KSAL Staff - March 10, 2013 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
Going into the NCAA Tournament, the Wichita State basketball team is on top of the college basketball world with their 34-0 record. It’s been 23 years since a team (UNLV) was unbeaten going into the tournament. Wichita’s players and Coach Gregg Marshall are going to receive unprecedented publicity over the next week and a half because of their improbable feat.
The Shockers are a cinch for the top seed in the Midwest Regional, which begins in St. Louis. And they could end up with the number-one seed in the nation.
Wichita’s key players experienced NCAA pressure last season when they advanced to the Final Four; this team is better, primarily because of the marvelous play of point guard Fred VanVleet.
Marshall has everything set, stellar defense and perimeter offense and talented depth. The state of Kansas as well as the rest of the nation will be focused on Wichita State for the next week and a half.
Unlike most of the major conferences, the Shockers will not have anymore games before the band starts playing at the Big Dance. And from here on the players can forget about their winning streak and focus on the NCAA Tournament where the pressure is the same for everyone.
It’s been a wonderful season for Wichita State and basketball fans in the state of Kansas—a team for the ages.
The Kansas basketball team is not playing well going into the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. KU is not the same team without freshman center Joel Embiid, who has been out with a lower-back problem.
KU’s guard play on offense and defense has been particularly ineffective and that’s partly because of Embiid’s absence. Naadir Tharpe, Frank Mason, and Conner Frankamp frequently lose their man on defense and Embiid covers their mistakes when he’s healthy.
Tarik Black is a valuable member of KU’s team, but he doesn’t compare to Embiid in overall effectiveness. Black is a perfect complement to Embiid; however, his athletic ability and rebounding are nothing special.
If the Jayhawks are going to be a force in the NCAA Tournament, they must have a healthy Embiid. Coach Bill Self has to decide if he should play Embiid in the Big 12 Tournament or rest him. If Embiid doesn’t play, there’s a chance he’ll be rusty during the most important part of the season. KU can compete with the best if Joel Embiid’s back holds up.
It’s an inopportune time to be talking about next year, but Kansas recruit Cliff Alexander (6-9, 245) was named the Naismith Boys High School Player of the Year. Alexander played his senior season at Curie High School in Chicago and he’s the second-straight KU recruit to be named for this honor. Andrew Wiggins was selected last year.
Alexander was also named the Player of the Year by The Chicago Sun-Times. He averaged 24 points, 15 rebounds, and six blocks during the past season. Alexander and fellow KU recruit Kelly Oubre have been selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American game on April 2.
Self and his coaching staff can be justifiably proud of their recruiting effectiveness year after year.
When a man is in a position of leadership and he realizes that his plan isn’t working and accepts that he must make significant changes—that is a wise man indeed. It takes a person with an ego that’s well under control to admit he is part of the problem. Kansas football coach Charlie Weis proved he’s that kind of man during the offseason.
After hiring John Reagen as offensive coordinator, Weis said, “I got rid of me because we weren’t scoring enough points . . . I fired the offensive coordinator. I’ve been doing it the same way for a long, long time. So I thought the better answer was to bring somebody in who is used to scoring in the 40s.”
KU started spring drills on March 6 and they will complete spring practice with their intersquad game on Saturday, April 12 at 1:00 p.m. In addition to his new offensive coordinator, Weis hired Eric Kiesau, a new wide receivers coach. Reagen and Kiesau are well-regarded talents in the college coaching ranks.
Charlie Weis could have kept the status quo if he was just running out the clock on his coaching career, but these moves prove he is intent on bringing KU football out of the doldrums.
Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber has done a masterful coaching job this season. Weber has molded a group of talented freshmen with his veterans and the Wildcats have exceeded expectations.
If Weber can land a few key recruits, K-State’s basketball future is promising indeed. And the Wildcats are fully capable of springing some upsets in the NCAA Tournament.