I know it's early in the year, but selfies are winning the year 2014. Obama's doing it with world leaders at Mandela's funeral, Ellen is taking time away from Oscar speeches to take them while hosting the Academy Awards. Eventually, the trend will reverse course; but until the revolution occurs, indulge your ego. The Big 12 is the Bill Selfie conference. Kansas' coach is head and shoulders above his peers right now and there doesn't appear to be a requital occuring anytime soon.
Kansas succeeded where Calipari's Kentucky squad could not. They integrated two freshman McDonalds All-Americans and an unheralded center who blossomed into the most coveted player by NBA scouts. They’re also thriving in a conference that’s one of the toughest in America.
Fortunately, for the rest of the league, Embiid won’t be around for the Big 12 Tournament, which is like discovering the executioner is out sick. Unfortunately, for the rest of the Big 12, Kansas has another axe to wield.
Off the bench, Tarik Black will step into the role vacated by Embiid. There’s also the possibility of Wiggins going off on another opponent.
In reality, there’s not much anyone besides West Virginia can gain from the Conference Tournament. The worst team on the at-large bubble is probably the most intriguing as conference tournaments tip-off. Somehow West Virginia is back on the bubble after benefitting from the bump that generally accompanies defeating No. 1 overall seeds — even if they aren’t at full-strength.
The fewest wins from a major-conference team to receive an at-large bid belong to the Arizona Wildcats and Michigan State Spartans who were both 18-14. Props to the Mountaineers for barely scraping by with a passing grade. They just need one more win to meet that threshold. On Thursday night, they’ll face Texas in the quarterfinals with an opportunity to burnish their confounding resume.
On the downside, they’ve lost twice to Texas this season. West Virginia’s defense has allowed at least 80 points in 9 of their last 10 games. If West Virginia keeps winning, it’s bad news for teams like Green Bay, St. Johns, Providence and Cal.
Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart has his groove back. Smart is proof that college basketball needs an All-Star Break or Spring Break, yanno since they’re STUDENT-athletes mid-season because since his suspension he’s come back rejuvenated like he chilled with Angela Bassett in Montego Bay while he was away. Smart’s displaying touch on his jumper for the first time all season, he dished 10 assists for the first time as a collegiate point guard.
Kansas State’s Marcus Foster is the freshman college basketball forgot. However, David Stockton, scion of John Stockton, will never forget the name. Foster is hitting nearly 40 percent of his treys and last time he graced a court, Foster torched Baylor for 29 points. They’ll open against Iowa State, the conference’s best offense.
The Baylor Bears won’t be allowed to wear their glow-in-the-dark uniforms during the conference tournaments which is a blow to their chances because the blinding light those jerseys emit is a competitive advantage analogous to staring into night vision googles when the lights get cut on.
Overall, expect tons of offense on the Big 12’s side. Remember a few years ago, when Big 12 football was being hailed for the spread quarterbacks and fans were marveling at spiraling footballs being confused with hovering UFOs by casual observers? Big 12 basketball is also in the midst of an offensive renaissance. While the rest of the nation is bogged down by offenses that pound the rock and swing the ball along the perimeter at a plodding pace, the Big 12 is regularly frying scoreboards with their frenetic offensive pace.
Baylor and Oklahoma State took care of business in the Big 12 Tournament's warmup round on Wednesday night in routs that saw both score at least 75. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is quietly the eighth-highest scoring offense in college basketball and the tournament's No. 2 seed.
But not every team is cherrypicking on the defensive end. Texas Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes crash the glass better than any frontcourt in the Big 12 and defend the rim like it’s their family’s honor.
The best defense statistically in the conference is Kansas State’s 53rd ranked scoring defense. Baylor is the second-stingiest defense allowing 68 points per game—118th in the nation. Offensively, five teams are top-30 in putting the ball in da bucket.
Embiid was a rare Dead End amidst a conference of traffic cones. Without him, Kansas is mortal. There will be an adjustment period, but Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis will have to pick up the slack offensively to account for the lack of rim protection in the paint. Bill Self has a monopoly on the regular season title, but the conference championship is a microwave version of the regular season that gives the Big 12’s proletarian class an opportunity to exact some sort of revenge. Just in case you’re wondering, Kansas has also won six of the last eight conference titles. The other two titles were claimed by Missouri which is no longer an obstruction for them after their migration to the SEC. Godspeed.