Tag Archives: Kansas Basketball

Wayne Selden Returning to KU. My Heart is Beating Again

Every now and then, people love something fiercely and it lets them down. For me, this crushing bolder of despair is called the NCAA tournament. I root like hell for the Kansas Jayhawks, and with rare exception, the season ends in failure. It happened again this year, and ever since the loss to Stanford on Sunday, I’ve been refreshing the CNNSI Jayhawks teams page for a thread of hope, a sliver of light to give me hope in my sports fan-cave of woe. And now I have it. From The Washington Times:

Kansas guard Wayne Selden announced Tuesday that he return for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-5 Selden averaged nearly 10 points for the Jayhawks, whose season ended with a 60-57 loss to Stanford on Sunday in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Selden was considered a first-round talent coming out of high school, but an up-and-down campaign may have caused his stock to drop. Most draft projections had him going late in the first round or at some point in the second round.

I’m a big fan of Wayne. I’ve said so before. And this is all I needed. It’s going to be okay. We’re all going to be okay. Hope springs eternal.

We’ll get ’em next year,
Dusty “The Realist” Riedesel

A Gameday Portrait – Kansas Freshman Andrew Wiggins

He plays like the original Iron Man. Conceptually invincible in the imaginations of the uninformed, he is a marvel of engineering, a perfect avatar for his purpose with rocket blasters in his shoes. The only possible weakness could be the pilot. And then the internet dissects everything, and high school homicide spin moves are as outdated as roller-skate tech. Take away the elite athleticism and who is Andrew Wiggins? Not a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. He’s overrated and overhyped, a mental drifter with a weak handle and a jumpshot as reliable as Hammer tech. Andrew Wiggins was the future, but that was three months ago.

The internet makes everything look outdated quickly, even its own declarations.

It’s so easy to scoff at the non innovative application of a resource, and then the resource itself goes unappreciated. The arc reactor is a publicity stunt until it’s Iron Man. Iron Man is just armor until it’s Extremis. That original message that “I am Iron Man” was inaccurate and “I am becoming Iron Man” is perfect. No story is ever Tony Stark versus the villain. The villains are merely impetus for evolution. And now the resource is appreciated. It’s always been a story of evolution, embryogenesis of the cybernetic organism’s singularity. Tony Stark was a human, but that was years ago.

Maybe cyborgs would be more patient with an embryonic narrative. Is he the leading scorer and top perimeter defender of a national title contender? Is he an underachiever? Pundits thrust prematurely for an ultimately unsatisfying climax. The scrutiny of the masses would make Ayn Rand shutter. Because the real question that every critical member of these scrutinizing masses is really daring you to ask is simple and cold and straight from Iron Man 2. Does the pilot deserve to have Andrew Wiggins’ body?

A Gameday Portrait – Kansas Freshman Joel Embiid

There’s a factoid about Joel Embiid that is existentially surprising and expressively tired. In every KU game, it has been mentioned, and that won’t change. No announcer all year will be able to stop himself from saying it. Here it is: Joel Embiid only started playing basketball three years ago. “Three years, can you believe it? Some of his opponents have played college basketball longer than that.” You’ve been told this before, and you will be told 100 more times. You’ll definitely hear it when Kansas plays Toledo tonight on ESPN. This theme will be ongoing and annoying.

And yet who can blame any announcer? Every now and then, an athlete’s background narrative perfectly explains the fan experience of watching that athlete. Embiid’s relative infancy in the game of basketball clarifies what you think you’re seeing. He’s not a step slow on his help defense, he’s a step faster than you’d expect him to be. You’re not seeing inconsistent post production, you’re seeing a pivot ballerino on his first night of rehearsal. Like an eyases testing its wings or a tiger cub wrestling, you process the tangible potential of natural power and grace as much as the clumsiness of new movements.

