By Steven St. John
If the WAC Tournament started today, the seeds would be as follows:
No. 1 Utah Valley, No. 2 New Mexico St., No. 3 Chicago State, No. 4 UMKC,
No. 5 Seattle U, No. 6 Idaho, No. 7 UTPA, and No. 8 Bakersfield.
If UMKC goes 2-0 this week: It will be either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed. The only way it could be the 3 is if Chicago St. goes 0-2 vs. Idaho and Seattle.
If UMKC goes 1-1: It will be the No. 4 seed, even if tied in the standings with Idaho and/or Seattle.
If UMKC goes 0-2: It could be the 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 seed, depending on other game results.
By Steven St. John
The tournament bubble did not burst for the Missouri Tigers this past week, as they earned two hard-fought home victories against Arkansas and Tennessee. The wins raised Mizzou’s overall record to 18-7 and 6-6 in the SEC.
Jabari Brown continues his outstanding season by hitting the game-winning shot against the Razorbacks with 12.2 seconds left on the clock to give the Tigers an 86-85 victory. Then, two days later, Brown helped seal the win against the Volunteers by stealing the inbounds pass with 7.7 seconds left in the game and Mizzou clinging to a 73-70 lead. The Tigers went on to win 75-70, keeping their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Brown scored 25 and 24 points in the two games, raising his average in league play to an SEC-best 22.8 points per game. In conference play, Brown also ranks 5th in FG%, 1st in 3-point FG%, 3rd in free-throw % and 4th in minutes played. Brown has certainly earned a spot on the All-SEC 1st team and deserves strong consideration for SEC Player of the Year honors.
Now, Mizzou needs another home victory against a Vanderbilt team that beat the Tigers in Nashville 78-75 back in January. Missouri cannot afford another home loss, if they expect to have a reasonable shot at making the big dance.
In fact, the Tigers may not have room for more than one loss in the regular season, if they want to be on the right side of the bubble heading into the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. That means Mizzou needs to win two of their remaining three road games, along with all three home games to feel secure about their tournament chances. Here is the remaining schedule for the Tigers.
· Mississippi State
· Texas A&M
It’s clear that Missouri will get the majority of their point production from Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross. However, the key to their success, especially on the road, will be the performance of their post players. Ryan Rosburg, Johnathan Williams, III, Torren Jones, Tony Criswell and Keanau Post must be role-oriented for Mizzou to flourish. They must embrace defense and rebounding first, while letting the vast majority of their offensive opportunities come to them off the glass and in transition. Also, Ross needs to drive to the basket more often, get to the free throw line and not fall in love with his inconsistent three-point shot. If Mizzou’s players can stick to their now well-defined roles, this team will be in the NCAA Tournament. It’s easier said than done, but the recipe for a successful finish to the season is there. The Tigers simply need to execute the plan.
By Steven St. John
* After Mizzou's loss to LSU on Tuesday night, Tiger fans are dealing with the real possibility that Frank Haith's squad could be on their way to missing the NCAA tournament. Missouri gets plenty of production from their "Big 3" of Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross, but they get nearly zero consistent production from anyone else on the roster.
For example, in last night's 77-71 loss in Baton Rouge, the trio combined for 63 points while the rest of the team chipped in eight. The Mizzou bigs combined for those eight points on 4-of-17 shooting, most of which came in close proximity to the basket. The Tigers have difficulty finishing around the rim, don't display the toughness necessary to guard effectively in the post and have a penchant for giving up offensive rebounds at the most inopportune times. The result is a 2-3 record in the SEC and a team that seems to lack any unison or personality.
Now, Mizzou faces a must-win at home against a struggling South Carolina team before embarking on a season-defining four-game stretch @ Arkansas, home against Kentucky, @ Florida and @ Mississippi. If Mizzou can keep their heads above water during this rough stretch, perhaps March Madness is still a possibility. If they sink, the Tigers could be making plans for the NIT.
* Victor Ortiz makes his long-awaited return to the ring next Thursday night at the Barclays Center against rugged former welterweight champion, Luis Collazo. Ortiz has lots to prove in his first fight since suffering a shattered jaw against Josesito Lopez back in the summer of 2012. Ortiz must show his critics that he is still committed to the sport after his appearances on Dancing with the Stars and in the upcoming movie, "The Expendables 3".
