Apologies to the readership for being a bit behind on our coverage leading up to the K-State version of the Sunflower Showdown. We've got a couple of questions for misterbrain of Rock Chalk Talk; you can catch their questions and our response here.
BOTC: OU had a grasp on control of the Big 12 just two short weeks ago. Follow that up with losses at TTU and K-State, and now the Jayhawks find themselves in the drivers seat, up 1 over WVU and 2 over OU with 5 to go. Looking at the finishing schedule for those three, I would argue KU has the toughest final stretch, and OU has the easiest of those three teams. What are the chances that WVU or OU can dethrone the Jayhawks this year once and for all? Has it been exciting for KU fans to have a conference slate full of legitimate competition?
RCT: I think it really depends on who wins the OU-WVU game today. If Oklahoma wins, then Kansas would be up two in the loss column, and would have to drop 3 while one of those two would have to win out. While that's certainly possible, it's much more likely that Kansas only loses two or each of those teams gets at least one more loss. I'd give them a 10% chance of getting passed completely in that scenario. If WVU wins today, then Kansas could drop 2 of KSU, ISU and Baylor and still lose out to a hot WVU team that wins out. I'd probably give this a 35% chance of happening. As for the competition this year, it has been absolutely insane, and I don't know if excited is the right word. Probably more nerve-racking, since there weren't really any games that you could count in the win column before it started.
BOTC: Who has been the biggest surprise for KU fans on this year's Jayhawk squad?
RCT: Good surprise, probably Landen Lucas, who has come on really strong recently and taken the last starting position in the front court. He's recently become more aggressive on the defense and went from limited role player to complete starter. Bad surprise would have to be the freshmen class. Sure, Cheick Diallo has a bit of an excuse with the whole eligibility debacle, but even then he should be further along than he is. Carlton Bragg Jr. is further along, but is still just a minor role player on this team.
BOTC: My gut reaction to watching KU play is balance. It's such a cliche, but it seems true this year. There doesn't appear to be any early-entries playing for the Jayhawks this season. Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis are the only heavy contributing seniors that will be exiting after this year, but I could easily see Lucas, Svi and Diallo filling those vacancies. I know it's always "championship or bust" for KU, but in all reality, is next year the year where a national title run is a minimum expectation?
RCT: It's always "championship or bust" when it comes to the conference title, but the fan base (at least the smart ones) know that the tournament requires quite a bit of luck. This team is set up really well for a deep run, and I'm not sure that there is anyone ready to step into Ellis' role, especially providing the floor leadership and experience that he has. However, Diallo is probably more gifted athletically and should be able to step in physically. To sum it up, I see next year to be about as well equipped for that national title run, but this year is probably just as good if not better.
BOTC: We know you got KU in this one, but give me a couple reasons why the Jayhawks might be #DOOMed?
RCT: Kansas seems to lose it's composure at some of the most inopportune moments, and deep in the middle of an enemy arena is probably not the best circumstances for keeping their cool. We think they have that in check, but it seems to come and go without warning. Kansas State is talented defensively, and Kansas has shown problems handling intense pressure on the road. Again, hopefully that doesn't rear its ugly head again, as there isn't a whole lot of room for error in the rest of this Big 12 race. Ultimately, this is a game that Kansas SHOULD win, but we said the same thing about the Oklahoma State game.
BOTC: Get to know ya section - what do you do in your spare time that doesn't involve Kansas basketball?
RCT: I live in Florida where it is sports all around, and for the last couple of years I've been on the board of my son's football organization. This year, I got roped into being a coach for my two younger boys, but I'm glad I did since that is the sport after my own heart and I actually know somewhat what I am talking about.