Kansas ended its Non-Con portion of the schedule with a win over UNLV yesterday with an 11-2 record and looked good doing it. I think this season so far has been a head scratcher for many Kansas fans wondering what this team will ultimately look like. So let’s start with the positives first and you have to start with Frank Mason. This team has lacked leadership at the point guard position for the past couple of seasons and I always had a hunch that Bill Self might finally get his prototypical PG in Mason’s second year. A lot of his game reminds me Sherron Collins, I know heavy praise but warranted I think. Mason loves the ball in his hand to get the offense started and loves it even more out in transition. I also think that Mason has showed the ability over the past few games to be a bulldog when KU needs it. It will be interesting to see how his defense comes around but he is improving and will become a very important part, if not the biggest, once the season is over.
The problem with this team has been its struggles on the offensive end. In the loss against Temple I believe you found guys lacking toughness around the rim and dejected when things weren’t going their way. This team needs Perry Ellis to get tough down low, to have Cliff Alexander be the enforcer on the block, for Wayne Selden to play up to the standards that people think he can. This team is best when all are involved in the offense, not just two or three. I’ve told some friends of mine who love KU with a passion that we have to take into consideration that these young players have always been the best player on any court they have been on growing up. Adversity has hit them and they are struggling with how to handle it while on the court. Their moves that they have relied on for years aren’t working against superior defenses and players out to “shut Kansas down”. I think they are getting over that leading into the conference season and I think they are getting used to what it takes to win on this level.
If Kansas wins the Big 12 again this year it will have been Bill Self’s best coaching performance since he has gotten to Kansas, The bottom line for this team to be successful they need to 1. speed the game up and not let teams set up defenses against them that isolate their lack of size 2. Rebound the ball on both ends of the floor to set up their transition game and 3. Out tough their opponent. If you look the win on Sunday the Jayhawks were the tougher team down the stretch and play best when they are the alpha dog, dictation how the game goes, When they are passive they lose and put themselves in a tough position to win games. Which Kansas team shows up on Wednesday against Baylor? That’s the question and answer Jayhawk fans are waiting for.
I can’t even believe what is happening here in Kansas City with the Royals and their magical journey to the ALCS. I’ve worked at Sports Radio 810 WHB since the year 2000 and for years we’ve heard that a certain year was going to be “the year”. 2008 is the year, no 2012 when the get these guys up here is the year, nope 2014 that’s the year and so on and so on. I’ve been labeled “pessimistic”, a “non-fan” and I admit that I am jaded and was jaded even as late as Sept 1 but to be a part of this is so amazing. I’m happy for this city and these fans whom have waited so long and seen so much bad baseball. I am happy to be wrong and to see that the second guessing of Ned Yost, The Glass family…etc… hasn’t effected what might be one of the best time in this city’s sports history. I hope that they take this all the way to the World Series and win, WE deserve it! Think of the difference this city will feel with a World Series Champion? Just to see young kids at the grocery store with their Royals gear on, Senior Citizens with their retro gear and the involvement of this community in this story is so awesome to see. One city coming together as one to root for their favorite team; Wildcats, Jayhawks, Tigers…the fierce college rivalries are put aside as those same fans who hate each other are high fiving in the aisle at Kauffman Stadium, toasting in the local bar and hugging after wins.
Its stories like these that show you how important sports are in our lives. You see how it has changed the attitude at workplaces, the drop in crime, the feeling of pride in a sleepy Mid-West city that is the best hidden secret in the USA. This team was built for this city, unconventional, scrappy and a close knit group looking for respect. The country is watching everything unfolding here in KC, wanting to be a part of the crazy crowds at the K, wanting to be that underdog who is bucking the trend and wanting to be winners. Yes, this is our time, our time in the spotlight, our time to be the national story, our time to be winners.
Kids will tell their children about this year, parents will never forget spending the time watching these games with their kids, friends with friends, the older generation harking back to the days when this was the norm. Its all happening Kansas City and I for one am glad I am a witness!
It’s been a while since my last blog and thought I would weigh in on a couple of things before its gets heated up for Training Camp in about a month.
- I’m a little shocked at the letting-go of Brandon Flowers. I told Steven on the show how apprehensive I was coming into the season at corner and now I’m even more nervous. It seems like they are pushing their chips in on Marcus Cooper. I think the kid is above average but got exposed last year in the end of the season. Sean Smith has not made me feel much better after watching him get torched in the OTA session as of late. Couple that with the rookie Gaines, you have a very suspect secondary, which if I were Payton Manning or Phillip Rivers would have me licking my chops….
