KSAL Staff - May 18, 2015 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
Kansas and Kentucky will play early in the 2016 basketball season: The Big 12-Southeastern Conference Challenge was recently announced and the Jayhawks and Wildcats will play in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, January 30.
KU and Kentucky have the most wins of any teams in college basketball, with Kentucky leading 2,178 to 2,153. Kansas already had another rugged nonconference schedule before Kentucky was added to the mix.
The Jayhawks are also featured in the ESPN Champions Classic when they play Michigan State on November 17, 2015 at the United Center in Chicago. Michigan State and Kentucky are coming off Final Four appearances.
Kentucky leads the overall series with KU 22-6; that’s a little hard to swallow for the proud Jayhawk fans. And last year’s 72-40 humiliation in the 2014 Champions Classic adds fuel to the fire.
During the Bill Self era at Kansas, the Jayhawks have played Kentucky six times and have split at 3-3. Self said, “I’m sure our players and fans will be excited about the match-up between the two winningest programs of all-time . . . it’s very unique to play a game of this caliber midway through the conference season, but will give both programs great exposure.”
KU will have a better team than they had last season; nevertheless, taking on Kentucky and Michigan State early in the season presents some challenge.
Kansas State plays Mississippi in Bramlage Coliseum as part of the above-mentioned Big12-SEC matchup. Right now it appears that K-State’s basketball program is a mess, but maybe that will have changed by then.
There will be 10 games between the two conferences, all on the same day. ESPN and their network of stations will televise each of the games; consequently, KU and K-State will be on national TV on January 30.
If all that isn’t enough, ESPN’s College GameDay will select one of the ten games as the site for their weekly college basketball show—don’t bet against KU-Kentucky.
Much has been said about the Kansas City Royals defense and pitching, but a significant factor in their encouraging start has been the hitting. It’s been formidable.
In their normal starting lineup through May 15—which includes the injured Alex Rios—KC has six hitters batting over .300 and two at .282. That’s more than impressive.
Kansas City’s leading hitters include the following: first baseman Eric Hosmer had a .333 batting average with 7 homers and 29 runs batted in; third baseman Mike Moustakas had a .333 BA with 4 homers and 12 RBIs; center fielder Lorenzo Cain had a .326 BA with 3 homers and 19 RBIs; right fielder Alex Rios had a .321 BA with 1 homer and 8 RBIs; DH Kendrys Morales had a .306 BA with 4 homers and 29 RBIs; shortstop Alcides Escobar had a .304 BA with 1 homer and 14 RBIs; catcher Salvy Perez had a .282 BA with 4 homers and 19 RBIs; and left fielder Alex Gordon had the same stats as Perez.
KC’s hitters have a confident demeanor that was missing last season and their experience is showing in their pitch selection and power.
Last but not least in the Royals’ changes is announcer Rex Hudler’s style. Hudler talked almost nonstop last season and often he didn’t say much of anything. It became abrasive. But Hud knows his baseball and he’s toned down his repartee to the point where the guy is growing on us. It’s a wonderful thing.
Kansas State’s football team for the upcoming season is somewhat of a mystery; the Wildcats lost their QB and key receivers from the 2014 team.
Coach Snyder hasn’t settled (publicly) on his starting QB for next fall. From here it looks like sophomore Jesse Ertz (6-4, 199) will win the job. Ertz is competing with Joe Hubener (6-4, 205) for the QB job; Ertz is the better passer and that will be the deciding factor.
K-State’s nonconference schedule has Kansas State (football) playing South Dakota in Manhattan on Sept. 5, on the road against the University of Texas San Antonio on Sept. 12, and at home with Louisiana Tech on Sept. 19.
Kansas State will win the two home games, but road games early in the season are treacherous indeed.
KU’s nonconference schedule has home games with South Dakota State on Sept. 5 and Memphis on Sept. 12. Then the Jayhawks go on the road to play Rutgers on Sept. 26.
Kansas is up against it this fall because of a lack of talent and depth. But one thing might rescue them: Coach David Beaty needs a QB that’s highly effective. That could be incoming freshman Carter Stanley (6-2, 188) from Vero Beach, FL. Stellar play from a young QB would get Beaty’s program going in the right direction.