As usual, remember you can either tweet your mailbag questions to @rockchalktalk or email them to rockchalkmailbag at gmail dot com. Let's get it started.
@RockChalkTalk How much stock do you put in the early conference lead?— Tim Dwyer (@T_Dwyer) January 15, 2014
I don't think the early lead is important per se, as much as it is important based on who Kansas has played so far. They already have two road games out of the way, including a win at the 2nd or 3rd best team in the conference. The CBS podcast mentioned, and I agree, that 14-4 possibly/probably wins the league outright. If that's the case, Kansas theoretically has to go just 5-4 on the road. Two road wins down, and both against good teams, looks pretty good for Kansas. Now if they can just hold serve at home. Speaking of which...
I think it is. They'd still have played just two road games, but they would have wins over the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best teams in the league, meaning none of them could sweep Kansas and make up two games on them that way. Also, Oklahoma State and Iowa State don't play until February, and then they match up to end the conference season, so those two teams still have losses to go. (Also, for those interested, OSU plays Baylor twice in February and Iowa State plays the Bears right before they finish the year with Oklahoma State. I think they might be the league's second best team, but they also might have to have a two game lead on everyone else going into their last two games to win the league.
@RockChalkTalk Looking ahead, on a scale of 1 to Admiral Akbar, how big of a trap game is the TCU trip next Saturday?— Bradley Hope (@Brad_Hope) January 15, 2014
I gotta think it's a 1. I'm obviously really nervous about it given what happened last year, but one has to think that talking point is going to get discussed 15,000 times between next Monday and next Saturday, and the coaches and older players are going to remind the newcomers all the time about it. It might be something like 15-15 early before Kansas picks it up, but then I expect the Jayhawks to put their foot down and pull away.
We'll finish it with an email question:
Q: You have to narrow down the national title candidates to 5 teams. Who are they?
-from Alex Q.
If I had a pool of five teams to pick from, four of them are pretty easy at this point. The 5th could be any number of teams, but in no particular order, they are:
3. Michigan State
All five teams other than Kentucky have gotten good point guard play, all five teams, other than Kentucky, are pretty good on both sides of the ball, and they all have future NBA players as well as nice college players. Statistically, Kentucky is the worst of the group. But they still might have the most talent. I don't remember a team ever overcoming poor point guard play to win a title, but the Wildcats have a ton of depth down low and on the wing, so if they start learning how to play together and improve a bit defensively (and they have the ability to) they could make a run at the title.
As for the teams I left off: I don't trust Ohio State to score enough points to win the title. I don't trust Duke to keep it out of the basket enough to win the title. Same with Creighton. I worry about Villanova and Iowa's lack of tournament experience. I love Wisconsin, and I am as big of a numbers guy as anyone, but after seeing them do this year after year, I need to see it. I think this team is different from years' past, but I need to see it. On Arizona, Aaron Gordon is taking fewer than half his shots at the rim,and he's an abysmal jump shooter. Also, the Wildcats have one of the thinnest benches around. While their defense is very good, I don't trust them (yet) to score enough in March due to their reliance on the midrange game. Finally, Iowa State was my toughest omission. They're one of the best two point shooting teams in the country and they have the best point guard in the country. That's a tough omission. But one night where they aren't hitting jumpers and they're done. It's tough to shoot well from outside for 6 games in a row, and even with Doc Sadler in the fold I don't trust their defense yet.