Maple Jordan Lifts Off [Originally posted 1/12/14 on sportsblog.com]

I think that was the type of game Jayhawks fans have been waiting for. They picked the right game to break out the intensity. This was undoubtedly the best game they have played since the win against Towson. Kansas was dominant, efficient, and focused. The only mar to the game was the Embiid ejection, but I kind of liked the nasty side he showed. I know Bill Self thinks its “best for a player to think next play”, but I think him hitting K-State’s Nino Williams in the face will show opponents that he won’t be punked.

Quick thoughts from yesterday’s game:

How wet was Wayne Selden’s shot yesterday? He started out 5-7 from the field in the first half before he finished 7-10 with 20 points (3-5 from 3 point range). “Wet” Wayne set the tone early by being aggressive and looking for his shot. I like this new assertive Wayne Selden. He strikes me as the type who hates to lose. If he were to jump into the league today, he could compete in this year’s slam dunk contest. The powerful way he attacks the rim when he dunks physically reminds me of Russell Westbrook or Eric Bledsoe–two awesome physical specimens at their positions. I’m as excited to watch his progression through conference play as I am about any player.

How about those jerseys though? I spent just as much marveling at how crispy the players looked in the new alternate jerseys. I want a poster of this dunk right here to hang on my bedroom door:

I’m not a 15 year old anymore so I’m not into wearing basketball jerseys, but I could mess with these–especially the #22 Air Wigs’ jersey. “Them mugs is clean.”

I feel like a separate post is necessary in the future to examine the psychology of sports jerseys. I find it fascinating the kind of response that is elicited when I come across someone wearing a (or not so) sweet throwback jersey. I almost peed my pants the first time I encountered a dude at the bar wearing an old school Bo Jackson Royals jersey. It gets that deep sometimes. The #22 Jayhawks jersey will one day be just as evocative as the #34 Paul Pierce.

Is this K-State-KU thing really a rivalry? All the KU fans I have talked to were dismissive of this, saying that Missouri was a true rivalry–KU fans hate Missouri. My buddy described the KU-K-State rivalry as a fight with a little brother. Of course you want to win the fight, but you’re not trying to maim anyone–it’s your little brother. I don’t think Jayhawks fans take the basketball program in Manhattan very seriously.

This may sound absurd but if this were the 70’s, we would expect Embiid to stay his full four years and be one of the greatest players to ever put on a Kansas uniform. There would be talk of erecting an Embiid statue adorned with goggles. The guy makes me squeal in anticipation every time he touches the ball. His cross court passes out of double teams are usually on point (as are his outlet passes). He breaks out with a new offensive move with every game. I didn’t think he would be this good this fast. Is it a coincidence that he wears #21, the same number as Tim Duncan?

I understand why Bill Self would not want to sign a deal to play the Shockers. Gregg Marshall could land a higher profile job somewhere else, and the program could right back to being mediocre. Meanwhile Kansas is stuck in this 3 year deal playing against a mediocre mid-major school in a non-conference game. It is a no win situation.

More random notes:

Parody has played an interesting part in the rise of the mid-major teams. With the best talent going to the best schools for a year or two at most, its the not-so heralded teams that get a chance to recruit 4 year players and develop the individuals and build around them as a team. Dynasties may be dead in college forever. In a way it is a shame that Jayhawks (and college hoops fans) can’t watch the slow growth of this year’s team. That is why expectations are so high for this year. Everyone knows that this collection of freshman will be cut in half (at least) come next season. These situations don’t lend to patient fans who know there is no “wait until next year” when a tournament upset happens.

This is why mid-major programs are making deeper runs in the NCAA’s. With a two to three year window to build and develop talent; these teams come into these tough games as juniors and seniors. They aren’t as easily fazed as 18 and 19 year old players. The drop off between a top ten team and an ranked opponent is not as far as it used to be.

Poor Roy Williams looks so burned out from coaching. He looked burned out last year and the problems haven’t decreased for the UNC Tar Heels. I would be very surprised if he coached deep into this decade; I’m thinking 3 more years at the most.

Big ups to:

Damien Lillard for his 26 point 4th quarter against the Kings Tuesday night. While the rest of the team looked like they were running on fumes (Lillard looked pretty beat himself), Dame Dash put up shot after shot, scoring 41 and almost beating the Kings by himself.

Sacramento is becoming more entertaining as the season goes on. Jimmer Fredette coming off the bench is a fun installment in their games. I like the Derrick Williams pickup and Demarcus Cousins is a monster inside. I wonder how many other teams would be perennial playoff contenders if he wasn’t a King.

Shaun Livingston played a hell of a game on Friday against the Heat. He took over down the stretch of that game and made me forget that he ever had a near crippling knee injury. I’m happy to see him getting to play basketball again at a high level.

Norris Cole had a good game that night. He hit the jumper to send the game into overtime (shot 8/13) and notched 7 assists for the night;all without Wade, Chalmers, and eventually Lebron.

People ask me what my favorite team is and my response is always the same, “I don;t really have a favorite team. I just follow my favorite players.” This explains my viewing habits for the games that I watch. Because my five favorite players are Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damien Lillard, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry, it naturally follows that I would watch a lot of Indiana, Golden State, Portland, and Oklahoma City games.

Somethings to think about——

Kirk Hinrich on the Warriors or Thunder.

Andre Miller on the Warriors or Thunder.

Luol Deng on the Thunder.

Marcus Smart on the Milwaukee Bucks next year, with John Henson and the “Greek Freak”

Big game tomorrow night against the Iowa State Hoibergs. I’m excited. A victory tomorrow night would make Kansas 3 and 0 right out the gate. I’m liking how they have looked the last two games. Let’s see if they bring it tomorrow.

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