Monday, January 31, 2011

Dimes and dunks - Big 12 edition

- Uh, what happened to the Big 12's best hope for a Texas loss? Texas A&M has shown no ability to get a decent shot off against Texas' defense and is down 25 at half. Texas looks really, really good. The Longhorns have to go to Nebraska, Colorado and Baylor yet this season, and may slip up once, but it's hard to see them losing three games in the Big 12.

- The bad news just keeps coming out of Manhattan. Former McDonald's All-American Wally Judge is leaving the Kansas State program which means the Wildcats are very short-handed in the "bigs" department. Judge's departure, coupled with the exit of Freddy Asprilla, means that KSU only has Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Alex Potuzak as guys 6' 9" or above.

- Did you know that Kansas coach Bill Self has not won in Lubbock, TX during his career at Kansas? Self and the Jayhawks get an opportunity to right that wrong tomorrow night.

- I miss the days of a younger Ron Franklin and Jon Sundvold broadcasting Big 12 games on Big Monday. I know I say it often but, really, it's painful to listen to Brent Musberger and Bob Knight do these games. At least Musberger seems better prepared this year versus the numerous mistakes he made last season on these broadcasts.

- Teams on the rise: Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas Tech.

- Teams holding steady: Baylor, Missouri.

- Teams on the decline: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M.

- Teams in the NCAA Tourney: Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Baylor, Nebraska. On the bubble - Colorado.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dimes and dunks

- Duke goes down today in Madison Square Garden to Steve Lavin and St. Johns. Don't look now, but Lavin has this program at 5-5 in the Big East and 12-8 overall. And, the Red Storm had an RPI of #28 going into today's game. Lavin has a terrific recruiting class lined up for next season but has St. Johns on the cusp of an NCAA tournament invitation this season--much more quickly than anticipated.

- Allen Fieldhouse is always a special place to watch a basketball game. But, when there is an emotional overtone like last night's welcoming back of Thomas Robinson, the old barn truly becomes more of a cathedral than a basketball venue.

- Interesting stats: Missouri beats other teams when they get the opponent sped up, turning the ball over and taking bad shots. That didn't happen last night--Texas shot 52% from the field and had 15 turnovers to the Tigers' 13. The margin of 13 points would have been even worse had Texas hit free throws--they went .471 from the line. The Tigers stay on the road and face a critical test on Wednesday against Oklahoma State.

- How crazy--and good--is the Big East? Yesterday, #2 Pittsburgh had to hang on against Rutgers; #5 Connecticut lost, at home, to #23 Louisville; #8 Villanova lost to #21 Georgetown; and Marquette handed #9 Syracuse its fourth straight loss. This conference will likely get 10 teams in the tourney.

- As good as the Big East is, what's up with the ACC this year? Duke is now 19-2 but is #12 in the RPI. North Carolina is 15-5 overall and #15 in the RPI. After that, the next closest is Boston College at #34 (14-7 overall and 4-3 in the league.)

- Interesting stat: Curtis Kelly of Kansas State only played 10 minutes last night against Kansas.

- Jimmer Fredette went off for 43 points earlier this week in a nationally televised win over San Diego State. Fredette went 14-24, 5-8 from three-point land, and hit 10 of 11 free throws. Yesterday, Fredette and BYU lost to New Mexico. Fredette had 32 points but only five through the first 17 minutes of the game. He finished 12 of 26 from the field.

- Much like Fredette, Jacob Pullen struggled from the field in Kansas State's rout by Kansas. Pullen finished with 21 points but was 8 of 22 and picked up most of his points late in the game.

- Here's your RPI update for the week: Kansas, #1; BYU, #2; Ohio State, #3; Texas, #11; Texas A&M, #17; Missouri, #27; Kansas State, #42; Oklahoma State, #56; Nebraska, #79; Baylor, #86; and Colorado, #94. The Buffs are suddenly looking more and more like an NIT team.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What's wrong with Kansas State?

Tonight I give you the Kansas State Wildcats, exhibit A for why preseason college basketball ratings mean virtually nothing.

The vast majority of the media who vote on such things had the Wildcats in the top five in the preseason, or at least the top ten. They were the consensus pick to win the Big 12 Conference. And, Jacob Pullen was considered as a first-team All-American candidate and likely Player of the Year in the Big 12.

Kansas State is now a team in deep trouble--they are 14-8, 2-5 in the league, and have no RPI boosting wins on their resume. What the heck happened to this team?

One, Denis Clemente graduated, leaving a void at the point guard slot. Clemente's Sundance to Pullen's Butch resulted in a guard-led team last year and you know what they say about needing strong guards in the NCAA Tournament. With Clemente's leadership and ball distribution, Pullen was left to focus on what he does best--shoot. Without Clemente this year, Pullen has struggled with being both team leader and on-court quarterback.

Two, Dominique Sutton tranferred. Now, I've yet to hear Sutton's name mentioned when people discuss KSU's woes but he is a guy who the Cats have not replaced. Sutton was the energy guy, a defensive stopper who was long and athletic, and complemented Pullen and Clemente by knowing his role.

Three, Curtis Kelly has been a distraction. Fans and media fell in love with Kelly last year during tournament time when his points and rebounds were critical in KSU's run to the Elite Eight. This year, Kelly's early lack of effort landed him in Frank Martin's doghouse and that became the outhouse once Kelly and Pullen were charged with impermissible benefits due to a shopping spree gone awry.

Four, Wally Judge has not developed--at all. Tonight, Judge fouled out against Kansas and was clearly over-matched in going against Markieff and Marcus Morris, along with Thomas Robinson. Judge's numbers on the year are not what you expect of a former McDonald's All-American--he's scoring 5.6 per game and has four rebounds a game. In addition, he's a liability from the free throw line given his .438 percentage.

And, finally, one has to point to coaching. I'm not necessarily calling out Martin here, although one has to ask if his style fits for a team with these kind of issues. Rather, what's going on with the guys sitting beside him on the bench? When kids like Judge don't develop or Kelly regresses, that's usually a product of the lack of coaching they're getting during the week.

Kansas State has nine games left on the conference schedule, five of which are at home and include dates against Kansas and Missouri. It will be critical for KSU to find ways to win at Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa State. Otherwise, the rousing chants of "NIT" that the Wildcats heard tonight in Allen Fieldhouse will become their unfortunate reality.

Breaking down Kansas-Kansas State

It's Kansas Day, the 150th anniversary for the state of Kansas, and, fittingly, the University of Kansas plays Kansas State University today. Let's break down this 271st game in a rivalry series which began in 1907.

Here's what to watch for today:

Thomas Robinson. This list has to start with T-Rob, the young man who has been in the prayers and thoughts of so many this past week given the recent death of his mother. Robinson flew back to Lawrence from Washington, D.C. yesterday and is expected to play tonight. The reception from the crowd, when Robinson enters the game, will be electric.

Jacob Pullen. The emotional leader of the Wildcats has played a key role in past KU-KSU clashes. As a freshman, Pullen's drives and points were instrumental in Kansas State's only victory over Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. Last year, Pullen and his Chicago buddy, Sherron Collins, went toe-to-toe in all three games of the series. Can Pullen play within himself and his team, and be the court leader which KSU needs so desperately?

