KSAL Staff - March 20, 2017 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
KU’s basketball team will play Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament this Thursday (March 23) at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. The winner will play for the Midwest Regional championship and a place in the Final Four.
Wichita State lost a heartbreaker to Kentucky, leaving the Jayhawks as the only team from Kansas left in the tournament.
Reserve center Dwight Coleby’s play in the 90-70 win over Michigan State might prove to have been a turning point in KU’s chance to win the national championship. Coleby is more effective, by far, than Carleton Bragg and it’s inconceivable that Coach Bill Self won’t be using Coleby ahead of Bragg for the rest of the tournament.
Coleby’s defense and rebounding are stellar and he appears to be fully recovered from knee surgery. It’s also good news for Jayhawk fans that Coleby has another year of eligibility.
Kansas had just seven turnovers against Michigan State, a promising stat going into the game against Purdue. Frank Mason (20 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals), Josh Jackson (23 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks), and Devonté Graham (18 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals) played sensational basketball in the second half against the Spartans. Center Landen Lucan (10 points, 11 rebounds, and 1 block) and Svi Mykhailiuk (9 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal) also played key roles in the victory.
The tournament jitters are gone for the Jayhawks and that’s significant. The media focus for Thursday’s game will be on Purdue’s size advantage; they should focus on KU’s quickness and athletic ability.
Kansas’ fast break is the best in the nation and Purdue’s big players will have a difficult time getting back on defense when the Jayhawks use their fast break.
In today’s college game, the 3-point shot is often the difference in close games. KU has been highly effective shooting 3-point shots in most of their games. If that effectiveness continues, Kansas has a chance to win it all.
Center Landen Lucas has been steady and reliable in every game; his rebounding and defense are indispensable for the Jayhawks. And his offensive play has improved slowly but surely throughout the season.
Coach Bill Self has had another noteworthy season as KU’s head coach. Self’s teams have won 13 consecutive Big 12 championships and this year’s team is still alive in the NCAA Tournament. It’s been another in a long line of great seasons for Kansas basketball.
Out of the six Big 12 teams that qualified for the Big Dance, three are left in the Sweet Sixteen: KU, West Virginia, and Baylor. That’s impressive for a league that has just 10 teams. And it’s a good argument to leave the Big 12 as is: bigger isn’t always better.
West Virginia plays Gonzaga at San Jose on Thursday in the West Regional and Baylor plays South Carolina in the East Regional. From here, the prediction is that West Virginia will upset Gonzaga and Baylor and South Carolina will be a toss up.
President Richard Myers of Kansas State should feel a sense of urgency concerning the hiring of a new athletic director. That supposition is predicated on the assumption that Myers and the influential alums have decided to make a head coaching change in the men’s basketball program. That may or may not be the case.
If Coach Bruce Weber is going to remain as K-State’s coach, there’s no great hurry in hiring a new AD. However, if K-State is going to hire a new coach—as they should—time is of the essence.
If K-State’s hierarchy drags their feet in hiring a new AD and then fires Weber, the new coach is going to be way behind in the 2017 recruiting class.
There’s no reason Kansas State doesn’t have a first-class basketball program comparable to Wichita State and Iowa State. That’s why the hiring of an outstanding AD is of the utmost importance.
Baseball season is less than two weeks away and the Kansas City Royals’ pitchers that are battling for starting slots are a cause for worry. Danny Duffy is expected to be the ace of the staff and he was sporting a 7.71 ERA through March 19. Chris Young had a 2.13 ERA; Jason Hammel was at 4.00; Travis Wood stood at 4.05; Jason Vargas had a 6.00; Nathan Karns struggled at 7.36; KC’s supposed ace, Danny Duffy, had sunk to a 7.71; Kyle Zimmer was also at 7.71; and Ian Kennedy was the early ace with a 0.00 in just five innings.
The usual spring optimism must be viewed with a bit of objectivity: It looks as if the KC Royals are going to tumble back into the muddy pit of mediocrity. Owner David Glass has tightened the purse strings and 2017 could quickly become a long season.