunker down and strap it in folks, it’s almost time to Rise and Fire once again. Today, the Big 12.
Or perhaps “11 Straight!” would be a more suitable title?
Kansas and head coach Bill Self once again find themselves in the Top-5 of the AP Poll and look primed to win at least another share of their 11th straight Big 12 regular season title, which is tied for third behind UCLA’s 13 and Gonzaga’s 11. And while things look extremely different in Kansas from last year, they kind of look all the same.
The Jayhawks are a lot like the show The Walking Dead. Not in the sense that there are ravenous zombies with alleged toupees looking for yet another meal around Lawrence. But in terms of the cast of characters. What the Walking Dead does so perfectly is it gives you a core cast, but continues to fill in the spaces around them with new faces. While the scenery and the ensembles change, it’s still the same show. Still the same winning concept.
Just like at Kansas.
Bill Self has lost three starters from last years team (two of which were top five picks in this years NBA Draft) and while losing such talent would normally ruin a cast, not The Walking Jayhawks. Self added three more five-star recruits to fill in with Cliff Alexander (No.3 on ESPN’s Top-100), Kelly Oubre (No. 11) and Ukranian Sviatosiav Mykhalliuk (more on him later).
Self also brings in four-star point guard Devonte Graham, who should be Self’s first real point guard since Sheron Collins.
The addition of the fresh bodies is a good thing going into 2014-15 (especially if we maintain this Walking Dead theme), but it’s the leftovers that will push this group in tallying up Big 12 wins. Perry Ellis is back as a junior coming off of 13.5 points per game last year and Self and company believe that that number will inevitably continue to rise. Wayne Selden looks to actually become somewhat competent from three (32.8%) and on the opposite end of the spectrum Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson has been getting a lot of praise from the coaching staff for his actual range (and his ability to block shots).
Also look out for Brannen Greene, the 47th ranked player on ESPN’s 2013 recruiting rankings to crack the rotation as a sophomore. While Greene only played in 28 games and hovering around 6 minutes a game, he was up against stiff competition at the shooting guard and small forward positions with Andrew Wiggins and Selden getting the majority of the minutes. While it seems like the perimeter is even more stacked this year with the incoming class, Greene has already gone through the ringer going up against last years wrecking crew in what was basically a red shirt season. An extra year to marinate usually means more playing time for Self.
The out of conference schedule is going to be a feeling out process for this mixed bag of rookies and veterans, but come the Big 12 schedule, Self should have these guys rolling, with clear defined rolls. And as long as the Jayhawks are a well oiled machine by the time the conference zombie hoard rolls in, they’ll surely get to #11.
I really like Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg. Nay, I love him. And trust me, that hurts me to admit. As a Hawkeye, I am supposed to hate everything Iowa State. I basically want to punch Ronald McDonald in the face every time I go to slam McNuggets down my gullet simply because of his color scheme. But I can’t bring myself to dislike Iowa State basketball under Hoiberg. It’s just the way he goes about his business. It’s different. He’s zigging while others zag. He’s the definition of Mark Cuban’s overall belief system.
The Mayor brings in high quality transfers by selling them on his fast paced, spread offense and then conjures terrific basketball out of them. He’s found a niche and it’s succeeding. Just look at this list of players Hoiberg has brought into Ames via transfer: Chris Babb, Chris Allen, Royce White, Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious DeAndre Kane, and Dustin Hogue. Complain away about how Hoiberg is taking advantage of the system all you want because at the end of the day, it’s working very well.
The transfers coming into this season should be able to hold true and make an impact immediately. Bryce Dejean-Jones is a graduate transfer from UNLV. He was the Runnin’ Rebels leading scorer and assist man last year and should be the off-ball starter for The Mayor. The other won’t be eligible until Decemeber in transfer Jameel McKay. The 6’9″ rim protector is going to be the staple in the Cyclone defense that has often found itself a little small in conference and tournament play.
But the Cyclone offense that has ranked sixth in Ken Pom’s offensive efficiency rankings each of the past two years will be anchored by junior power forward Georges Niang. Niang has had quite the offseason since breaking his right foot in the tournament the game before the Cyclones lost to eventual tournament champion, UConn. He is now an official member of the “Offseason Body Transformation Club” having lost 30 pounds. We even got the obligatory transformation photo, which is shocking. He hopes that with the slimmer body, he can become a bigger and efficient impact on the offensive end and will eliminate his lack luster, fatigue related fouls.
Long in the horn
The old adage of “Defense wins championships” might as well have been written on the walls, media programs and jerseys of the Longhorns last year (98.4% in adjusted defensive efficiency, 55th in the nation). With what many thought was a depleted roster, Rick Barnes was on the hottest of hot seats going into 2013-14. Instead, on the back of that defense, Barnes and company made it to the round of 32, earning the longtime Texas coach an extension into 2019.
Talk about a complete 180.
Texas won’t have the same luxury of being a team nobody saw coming this year. Ranked No. 10 in the AP Poll, Texas returns nine of its 10 rotation players from last year including what could be the nations best point guard in Isaiah Taylor. As a freshman, Taylor accounted for 26.3% of the teams overall assists and is one of the most creative penetrators in college basketball which should work perfectly with ESPN No. 2 ranked player Myles Turner (more on him later).
The best part of the Longhorns this season is the identity they are taking into the season, using the acronym INAM.
It’s Not About Me.
Preach Ricky, preach.
Best of the Rest
In some order:
Obligatory Freshman Hype Machine
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk- Kansas, G
The Ukranian Sharpshooter! It’s hard for me to decide if Svia (can I call you Svia?) is really, really good or if Ukranian defenses are really, really bad. The 6’6″ guard is eligible immediately and is already getting comps to Manu Ginobli while others are saying he’s the best Euro player since Ricky Rubio. All I know is that I want a three minute YouTube video of Kansas natives trying to say his name. Make this happen KU Athletic Department!
Myles Turner-Texas, F
Oh. My. Word. Now that’s the way you start a high school mixtape video! Turner is a 6’11” power house with a 7’4″ wingspan who likes defense. Seriously! He is honestly excited to “anchor” Rick Barnes defensive frontline. A freshman that is excited about defense, what world are we living in? Talk about INAM! The idea of Turner and his point guard Isaiah Taylor running pick and rolls is going to be more frightening to opposing defenses than the clown from American Horror Story: Freak Show is to Coulrophobiacs. It even looks like Turner has a little bit of a jumper if left wide open. I’m more excited than the Nintendo 64 kid to watch Turner and this already stacked Longhorns team.
Cliff Alexander-Kansas, F
ALL THE TOMAHAWK DUNKS! ALL THE BLOCKS! I can’t wait for Kansas to wear their alternate red uniforms so I can call him Clifford the Big Red Dog. I don’t know if you noticed this or not, but Clifford is like a walking NBA Jam character. Seriously. I just keep picturing Shawn Kemp and Karl Malone jumping from the free throw line and slamming down an alley-oop. I honestly don’t know if he has a deep hatred for the ball or the rim with the way he just keeps abusing them in this video.
Save the Date
A Four Parter!
On January 24, Kansas heads to Austin, Texas to take on the Longhorns. Turner v. Alexander: The Battle of the Shadows Part 1.
On February 2, Iowa State goes into Kansas. The Mayor v. The Governor: The Battle for the Big 12 Senate.
On February 21, Texas travels to Ames to take on the Cyclones. The Recruits v. The Transfers: The Battle of NCAA Right and Wrong.
On February 28, Texas heads to Lawrence, Kansas to take on the Jayhawks. Turner v. Alexander: The Battle of the Shadows Part 2.