Markieff Morris. The less heralded of the Morris twins, 'Kieff is the leading rebounder for Kansas. Interestingly, Markieff is the Kansas starter who typically gets the fewest minutes given his propensity to pick up an early foul or two. Kansas needs this twin to be in the game for 28-30 minutes.

Will Spradling. Like Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar of Kansas, Spradling is a Kansas kid and drew Bob Knight's praise on Monday night when KSU beat Baylor. KSU needs Spradling to complement Pullen's scoring but, more importantly, they need him to avoid turnovers today and play a solid floor game.

The Phog. The last time Kansas played at home, they lost. That hadn't happened in the previous 69 games, so the Jayhawks will look to start a new home court winning streak today. As always, the atmosphere will be electric in Allen Fieldhouse but today will have the extra buzz created by ESPN College GameDay being on campus, combined with Robinson's return and the jersey ceremony for Kansas native Wayne Simien at halftime.

Kansas State's shooting. The Wildcats shoot .439% per game, which is 169th in the country. The Wildcats' like games that get "muddy"--physical, every possession a battle--but even that percentage is not going to win any championships. The 'Cats can still win shooting worse then their opponent (they did it on Monday), but have to improve at getting the ball in the basket.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thomas, Jayla...and growing up way too fast

You've heard the story by now. Thomas Robinson, sophomore power forward for the Kansas Jayhawks, had his grandmother pass away three weeks ago and his grandfather ten days ago. Robinson then received a call at approximately 11:00 p.m. last Friday. The call was from his little sister, Jayla, who left an urgent message asking Robinson to call. Robinson checked the message, heard Jayla crying, and, fearing the worst, called her back. He learned that his mother had died from an apparent heart attack.

Not only was a 19-year old man-child's life rocked again but he now was faced with the harsh reality that he was in Lawrence, KS--1,100 miles away from his seven-year old sister.

What's played out in the past week is a tragic drama of loss, coping, family, grieving, caring, and loving. A community of fans--the Jayhawk Nation--has rallied, pledging support and outpouring their concern for a young man that very few actually know, yet still claim to love. A team of 15, along with coaches and staff, have consoled Robinson and one another, have lost a game within hours of learning of the loss and spending the night and early morning dealing with the aftermath and, most recently, traveling to Washington, D.C. only to arrive five hours late to their hotel due to the brutal snowstorm in the East. The next day the team attended the funeral, which almost didn't happen due to power outages. And, shockingly, in the midst of all this tragedy came more unreal news--one of freshman guard Josh Selby's best friends, and godson of his mother, was murdered in Baltimore.

Words can't even begin to describe this surreal drama as it plays out. I can't help but compare it to the few losses I've experienced in my life and, because of that, can't imagine a young man of 19 so suddenly being thrust into adulthood, much less the impact that this is having on a seven-year old girl.

We can only hope that Robinson is receiving advice which will guide decisions which are in his and Jayla's best interests. We also can only hope that bureaucracy doesn't get in the way of doing what's right--that the many who have expressed a desire to help are given a chance to do just that. Because, wouldn't it be an even bigger tragedy if the lives of these two young people weren't impacted by the many who want to do something giving and right?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The most influential folks in sports business

Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal announced its annual list of the "Most Influential People in Sports Business." The usual suspects are on the list but what's particularly noteworthy this year is the rise of key college athletic administrators, thus signifying the massive power struggles going on within collegiate athletics.

Here's the top ten and a few other notables:

1. Roger Goodell, Commissioner, NFL. One would question the validity of this list if anyone other than Goodell was in the #1 slot.

2. George Bodenheimer, President, ESPN/ABC Sports. Bodenheimer lords over the Worldwide Leader's ever-expanding sports network and assets.

3. David Stern, Commissioner, NBA. How will Stern handle the upcoming labor negotiations which could cause a lockout?

4. Bud Selig, Commissioner, Major League Baseball. This past year was another solid year for MLB.

5. DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director, NFL Players Association. Smith will be front-and-center in the labor negotiations with the NFL.

6. Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics. Ebersol will move up this list once Comcast's NBC acquisition gains regulatory approval.

7. Chase Carey, Deputy Chair, President & Chief Operating Officer, News Corp. FOX continues to be aggressive in sports programming.

8. Sean McManus, President, CBS News and CBS Sports. His latest deal is partnering with Turner Sports on the NCAA Tournament.

9. Robert Kraft, Founder, Chairman and CEO, The Kraft Group. Already an influential owner, Kraft will play a big role in 2011 labor talks.

10. Jerry Jones, Owner, Dallas Cowboys. Jones will be host of the February 6 Super Bowl at "Jerry World," a k a Cowboys Stadium.

Others of interest:

12. Tim Leiweke, President and CEO, AEG. Leiweke is Phil Anschutz's key guy; eyes are on Leiweke's ability to get a new NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles.

19. Tim Finchem, Commissioner, PGA Tour. This is a guy who really hopes that Tiger discovers his game, given the impact that Woods has on attendance, television ratings, and licensing revenue.

21. Sepp Blatter, President, FIFA. The guy who was instrumental in awarding Qatar a World Cup.

25. Jim Delaney, Commissioner, Big Ten Conference. Delaney wasn't even on the list a year ago, signifying his role in the summer's realignment hysteria.

39. Joel Ewanick, Vice President, U.S. Marketing, General Motors. Another newcomer to the list, Ewanick is making-over G.M.'s marketing activities.

41. Bea Perez, Chief Marketing Officer, Coca-Cola North America. Yet another newcomer, Perez is a veteran of the sports marketing wars.

42. Deloss Dodds, Mens Athletics Director, University of Texas. The Longhorns just inked a deal for their own network and saved the Big 12 in 2010. Dodds oversees a huge athletic pot of dough in Austin.

49. Rick Dudley, Phil De Picciotto and Jeff Shifrin, Octagon. The only sports marketing agency representation on the list.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thought for the day

A college basketball scheduler would never send a team from a game in Manhattan, KS on a Monday night to Boulder, CO for a Tuesday night game. Yet, that's what the Big 12 conference did with referee Tom O'Neill.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the demands on a hoops official are the same as that of a player, but this was a difficult travel adventure for even the most seasoned of road warriors.

The Kansas State-Baylor game did not end until 10:25 p.m. on Monday evening. So, we know O'Neill got to bed late, then had to catch some sort of flight from Manhattan or Topeka to Denver, then the short drive to Boulder, all in time for a 6:00 p.m. MT tip-off.

While we can say "props to O'Neill" for his travel effort, it calls into question the quality of refereeing that Kansas and Colorado received from that member of the crew this evening. O'Neill's a veteran ref but two games, back-to-back (and one at altitude) is a lot to ask of anyone in the officiating profession.

Stat of the day

18 and 35. That is how many fouls--18--were committed in the final 7:39 last night of the Kansas State-Baylor game, resulting in 35 free throw attempts. That, my friends, makes for some riveting basketball and is the reason the game stretched well beyond the normal two-hour window of game time.

