KSAL Staff - February 23, 2015 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
Last season Kansas lost Joel Embiid to injury a few weeks before the NCAA basketball tournament. KU might have won the title with a healthy Embiid.
Now the Jayhawks have been bludgeoned again when they were informed by the NCAA that eligibility problems exist concerning center Cliff Alexander. This occurred just hours prior to the Texas game and Alexander was held out of the game. It’s hard to understand how the NCAA’s timing is always so inappropriate. How can they wait until the very end of the season to come up with this?
After the Texas game—while emphasizing that the Alexander issue had nothing to do with KU—Coach Self said, “Hopefully it’ll be resolved and in a timely manner.” That would indicate that some problem exists from Alexander’s past that could affect his eligibility. And good luck in “resolving it in a timely manner” when the NCAA is handling the issue.
If Kansas beats West Virginia Tuesday, they will be assured of no less than a tie for their 11th consecutive Big 12 title. KU’s current ball club isn’t as talented as most of Bill Self’s teams have been during this extraordinary run of conference championships. The drop-off is because of the lack of a dominant center. Regardless, the Jayhawks have scratched and clawed their way through a rugged schedule with a 23-6 (12-4 Big 12) record.
Year after year Coach Bill Self has KU among the top five or six teams in the nation. The Jayhawks have an inconsistent history in the NCAA Tournament; they won it all in 2008 and finished second in 2012. In other seasons, some superb Kansas teams have lost tournament games they should have won easily.
Kentucky is being rated by the pundits as a sure thing to go undefeated and win the national championship. The Wildcats have a talented team and deserve the favorite role, but Kentucky has played a soft schedule if there’s ever been one.
There are several factors to consider concerning the Big Dance: The pressure of Kentucky being unbeaten and favored to win the championship grows heavier with every passing day. And the pressure and tension in the NCAA Tournament is stifling—the three-point shots become harder to hit. A young team like Kentucky could choke their motor at the wrong moment.
Wichita State won the showdown game with Northern Iowa—and the Missouri Valley championship—in a hard-played and entertaining game that was nationally televised by ESPN.
Wichita’s backcourt of Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton is among the best in the nation. Coach Glenn Marshall has completed another masterful coaching job in leading the Shockers to the MVC title.
Wichita State has experienced and knows how to handle the pressure of the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers are not a team that any of the big names are going to want on their dance card at the Big Dance.
Wichita’s only glaring weakness is the lack of size in the pivot and that will likely prove fatal. But any team that defeats the Shockers will know they’ve been in a fierce struggle.
The uproar about Kansas State basketball fans storming the floor after their upset win over Kansas last Monday is much ado about very little.
In order to cover his backside, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “Revisions to policies and procedures must guarantee that no future incidents occur and to effectively and uniformly ensure the integrity of our contests, the security of the student-athletes and coaches, and the safety of the spectators.”
College students have been storming floors for years after their team posts a big win over a long-time rival. If not properly controlled, it could escalate into something nasty. That hasn’t happened.
More security is needed around the visiting team’s bench to escort the players from the floor after the game. It’s close to impossible to corral 4,000 or more students, but security can surround the opposing players and coaches—with a show of force if necessary. That would steer the celebrants to the middle of the court where they belong.
While looking at the white stuff outside your window, it’s hard to believe that the Kansas City Royals will play their first exhibition baseball game this Wednesday, March 4. It’s been so far so good at the Royals’ camp in Surprise, AZ.
The main thing that KC has to avoid during spring training is a rash of injuries. A second goal will be for the fans to contain their enthusiasm if KC’s hitters put up impressive numbers during the exhibition games. Last year the Royals’ hitters were great in spring training and then flopped badly when the real season began. Kansas City will be a force if the hitters improve on their 2014 seasons.