-But letting go of Brandon Flowers isn’t a bad thing because this will clear up the room needed to re-sign Smith and Houston, two huge important pieces to this team. I know a lot of people want to hate on Alex Smith but he’s the best quarterback this organization has had since Trent Green and with that comes a hefty price tag . Smith doesn’t do the flashy things but has helped in the biggest stat category which is “W’s” Houston equally has helped what was a struggling pass rush and know paired with Dee Ford can become a headache for offensive line coaches and coordinators.
-I still don’t know what to think about the Royals but do know that this team still has major holes that will hold them back from post-season success. You can go on hitting droughts and long losing streaks. There is also something to be said for the struggles they have had at home. What happens in late September when the offense becomes streaky once again? Or it’s a must win series and they get swept by a team they should beat? These trends or exactly that, trends that I think we can’t ignore.
-Joel Embiid is now showing what many are worried about and that is his issues with injuries. A big man like that and as young as he is with his injury problems would scare me to death if I were an NBA GM. I think that couple with Embiid is a project that won’t pay dividends for a while. In the win now mentality with lottery draft picks that can mean a tumble down the draft boards for Joel.
-Speaking of setbacks the USA’s draw with Portugal was a tough one to take. I will say this about this team and that is the resiliency is shining through. They concede a terrible goal to start the game and to come all the way back to then take a 2-1 lead is impressive. There was a day where no one would give the USA a chance against Portugal and those days have changed. I think they can beat Germany and at the very least tie them to move on to the Round of 16 but it’s going to take more intelligence especially out of Michael Bradley who has been non-existent this World Cup. One of the shining stars has to be Matt Besler and his greatness in these matches is further more ushering in the end of his days with Sporting KC an into the EPL or overseas league. The toughness, grit and great play that we all know and love has now been reveled to the rest of the world. The question now is how long will he stay and play for his hometown team with the prestige and $$$ come calling?
So the Cleveland Cavs won the draft lottery last night and will have the first overall selection in this year’s NBA Draft with the pick of with Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins. We were talking around the office today who we would pick and why and I thought I would make that case for and against both players to be selected number one.
There are so many reasons why Wiggins should be this year’s top selection besides just being a freak athletically. Now, I can’t just brush past the fact though that he can jump out of the gym and has the “second hop” that NBA scouts love. Did you see the picture of him jumping for his vertical measurement? Wow! I think this kid has a lot of room to grow and get better. As a KU fan I watched a lot of him this year and the one thing I always wanted but he came up short of, is taking over games. Yes he forty in a losing effort at West Virginia but there were times that he need to take the ball and say “I’m winning this game for us”. I think that he also struggles when having to create with pressure off the dribble. A lot of times you saw him defer or pass when he was closely guarded which makes me think that he isn’t confident enough in his ball handling. Now, get him on the secondary break and a step on a guy in full motion and he’ll take one step at the three-point line and throw it down. I think that will come the older and more confident he gets. Guys in the NBA play a lot better defense than those at the college level so it will be interesting to see how he develops against better competition.
He will defend his ass off which will be helpful at the next level. I think that he is close to being NBA ready on defense, the way he can react and then catch up if beaten was one of the bright spots in his game this year and maybe one of the best to ever suit up at KU. He will be able to get some minuets, I think early in his career just based on that factor.
The places I would love to see shored up in his game is that “killer instinct”. The time where stars are stars and bit players take a seat. If you are picked #1 then you are expected to be that guy. I also would like to see him more aggressive around the rim. He seemed to be in on a lot of plays two feet and in and would lay balls in or miss chip shots. DUNK THE BALL!! You can jump eleven feet, a lot of others can’t. Do I think he will be a star in the NBA? I’m not for sure but I think the potential is there; can the confidence come with it?
Ok you heard all the stories how he hasn’t been playing basketball very long and how he’s a great soccer player and etc. but know this….this dude is a baller. Lanky, long, nose for the ball and a great rim protector. I think Joel plays in the NBA a long time (without injury) because of those skills. The way that he changed the game by his presence at the rim was remarkable to watch. This kid only has room to grow and will. If I was any kind of big man coach I couldn’t wait to get my hands him to mold him and see the transformation. I don’t think he will be an instant impact guy. He needs to get stronger, needs to hit the weights and needs to refine and keep learning his craft. Nate likens him to Olajuwon, I think that is unrealistic to do but he can be pretty damn good. His post moves need work but can still get a shot off with a couple post moves. My main concern is with his health. Can he stay healthy during the grind of an NBA season? Can he hold up with the physicality of the NBA post play? I’m not for sure. But if we are seeing a quarter of what this kid can be and just on the ground floor of his development then I will be eating my words proclaiming Nate Bukaty a genius for the comparison.
I think in the end you pick Wiggins first because he can have a quicker impact on your team but in the long run I can see Embiid being that player you wish you would have picked first. That being said both are incredible players and can’t wait to watch their career going forward.
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.