Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Big 12 Basketball Preview: Part IV

Before jumping into this preview, let me first recognize the Kansas players that were awarded All-American status today. I'm under the impression that the AP All-American team is the most highly prestigious of them all. And today, Aqib Talib and Anthony Collins were both selected to the first team while James McClinton was honored as a second teamer. Congratulations to all three. In all, the Big 12 had 8 first team selections, the most of any conference. They will also add a coach to this fictitious team, that too could come from the Big 12.

The Nursultan Tulyakbay Division

"He is pain in my assholes. I get a window from a glass, he must get a window from a glass. I get a step, he must get a step. I get a clock radio, he cannot afford. Great success!" That's right, these are the teams related to Borat's jealous Kazakhi neighbor, Nursultan Tulyakbay. They want the conference championship and even have hopes of contending for bigger rewards, but it's just not going to happen. But hey, at least it's not the Urkin Division.

3. Texas A&M Aggies

It is without a doubt that Mark Turgeon got out of Wichita at exactly the right time. It's too bad he had to go to College Station to do so, but he inherited a pretty good team for his efforts. This team got better on the inside, but lost a huge cog on the outside, leading us to…The most obvious question; how will they fare without Acie Law IV? Aside from his scoring and unbelievable late game dominance, people forget that he was far and away their best distributor as well. So far, they have looked the part of a Sweet 16 team aside from getting complacent in Tucson and letting Arizona come back and beat them. Unfortunately, they needed that game for their resume as they really don't have any top other tier non-con games.

Specifically, their "biggest" OOC games have been against Washington, Ohio State and Alabama. In beating the first two they won the Preseason NIT in MSG. More specifically, they annihilated Ohio State to the tune of 70-47 and beat the Huskies and the Tide in stunningly similar (77-63 and 76-63) and much less impressive fashion. The Ohio State win is good, but not great. Obviously they are a year removed from being the national runner-up, but it's an understatement to say that this team is not quite up to that same standard. As for the other two, neither impresses me much at all. The Washington win probably looks better as it's on a neutral floor and they are probably the better team, but they were also without their best scorer, Appleby. Alabama, on the other hand, had to come to College Station and are adjusting to life without Ronald Steele – I would have liked a more convincing win (this was a 3 point game with 12 minutes left). However, we have to remember that they are adjusting to a new coaching style right now and they should not be held accountable for not blowing teams out – especially if they are winning soundly in the process. They have little remaining aside from a home game against an average LSU team. This sounds dramatic, but they can ill-afford another loss.

Once the conference slate gets going, they need to hope that all of the fake cadets Fran upset during football will turn their attention to the hardwood. I know the South is tough, but if this is a sweet 16 team, they will win at least 7 of those 10. From the north, they travel to KSU, ISU and Methzou. Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska come to College Station. There is no excuse for losing to ISU, CU and NU so winning 4 is attainable and 5 would be gravy. Do those things they should have no trouble being in the top 3 in the conference and they will probably be looking at a 3 or 4 seed come tourney time.

Notable Players: Josh Carter and Joseph Jones are their best returning players and both have been solid. Carter chalks up 13 and 5, while Jones is at 12 and 5. I was similarly impressed with Donald Sloan and Dominique Kirk, who are about as similar as the Olson twins. Both play great defense and are solid on the offensive end as well. Sloan is quite a bit thicker and uses it to produce a bit more on the stat sheet – right now at 9, 4, and 3. Kirk is pretty much just a shorter, darker Bruce Bowen, earning his keep on the defensive end, but also contributing elsewhere at 8, 3 and 4. That last number may be the most important as he is the only Aggie producing over 2.6 (Sloan's 3) assists per game and as a team they are at 15. This could be an area of concern as the competition improves, but again, they are still learning a new offense. Houston black man DeAndre Jordan has effectively replaced the whitest Lithuanian around, Antanus Kavaliauskas. At 7 foot tall, he has adjusted rather nicely and is steadily averaging 10 and 7, leading the team in the latter. As he is a freshman it will be important to see if he hits a wall or continues to progress. I don't know much about Bryan Davis or Derrick Roland, but both have contributed nicely, averaging around 7 points and 2 assists with Davis getting the nod on the boards with 5 to Roland's 3. As you may have guessed, this team has good balance and can get production from any number of these guys. Can Turge replace Billy? Can anyone replace Acie? I say yes and not entirely. With better balance, they won't directly replace him but they should be able to come up with his general production. What I doubt they will be able to equal is his late game prowess or overall affect on the team.