Even at the moment of publishing, that last paragraph is probably outdated, at least as a description of performance. Bleacher Report describes Embiid’s true basketball childhood from high school, “In the same game, Embiid got hit in the stomach by a guard’s pass, tripped and fell coming off a screen, and had the ball bounce off his foot when he was trying to dribble past a defender.” His teammates laughed at him. Only three years later, he is producing as a freshman starter at one of the nation’s premier programs. It is clear that Embiid will be a top five pick in the NBA Draft whenever he chooses to go. And that unanimously accepted valuation of his talent will inevitably re-center conversation around the inexperience, because we rarely get to witness the becoming of a genius.

When you hear announcers tell you that Embiid just started doing this thing called basketball, the realization of genius is the idea they’re daring you to think. The natural precedent for Embiid’s becoming is Hakeem Olajuwon, since they’re both foreign seven-footers who didn’t start playing until after their 15th birthday. Yet as it is with precedents in most any field, we don’t have established expectations to serve as framework for proper appreciation. Hakeem existed as a nice “coming to America” story that was suddenly great. He averaged eight points and six rebounds as a freshman at Houston and then a double-double for the next 11 years of his career. Nobody cared much about Hakeem as a freshman and so he went unnoticed. It’s like if you caught a Mumford & Sons performance at some West London dive in 2008 and you didn’t even take so much as a picture. Nobody believes your hipster boasting. Now you take pictures at every concert.

And that’s what makes Embiid so enjoyable to watch. You can be just as invested in the evolution as the realization. While other players tinker with nuances to a game practiced for over a decade, Embiid is making adjustments on a macro scale. Every game could be that moment when possibly great becomes factually great, when talent is actualized into skill. Maybe Embiid isn’t a late-blooming basketball savant. Perhaps he’s just a very athletic 7-footer who will plateau faster and flatter than we expect. Everything we’ve seen up until now begs to differ. Especially if you consider that he’s only been playing for three years. Three years! Can you believe that?

Telling you again in case you hadn’t heard,
Dusty “3 Years, guys!” Riedesel

Failure’s Not An Option. It’s A Fact

When I write a recap of my weekly kickball games (yes, I play on a kickball team named Ballsagna, and I write a next day summary of the highs and lows to keep my teammates engaged, and also to bathe in the niche-level attention of an email chain), I occasionally complain about things that seem like they don’t matter. The umpire’s assumedly bad diet, an opponent’s inappropriate choice of kickball footwear (Timberlands? Really?), or anything else that feels like a cheap laugh. I often feel bad about writing it the moment I take my fingers off the keys, but I rarely, if ever, revise it. Instead, I’ll try to make fun of myself at the sign-off, a kind of wink to my 14 readers that they shouldn’t take me too seriously (it’s probably only 12 readers. I’m pretty sure that my most business-minded teammates don’t have the patience/irresponsibility/selflessness to read an egotistically long email about kickball). My sign off for this past week?

One day closer to my death,
Dustin “The Optimist” Riedesel

I try to be an optimist. Honest. I think that a positive mental orientation has a lot of merit (even more than being a realist, which is impossible, but that’s a rant for another day). But when my favorite organization on the planet—the Kansas Men’s Basketball Team—over-achieved by losing in the national championship game against Kentucky, I was probably even more upset than when last year’s dominant Kansas team underachieved by losing in the Elite Eight to VCU. Had you told me at the beginning of this season that we’d compete in the title game, I’d have been happy in spite of the outcome, but this team’s success altered my hopes, and those hopes were not met. It felt like failure, the most devastating label I know.

Did the Kansas Jayhawks fail? And more importantly, are the Kansas Jayhawks failures? For the first time in my life, I’m aware that I have no idea what failure is. Not because I don’t fail, but because I simply never gave it a thought. Is it failure when you don’t achieve a goal, or is it failure to simply not achieve what is good? Maybe it’s both, and I’m ashamed to think that’s the case, because I’d say that most of my life has been spent not achieving goals or good.  But as it seems works out where human nature is concerned, the darker interpretation is usually most true. In fact, I’m inclined to believe that humans live with failure as our default setting, only interrupted by brief realizations of goals or benevolent acts. The achievement of goals just don’t last. It’s unfortunate that the human condition requires us to constantly realign our desires for bigger and better, so that the very moment after we’ve achieved what we wanted, we slip right back into “I don’t have what I want” mode, but that’s just how it is. I know my Kentucky friends are already talking about the ninth title right now. Sure as gravity keeps us from flying, nothing is more fleeting than contentment.

