The sixth week of Big 12 men’s basketball saw some great games and a near-perfect week for the conference. Here are three takeaways from the sixth week of the 2022-23 season.
Don’t forget about our new feature for men’s basketball — Daily Fantasy Lineups. Every night a Big 12 team is part of the Draft Kings pool, I’ll provide my picks for the game, along with my complete lineup. The hope is that by Big 12 play I’m able to put together a full Big 12 lineup during conference games.
The Fardaws Situation
So, let’s rewind. Back in October at Big 12 Media Day, I listened as the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Carlos Silva interviewed Texas Tech forward Fardaws Aimaq. During that conversation Aimaq said that he had been told that a timeline for return was mid-January to February, but that the timeline was for a non-athlete. He then said that he hoped he would be able to return “weeks” before that, but he didn’t put an exact timeline on that (or at least I couldn’t hear that part. Yep, still have the recording).
Later, I interviewed coach Mark Adams and he said that he was keeping his fingers crossed that Aimaq would be ready for the start of Big 12 play.
Was there daylight there? Some. But I took Aimaq’s comments as those of an athlete that wanted to play as quickly as possible and Adams as a coach being optimistic but realistic.
That’s why this past week was such a roller coaster. To review:
Aimaq got his foot out of a hard cast early on Monday. Then, reputable writers reported that Aimaq was headed for the transfer portal. Most troubling was the report that Stadium’s Jeff Goodman filed that Aimaq felt pressured by Adams to return too soon. I didn’t take Adams’ timeline in October as pressure. I took it as cautious optimism. And, note — we still didn’t have a real understanding of exactly what Aimaq had done to his foot.
Well, on Friday, everyone had to backtrack because Aimaq decided to stay at Texas Tech after all. Goodman reported that Aimaq had more conversations with Adams and that there was clarification on both his injury timeline and about his NIL agreement. That, apparently, “altered the situation,” per Goodman.
Aimaq was on a plane with Texas Tech on Friday to head for Houston for its neutral site game with Jackson State. Texas Tech offered up the proof.
I’m as curious as you as to what exactly happened. Based on my interactions with them in Kansas City, I felt both were being open about the situation. Athletes and coaches tend to be cautiously optimistic about injuries, in my experience, and that’s what I thought both were being in KC.
Could there have been a misunderstanding between the two? Sure.
Could Aimaq have decided to transfer based on that misunderstanding? Sure.
Could Aimaq have decided to change his mind after talking further with Adams? Absolutely.
Here’s the thing. Just because you decide to go into the transfer portal doesn’t mean you have to go. He wouldn’t be the first to change his mind. Plus, after talking to players like Iowa State’s Jaren Holmes and Kansas’ Kevin McCullar at Media Days about their experiences getting into the portal, this isn’t like Michael Scott walking into the Dunder-Mifflin bullpen and yelling “I … Declare … BANKRUPTCY!” It doesn’t make it so.
What I’m more concerned about if I’m a Texas Tech fan is whether the pair were or weren’t on the same page about his recovery to the point where Aimaq felt the need to consider transferring. Again, this week’s reporting was sourced and you can look at that any way you want. But misunderstandings like this are something that shouldn’t happen, especially as carefully as athletic departments treat injuries these days. Heck, Baylor wouldn’t release any of Aijha Blackwell’s injury details at the family’s request last month.
I have no doubt that Adams wants Aimaq back on the court. I have no doubt Aimaq wants that, too. Adams has also been around the block plenty. He knows you can’t rush this stuff.
But the Big 12 opener is less than two weeks away and I have a hard time believing that Aimaq will be able to play, less than two weeks after taking off his hard cast.
I hope what happened this week was really just the misunderstanding it’s been billed as. I hope that Aimaq gets back soon and can have the impact the Red Raiders were hoping for when he arrived. A healthy Aimaq makes the Red Raiders a much better team. Adams called Aimaq a “cornerstone of the team” in October. Hopefully he can be soon.
But only when he’s ready.
The Beard Bombshell
Last week’s thoughts were filed before we learned what happened in Austin on early Monday morning (in fact, I think my boss, Pete Mundo, may have adjusted my thoughts accordingly). Our Jackson Moody wrote it perfectly afterward — there are no winners in this situation.
I suspect we won’t see Beard coaching the Longhorns for a while. I can’t see how his legal situation will allow it. This is going to drag well into the new year, unless all parties want to settle, including the county. If I understand the law correctly, prosecutors can still pursue charges against Beard even if the victim drops them.
Even if everyone agrees, does Texas want what the inevitable public relations nightmare this would bring? Even more importantly for athletic director Chris Del Conte is ensuring his department’s female employees have a safe working environment. That seems next to impossible right now.
Rodney Terry is the acting head coach. Expect that title to stick for a while.
My belief is that if Beard did what he’s accused of he should no longer be the coach of the Texas Longhorns. But this is where we’ll have to be patient with the legal process — and keep a close eye on what Texas leadership does when the time comes.
Are We There Yet?
We’ve now reached that point of the schedule where we’re simultaneously ready for a break and ready for conference play to begin. Most of the league has opted to take a pause for the winter break starting on Thursday, with just a couple of teams playing a game between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, when the Big 12 starts league action. Perhaps not the best timing, considering TCU football plays the same day in the Fiesta Bowl against Michigan. But, hey, that’s how it goes.
The games that matter are coming in less than two weeks. That will be our Christmas present, six days late. But we’ll take it.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard