Coming down to the end of the college basketball season transitioning into the post-season. Just looking at the parity this season in college basketball has me excited for tournament time because there will be no true upsets because everyone seems to be similar. Just look at the conference seasons in the Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, ACC ..etc..those top teams in the those leagues all dropped games you didn’t expect them to drop and struggled in games that you thought they would win handedly.
Looking ahead at the local teams I think you see three completely different teams in the way they played out this year.
-First up Kansas. The best team in the area this year by a long shot. The young Jayhawks struggled at points early in the season but seemed to have come together in late January. If KU does make the Final Four this will be Bill Self’s best coaching job while at Kansas. To take these young guys and build them into a team is pretty amazing. Yes, they had the talent but you are dealing with kids who have all been the individual stars and have been told they were the best ..etc.. and to put them on a team to play together and maybe not be so selfish is a tough task. I think KU goes as far as Naadir Tharpe takes them. When it comes to going far in the pose-season you need a guard that can settle you down and take care of the ball when you need an important possession. Tharpe has struggled at points through the season when the Jayhawks needed him to settle things down and also has been fabulous in other games. I think KU gets to the Final Four with some nail-biters in between.
-Second, K-State. The Wildcats are puzzling to me. How can a team look like one of the top 10 teams in the country at home and look like the 100th best on the road. I don’t know where the deficiencies lie when it comes to traveling out to play in a tough conference. I think you have to have the resolve and toughness to get that win in the NCAA Tourney with a bad crowd or little to no energy, something that K-State has struggled with. I think The Wildcats can make the Elite Eight or can lose in the first round it just depends on how they are scoring the ball. A lot of their losses have come when they couldn’t put the ball in the bucket. Can Marcs Foster take over on the big stage, can Thomas Gibson have that dominating game when others are struggling in game. The Wildcats can guard you, the interesting part will be when they get into that second round against a possible 1 Seed if they can run with them and be in the game to pull the upset.
-Thirdly, Missouri. I don’t think Mizzou makes the tournament because I do think they lose to A&M or Tennessee. If you look at just how bad they have been this season with the losing streak and bad losses I don’t know if they can overtake the others on the bubble. If they do make it, its one and done. This team has shown that they cant play together as a team at points this season and when the tough gets going they struggle to muster enough to come back. I think a lot of these players want this season over and I think Frank Haith has had enough of this season as well. Mizzou will be better next year and I think finishes in the Top 3 in the SEC next year.
Can’t wait for this final month. March Madness is absolutely my favorite time on the sports calendar. In the end we will have some great finishes, upsets and awesome wins. In the end we’ll look back on this year and I think we’ll say it was one of the more competitive years in a long time.
-The Kansas Jayhawks look poised to capture their 10th straight Big 12 regular season title. I fully admit earlier in the year I thought that this was the year that the streak stopped for them and that distinction. I saw a team young and out of sorts with no leadership. I still see that in major parts of games but the talent is overriding those other factors. I have major concerns with the point guard spot. I know that Naadir Tharpe has won Kansa at least two games this year with his great play. My major frustration lies in the decision-making displayed by him sometimes. I’m talking mostly about shots early in shot clocks that aren’t needed in transition and boneheaded turnovers that could be avoided. I know that this is the first time he has ran the point position in his career at KU and I know that I should look at other KU point guards in their first season at the position as Juniors but that doesn’t negate the fact that I can see his issues hurting this team in March.
-The Big 12 Tournament should be absolutely crazy. It’s by the slimmest of margins that separates teams 4-9 in the standings and you can make a case for 2-9 being extremely similar. There are two things given and that is TCU is awful and KU is the best team in the league, outside of that you could throw out the seeds because we will see what will technically be “upsets” at Sprint Center. I don’t know how that translates to the NCAA tourney for Big 12 teams but with the parity all through college basketball this year, playing these close games can only help.
-Can the Missouri Tigers hang on and get a NCAA berth? The Tigers I think would be short-lived if the do make it further in March only because of the deficiencies that we have seen in losses this year. You need guys who are tough and can rebound down low and can challenge in the post. The one thing that will be to their advantage will surely be their guard play and the tough match-ups for other teams. I think Mizzou needs to win a couple SEC Tourney games to get there; just not for sure they can accomplish that task.
-K-State is continuing to struggle on the road and it showed down in Waco. A team that has shown toughness on defense in numerous games lacked that intensity sometimes in that contest last Saturday. I think this team is better next year because they lose the Seniors that are on this team now that I think might hold them back sometimes. The Cats still have tough road games at Oklahoma and from what we saw last night at Texas Tech as well as Oklahoma State. To avoid potential seeding pitfalls KSU needs to win two of those and can only drop two at the most at home against TCU, Baylor and Iowa State.