I had an old basketball coach that told me and my elementary-age teammates that the game could teach us about life if we’d let it. I’ve been trying to let it teach me for nearly 20 years, and  it’s easy to think that the lessons are about work ethic, we before me, or one game at a time. Those are good lessons, but if there’s a lesson to rule all lessons, it’s understanding that while you can’t be perfect, you can try like hell. It’s why I believe that “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.” is the truest thing ever said about the soul of competition.

So the inaccurate definition of failure that that I’m settling on–the one with the most truthful essence for me–is that failure is the end of hope. Mostly because you can’t have officially failed when there is a chance of success. But when that final buzzer sounded, the Kansas Jayhawks did indeed fail. The hope they had for their team’s success was over. But the players themselves, they still have hope in the men they can be and lives they can live. They’re not failures. To a man, they’re winners. And with that, I think I’ve typed myself into a place where I can cope again.

Hoping for next season,
Dustin “The Optimist” Riedesel

Duke vs UNC – KU vs Baylor: Running Diary

My first running diary, and I’m stoked about it. ESPN is finishing their top ten duos (pretty disappointed in the order actually, but that’s neither here nor there). I’ve got Queso Dip, Coca-Cola, Mint Grizzly and Oreos…I’m pretty sure that’s what the movie The Right Stuff was about. My main focus tonight is KU vs Baylor, but Duke vs UNC is my favorite regular season game that doesn’t involve a mythical bird, so tonight is simply a smorgasbord of roundball pleasure.

7:02 – John Sciambi and Fran Fraschilla with starting line-ups…Brady Heslip for Baylor looks like he probably got a daily wedgie in middle school. Probably good for rectal fortitude.

7:04 – Lob to Perry Jones for a dunk. Nothing like kicking it off with a kick in the face. I’m worried about Jones tonight. He was tough in the first game before he twisted his ankle.

7:06 – Baylor’s up 7-0. Self calling a time-out. That dunk is feeling more like a kick in the nuts (you know, cause of the lingering effects). If the Mizzou game taught KU anything, it’s that we can’t wait an entire half to start getting it to Thomas Robinson

7:08 – Robinson turns it over. I wonder if I could kick my own nuts.

7:09 – Tyshawn Taylor hits the three to bring it to 5-7. Taylor is having a great season. It took nearly 4 years, but it feels like he might finally be grown up. Nerves starts is subsiding…looks like we’ll be able to settle in now.

7:14 – The advantage of being a gangly, 7-foot white guy like Jeff Withey is that you have such little control of your limbs that refs always assume you’re getting fouled. Whithey drains them both. Naturally.

7:17 – Fraschilla points out KU’s anemic bench. I hate when commentators do this to my teams. It’s like a girlfriend telling you that you need to workout. Like I don’t already know.

7:21 – Second TV timeout. I’m wondering how much jersey color gives you an edge in recruiting. Baylor is yellow. I’m a white guy, and I know that yellow isn’t going to look good against my pale arms (just one of the reasons I didn’t play at Baylor). And, frankly, those jerseys are just plain ugly. UK, KU, UNC, Duke, and UCLA are all a shade of blue, yellow’s contrast on the ROY G BIV spectrum. Just saying…

7:27 – My girlfriend texts me to let me know that final Jeopardy is “Comic Books”. I switch over and crush the answer with TinTin (don’t screw with me on comic books, cause I’m white and nerdy). I switch back to see Heslip has checked into the game and looks terrible in that yellow jersey. Connor Tehan is glad he’s a Jayhawk.

7:30 – The GF texts back with “Boom. Well done young Dustin.” I feel good tonight.

7:31 – Jayhawks are down 22-13. I’m not worried. I have Jeopardy karma

7:34 – Tehan and Heslip collide in a scramble for the ball. Coin-toss call goes against Heslip. He just doesn’t look like he deserves a call in that cowardly, yellow jersey.

