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.
-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.