-Lastly, I know I get killed for my defense of officials so this might shock people but I am disappointed in the consistency in which contest to contest it called. This season was supposed to be the renaissance in the way games would be called and I haven’t seen that. Some games its called tight and others aren’t and I think that inconsistency only hurts the goal of trying to call games the same across the board. Now, I think that will never happen because different games call for different officiating but that is a whole other headache.
Happy March Madness!!!
It’s the midway point of the conference basketball season and thought I’d share a couple of thoughts I’ve had while watching games. Candidly, college basketball season is my favorite sports season so I have an unhealthy obsession of watching too many games that don’t matter.
- Kansas is off and running and looks, barring a collapse, to be on their way to their 11th straight Big 12 Championship. Early in the season this team lacked the “killer instinct something that has changed in the past weeks. We’ve seen this team now put the foot on the gas when they know they should and make the runs and play defense when needed. There are times where Kansas still gives up the big run by teams and earlier in the season would go into a shell when that would happen. Against Oklahoma State we saw the Cowboys make a big push at the end to get that game in doubt going down the stretch. I wondered to myself if that game was played in December how would that have reacted to that push. Would Kansas stem the tide or ultimately lose that game? Bill Self has a talented roster filled with NBA Draft picks but they are also young kids who are learning to play at a high level. I know that many think Self just rolls the ball out and the kids play but I think he is doing one of his best coaching jobs while the coach at Kansas.
-I have no idea what’s happening with Missouri’s team. To me, it looks like there is no “team” but a collection of players that want to go out and get their own. Frank Haith has struggled in recruiting to get the guys down low that his offense needs. We talked on the show the other day about Frank Haith’s suspension, missing practices early in the season and how that might have a lasting effect on this team. In my opinion I think that has hurt because you need your coach in your ear, challenging you and trying to get the chemistry right. Kids and teams are so formative in early season games and practices but without that time with the man “in charge” I wonder if Mizzou is now suffering because of that lack of time together early in the season.
-K-State is a player away from being a really good team. A tough loss at Texas, coupled with a pissed off Iowa State team at home has a tough Saturday on the docket for the Wildcats. I think most KSU fans would be happy with third place going into this season. I’ll be honest with you, I had doubt if K-State would have any success this year given how the season started but Bruce Weber is slowing converting me into a believer in his coaching abilities. I’m interested now on how his recruits look going into year 4 and 5 for him and the sustained success he will have. I still think Frank Martin was great for the job but Weber looks to have the fans support and has won over some doubters.
-I don’t know how the officiating will play out down the stretch of the season but it looks to me that the mindset has changed from earlier in the year. NCAA head of officials, John Adams, sent out a memo upset over the lack of consistency and the regression back and away from the emphasis of calling “illegal contact” calls. His “big time” officials are some of those regressing back and Adam said that officials would have NCAA Tourney game affected by how they call the new emphases. Going forward will Adam have the “stones” to keep his top officials off big games in March to prove his point. This is why officials get beat up so much because of the consistency and I have seen a major switch from how this season started to now in the way games are called.
-You’ve heard the haters, the nay-Sayers, the non-believers, the pundits all talk about the Chiefs and disparaging the 9-0 start. I’m starting to understand why the national media and others aren’t buying in on this Chiefs’ fast start and its simple in my mind; the Chiefs are winning in unconventional fashion. They can’t make a quarterback into a media darling, they don’t have the loudmouth receiver, and they don’t have the manufactured storyline of strife in a city. No, the Chiefs have them confused and perplexed. “How could they possibly keep winning?”, they say. The Chiefs have not been pretty, especially on the offensive side of the ball, getting outgained two times by their Bills counterpart. Yes, Tamba Hali has as many touchdowns as Dwayne Bowe… yes the defense and special teams have seven touchdowns to the offense’s sixteen. But it’s the defense that continues to step up when needed allowing just eleven touchdowns and keeping opponents with fewer than seventeen points every game this year. I don’t care how they do it, how pretty it looks and how boring it may be to outsiders, even more boring to me is 2-14 and the losing we have had over the past couple years. Now in my mind I’m rooting for 10-0, 11-0 ..etc… but even more I’m rooting for the Chiefs to make these reporters work a little harder and confuse them even more.