There will also be questions about his surgically-repaired jaw, until he gets hit...a few times. Collazo has gone the distance with Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto, so he will certainly provide a stiff test, especially since this is the first fight for Ortiz in nearly 19 months. Ortiz has a crowd-pleasing style and he'll have a chance to be thrust back into the limelight with this high-profile fight that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 as part of the Super Bowl week festivities in New York. If Victor can get passed Collazo, he will also be right back in contention for a world title.
By Steven St. John
Instead of the 12 days of Christmas, here are the 12 things at Christmas…that are on my mind.
1) Jamaal Charles is the best running back to ever wear a Chiefs uniform. Some might say Priest Holmes, but I think Charles is better. Marcus Allen had a better career, but he wasn’t better in a Chiefs uniform. Charles could be on his way to a Hall-of-Fame career.
2) Alex Smith has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in the five games since the bye week. Yes, the Chiefs lost three of those games, but it wasn’t Smith’s fault. Smith is playing at a Pro-Bowl level and gives me hope that Kansas City will win their first playoff game in two decades.
3) I like the Royals acquisition of 3B Danny Valencia. The Royals had a surplus of light-hitting outfielders that allowed them to flip David Lough for someone who can put some pressure on Mike Moustakas to perform. Valencia rakes against lefties and has some pop. At the very least, Valencia can platoon with Moustakas, if Moose continues to struggle against left-handers.
4) Martin Scorsese is my favorite director and Leonardo DiCaprio is my favorite actor, so I’m really excited to watch The Wolf of Wall Street. Every time Scorsese and DiCaprio have teamed up, I’ve loved the results. Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed and Shutter Island are all among my favorites and I can’t wait to add another one to the list.
5) Victor Ortiz will be back in the ring against Luis Collazo on Thursday, January 30 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The fight will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and will be part of the Super Bowl week festivities in New York. Collazo is a very tough opponent, but Ortiz should be able get the win, thrusting himself back into world title contention.
6) If the Chiefs must play in the first round of the playoffs, that means Mizzou will be playing in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night (Jan.3) and then the Chiefs will be in a playoff game that Saturday or Sunday. What a fantastic weekend for Chiefs/Mizzou fans!
7) The Braggin’ Rights game between Mizzou and Illinois is always one of the most exciting games of the year for Mizzou fans. This year, the Mizzou basketball team has flown under the radar because so much attention has been paid to the football team. The Tigers enter the showdown with Illinois undefeated at 10-0 and ranked #23 in the nation. If Mizzou wins this weekend, the hype and expectations will really start to rise.
8) I make sure to watch five movies every Christmas…Love Actually, Christmas Vacation, Elf, Die Hard and A Christmas Story. I always try to watch more, but I make sure that I watch those five every year.
9) I love Christmas music, but my three favorite Christmas songs are Blue Christmas by Elvis, All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey and Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season by Andy Williams.
10) I start my Christmas shopping on the 23rd and finish on the 24th…every year. I’m either a genius or an idiot. I haven’t figured out which, yet.
11) My favorite thing to eat on Christmas is tamales. Eating homemade tamales reminds me of my Grandparents, Danny and Augie Ontiveros and my Mother, Julie St. John. Every year, they would make a huge batch of tamales for friends and family and it will always be one of my favorite holiday memories. I miss those three special people terribly and I think about them constantly around the holidays.
12) Happy Holidays to all of the fantastic listeners of the Border Patrol and Sports Radio 810 WHB. I am so very blessed to do what I do for a living. Thank you and I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season.
By Steven St. John
* As a life-long Chiefs fan, my level of excitement for Sunday night's Chiefs/Broncos game is through the roof. There are so many story lines that make this showdown one of the most anticipated games in the history of this bitter rivalry. The Chiefs being undefeated, Peyton Manning's injury, the NFL's best offense battling the best defense...so many reasons why this game will have the sports nation's undivided attention on Sunday night. If the Chiefs win, they will have proven themselves as Super Bowl favorites. If the Broncos win, the stage will be set for a return match just two weeks later. Sunday Night Football...Chiefs...Broncos...