KSAL Staff - March 23, 2015 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
Wichita State left no doubt as to who has the best basketball team in the state of Kansas as they lowered the boom on Kansas, 78-65. Wichita outplayed the Jayhawks in every aspect of the game throughout the second half and the outcome was never in doubt.
The Shockers will play Notre Dame this Thursday (March 26) in Cleveland to see which of the two advances to the Elite Eight. It should be some game because these teams are similar and evenly matched.
Wichita and Notre Dame rely on stellar guard play and both teams have outstanding 3-point shooters. Notre Dame has two seniors—Pat Connaughton (6-5, 214) and Jerian Grant (6-5, 202)—who are exceptional scorers and effective on defense. Zach Auguste (6-10, 242) plays center for the Fighting Irish and he’s a rugged rebounder who also can score inside.
The Irish have a number of talented players who are excellent outside shooters. But Wichita has superior perimeter players in guards Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton; they are the best all-round set of guards in the nation. Freshman Zach Brown (6-6, 215) has come on strong late in the season to add quality depth to the guard corps.
Center Darius Carter and Cotton are the only seniors on Wichita’s team. Coach Glenn Marshall will have a better team next year if he comes up with a talented and big center to complement the best guard corps in the nation. With Brown and Conner Frankamp stepping in for Cotton, the Shockers won’t miss a step with their perimeter play.
The outcome of the ND-Wichita game will depend greatly on who is hitting their outside shots; both teams take care of the ball on offense. Wichita has an edge on defensive ability—not many teams play better defense than the Shockers. Notre Dame has an advantage over Wichita in the pivot with their size. Look for the Irish to make better use of their superior size than Kansas did.
Barring a jarring upset, either the Shockers or Irish will earn the unenviable task of playing Kentucky for the Midwest Regional championship. Neither Wichita nor ND comes close to matching up with Kentucky’s talent and size.
KU’s season is over. It will be interesting to see who returns for the Jayhawks and who leaves early for the NBA. After three weeks of Inspector Clouseau-type investigating by the NCAA, the status of freshman Cliff Alexander is still unknown. The guess here is that he’ll be gone along with fellow freshman Kelly Oubre. But it looks like the rest of KU’s team will return for another season.
Kansas will have another talented team, but the Jayhawks do not play sound fundamental basketball on offense; they make too many inexcusably careless turnovers. Nevertheless, Coach Bill Self puts entertaining and competitive teams on the floor every season. Eleven Big 12 championships in a row are enough to keep even the most rabid fans happy.
Members of the national media are ranting and raving about how great Kentucky is. The Wildcats have an excellent ball club; however, they’re far from being the greatest team in the history of college basketball as many of the so-called experts are proclaiming.
The UCLA teams—coached by John Wooden—that had Kareem Abdul Jabbar at center would have shellacked the present Kentucky team. If this Kentucky team were to stay together for four years, that “best ever” claim might have some validity, but that’s not going to happen.
San Francisco’s teams with Bill Russell playing center would also have dismantled this Kentucky team. In fact, there have been a number of teams over the years that were better than this freshman-laden group of Wildcats. They may be among the best freshman teams ever, but the all-time best—no way.
The Kansas City Royals open their 2015 baseball season on Monday, April 6 in KC. Everything seems to be going well for the Royals with one notable exception: The spring statistics of the five starting pitchers are alarming indeed.
Through March 22, Danny Duffy had a 4.05 earned run average in 13.1 innings pitched; Edinson Volquez was sporting a 9.72 ERA in 8.1 IP; Yordano Ventura had a 10.29 ERA in 7 IP; Jeremy Guthrie had a 13.5 ERA in 2 IP; and Jason Vargas had a 17.55 ERA in 6.2 IP. Those stats illustrate potential problems for the Royals starting pitching.
Fortunately for KC’s faithful fans, spring training stats can prove to be irrelevant once the real season begins. If the pitching performances to date are a true indication of the ability of KC’s starting pitching, the 2014 World Series excitement will quickly become a thing of the past.