7:35 – My friend Daniel Drury hits me with a Facebook smear by saying Bill Self has an adolescent mind (even worse, he says that Self and Coach K are equal in physical appearance). I make a mental note to send him a well-developed rebuttal with both statistical and anecdotal evidence of his ignorance via email at a later date.

7:40 – Fraschilla called Baylor’s jerseys “gold”…the man is a master of euphemism. I tip my hat to him…KU is down 22-27 with 4 minutes left….make that 22-29, and we’re at the TV timeout, still waiting for that Jeopardy karma to kick in. I vow to shout Trebek’s name when KU takes their first lead.

7:48 – KU closes the game to 28-30 with a Connor Tehan three-pointer. Scott Drew wears his gold tie nervously. I feel a primal cry bubbling in my throat.

7:50 – Withey lay-up ties the game. I’m humming to warm up my throat.

7:51 – Tommy Cooksey texts me to let me know we had our highest number of visits ever on Writing Bareback. I feel good tonight. Jeopardy Karma….Baylor turnover…Humming…

7:52 – TTTRRRRREEEEEEEEBBBEEEEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!!!!!!! A Connor Tehan three!!!! And we’re taking that into the locker room. Maybe Brady Heslip was the better white guy in high school. I don’t know, but Tehan and Withey chose to attend schools with blue jerseys, and they’re the reasons the Jayhawks are winning. I’m just saying…

7:54 – Halftime. Taking a break and heating up the queso.

8:17 – I’m late getting my hands back on the keyboard because I had to clean my cheese-encrusted face. There’s 16:38 left and KU has just gone up 11 after a Thomas Robinson free throw. I wonder what Alex Trebek’s fan-mail address is.

8:19 – Watching a slow-mo of a Quincy Miller cheap shot on Whithey. Honestly, I don’t blame him. Withey has been unstoppable tonight (did I just write that?). Might as well go 89 Pistons on him. It’s a flagrant. Withey makes one of two, and Taylor sinks a 3 on the ensuing possession! KU by 15!

8:22 – Taylor with another 3! I think about a snarky text to Daniel Drury. I resist so I don’t ruin my Jeopardy karma. Trebek hates arrogance.

8:25 – Joseph A. Bank show’s a commercial for a “buy two get third free” sale. I make a mental note to go tomorrow. Sales like that don’t happen every month at Joe Bank’s.

8:30 – Tehan turns it over to himself for a layup. Weird play. Puts the Jayhawks up by 20. Originally that “Jeopardy karma” thing was a joke, but maybe there’s something to it…

8:36 – ESPN gives an update of Syracuse vs Georgetown. It’s close. The competitiveness is more enticing than a Taco Bell sign on a drunk Friday night….I stay disciplined with the Jayhawks. No disrupting our team’s mojo right now.

8:40 – KU is playing with a lineup of Taylor, Tehan Kevin Young, Justin Wesley and Elijah Johnson. We don’t look good. This must be what it’s like to root for a Conference USA team. I put a pinch of Grizzly in to pacify myself…..feeling ready for the Tobacco Road showdown…

8:45 – I can’t help it. I flip to the Syracue-Georgetown game. The crowd is still cheering on this channel. Feels good. Syracuse is up 55-51….ugh, I hate that Orange zone. Brings me back to 2003, the last time Roy Williams coached KU…you know, this is a nice transition moment.

8:49 – shot of Derrick Coleman in the crowd. I’ll take underachievers for $800, Alex.

8:53 – Back to KU-Baylor. Fran’s talking POY and puts Thomas Robinson at the top. Anthony Davis wears UK blue, but he’s in a weird spot for the award because his team is so talented and he’s only a freshman. Doug McDermott gets an honorable mention. He’s a white guy at Creighton, a team with blue jerseys. I’m just saying…

8:56 – KU’s up by 16 with two minutes to go. Impressive game by the Jayhawks. I’m putting this one in the books and flipping back to my transition game.

8:57 – YOWZER!!! It’s 55-55 and we’ve got OT! Musberger and Bobby Knight are announcing. They’re my favorite tandem. Two old guys that legitimately seem to like each other. FYI, KU beat Georgetown this year. Feels like it’s worth mentioning that.