2. Kansas Jayhawks
Not! "He's still asshole. I get iPod, he only get iPod Mini. Everybody know it for girls!"

2. Texas Longhorns

What, you think just because Texas traipsed into LA and knocked off the hated Bruins that I was going to give them the conference? In this young season, no one in the country has done more than Texas. No Kevin Durant? No problem. Truth be told, I'm not sure what to think about how they have flourished this year. Perhaps they are better off without Durant because they relied too heavily on him last year. And since Rick Barnes decided against play calling and instead chose to tell his team to get Durant the ball, they became a bit clueless when he was properly defended - since every team knew that was all they had planned, it could occasionally happen. But hey, despite his inability to combine the unanimous player of the year with what is now being proven as great surrounding talent, both the AP and Rick Barnes himself voted him Big 12 Coach of the Year. Forget the fact that A&M was 2 years removed from a 0-16 Big 12 record and they were the second best team in the league and a 3 seed in the tourney. What am I missing, again?

After destroying an always overrated, but good Tennessee team, Texas then went out to Westwood and defeated the previously unbeaten Bruins. For some reason, everyone thinks Tennessee is to be taken seriously solely because Bruce Pearl is their coach and an avid chest painter. I don't buy into that logic, but winning in Pauley Pauvilion sold me. Aside from those two games they have played literally no one. I had not even heard of a couple of the schools. They have two more big games OOC, traveling to East Lansing to play the Izzo's and welcoming to Austin the Wisconsin "Our coach looks exactly like our mascot" Badgers. They should have no trouble with the latter and if they also beat Sparty, no one in the country will be able to match their OOC resume.

Once conference play gets going, the biggest issue will be their consistency. Rick Barnes coached teams don't generally play a lot of defense. So far they have not looked bad, but I'm doubting they continue at this pace through March. This will be important to watch as the offense will inevitable hit a lull at some point and they will need to win a couple games with their D. There is a chance they could be favored in every game as Kansas has to come to them, but since that game is nearly 2 months away it's too hard to tell. With Kansas in the north and every bit as good, I'm thinking they won't be able to lose much more than 2 if they want to win the league, especially outright.

Notable Players: For whatever reason, most people chose to ignore how good DJ Augustin was last year (It's OK to pay attention to more than 1 player on the same team). Regardless, they are noticing now as he is averaging 19 points and 7 assists. No one in the country can consistently keep him out of the lane. The key is to help and rotate but also find a way to defend his passing angles. Baby Abrams has been their other big scorer putting in slightly more than the 19 Augustin is scoring. His skills pretty much stop and start at the three point line though. At 6-7, a much more fit Damion James has been their biggest inside force averaging 12 and 10. Texas desperately needs him to keep this up as they do not have a great deal of athletic ability on the inside. It will be interesting to see how he does against guys who can match his athleticism and have a noticeable size advantage. Connor Atchley is their only other big that really contributes getting 11 and 5. I'll be surprised and impressed if this isn't an issue as the season goes on, as I have never been too impressed with his inside game. Justin Mason is their other contributor and has been solid, scoring over 10 a game. I don't see how depth isn't an issue at some point with all five of those guys getting over 30 minutes and no one else even getting 15. Only time will tell though.

And that concludes the Nursultan Tulyakbay Division with only one team remaining. Keep checking back as their preview should be up shortly as well.

In other news, I heard a couple of things mentioned on ESPN I was hoping to get clarified…

- Was Michael Vick involved in some sort of a dog-fighting scandal?
- Are the New England Patriots undefeated?

Any information and/or help in determining whether these things occurred would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help.

One last thing: Do yourself a favor and read through this little diddy.


GingerBalls said...

2 Fucking AP first-teamers and a 2nd-teamer, I really didn't think that I would ever see that coming prior to this season. To think that Scout only had all three of them as 2 star prospects, really tells you something of the staff. Great b-ball breakdown btw...best for last.

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