Embeast Mode [Originally posted on sportsblog.com 1/15/14]

That loud crash you heard was the back axles straining from the weight of all those people jumping back on the bandwagon. After early non conference losses, people were ready to bury the Jayhawks for dead. If Kansas beats up on Oklahoma State on Saturday, then the same people who over hyped KU– only to abandon them after the San Diego State game–will be ready to crown them champs before we are even a third of the way through the schedule.

Let’s check out who the Jayhwaks lost to:

1)Villanova. They were unranked before the Battle of Atlantis tournament started. Now they are sitting #6 in the country.

2) Florida. They were top ten at the time they beat KU, and now they are # 7 in the nation.

3) Colorado. Also a top 25 team that was unranked during the time they beat Kansas. Now they are #21 in the nation.

4) San Diego State. Another top ten team that KU barely lost in a pretty physical game.

None of those losses were enough to justify the panic that some Jayhawks fans had. Critics outside of Lawrence were quick to write them off as too hyped even if they were the main culprits creating such media hype. It is a long season and there are still some highs and lows for the team to navigate. It seems silly to over react either way to how a team plays in January.

Notes from Monday’s game:

Big ups to Nadir Thaarpe for playing the way everyone was hoping he would. 23 points 6 rebounds and 4 assists may not get him out Self’s doghouse permanently, but it is a great start. As much as the Jayhawks need his outside shooting, I hope that Nadir doesn’t forget that his team needs his passing more than anything else. He has to get the ball into the playmakers’ hands. Every shot that went in for Thaarpe elicited a “Tharpeedo” yell from one of my buddies the other night. I know it’s kind of corny but I’m digging it.

After DeAndre Kane hit the 3 pointer to tie it up at the half, I was certain that the Jayhawks were in for a dogfight. I was severely disappointed that the Cyclones second half strategy was to flop and try to foul out KU’s big men. Besides Kane (who I believe could be a late round gem for a team like the Spurs–I think playing for Pops would be good for his development), I was not that impressed with any of the Iowa State players. This was the eighth ranked team in the country? It just goes to show how arbitrary the top 25 rankings really are. Iowa State played like some busters. As happy as I was to see KU perform like they did, I was just as disappointed that the Cyclones didn’t play better in the 2nd half.

I was even less impressed with the officiating. They fell for every flop that Iowa State attempted, and they blew the whistle way too much. It really interrupted the flow of the game and I hope that teams don’t copycat this strategy to try and get the KU big men out of the game. I also think people are over reacting about Embiid and teams are picking on him specifically to try and draw flagrants on him. That flagrant 1 call on him early in Monday’s game was a horrible call. The NCAA needs to nip this in the bud as soon as possible.

Embiid was in “Embeast” mode (courtesy of Sam) during one particular stretch of the game (he finished 7-8 with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 5 blocks).To see a player take over the game on both ends of the court like Embiid did the other night, makes me wonder how good he will be come tournament time. There were some Kareem jokes made the other night concerning his goggles, but it doesn’t seem such a stretch to suggest that Embiid could be a franchise changing center in the NBA. It is unreal just how fast his game has developed since the start of the season. I came away from Monday night’s game convinced that Joel is the best player on the team.

I wonder if having an enforcer on the floor with Embiid like Tarik Black, would help alleviate the bush league tactics of other teams, trying to get Embiid off his game. Sometimes its necessary to have these kinds of guys. Charles Oakley is the first player to come to mind who fit this role. Rick Mahorn for the Bad Boy Pistons is another. Tarik Black is the only true grimy player I can think of on the roster (though Wayne Shelden looks like he isn’t afraid to alpha dog when need be) who can protect guys like Wiggins and Embiid from taking cheap shots from the other teams. I guess that would mean a front line of Jamari Traylor and Ellis, but maybe that would open the lanes up a bit. It would be interesting to see these wrinkles for a couple of minutes a game just to see how it looked. I’m going to keep an eye out for it.

Lastly, as much as I liked Saturday’s uniforms, I disliked Monday’s uniforms just as much. I couldn’t get past the intrusive pinstripes on the gray background. I liked the font and lettering on the jerseys themselves. I didn’t even mind the gray. But those red pinstripes though……..

There is a lot to look forward to this week and weekend:

UCLA vs. Colorado

Oklahoma vs. Baylor

Denver at Golden State

Portland and San Antonio

Golden State and Oklahoma City (Not quite the luster without Russ Westbrook)

Niners-Seahawks (I’m taking the Niners–my boy Kaepernick is going to get it done up there)

Patriots-Broncos (Just a hunch, but I think the Pats like being the underdogs.)

Kansas vs. Oklahoma State

I’ve had this game circled since the beginning of the season. This is the litmus test to see how difficult it will be to win the Big 12. I’ve heard some people say that they Cowpokes are going to be hurting without Michael Cobbins, but the rest of the team can pitch in to get 5 points and 5 rebounds. I get the feeling that Marcus Smart is going to want to show the nation what he has to offer as a player as well (this may or may not work against him–we’ll see). It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere especially in regards to how well Smart plays. I’m doing whatever I can to get in the building on Saturday. Wish me luck.

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