8:58 – Bobby Knight says “How about our boy Withey at Kansas?” The General knows his stuff.

9:01 – Sims grabs an offensive board for Georgetown and gets fouled on the put back attempt. Georgetown is down two with 2:55 left. Sims has been battling for all two minutes I’ve watched. I like him. Hits his throws and ties it up.

9:04 – Syracuse’s Waiters is at the line shooting two with a chance to tie it up…I’ve got a bad feeling that this is going to double OT. Big East games have a tendency of doing this. Yep, he tied it up. Timeout with a minute left. I know my Raleighnian brethren can’t be happy about this overtime business. I love it!

9:09 – Kris Joseph with a three for Syracuse! 29 points on the night! Timeout Georgetown with 20 seconds left! We might get out of this yet….

9:11 – Sub-confusion with Hollis Thompson. Nothing was going to go smoothly at this time.

9:12 – Turnover! Not even a shot! Great game though. Looks like we’re going to Chapel Hill. I’m ready. Syracuse won and KU won. Not good for Roy’s karma….

9:14 – Sure enough. Duke’s off to a hot start, up 7-3. How worried can a UNC fan be though? Who really trusts the Plumlees to be good enough against UNC’s front line? Seriously. It’s the Plumlees.

9:16 – Austin Rivers for three, has 8 points. I don’t like it. I’m making the “ARPF” noise in my mind every time he touches it (via Mark Titus, for those who don’t know, “ARPF” sounds like a seal’s bark and stands for “Austin Rivers Punchable Face”).

9:20 – Dickie V and Jay Bilas? Somehow I think that Duke grad Jay Bilas is the least biased guy in that duo….Duke’s up 15-7. Looks like their 3-ball is going to be trouble tonight.

9:25 – Kendall Marshall for 3!…oops, Curry answered. It’s 23-17, and I’m worrying about the game’s pace versus my live journaling…It’s going to be a gutsy performance from yours truly this evening.

9:28 – Henson hits a jumper and Dukie V give us a zinging, “But you put Henson on the free throw line and it’s a nightmare. A flat-out nightmare!” I know my hair’s thinning, honey! Geez

9:34 – Tyler Zeller has 15 points. I might be regretting my Scott Pollard comparisons from the “not pro-UNC, just anti-Duke” article yesterday. He looks good….And Bilas is complimenting him. Well, I won’t apologize to Zeller fans for at least 3 years. We’ll see.

9:37 – cutaway to Wake Forest getting pounded by Virginia. Where have you gone Tim Duncan?

9:39 – Carolina looks great on the boards! They didn’t convert but got 4 offensive boards. This game will turn for them if Duke can’t stop the bleeding on the glass.

9:41 – Duke looks great from 3! They’re hitting everything. This game won’t turn if UNC can’t stop the bleeding from beyond the arc…(I’d be a great announcer!)

9:42 – Zeller! ZELLER!! Striking a blow for under-appreciated big brothers everywhere. You’re welcome, Peyton!

9:47 – 2-point game after Henson free throws. Turnover Duke! Uh oh. I’m feeling something creeping up the in ol’ throat…

9:48 – Just a tickle. Dawkins fouled on a three…..wait, what’s this? Desmond Hubert!?!? Who the hell is Happy Gilmore?

9:52 – Our announcing crew throws it to Erin Andrews for a truly worthless 5 seconds of television. Why hire Erin Andrews if she’s only going to do a voiceover?

9:56 – Tied up at 39 apiece. Odd foul with ARPF flopping around like the seal he’s now related to in my mind. Ridiculous call. Rivers goes one for two and I start warming up the throat…

9:57 – TRRREEEbek…just wasn’t feeling it on a free-throw go-ahead.

9:58 – Zeller block! Transition buzzer-beating layup! I’m feeling it now! TTTRREEEEEEEEEEBBBEEEEEEEEEEEKKK!!!!!!! Great first half!

10:17 – We’re back, and I’d like to welcome Harrison Barnes to the game. Nice of him to make it.

