1. As we prepare for the Big 12 Tournament this week, let me first off state how jealous I am of those descending on Kansas City. In the trip my wife and I took to Kansas City in November of 2012, the city blew away my (our) expectations. The Power & Light District is an outdoor hang-out with a live bands, projector screen TV’s, and tens of bars that filter out into the communal outdoor area. Then, you can walk right across the street to the Sprint Center (where the Big 12 Tourney is played), and where we caught a concert. The architecture of the arena is beautiful, and considering it’s 19,000+ capacity, it has a very “cozy” feel. Of course, if you treat yourself to Arthur Bryant’s BBQ joint before, it’s as good a time you’ll have. Very, very underrated city IMHO, with a great downtown scene.
2. Now to the action, there are teams that could use at least a win or two to feel good about their chances of dancin’ come Selection Sunday. Currently, three Big 12 teams are 8-10 in conference play: Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State. Their chances of getting in, from best to worst, I believe are OSU, UT, and KSU. That being said, K-State needs to reach the semifinals to make the NCAA’s; that would require beating TCU and Kansas. Sure, TCU is a tough out, but Kansas is reeling right now, and K-State has already beaten them once this season.
3. Meantime, the Longhorns are suddenly heating up at the right time. Texas plays Texas Tech in the opening round Wednesday, and then if they win, they’ll face Iowa State Thursday night. By reaching the semi finals, the Longhorns have a real chance to hear their name selected on Sunday. Also, there is no doubt that K-State and Texas are rooting for Oklahoma to knock off Oklahoma State in their quarterfinal meeting on Thursday. The Cowboys closed the regular season losing 5 of their last 6. Add in another loss, combined with K-State/Texas picking up a couple of wins, and OSU in serious danger (and maybe too is Travis Ford’s job?).
(note: of course much of this is speculation based on how many at-large bids are available pending smaller conference tournament champions, and surprise champions in the power conference tournaments).
4. As we get ready for postseason play, March is all about teams figuring out which teams are trending in the right, or wrong direction. As I’ve discussed for a couple of weeks now, I am all over the Baylor Bears with their length, rebounding strength, and veteran back court play. And it’s probably not a shocker to you that I am selling the bejesus out of Kansas. It’s beyond incredible Bill Self led this team to another Big 12 Title. But, the inconsistency is obvious, along with limited interior presence, and sporadic guard play. No thanks!
5. Staying with the Jayhawks… the story surrounding the temporary suspensions forward Cliff Alexander is disappointing. Long story short: Yahoo Sports reports his mother allegedly took out a draft loan given to potential high NBA and NFL draft picks. But, the filing was made last August, before Alexander, a freshman, had even started his first semester in Lawrence. The NCAA is investigating this case, and in the meantime, Alexander has been kept off the court. If the story turns up accurate, I hate to see another case of a parent trying to mooch of their kid, adding far to much pressure on a teenager’s shoulders, all in the name of $$. Plus, even if Alexander wasn’t held out of games, he hasn’t produced nearly enough to be considered a “one-and-done”.
6. No Big 12 team is looking forward to the Big Dance more than the West Virginia Mountaineers. The problem with Bob Huggins’ team is that over the course of a true ‘double round robin’ schedule like the Big 12, opponents start to figure you out. They know your tendencies, style of play, and how to counteract your plan. The Mountaineer style, recently renamed, “Press Virginia”, is cause havoc, force turnovers, and pick up easy buckets. When WVU gets a chance to face some fresh blood, their opponents won’t be adjusted to their style of play. This team is not as good as the Final Four squad of 2010, and the lingering injuries to Juwan Staten and Gary Browne are a concern. But, look for WVU to be a potential surprise team in the second weekend of the Tournament.
7. Before switching to the football chatter… our Big 12 tweet of the week courtesy of @thelonghorns12:
8. Of all the spring practices, the Oklahoma Sooners take the cake for most interesting storyline: finding their quarterback to go along with new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s installation of the air raid offense. The race between Trevor Knight, Baker Mayfield, and Cody Thomas will be as intriguing as spring practice can get. Most fans and pundits are giving the edge to Mayfield, the Texas Tech transfer who sat out last season. But, I believe that’s mostly because they feel underwhelmed by what they’ve seen from Knight and Thomas. Let’s not forget, Mayfield threw for 7 touchdowns and 780 yards in his first two games against … SMU & Stephen F. Austin. But, against Big 12 competition he tossed 5 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. I’m not ready to crown him just yet.
9. Oklahoma State QB Daxx Garman has until Monday to decide if he wants to transfer or stay in Stillwater. He’s not going to get the starting job, that’s Mason Rudolph’s. But, as we’ve seen in many cases, the old cliche often rings true: you’re one injury away from being the starter. Garman’s not an NFL quarterback, plus he’s already transferred once (from Arizona). If he likes Stillwater, he’s best off staying, enjoying college, earning his degree, while understanding it’s still entirely possible he sees the field before his time is up. Worst case: I think Garman could pull off the male model route, if he so desired.
10. Staying with Oklahoma State… The Oklahoman’s Kyle Fredrickson wrote a great piece on new running backs coach Marcus Arroyo. He spent last season as an offensive assistant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and prior to that was in the college ranks for a decade. Also, Arroyo has offensive coordinator experience at Wyoming, and Southern Miss, ironically under former OSU OC Todd Monken. Currently, OSU OC Mike Yurcich has gotten plenty of flak within the Oklahoma State community. Yurcich begins his third year with the program… if he and his offense struggles, might Arroyo be the offensive coordinator in waiting? Just a thought.
11. For the fourth consecutive season, Kansas State set another first-day sales record for football tickets. They bought 4,958 tickets, topping last year’s number of 4,330. Billy (I’m going to call him Billy, it has a nice ring to it) Snyder returns 12 starters, and 7 players that earned Big 12 accolades in 2014. In addition, go “google” the new Vanier Football Complex being built. It is going to be a top notch facility. K-State’s program is as healthy as it’s ever been. Kudos to AD John Currie and Bill Snyder.
12. I’m sure the masses were crushed I never got out my picks for Saturday afternoon. Sometimes that whole “life” thing gets in the way. I will be tweeting a pick, against the spread, for each Big 12 Tournament game via our twitter account, @Heartland_CS. Now time for the cheap and cheesy promo: be sure to find us on instagram, @HeartlandCollegeSports and our Facebook page, “Heartland College Sports”.