KU-CU preview

What to watch for in tonight's Big 12 game between Kansas and Colorado in Boulder:

- The two best shooting teams in the league. Kansas leads the Big 12 with a .514 FG percentage and CU is second with .486.

- Two of the top three scoring teams in the league. Missouri leads the conference at 85 points per game followed by Kansas, 82.1 per game, and Colorado, 81.8 per game.

- Player of the Year candidates Alec Burks and Marcus Morris. Burks "is a pro," according to Kansas coach Bill Self. Will the sophomore, second in the Big 12 in scoring, depart CU after this season for the NBA (provided there is no lockout?) As for Morris, he'll try to rebound from a sub-par outing versus Texas. Morris is averaging 17.1 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game, and is shooting at a .590% clip.

- Colorado is sixth in the country in free throw percentage (.779) Kansas is far less effective--.667%.

- Tyrell Reed. Reed, the kid from Burlington in western Kansas, has been the glue guy for the Jayhawks. He's scored 17, 11 and 16 in his past three games and is KU's best rebounding guard.

- Tad Boyle. Colorado's first-year coach goes against his alma mater for the first time.

Fumbles and penalty flags

Among those publicly dogging Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears quarterback, for his lack of toughness was none other than Deion Sanders. Yep, the same "Neon Deion" who was terrific in pass coverage but wasn't known for his willingness to tackle on running plays.

Bears GM Jerry Angelo had this to say about the former and current players who have criticized Cutler, "I thought they were a union. If that's the way they want to unionize themselves, they got bigger issues than the one that they have with the owners. I'm very disappointed."

Knight and Musberger

Last night we were treated to some incredibly ugly basketball between Baylor and Kansas State on ESPN's Big Monday telecast. The effort was there by both teams and, to Baylor's credit, they hung in when KSU should have put them away had the Wildcats made layups, as head coach Frank Martin pointed out in his halftime interview.

But, the intrigue of the evening was that we were treated (and I use that word loosely) to a less gentle Bob Knight, who called the game with partner Brent Musberger. Between the all too constant call for a ball or head fake, Knight offered up these gems:

- "Frank (Martin) should spend less time cheerleading and more time coaching his zone offense."

- "When I go back to the motel tonight, I'm going to give thanks for all of the smart players I had when I coached."

Knight was clearly exasperated by the level of play and the Wildcats' inability to deftly pick apart Baylor's zone, which had gaps on the baseline.

This duo still too frequently drifts off into conversation that makes viewers scratch their heads, but the Knight on air last night was more pointed in his comments--something that we, and ESPN I'm sure, have been waiting for.

Monday, January 24, 2011

RPI update

After weekend action in college hoops, here are the latest RPI rankings for Big 12 contenders as well as a few others:

Kansas - #1
BYU - #2
San Diego State - #3
Connecticut - #4
Pittsburgh - #5
Ohio State - #6
Villanova - #7
Syracuse - #8
Georgetown - #9
Duke - #10

Texas - #15
North Carolina - #20
Missouri - #29
Missouri State - #36
Oklahoma State - #40
Wichita State - #47
Kansas State - #50
Colorado - #84
Baylor - #87
Iowa State - #90

These latest RPI rating reinforce why tonight's game against Baylor, at home, is an absolute "must win" for Kansas State.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fumbles and penalty flags

- Talk about questionable coaching: Today, Chicago coaches inserted third string QB Caleb Hanie into the game in the third quarter. That meant, by NFL rule, that the Bears could not bring Todd Collins or Jay Cutler back into the game. Then, the third-and-three call at the end of the game was just a flat-out bad decision coming out of a Bear timeout. It led to fourth-and-four and the resulting Hanie pick. The Chicago media will have a field day this week on the coaching decisions by Lovie Smith, Mike Martz and staff.

- How is Collins still on an NFL roster?

- At this point in the season, some commercials have aired too frequently on NFL broadcasts and are in the wear-out stage. The Sony TV spot with Peyton Manning and Jim Nantz is in that category for me as is the Mike Strahan-Donovan McNabb commercial for Dr. Pepper.

- The Packers' B.J. Raji almost pulled a Leon Lett today. Raji intercepted a Bears pass in the fourth quarter and ran it in for a score but not before holding the ball out with one hand several yards ahead of the goal line. Fortunately for Raji, he crossed the goal prior to fumbling the ball after being hit. The play was reminiscent of Lett's infamous gaffe in Super Bowl XXVII against Buffalo when he did the same, was hit, and fumbled the ball out of the endzone resulting in a touchback.

- New York Jet quarterback Mark Sanchez was caught on camera, during CBS' broadcast of the Jets-Steelers playoff game, picking his nose and wiping the findings off on a teammate. Ugh...gross!

- Finally, what was up with Rashard Mendenhall humping Ben Roethlisberger at the end of the Pittsburgh win over New York? The Steelers were taking a knee, Big Ben was down and Mendenhall did the dog-on-pillow action.

Stat of the day

.271. That was Iowa State's shooting percentage last night in a 87-54 loss to Missouri. MU's suffocating defense sped up the Cyclones and wore down their seven-man rotation.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Quote of the day

Bill Self: "Their (Texas') freshmen played with poise and like upperclassmen. They made our upperclassmen look like freshmen."

Stats of the day

2. The number of undefeated teams remaining in NCAA basketball. Ohio State beat Illinois today to remain undefeated; San Diego State, the other undefeated team, does not play again until Wednesday.

2. The losing streak of Colorado, who went down today at Oklahoma. The Buffs next play on Tuesday night, at home, against Kansas.

3. The ranking of Syracuse before losses this week at Pittsburgh and today, at home, against Villanova.

8. The number of baskets made by Kansas in the second half today, on 30 attempts, in their loss to Texas.

12. Connecticut finished their non-conference portion of the season with a 12-0 record after defeating Tennessee today.

36. Curtis Kelly and Jacob Pullen of Kansas State combined for 36 points today versus Texas A&M. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the rest of the team only scored 20 more as Kansas State lost its fourth game out of their last five.

69. Yep, the streak is over. Kansas had won 69 straight at Allen Fieldhouse--the longest such streak in the country--before going down today versus Texas. It was Texas' first win ever in the Phog.

Rant of the week

We're starting a new feature here at The View from Section 10--a regular post called "Rant of the week." Just like we have "Stat of the day" and such, this post will regularly call out some issue in the world of sports which justifies a rant from yours truly.

The "rant of the week," edition one, is the use of sports metaphors.

Now, if you're reading this blog, in all likelihood you are a fan of sports. And, chances are, you've used your share of sports metaphors. My issue is being questioned as to why I/we use sports metaphors.

I've recently been in meetings where a colleague has called out someone else in the meeting who, heaven forbid, referenced sports or used a sports metaphor. If I had a bit more "oomph" in my game, I would have called out that colleague by asking "what other area of popular or modern culture is as flexible, as sports, for this type of figure of speech?"

Think about it, does the world of entertainment offer such possibilities? Does the world of politics? How many politicians have you heard using sports metaphors? A lot--because it fits for most every situation in life!

Think about it:
- Most team sports are ripe with opportunity. Basketball, in particular, fits with what we experience in life. To be good in basketball, one has to shoot, pass, dribble, rebound and defend. There's the uniquely gifted player who can make everyone around him better. Likewise, there's the gifted player who cannot win unless he or she has others on his team who can play their respective roles. This also is the game which gave us John Wooden, one of the most profound thinkers and philosophers in the history of sport, and his all-time great quote, "It's amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit."

- There are the individual sports, such as golf, where one competes against oneself in order to shoot a lower score. Every shot in golf over every round played is different--the lie of the ball, the yardage to the pin, the weather conditions, the pin placement and, of course, the psyche of the player on that given day as he/she stands over that particular shot. Does that sound like something which equates to life in business or as a parent? Uh, yeah!

- Finally, how about the athlete who has achieved greatness but, ultimately, must step away from the game he/she loves, whether due to declining ability, age, injury, or a combination of all these factors?

Yes, sports are a metaphor for life because sport imitates life...or life imitates sport. I'm not suggesting that those who don't follow sports convert in order to get into the sports metaphor game. No, I'm just saying that those who don't get or like sports metaphors should deal with it...or come up with some other area of our culture which is so ripe with metaphor possibilities.

That, my friends, is your rant for this week.

Dimes and dunks--Saturday morning edition

- Memo to the Kansas City Star: Iowa State plays at Missouri this evening, not Nebraska versus the Tigers. The newspaper's edition listed "Nebraska" as playing in Columbia tonight. That's a pretty major editing mistake.

- Joe Posnanski has the coveted inside back cover columnist spot in Sports Illustrated this week, formerly held by long-time SI writer Rick Reilly. It's cool to see JoePo making it big at SI and, but I miss seeing his columns in the Kansas City Star, particularly when having my Saturday or Sunday morning coffee.

- Going into today's games, here are the top ten college basketball teams given the all-important RPI ratings: Kansas, Syracuse, San Diego State, Pittsburgh, BYU, Connecticut, Duke, Georgetown, Ohio State and Notre Dame. For those counting at home, that's five Big East teams in the top ten of the RPI.

- I've only seen one episode and thus am unsure as to characterize it as a "boxing show," but Lights Out on FX is pretty good, based upon the pilot.

- Former University of Kansas golfer Gary Woodland is co-leader of the PGA Bob Hope Classic headed into round three today. As I look out my window at the 12th fairway behind our yard, I'm hard-pressed to think about golf given the six inches or so of the white stuff on the ground.

- Have you seen anything wackier in college hoops recently than the 19-0 opening run by Pittsburgh, this past Monday, which was then matched by a 17-0 response by Syracuse?

- Think about this--if Colorado was in the Pac 10 already, they'd be a serious, serious contender for the league crown this year given the weakness of that league. Washington currently leads the Pac 10 but after the Huskies, the league is down compared to recent seasons.

- Today's predictions versus the betting line: Line - Kansas by nine over Texas. Kansas wins but does not cover the spread. Line - Missouri by 9.5 over Iowa State. Missouri covers the spread. Texas A&M by five over Kansas State. A&M covers the spread.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kansas vs. Texas--what to look for tomorrow

I have to believe that the ESPN College GameDay guys would prefer stopping in Lawrence tomorrow for the Kansas-Texas contest versus waiting a week to see the Jayhawks play what thus far has been a disappointing Kansas State team. (ESPN College GameDay is scheduled to be at Allen Fieldhouse next Saturday.)

Here's what to look for tomorrow when #2 KU takes on #11 Texas:

The streak: A win gives Kansas 70 straight on James Naismith Court at Allen Fieldhouse. Is there pressure with this streak? If so, it hasn't shown and, if anything, the Allen crowd has helped the team pull through in close games like the win over USC in December.

Jordan Hamilton: Hamilton scored 27 points on Wednesday night in the Longhorn's win over Texas A&M. The rub? Hamilton had zero offensive rebounds and one assist. When Hamilton had the ball, he was 10 of 14 from the field and hit all four of his free throws. Will Hamilton be more involved in Texas' total offense on Saturday?

Josh Selby: Selby is trying to make up for lost time given his nine-game suspension. He has the ability to take over a game, which he showed in his first outing versus USC, including the game-winning shot. Since then, Selby has been up-and-down offensively but has shown consistent improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

J'Covan Brown: Brown had a huge game against Kansas last year. He's streaky but can go off if given the opportunity.

Mario Little: Little hasn't played a lot of minutes for Kansas over the past three games but has been very productive in his limited time on the floor. Little is under-sized on the defensive side of the ball but creates match-up problems on offense.

DeAndre Daniels: Daniels won't be on the floor but is supplying a bit of drama off the court. Daniels originally committed to Texas but re-opened his recruitment and is said to now be favoring Kansas. His decision has been delayed given his desire to enroll in the spring semester at whichever school he chooses--Kansas, Texas or Kentucky.

Andy Katz of ESPN has picked Texas to stop Kansas' home court winning streak. I, on the other hand, predict a six point Kansas victory in another classic match-up between these two schools who have developed quite a hoops rivalry. The winner will be in the drivers' seat of the Big 12 title race.

The NFL Playoffs--what a final four

Imagine an NCAA Final Four with traditional powers Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA. That's basically what we have this Sunday when Green Bay faces Chicago and Pittsburgh plays New York to see which two teams will represent the NFC and the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Not only do Chicago and Green Bay represent franchises from the original NFL, but check out the number of championships between the four:

Green Bay - 11 NFL championships from 1929-1967; two AFL-NFL championships, 1966 and 1967; and one Super Bowl in 1996. In addition, the Packers have won six NFL Western conference championships and two NFL championships, plus a total of 13 Division championships.

Chicago - Eight NFL championships from 1921-1963; one Super Bowl championship in 1985; four Conference championships; and 18 Division championships between the NFL Western, NFC Central and NFC North alignments.

Pittsburgh - Six Super Bowl championships; seven Conference championships; and 20 Division championships in the AFC Central and AFC North.

New York - The Jets won the Super Bowl in 1968--the first won by an AFL team--and have four Division championships in their 14 playoff appearances.

While I have to believe that the NFL and FOX would love a Jets-Bears game and broadcast, all four teams provide national followings and/or major markets, making the two games this Sunday even more special. I'm predicting that both home teams will win, thus giving us a Steelers-Bears Super Bowl on February 5.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dimes and dunks

- The U.S. appears set to name Davis Love III as the country's next Ryder Cup captain. Love, in case you're wondering, has a career 9-12-5 record in the competition. He was involved with winning U.S. efforts in 1993 and 1999, and won the pivotal point in the '93 matches at The Belfry.

- The NFL's oldest rivalry will be played once again on Sunday when the Chicago Bears meet the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. The Bears lead the all-time series, 92-83-6.

- The line on the Kansas-Baylor game was KU by four. The Jayhawks blew that away with a 20 point win on the road.

- Anyone who thinks that Blake Griffin's game is one-dimensional, i.e., vicious dunks, needs to watch the tape from yesterday's game against the Indiana Pacers. Griffin scored 47 on a variety of shots and moves, and complemented the scoring with 14 rebounds.

- Quick, name the last U.S. male to win the Australian Open. If you guessed Andre Agassi in 2003, you'd be correct. Agassi was a three-time winner of the event.

- Last night on the ESPN telecast of Baylor-Kansas, Bob Knight said that Kansas' Thomas Robinson was a better shooter from the high post than either Marcus or Markieff Morris. Now, I'm no Bob Knight but that is about as ridiculous a statement as a color commentator can make.

- The latest RPI hoops rankings for contending Big 12 clubs are: Kansas, #1; Texas A&M, #16; Missouri, #27; Texas, #41; Oklahoma State, #43; Kansas State, #51; Colorado, #71; and Baylor, #101. Other teams of interest are: Duke, #10; North Carolina, #25; Missouri State, #38; and Wichita State, #42.


The final game of ESPN's buffet of college hoops yesterday was Kansas at Baylor. And, the Jayhawks dominated BU from the beginning, building a 23 point halftime lead with an eventual victory margin of 20.

One has to question the decision to use footage from last year's loss, by the Jayhawks to Northern Iowa in round two of the NCAA Tournament, in the player introduction video at the Ferrell Center at Baylor. In addition, the pre-game video decision-makers in Waco decided to add some footage from the Bears' football win over KU this past fall.

It's sad--and a negative commentary on the state of a school's athletic program--when they rely upon the success of someone else to publicly tweak an opponent/rival. Baylor went to the Elite Eight last year in the tournament and has a roster which includes lottery pick Perry Jones. The school should be using that as the basis for pre-game and in-game videos.

The Jayhawks, when asked, said that the video didn't make them try harder or have an impact on their pre-game focus. Maybe so, but why tug on Superman's cape?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Observations from a day of college hoops

This full slate of college hoops on ESPN on Martin Luther King Day is pretty fun, especially when the games are of the variety of Connecticut-Villanova, Kansas State-Missouri, Syracuse-Pittsburgh, and Kansas-Baylor.

- Yes, we're only four games into the Big 12 conference schedule but time is running out for Kansas State. Their loss at Missouri today drops them to 1-3 in the conference with an upcoming schedule of at Texas A&M, Baylor, at Kansas, Nebraska, at Iowa State and at Colorado.

- Missouri had to hold serve at home today as their upcoming schedule is also very challenging. The Tigers play Iowa State at home on Saturday, then go to Texas and Oklahoma State, come back home to play Colorado, then travel to Kansas.

- Kemba Walker gets my vote for player-of-the-year, if the selection happened right now.

- Jamie Dixon can flat-out coach.

- I'm surprised more isn't being made of Frank Martin's inability to sign a highly ranked junior college or incoming freshman point guard. It's become a tired story but the 'Cats really miss Denis Clemente.

- The natives are getting restless in Chapel Hill, N.C. And, Roy Williams, a year removed from the poorly chosen statement equating his troubles with his team to the 2010 disaster in Haiti, said the following: "We didn't come frickin' ready to play. I'm mad at the world. We stunk. I'm so mad I'd fight somebody with a chainsaw right now."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stat of the day

26. That's the number of turnovers by Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor in the past eight games as well as the number of turnovers by KU's Josh Selby during that same span. Those combined 52 turnovers, by Kansas' current starting guards, isn't going to get it done if the Jayhawks hope to win their seventh straight Big 12 conference championship or contend in the NCAA post-season.

Things to watch for today in the Big 12

It's a full slate of Big 12 basketball games today and here's what to watch for across the conference:

- Curtis Kelly returns to the Kansas State lineup after serving his six game suspension. How will Kelly, who averaged 10 points and four boards per game in non-conference play, respond to a team which is struggling? He returns today, at home, against a team which KSU should beat easily--Texas Tech.

- Quick, name the only school in the conference which Mike Anderson hasn't beat during his time at Missouri. It's today's foe, Texas A&M, against whom Anderson owns an 0-4 record. A victory in today's game goes a long way towards affirming which team challenges KU and Texas for the league crown this season.

- Nebraska is the league leader in field goal percentage defense and has done a good job in sagging in on opposing teams' big men. Will Kansas have the discipline to move the ball and be patient, or will they continue to show their propensity to settle for shots from behind the arc?

- Iowa State was 13-2 before losing late to Nebraska, battling Kansas until the Jayhawks pulled away late and now stand at 0-2 in the conference with Baylor coming to Ames. This is a game which will give us an indication of how serious a threat Baylor will be for the conference title.

In other Big 12 games today, Colorado hosts Oklahoma State and Oklahoma travels to Texas.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The college bowl compensation system

Now that the 2010-2011 bowl season is in our rearview mirror, let's take one last look at the compensation structure for the 22 bowls which are considered by the Internal Revenue Service to be nonprofit organizations. If you want exhibit A for why those involved in the bowl system don't wish to change it, here you go.

Liberty Bowl: No executive compensation information is available.

GoDaddy Bowl: No executive compensation information is available.

Gator Bowl: No executive compensation information is available.

New Orleans Bowl: No paid employees; the bowl is run by the CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.

Humanitarian Bowl: Humanitarian Bowl Inc. has no employees but lists payroll expenses of $200,599.

Military Bowl: Executive Director = $37,500

Insight Bowl: President/CEO = $97,401 (see Fiesta Bowl)

Independence Bowl: Executive Director = $110,217

Sun Bowl: Executive Director = $166,088

Capital One Bowl: Executive Director = $242,584

Holiday Bowl and Poinsettia Bowl: Executive Director = $261,496

Rose Bowl: CEO = $277,929

Fiesta Bowl: President and CEO = $317,717 (plus $97,401 for managing the Insight Bowl)

Orange Bowl: CEO = $357,722

Fight Hunger Bowl: Executive Director = $377,475

Alamo Bowl: President = $419,045

Cotton Bowl: Vice Chairman = $419,873

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: President = $504,444

Sugar Bowl: Executive Director = $645,386

Outback Bowl: President and CEO = $808,032

The compensation numbers for most of these bowls are staggering, but that's not all--many execs involved with bowls receive incentive comp as well. As an example, the executive director of the Fight Hunger Bowl receives a bonus of 10% of television rights fees, 7.5% of the game's title sponsorship fees and 5% of the association's overall surplus for the fiscal year. As another perk example, the execs from the Orange, Fiesta and Rose Bowl are paid to fly first class.

In the case of the major bowls, the other staff members rake in nice compensation packages too. The Chief Administration Officer of the Rose Bowl makes a base salary of $193,959 while the COO of the Fiesta Bowl makes $168,368.

The bowl games are single games with associated events scheduled around the bowl day or evening. While there is much involved in making these games happen--selling sponsorships, tickets and the like--the responsibilities pale in comparison to peer level jobs leading national governing bodies for Olympic sports, or those of their constituents in Athletic Director positions at major universities.

If you still need convincing that the system is broken, chew on this final piece of data--the compensation packages for four execs (Jim McVay, Outback Bowl, $808,032; Paul Hoolahan, Sugar Bowl, $645,386; John Junker, $592,418, Fiesta and Insight Bowls; and Gary Stokan, Chick-Fil-A Bowl, $504,444) were higher than the total team payouts for the R&L Carrier and Humanitarian Bowls.

(Source: Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chatty Cathys behind the mic

The Wall Street Journal had a story today about the chattiest announcing teams on NFL broadcasts. (Source: The Count.) Not surprisingly, the most talkative twosome was Kansas Citian Kevin Harlan, who was teamed this season with Solomon Wilcotts on CBS. The study found that the duo spoke 189.20 words per minute, based upon their broadcast in week one of the NFL season. The twosome who was least chatty was Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, who do the Sunday night broadcasts on NBC.

These numbers contrast with the spare language employed by former announcer Pat Summerall who, teamed with John Madden, said 118.2 words per minute.

All of these guys can take a lesson from the late Ray Scott, who broadcast NFL games in the 1960s-1974, and called four Super Bowls on CBS. Scott's minimalist style was best portrayed by his classic call, "Starr...Dowler...Touchdown, Green Bay!"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stat of the day

The BCS national championship game between Auburn and Oregon pulled a 16.1 overnight rating in its first year on ESPN--the top overnight cable television rating ever. The television rating was 12 percent less than the 18.2 which FOX drew last year but keep in mind that ESPN is available in 15 percent fewer homes.

What's going on in the Big 12?

- The University of Oklahoma has a well-documented rivalry with the University of Texas on the football field. That rivalry is now extending into the broadcast space as OU pursues its own "Oklahoma channel" which would be similar to what UT is doing with its school-specific channel. The Sooners are working with Learfield Sports on this venture, according to Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal.

- The Big 12 has retained GSD&M Idea City to help evaluate the current name of the conference, potential new names, and the best way to position the conference's brand moving forward, given the loss of the University of Colorado to the Pac-10 and the University of Nebraska to the Big Ten.

- The Big East Conference currently has the highest-rated conference RPI followed by the Big Ten and the Big 12. What's hurting the Big 12 is the 12th rated strength-of-schedule for the league compared with the Big East's first-rated and the Big Ten's second-rated SOS.

- The Big 12's non-conference record is 140-34 (.805) this season.

Monday, January 10, 2011

College football's "haves" and "have nots"

As we await tonight's BCS national championship game, perhaps one of the more interesting stories in college athletics is how Oregon has snuck its way into this game, given the disparity in one overlooked, yet important, statistic--the size of the school's football stadium.

Let's back up a bit to provide some context. There are 18 schools with on-campus stadiums of 80,000 capacity or more--here's that list:

100,000+ -- Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, Alabama
90,000+ -- Texas, Georgia, LSU, Florida
82,000+ -- Florida State, Auburn, Texas A&M, Oklahoma
80,000+ -- Nebraska, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Clemson, South Carolina

What do these schools have in common? All but three have won a national championship since 1980 and Auburn, one of tonight's combatants, won a national championship in the 1950's.

Oregon, on the other hand, plays in a stadium with a listed capacity of 54,000 and a normal attendance of around 59,000--hardly competitive with the big boys. So, perhaps it should be no surprise that this is the Ducks' first true sniff at the national crown.

Stadium size is about much more than ego--it's about revenue to the athletic department. And, the biggest stadiums reside where there has been a tradition of consistent success. Championships breed fan interest which equals revenue.

Here are the average attendance figures, by conference:

SEC = 75,706
Big 10 = 69,643
Big 12 = 58,968
Pac 10 = 56,314
ACC = 52,936
Big East = 39,043

If you're curious as to which schools would rank near the bottom in attendance, the Mid-America Conference has plenty of candidates, with eight teams sporting some of the lowest attendance-as-percentage-of-stadium-capacity stats in the country.

According to The Bleacher Report, this list of schools has the worst attendance as percentage of capacity:

1. Eastern Michigan
2. Florida International
3. Ball State
4. Miami (Ohio)
5. Idaho
6. Rice
7. Louisiana-Monroe
8. Bowling Green
9. Western Kentucky
10. Northern Illinois
11. Florida Atlantic
12. San Jose State
13. Kent State
14. Buffalo
15. Utah State
16. Toledo
17. New Mexico State

An Oregon win tonight, even as a member of a BCS conference, would go a long way to showing that even non-traditional powers in college football can sometimes sneak in and take the crown.

Twitter and the fan experience

The consumer behavior of watching a sporting event on television with laptop on lap, in order to track stats and other breaking news, is not a new phenomenon. But, the involvement of Twitter as an in-game chat and information resource is something new which I've found to enrich the spectator experience, whether in front of the big screen at home or in my seat in Section 10.

By following the beat writers and national columnists who write about the teams, conference and sports of which I'm interested, my ability to gain inside information, instant expert opinions, and humorous musings has heightened the fan experience. There is also the ability to tweet/chat with other fans during the game, if one is inclined to engage in this sort of virtual sports bar activity.

The good news is that this resource can be regulated based upon one's interest and need. I find it a real-time way to more closely follow the action, and provides an oft unfiltered view of the action as scribed by those paid to observe and report.

For the early adopter readers of this blog, I know this is old news. For those who have been hesitant to check out "the Twitter," here's a good reason why you should give it a test drive tonight during the Auburn-Oregon national championship game. However, make sure you designate "follow" on those reporting on the game or else you'll be chatting with yourself.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stats of the day

- 3. The number of touchdown passes thrown by Aaron Rodgers in the Packers playoff win over Philadelphia.

- 5. The number of undefeated teams remaining in college basketball. Both Central Florida and Cincinnati lost leaving Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse and San Diego State as the only unbeatens.

- 8-0. Kansas coach Bill Self's career record against Michigan after today's win.

- 20.4. Matt Cassel's quarterback rating from today's loss against Baltimore. Cassel went 9 of 18 for 70 yards with three interceptions.

- 35.7. Kansas' field goal percentage in today's overtime win at Michigan. The Wolverines' extended 1-3-1 zone defense gave KU fits and forced the nation's best shooting team into a poor offensive outing, including 16.7% from behind the three-point arc.

- 41. The length of Jamaal Charles touchdown run today for the Chiefs...and also the amount of yards he picked up the remainder of the game.

- 79.9. Michael Vick's quarterback rating from today's loss against Green Bay. Vick went 20 for 36 for 292 yards, one TD and one pick.

Monday morning quarterbacking (on Sunday night)

I doubt that it's a surprise to most that Kansas City lost to the Baltimore Ravens but, for Chiefs fans, the bigger disappointment was how the Chiefs lost. Much will be made of the team's five turnovers, the inability to get anything going offensively and the fact that Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe not only didn't have a catch but didn't even have a ball thrown his way.

Let's focus, though, on two other key happenings in the game which caused this loss:

1. It's become a tired saying but it's true--in the playoffs, the teams that win are the ones which don't make mistakes. And, Kansas City made a couple of big mistakes towards the end of the first half. K.C. had the ball at their 47, up 7-3, with third and three. After an officiating timeout, the Chiefs had a false start penalty, then failed to make third and eight. Dustin Colquitt's punt bounded down to the one but two Chiefs defenders ran into each other, failing to down the ball deep in Ravens' territory. Baltimore got the ball at the 20, drove the length of the field to score, and went up 10-7 prior to the half. They took that momentum and used it to their advantage in a dominant third quarter, thus ending the contest. The mistakes of the penalty and the inability to make the play on the perfect punt led directly to the Ravens' go-ahead TD.

2. The stat of the day had to be time of possession--Baltimore had the ball an amazing 41:44 to the Chiefs' 18:16. The Chiefs' offense failed to control the tempo of the game, once Kansas City got the lead. And, once behind, we all knew that K.C. would be in trouble given their inability to mount a comeback from more than a seven point deficit all year.

Let's not let a playoff loss diminish what this team, and this franchise, accomplished in the 2010 season. Yet, let's hope that the team, and coaches, learn from this game and the loss to Oakland which ended the Chiefs' season with a whimper--while much has been accomplished, there is still a long road to go for the Chiefs to be a conference champion contender.

Who won the Auburn-Oregon recruiting battle?

Guess how many five star recruits will be on the field when Auburn and Oregon clash tomorrow night? Six? No. Four? No. Try two...the Tigers' Cam Newton, who only became a five-star recruit after starring at Blinn Junior College, and Auburn freshman RB Michael Dyer.

There are 17 four-star prospects--10 for Auburn and seven for Oregon. And, there are 17 three-star recruits. For Oregon, all three two-star starters are linemen on offense; two of the three two-star recruits on the Ducks defense now play different positions than what they did in high school.

All of this is further proof that, in college football, the secret of recruiting is finding the guys who can be "coached up" to become starters and productive players within a given program, plus discovering a player's talent which might be better suited for another position.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stats of the day

- Colorado's 45 rebounds to Missouri's 32 in the Buffs' upset of MU today in Boulder. The Tigers are not a good rebounding team.

- Four Georgetown turnovers in the final two minutes in today's loss to West Virginia. The Hoyas had 18 turnovers overall.

- 1.5. That was the line in today's Kansas State-Oklahoma State game where the Cowboys were favored by that margin. OSU won by 14.

Dimes and dunks

- Ron Franklin's departure at ESPN looks to have paved the way for Mark Kestecher to be the new play-by-play guy on Big 12 basketball broadcasts.

- Georgetown lost their third game in Big East play today, carving a large hole for the Hoyas in their quest for the title in the country's toughest hoops conference. Interestingly, as of yesterday, Georgetown was the #1 RPI team in the country.

- It sounds obvious, but it's true--Kansas City will win tomorrow only if they get the lead early on the Ravens. The Chiefs have not proven to be a come-from-behind team this year.

- Fran Fraschilla is an underrated college basketball analyst.

- Kudos to whoever invested in the digital billboards in Columbus, OH which congratulated TCU on their Rose Bowl victory. The billboards signed off "Sincerely, Little Sisters of the Poor." The reference, of course, is to the foot-in-mouth statement by Ohio State University president Gordon Gee who famously said that neither TCU nor Boise State deserved BCS championship consideration.

- John Higgins is to the current Big 12 basketball officials as Jim Bain was to Big 8 officials in the 1970s. (For those who don't remember Bain, this isn't a compliment to Higgins.)

- RPI rankings of interest (as of Friday, January 9): Kansas, #3; Duke, #6; Ohio State, #17; Texas, #22; Kansas State, #25; Texas A&M, #33; Missouri, #34; Oklahoma State, #43; Wichita State, #44; Missouri State, #46; and, Baylor #144.

Best Kansas hoops team?

There's been a lot of traffic on some internet message boards lately asking the question, "who are the players you would pick to make up the best Kansas basketball team of the past 35 years?" The query went on to ask which players would be chosen as the first three off the bench, plus which coach--Larry Brown, Roy Williams or Bill Self?

For a Jayhawk fan, this is akin to asking a Kansas Citian, "what's your favorite barbecue?" There is no right answer, but certainly plenty of options and opinions.

Here are my answers, along with my rationale:

Point Guard - Sherron Collins. Collins battled with weight and injury throughout his career but, according to Bill Self, had the ability to impact a game more than anyone Self's ever coached. Collins hit, arguably, the second most important shot in KU history when his steal and three, against Memphis, pulled Kansas within four late in the game. His willing a team to victory meant key wins on the road against teams like Kansas State and Oklahoma, where Collins and Willie Warren went mano a mano. Collins gets the nod here over Jacque Vaughan.

Shooting Guard - Kirk Hinrich. Sure, Hinrich played a lot of PG in his career but he was primarily an off guard. He led the Jayhawks to two Final Fours and was truly a clutch player, showing an ability to make a key play down the stretch on offense or defense (remember his block on Jason Gardner of Arizona in the '03 Regional Final?) Hinrich is now in the NBA with the Washington Wizards. His jersey is retired at Kansas.

Small Forward - Paul Pierce. Pierce was arguably the most gifted offensive player in Kansas history. This All-American played three seasons in Lawrence before taking his talents to the Boston Celtics. The championship which eluded Pierce in college was won in Boston in 2008. Pierce's jersey is retired at KU.

Power Forward - Raef LaFrentz. LaFrentz was the quintessential power forward--he had great post moves with a soft touch around the basket, an ability to score away from the goal, was a strong rebounder and a tenacious dunker. LaFrentz is among those whose jersey is retired at Kansas.

Power Forward/Center - Danny Manning. Manning led Kansas to a national championship his senior year and was the best all-around player, ever, at KU. The greatest compliment Manning received was the consistent refrain that he made players around him better. Manning's jersey is retired at KU.

That starting five is pretty darn solid--all have played in the NBA and two have won national championships. Yet, there is a lot of Kansas talent since 1985 which had to be considered for this starting unit, thus making it just as hard to determine the three chosen as our substitutes. Here are the guys I've selected to come off the bench.

Substitute - Nick Collison. Collison was given a one-man standing ovation by Dick Vitale, was part of two Final Four teams, and almost single-handedly led his teams to wins in key matches against Texas (Lawrence, 2003) and Duke (regional action, also in 2003.) Collison joined his teammates Hinrich and Drew Gooden in having his jersey retired at KU.

Substitute - Brandon Rush. Rush was first-team All Big 12 in each of his three years at Kansas and, during that span, played on teams which won three conference championships, three post-season conference tournaments, went to an Elite Eight and won a national championship. He's now with the Indiana Pacers.

Substitute - Mario Chalmers. How can you leave a guy off of this team when he's made the biggest shot in Kansas basketball history? Any Kansas fan who followed Chalmers wasn't surprised that he was the one to make "the shot"--he consistently showed a flair for the dramatic during his career and is also among Kansas' all-time leaders in steals.