10:19 – Kendall Marshal with a sweet And 1! I feel like UNC becomes unbeatable when Marshal is a threat to score. I like his game. Does the most with the least of all the guys on the floor….UNC stretches the spurt and suddenly it’s 54-44, Chapel Hill.

10:20 – Old Spice just keeps evolving with their commercials. The current pitchman is bigger, blacker and weirder than that last guy on the horse. I like it right now, but I’m really afraid that soon I’ll be watching Greg Oden sexting a bar of Old Spice…it just feels like it’s going that direction.

10:27 – I notice that Rivers is the only player on the court wearing an arm sleeve. This would probably be a different game if his elbow was healthy. In related news, UNC is up 13 after a Barnes 3.

10:30 – Barnes and Rivers are going back-and-forth. I’ll go ahead and give my one compliment to Rivers. The guy is definitely not scared of “alpha” status on his team. That means something. Not enough to win this game, but something (Editor’s note: Dustin had no idea how stupid he’d look for that statement…he’s been advised to respect “alpha” status more in the future.)

10:33 – Bilas quotes Coach K on versatile swingmen being “like a queen on the chessboard.” I like it, and I’m putting it in my mental vault for safekeeping.

10:35 – Those Safe House commercials depress me. Why don’t we have any movies about CIA operatives that consistently grind out their 9-5 for 40 years and happily retire with benefits. That’d be way more comforting than my current belief that the weight of the country’s secrets eventually turns Americans evil. Sigh…

10:39 – Interesting plot point in the game. Duke just got into the bonus with over 11 minutes left. That could be a major factor in this game’s outcome and my sleep…I crack open a Diet Coke. A boy becomes a man when a man is needed – Bruce Hensley, head coach at Greenwood High in Indiana

10:43 – Dickie V calls for Zeller. They go to Zeller. Zeller delivers. I got ya, Peyton. It’s a good thing, because this UNC lead feels a bit unsteady.

10:48 – This Project X movie looks entertaining. I’ll bet midgets win 97% of their fights in movies. Are we just not ready to see a feisty little person get worked over? I’m honestly not, but I figured it’s worth asking.

10:50 – Dickie V shares a conversation with Doc Rivers about Austin. Dick thinks Austin’s going to stay in school. It’d be a good idea. He needs another year to subdue media scrutiny as much as anything else. After the past stories involving Austin-Lebron and Austin-Kobe (not to mention tweets from Austin like “C’mon Celts! Hey Dad, put me in! jk”), I think NBA players would want to eat this kid alive.

10:55 – Great exchange ends in a thunderous McAdoo dunk! McNasty! This game was becoming tedious with foul shooting. Kind of tough to watch with two powerful offenses like this. There’s 5 minutes left and the Heels are up by 11. If Duke’s going to make a move, it better happen soon.

11:03 – Barnes hit’s a big shot to keep UNC up by 10 with 2:30 left. I don’t think Duke has enough in the tank to topple this level of talent. That’s probably going to be the defining statement for their season. A good team that isn’t great.

11:06 – I might have jinxed it! A Duke steal, Duke 3, Barnes charge, Duke J makes it a 2-point game with a minute left. Hold on to your butts! – Samuel L never gets enough love for his role in Jurassic Park

11:09 – Timeout by K. They replay a travel that led to the momentum shifting three after Duke’s steal. Hey, bad officiating happens (ask Thomas Robinson about the end of that Mizzou game), but that was ridiculous. UNC has a 3-point lead and time to answer. It’s still an advantageous position to be in, all things considered.

11:10 – WHAT!? Deflected in is a three!?….No. Just a two. Good golly! Put a lump in my throat….Zeller just can’t miss tonight. Hope that’s true cause he’s at the charity stripe…1 for 2.

11:13 – OH MY GOODNESS!!!! RIVERS! What was Zeller doing!?!? I’m going to have to digest this thing…

11:15 – Duke vs UNC. It never disappoints does it? Well-played, ARPF.  29 points…probably didn’t need that dismissive “I said best day of my life, not best game.” Ugh…

Hope you guys enjoyed the first running diary…it was 4 hours of fun for me. To my KU and Duke friends, sleep easy. To my UNC friends, I’m so sorry.