Monday, February 27, 2012

More on KU-MU and the week ahead

The margin of difference between Kansas and Missouri is not only four points--the combined difference of the two scores this season--but is basically even in the key statistical categories when you review the box scores.

On Saturday, the foul disparity went in Kansas' favor at 22-16 but in Columbia on February 4, the fouls went MU's way, 22 to only 10. The other stat categories are basically a dead heat between the two schools over their two regular season match-ups this season:

Fouls: Kansas - 36, Missouri - 32
Rebounds: Kansas - 60, Missouri - 59
Offensive rebounds: Kansas - 16, Missouri - 14
Assists: Kansas - 28, Missouri - 35
Turnovers: Kansas - 24, Missouri - 23
Three-point shooting: Kansas - 42.9%, Missouri - 41.2%

So, what can we expect should these two hook-up for a third time in the final of the Big 12 postseason tournament? Even though KU's Jeff Withey was hobbled with an ankle injury, it's clear that Kansas plays better against Mizzou when they go to a four guard lineup. All of the talk of "playing bigger" is good, philosophically, but has not happened. Kansas was at its most effective when they had Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson, Conner Teahan, Travis Releford and Thomas Robinson on the floor with Kevin Young as the sixth man.

The other key "watch out," should a third match-up occur, is stamina. A third match-up will mean that both KU and MU won their prior two games in the tournament. Neither team is deep and several guys were forced to play 35 minutes or more in both games--Robinson went 35 and 38, Taylor went 38 and 44, Kim English went 38 and 44 and Marcus Denmon went 39 and 44. Johnson went all 40 minutes in game one for Kansas; Michael Dixon went for 42 for Mizzou on Saturday. The semi-finals of the tournament are on Friday night meaning a less than 24 hour turnaround for the Saturday afternoon final, which begins at 5:00 p.m.

Here's hoping that these teams do, indeed, play a third "rubber match" on the neutral floor of Kansas City's Sprint Center. It would be an atmosphere rivaling that of the Kansas-Kansas State finale in 2010.

The week ahead in Big 12 mens hoops:

- Kansas has a quick turnaround and hard road trip for a Big Monday match-up tonight versus Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks then return to Lawrence for Senior Night, this Saturday, versus Texas. All KU needs is one win to win the conference title outright.

- Missouri finishes with Iowa State, at home, on Wednesday night and then finishes with Texas Tech in Lubbock on Saturday.

- Baylor and Iowa State play on Saturday in Ames--both teams are tied for third in the conference.

- Is Kansas State playing itself on to the bubble of the NCAA Tournament? The Wildcats should be in the tournament but stand 8-8 in the league and finish up this week with Texas A&M on the road and Oklahoma State at home. Saturday's loss to Iowa State, at home, was huge given that the Wildcats are playing for seeding in the Big Dance and now finish with two very tough games.

- Likewise, what about Texas? The Longhorns are also 8-8 in the league and should finish the regular season 9-9 given a home game against Oklahoma on Wednesday and the road trip to Kansas on Saturday.

- Fred Hoiberg of Iowa State isn't getting enough Coach-of-the-Year mentions. "The Mayor" has molded a team around Royce White and has beaten Kansas State twice, upset Kansas at home, and won the non-conference rivalry game against Iowa. Plus, the Cyclones will finish in the top four of the Big 12 thus earning a bye into round two of the post-season conference tournament.

- Is there a better sixth man in the country than Dixon of Missouri?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The day after - KU and MU

Perhaps it's the absolute of sports--you either win or your lose--that causes fans and those in the media to always want to compare, i.e., who's the best player, what was the best team, what's the best game. Sports has always lent itself to comparisons so it should be no surprise that, in the wake of yesterday's classic battle between Kansas and Missouri, friends and family have asked me "where does this rate?" or "is this the best you've seen?"

The answer to "is it the best game you've seen?" is "no"--that honor goes to the 2005 Kansas win over Oklahoma State, the two powerhouses that year in the Big 12, who went toe-to-toe for 40 minutes with numerous lead changes before KU prevailed, 81-79. Yesterday's game had more drama but is wasn't as well-played as that KU-OSU battle in '05.

Was yesterday the best "time" I've ever had in Allen Fieldhouse? Again, I'd have to say "no," as I can recall several games which, because of circumstances, were better "times" than yesterday. The other 19-point comeback--in a 1995 win over UCLA--comes to mind for how swift that comeback occurred before Kansas won going away, 85-70. The 1989 win over Kentucky, 150-95, was a better "time" than yesterday, for the obvious reasons of the score margin. Other great "times" include the 2005 overtime win over Georgia Tech or the 2003 "Nick Collison" game when KU beat Texas and ESPN's Dick Vitale gave Collison a standing ovation for his effort.

No, the mantle I'll place upon yesterday is "most satisfying game ever in Allen Fieldhouse." What's the difference? The Oklahoma State game in 2005 was impressive given the quality of play, the evenness of the teams, and the back-and-forth lead changes. What yesterday was about went much deeper than a game--this was about winning the last regularly scheduled battle between the two schools, this was Kansas wanting to give Missouri a boot out the door to the SEC, this was about upholding the pride of a school (Kansas) which feels it's been improperly labeled as the one responsible for stopping the Border War rivalry.

Sure, this game was ultra-important given a win would assure Kansas of at least a share of an unprecedented eighth straight conference championship. But, KU has been in that position before on their home floor--the 2005 Oklahoma State game being one and the 2007 Texas game being another.

No, this one went to the psyche of what it means to be a Kansas fan or a Missouri fan. Kansas fans wanted to end the rivalry with a win, thus avenging the late game loss in Columbia and pushing the all-time record in this series to 172-95, plus gaining the satisfaction of sending MU on its way to its new conference home. Missouri fans wanted the win in hopes of sharing the title with Kansas but, perhaps even more importantly, ending the rivalry with the final two wins thus promoting a theory that Kansas would have to play MU again, given the sour taste of being swept in the last season of this 100+ year old series.

I had previously thought that the 1990 game between these two teams in Lawrence, when Kansas was #1 and Missouri was #3, was the biggest ever. And, I will never forget the sound coming out of Allen Fieldhouse when I walked up to the old barn on that February night 22 years ago.

Yesterday was bigger for all the reasons stated above. The din in the building has never been louder--never--than prior to the opening tip. And, unofficially, the decibel level when Thomas Robinson made a basket to pull within one late in regulation was 127--the single loudest game moment in a college basketball arena ever.

J. Brady McCullough (former writer for the Kansas City Star) tweeted during the game, when Missouri had its 19 point lead, "I've said it many times and I'll say it again--there is no place more uncomfortable than a worried Allen Fieldhouse." And, for approximately 20 minutes of yesterday's game, the storied venue was indeed, worried. That worry spoke volumes about just how important this game was to the 16,150 Kansas fans in the building. (The remaining 150 tickets were occupied by MU fans behind their bench, in the southwest corner, and smattered throughout the arena.)

This was a game for the ages. This was the way this rivalry needed to end--with overtime, with a winning coach showing uncharacteristic emotion about the win, with opposing fans talking about the officiating but, most importantly, with both teams leaving everything out on the court. Ultimately, even with all the off-court drama, this one was about the guys playing between the lines and the exhibition of grit, determination and guts they displayed yesterday. It's why college basketball is the best team sport ever. It's only fitting, then, that this game and rivalry ended on James Naismith Court.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bud's 50

Forty years ago this weekend, I witnessed one of the most memorable Kansas-Missouri games ever in Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.

Kansas, the previous year, had won the Big Eight and had gone on to the Final Four. In 1971-72, the Jayhawks had been a disappointment, limping along to an 11-15 record and once again frustrating fans with the then up-and-down nature of the program.

On that Saturday afternoon in '72, though, with sun streaming through the side windows, the fieldhouse was packed as the Tigers came to town. Missouri had a chance to win the conference championship and was favored to beat Kansas. However, those in attendance were treated to the most points scored by a Jayhawk, in the fieldhouse, since Wilt Chamberlain's 52-point outing in 1956.

Bud Stallworth, a 6' 6" senior guard, got hot early and never allowed MU's multiple defenses to phase him. The all-conference player from Alabama put up 38 shots and made 19, of which 17, according to former KU head coach Ted Owens, would have been three point shots in today's game. Stallworth also made 12 of 13 free throws that day as Kansas defeated Missouri 93-80.

I remember watching in awe as Stallworth seemed to make everything that he put up that day and do wonder about how his scoring average for that season would have been magnified by today's three point arc. Stallworth had a sweet jump shot and he was one of the best pure scorers in Kansas history.

Will we see a 50 point effort tomorrow when KU and MU meet for the last time in the regular season as conference opponents? It's doubtful but you can bet that Stallworth, who lives in Lawrence, will be in the crowd reveling in yet another monumental KU-MU game, happening on a Saturday afternoon--the best time to watch a game in Kansas' storied fieldhouse.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The last Border War...for now

We can, at last, truly turn our attention to Saturday's final regular season war between Kansas and Missouri now that this week's hoops action in the Big 12 is complete. Kansas enters as the league leader followed by Missouri who must win in Allen Fieldhouse if the Tigers have any hope of sharing or winning a Big 12 championship in their final year in the league.

ESPN The Magazine did a feature on this last Border War by comparing stats on this rivalry, which will be played for the 267th time on a basketball court come Saturday.

All-time series wins: Kansas 171, Missouri 94

Biggest winning margin by Kansas: 47 points (1977)
Biggest winning margin by Missouri: 37 points (1916)

Highest score by Kansas: 112 (1974)
Highest score by Missouri: 99 (1976)

Most points by a Kansas player: Bud Stallworth, 50, 1972
Most points by a Missouri player: Anthony Peeler, 43, 1992

Longest winning streak by Kansas: 14, 1910-1913
Longest winning streak by Missouri: 9, 1920-1922

NBA draftees, Kansas: 70
NBA draftees, Missouri: 40

NCAA titles: Kansas 3, Missouri 0
Final Fours: Kansas 13, Missouri 0
Big 12/Big 8 regular season titles: Kansas 24, Missouri 8
Big 12/Big 8 tournament titles: Kansas 12, Missouri 7
Big 12 overall record (prior to this season): Kansas 209-40, Missouri 132-117
NCAA tournament appearances: Kansas 40, Missouri 24
Consensus All-Americans: Kansas 20, Missouri 20

College hoops in California - irrelevant?

California is the most populous state in the nation. This is a state which produced John Wooden's great UCLA teams--a school which won 11 NCAA college basketball titles.

So, what gives with the current state of college hoops in California?

In the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, San Diego State is clocking in at 24--the only California school in the rankings. And, the Aztecs have lost three straight games, meaning they will likely drop out when the ratings are released early next week.

St. Mary's is in the coaches' poll but, like San Diego State, has faded of late.

UCLA is a shadow of its former self. The Bruins are 15-12, lost at St. Johns last Saturday, and play at Arizona State tomorrow night and at Arizona on Saturday. The three straight Final Fours under head coach Ben Howland are quickly fading in the rear view mirror.

Across town at USC, Kevin O'Neill has led the Trojans to a 1-13 record in Pac 12 conference play.

Further north, Cal is unranked but has a 22-6 record and will make the NCAA Tournament. Stanford is 18-9 but lost to Oregon last Sunday and journeys to Colorado tomorrow night.

There are bright spots in the state--Cal State Fullerton is 18-7 and 9-3 in the Big West. San Diego State, while on a skid, will still make the NCAA Tournament. And, Loyola Marymount is 17-10 and 10-4 in the West Coast Conference.

Long Beach State has a reputation for playing anybody and lost a two point heartbreaker at Creighton last weekend. They will likely need to win their conference tournament to make the Big Dance.

In total, the state of California leads the nation in mens basketball titles with 15. But, strip away UCLA's 11 and the last time a school from the state won it all was California in 1959.

Here's the list of NCAA champions, broken down by state:

California - 15
North Carolina - 11
Kentucky - 9
Indiana - 5
Connecticut, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio - 3
Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin - 2
Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming - 1

(Source: Los Angeles Times)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday morning coffee

Greetings from Oklahoma City and your traveling correspondent! Here are this Saturday's musings from the world of college and pro hoops.

- It was interesting to watch ESPN's College GameDay this morning and see the segment on the Baylor men's hoops program. The Bears are, indeed, a loose team as evidenced by their dunk contest in practice. But, as the GameDay hosts opined, perhaps they should have used that pre-Kansas game practice time to work on their defense.

- Last night's Oklahoma City Thunder game was not only a Kansas reunion but a Big 12 reunion as well. Cole Aldrich, Nick Collison and Brandon Rush all were on the floor, at the same time, in the game between the Thunder and Golden State Warriors. Other Big 12 alums who played were Kevin Durant (Texas), Royal Ivey (Texas) and Ekpe Udoh (Baylor.)

- Future first round draft pick Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, was in the crowd at the Thunder game last night.

- In the race for Player of the Year, I have to give the nod--naturally--to Thomas Robinson of Kansas. While Anthony Davis of Kentucky is a remarkable player and likely a number one pick in the NBA draft, he could be taken off of Kentucky's team and they'd still be a top ten team. If you take Robinson away from Kansas, they likely would miss the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps that should not make a difference but shouldn't a key criteria for Player of the Year be how valuable he is to his team?

- Durant had a stomach virus yesterday and almost did not play for Oklahoma City. He did play and went for 23 and 10--not too bad.

- Who has the best home winning percentage over the past four years in college hoops? Kansas is number one followed by arch-rival Missouri at number two. Duke follows at number three.

- Barry Tramel, a columnist for the Oklahoma City Oklahoman, wrote a piece about the Big 12 and opined that Louisville would be a good addition to the league, thus bridging the geography to new member West Virginia. West Virginia's athletics director, Oliver Luck, has stated that the Mountaineers feel very comfortable in the Big 12 and have a lot in common with land grant universities Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. However, he did acknowledge that it'll likely be hard for the school to sell its 3,850 tickets for road football games at locales like Manhattan, KS; Ames, IA; and Lubbock, TX.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The conference season DOES matter

While college basketball's regular season may not seem to matter to some, it does have an impact on a team's ability to succeed in the NCAA Tournament.

In a study by the Wall Street Journal, teams that won regular season conference titles fared much better in the Big Dance than those who won post-season conference tournaments. In the last 10 years, there have been 74 cases where a conference has been represented by both a regular season champion as well as a conference tournament winner. Teams that won the conference championship won 66% of their NCAA tourney games; those that got hot late and won the post-season conference tournament won 57% of their NCAA tournament games.

Connecticut is, of course, an exception In 2011 the Huskies finished ninth in the Big East then won 11 straight post-season games--the Big East postseason tournament and in the NCAA Tournament to become national champions.

If there is a poster child for the regular season versus post-season conference tournament success discussion, it's North Carolina. In 2005 and 2009 the Tarheels won Atlantic Coast Conference regular season titles but failed to win their conference's post-season tournament. Those two teams went on to win national titles.

Selection Sunday is less than a month away--you may want to keep this information in mind when you begin filling out your bracket!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sporting KC's stadium still drawing raves

Last year, Sporting KC, the local Major League Soccer franchise in Kansas City, almost made the finals and, along the way, became "the" story in the world of U.S. soccer given the team's state-of-the-art stadium which opened mid-season. LiveStrong Park became the standard for soccer-specific stadia in the U.S.

No less than Fast Company magazine has noticed. LiveStrong Park is featured in the March issue of the magazine given the digital experience the designers employed in order to maximize the positive fan experience.

The Network: The usual stadium experience is an overloaded network which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to text, e-mail and surf the web. At LiveStrong, 30 miles of fiber optic cable and 200 routers offer enough bandwidth to allow 20,000 fans to upload or download all they want.

Seat Check-Ins: QR codes on the stadium seats allow fans to check in and reveal their location for meet ups or bragging rights. This season, the functionality will be enhanced so that seat holders can add a credit card to their account for food orders or to buy licensed merchandise.

Jumbotron: Tweets with the hashtag #sportingKC scroll on the Jumbotron before, during and after games.

Sporting Explore App: Fans can earn points by answering trivia questions and there are engagement pieces to the app as well.

Command Center: The park boasts a data-monitoring system that shows who's online, for how long and what they are doing. On average, 1,700 fans are using a smartphone at any one time.

StadiumVision: More than 350 screens run on StadiumVision, a Cisco platform that enables the targeting of ads to the right section of seats. (As an example, Ford pushes Escorts at field level and Lincoln Mercurys in the luxury boxes.)

Not only does Sporting KC boast the only truly local ownership group for a Kansas City professional franchise, it now has a stadium which is the premier venue for its sport.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bob Knight must go

Bob Knight has won more college basketball games as a coach save for the guy he coached at Army, Duke's head man Mike Krzyzewski. Knight is generally regarded as one of the best, if not the best, college basketball coach of all time.

Why then can't this former coach watch a game and tell us, as viewers on ESPN, when a significant coaching move is being made or has been made?