-After the promise of transfers and improvement of another year under Charlie Weis I’m absolutely disgusted in the year Kansas is having in 2013. I’m not seeing much improvement and am concerned that this program is stuck in neutral once again. I know I’ll get my emails telling me that they’ll never be good again and that I’m stating the obvious but I expected more. I wonder if Weis’ makes it at Kansas for even his third year. A man that is used to winning can’t like this and cant like the failures they have had this year. Getting your brains beat in isn’t fun and can smudge a reputation as an offensive mind . Does Weis want his rep to get damaged and does he know see that he can’t help this situation, I don’t know. I do know that if there was a year to make same hay in the Big 12, this is the year, yet Kansas has been making nothing but a fan base of non-believers.
-Hats off to the Mizzou Tigers! After a crushing loss they did what any good team does and that was bounce back better and bigger than ever. Yes, the one loss stings for the Tigers but I believe that if they take care of their business and get that win over A&M in the last game of the year there will be a lot of Tigers fans finding out how tough going in and out of Atlanta can be, which isn’t a bad problem to have.
-K-State has corrected their problems a little too late I think but in doing so will still push and will make a bowl game. I will be interested to see what Bill Snyder does with this team next year. I do believe that Sams gives you a better chance to win a game even after the success Waters has had as of late. Talking with K-State fans many were wondering if Snyder should have retired after the successful season last year, I say never count Snyder out and will have gotten this team to a Bowl Game in what looked like the most unlikely of scenarios.
Football season is up and rolling. A couple thoughts as we climb into October.
-When looking at the schedule before the season started I saw a way the Chiefs could start 4-0 but it was in a way that is different from as given them success thus far. I sheepishly admit that I’m waiting for the game where one part of the team doesn’t pick up the deficiencies that have been plaguing the other. Its amazing to see how every game so far defense special teams or offense helped the other in some way, by making some big play. I spoke with many players after the game last Sunday and there was no celebration after going to 4-0, instead there was a calm and a sense of “That’s what’s supposed to happen” feel to the locker room. Which to me was shocking because of the lack of success many have had on this team in recent years. There is no doubt that these players love Andy Reid and his calm demeanor has played a huge part in this win streak. I know that many fans are wanting Alex Smith to go down field more, open up the passing game and hit big plays. My comeback always is winning is the best deodorant. No matter how bad the game looks they don’t put an asterisk with an explanation of how they won next to it, instead it just goes down as a W. This could be a special year, no doubt. But whatever happens the groundwork as been laid and the success is being built. We are ushering a fun time here in KC for many years to come. Something that this fan base city deserve after the past four years.
-College football in this area has definitely been head scratching. I feel like al the fanbases are still unsure of what they have in each team. K-State I think has been the biggest surprise so far in this young season. Listening to some close to the program it seems like there are a couple different thoughts on how some feel this team could be successful this year. Many see Daniel Sams as both the passing and running threat that lead to success last year, other think Jake Waters can be a purely drop-back passer and can lead to wins that way. Either way the two system that they are now isn’t working. Saturday is a big test at Stillwater and if they pull that off a lot of the nervousness from Cat fans wears off.
-Vanderbilt will be a test for Mizzou on Saturday as well. Speaking with Steven he knows how big of a game this is. I trust his knowledge on the Tigers and the temperature of the fan base and he thinks a win would go a long way for Gary Pinkel. The schedule gets tough from here on out for the coming weeks so some momentum could be good in a tough league race where the Tigers are still showing they belong. I think Mizzou wins this game and gets the season going down the tracks the right way.
-Kansas on the other hand is still struggling to find their way. Nate Bukaty and I debated on what we thought of this game against Texas Tech. I didn’t see much in the win over Louisiana Tech to believe that the Jayhawks could stop Texas Tech’s offense. La Tech ,by the way, just lost to Army in convincing fashion. Kansas fans still wanting to see the offense come together as was anticipated before the season. I don’t think Jake Waters has looked as strong as I thought but think a lot of that is due to lack of help on the outside by his receivers who have been good at dropping passes. Media and fans alike pointed to KU having a chance to win this game. I don’t think the Hawks can go up and down the field with Tech and probably end up losing the game by 17-20 points.
-One last thing and that is the passing away of Shawnee Mission West player Andre Maloney. I know the football staff at West very well and can’t imagine how hard this had to be. The young man had such a bright future ahead of him. I immediately think about his parents and family around him and hope they find some kind of solace in the fact he had such a positive impact in the loves of so many people. Thoughts and prayers to all who were close to an exceptional player and young man.