Who then do we pick to coach this unit--the only guy to win both an NCAA title as well as an NBA title, the disciple of Dean Smith who took KU to four Final Fours, or the current, beloved coach who is just three years removed from the Jayhawks' dramatic comeback national championship win over Memphis? I'm going with Self, the guy who is a master recruiter and motivator, liked by both media and alumni/fans, and a guy who can flat-out coach, as witnessed by his six straight Big 12 titles.

The above discussion didn't even mention guys like Drew Gooden, Wayne Simien, Cole Aldrich, Ron Kellogg, Rex Walters, Adonis Jordan, Mark Randall or Keith Langford. All of those guys were terrific players but I'd be hard-pressed to make a case for anyone other than this first eight as the best in recent Kansas history.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Big 12 basketball preview

Reprinted from Musings, Notes & Quotes

The second season of the college hoops schedule is about to begin and thus it's time to break down the Big 12 performance to date and speculate on what's to come in conference play. It was an eventful first season, non-conference schedule for the conference with five teams performing well enough to now reside in the top 25 and two others getting votes from the Associated Press. Yet, the overall RPI of Big 12 teams is currently low, even though Kansas is the #1 team in the land, according to the important RPI ratings.

Let's break it down, shall we?


- The surprise of the conference has to be Iowa State, now coached by former Cyclone great Fred Hoiberg. Iowa State is 12-2 with quality wins at Iowa and at Virginia. They have five players averaging in double figures yet don't shoot a high FG percentage--their strength has been on defense.

- Missouri is 13-1, ranked 10th, and has only lost in overtime to Georgetown in a game that they admittedly gave away. (Georgetown, by the way, is the #2 RPI team in the country.) The MVP of the Tigers is Marcus Denmon and he is surrounded by a deep team of players who know their roles. The Tigers are susceptible to good rebounding teams and teams disciplined enough to attack the basket once they've beaten the press. Their current RPI is #32.

- Down in Austin, Texas fans are disappointed in the lack of a college bowl game yet in that other sport played at this time of year, the hoops team is 11-2. Texas has three quality wins--Illinois, North Carolina and Michigan State, and only lost to Pitt by two. The other loss was to USC by 17. Freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph are the real deals and Jordan Hamilton is a stud. The Longhorn's current RPI is #36.

- Texas A&M was picked to finish in the middle of the Big 12 pack but is currently 18th in the country, 12-1, and owning quality wins over Washington and Arkansas. The Aggies play tough defense with no team scoring more than 65 points against them to date. They, however, are a weak rebounding squad. Current RPI - #31.

Performing as expected:

- This may be a bit unfair, given the suspension of prized recruit Josh Selby for nine games, but Kansas has done what most expected, up to this point. Bill Self has a list of issues which need to be solved if this KU team is considered a true Final Four team--interior defense, a point guard who had two horrid outings back-to-back, finding a rebounder other than Thomas Robinson, and blending Selby into the rotation. The good news in conference play is that KU faces Texas at home. Current RPI - #1.

- Colorado is 9-4, has two guys (Alec Burks and Cory Higgins) who are legit all-conference performers, yet likely will finish eighth in the conference--right as predicted.

- Oklahoma State is 11-2 with quality wins over Alabama and Stanford. Current RPI - #42.

- Nebraska's final season in the Big 12 has started with a 10-2 record.


- This list has to start with Kansas State, picked by most to be a top five team and Big 12 conference champ. Those predictions failed to comprehend the impact of losing PG Denis Clemente. Additionally, Curtis Kelly was a disappointment this year, even prior to his suspension. Current RPI - #25.

- Some picked Baylor as high as second in the conference--they've not played that way to date. The Bears have lost to Gonzaga, Washington State and Florida State on their way to an 8-3 record thus far, with the only quality win being over Arizona State. Current RPI - #153.

- Oklahoma is 7-6 and will battle Texas Tech, 6-7, for last place in the conference. It's amazing to see how OU's program has fallen since the days of not too long ago with Blake Griffin and Willie Warren. In Lubbock, it's hard to imagine Pat Knight lasting past this season.

Conference and post-season predictions:

1. Kansas - I trust that Self will mold his talent such that everyone knows their roles and, in Selby, KU has a talent which can take over a game. He's behind, given the nine games out, but the potential was on full display against USC and California. A seventh-straight championship, in this conference, is an amazing achievement and Self isn't given enough credit for that consistency. In the NCAA, Kansas will go all the way to the Final Four.

2. Texas - The Longhorns have numerous weapons, are road-proven, and are playing as well as anybody right now. NCAA: Elite Eight.

3. Kansas State - I suspect that Kelly and Jacob Pullen will get their heads screwed on straight but this is a team which misses the speed, leadership and toughness of Clemente. NCAA: Win one game.

4. Missouri - The Tigers could sneak up to the three spot if Kansas State continues to falter but they have to go on the road to play Texas A&M and Texas, and have a final four conference games of Baylor, at Kansas State, at Nebraska and back home against Kansas. NCAA: Sweet 16.

5. Baylor - The Bears' very low RPI signals that they have plenty of work to do. Baylor's zone defense is a pain for teams and the Bears have a couple of battle-tested vets in LaceDarius Dunn and Quincy Acy--I expect them to get their act together yet finish just outside the top four in the Big 12. NCAA: Win one game.

6. Texas A&M - I like Mark Turgeon's team and I like how he coaches defense. NCAA: Lose in R1.

7. Oklahoma State - Marshall Moses is having an all-conference season to date. NCAA: Lose in R1.

8. Colorado - Burks and Higgins are currently accounting for 36 points per game. NIT.

9. Nebraska - The Huskers have nine guys averaging between 5-10.5 points per game. NIT.

10. Iowa State - The excitement returns to Hilton Coliseum, given the guy in charge. But, can he recruit? No postseason play.

11. Texas Tech - The only quality win to date for Tech is against Oral Roberts. No postseason.

12. Oklahoma - The Sooners have gone from having the Player of the Year in the conference to a 13-18 record last year (4-12 in the league) to this. Obviously, no postseason awaits OU.

An introduction to Section 10

Welcome to The View from Section 10, my latest foray into the world of blogging.

Section 10 will be a blog devoted to the world of sports--specifically, what's going on with University of Kansas athletics, the Big 12 and college sports scene, the world of Kansas City sports, and occasional commentary on national sports topics within the worlds of the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, U.S. Soccer and other leagues and properties. Usually, the content will be concise, quick hits but, occasionally, a longer piece will make its way into Section 10.

Why Section 10? Well, that's my current section within Allen Fieldhouse, the loudest college basketball arena in the United States, according to ESPN The Magazine. And, it's a perfect descriptor for my view on the world of sports--I've not only been a spectator since those very young days when my father and mother started taking me to various college and professional events, but I've long been a fan, one who sweats out each game, who frets about what crimson-and-blue ensemble to wear, and who is happy to just be in the building with little worry to which row or seat I happen to occupy.

So, sit back, enjoy and participate. And, if you've a mind to, check out my first blogging effort which soon will celebrate its second anniversary--Musings, Notes & Quotes,

Stay tuned--more posts are on the way!