ESPN watchers are again being subjected to Knight's inability to provide color in a way that provides value to the broadcast. Last night's Kansas-Kansas State Big Monday game provided Exhibit A for why Knight must go.

In the second half, after Kansas State had made their run and went up by one, KU's coach Bill Self switched to a triangle-and-two defense. Jeff Withey, Thomas Robinson and Connor Teahan were playing the triangle--a zone--and Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson were playing the "two," chasing their men in a man-to-man discipline.

The Jayhawks used this defense successfully on several possessions yet Knight never observed the change or chose to comment about the change. It was a pivotal moment in the game.

There are terrific color commentators out there who are former coaches who have won far fewer games than Knight who would have made that observation and explained the defense to the viewers. Fran Fraschilla is one, Bill Raftery is another. Why we, in Big 12 territory, get subjected to Knight again this year is maddening.

Please, ESPN, if you want to use Knight put him in the studio and camp him there--he does not deserve a spot on the sideline doing color commentary.

(I think the guy handling the ESPN feed at Time Warner Cable here in Kansas City could have done a better job calling the game than Knight. Oh...wait--the Time Warner guy didn't get to see the first half of that game due to the malfunction at TWC. But, that's another story!)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday morning coffee

- What do you make of this Jeremy Lin kid who's lighting it up for the New York Knicks? Lin was on the verge of losing his roster spot, having only scored 32 points in New York's first 23 games, but since then has exploded for 114 in four games. Returning stars Amare Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony will alter the reliance upon Lin but it's been quite a story--a kid from Harvard making it big in the NBA.

- Baylor lost for the second straight time yesterday and, once again, looked really bad in the process. I wonder if this team can turn it around (whatever "it" is) or if they have simply been exposed for what they are--a band of what appears to be talented athletes who are under-coached and soft. The Bears play four of their next five games at home but must face tough opponents Iowa State (Monday) and Kansas State (Saturday) before driving down the road to Austin for a February 20 Big Monday match-up against Texas.

- When I saw Michigan State lose to Duke in Madison Square Garden on November 15 last year, I thought that this appeared to be a team which would struggle to finish in the top four in the Big Ten. Boy, was I wrong. Tom Izzo has proven once again that he is one of the best coaches in the country. The Spartans have won five of their last six and yesterday went into Columbus and held Ohio State to 48 points at home. Michigan State's 10-point win puts them tied for first in the league with OSU--both teams are 9-3 followed by Michigan and Wisconsin at 8-4.

- My current first-team All Big 12 team is Thomas Robinson, Kansas; Marcus Denmon, Missouri; Royce White, Iowa State; J'Covan Brown, Texas; and Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas. Taylor is my frontrunner for Player-of-the-Year in the league. (And, yes, I know that Thomas Robinson is very much a national Player-of-the-Year candidate. In 2006-07 Kevin Durant of Texas was national Player-of-the-Year while Acie Law of Texas A&M was conference Player-of-the-Year.)

- This is heresy, I know, given my Kansas Jayhawk loyalties but, man, do I enjoy watching Missouri play this season. These may be Mike Anderson's players but Frank Haith has done a masterful job of getting these guys to play unselfish, disciplined basketball. The Tigers always seem to find the open man. The four-guard offense has also opened up the middle for Ricardo Ratliffe's stellar season.

- Sadly, yesterday's honoring of the 1952 Kansas national championship team may be the last time we see these guys together, on the court, again. And, on the topic of Player-of-the-Year, Clyde Lovellette, from that championship team, was both national POY in 1952 as well as NCAA tournament POY. Lovellette attended yesterday as did Bill Lienhard, Bob Kenney, Bill Hougland, Al Kelley, Bill Heitholt and manager Wayne Louderback. The team, coached by Phog Allen, won the Big Seven Conference with an 11-1 record, was the Big Seven holiday tournament winner, and beat TCU, St. Louis, Santa Clara and St. Johns on its way to the NCAA title. Lovellette averaged 28.6 points per game for the '51-'52 Jayhawks.

- Finally, I'm still wondering why North Carolina's Tyler Zeller didn't have his hands up when Duke's Austin Rivers put up his game-winning three point shot on Wednesday night.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What the heck's wrong with Baylor?

The Baylor Bears mens basketball program was picked by many in the preseason to be a top five team with Perry Jones III generally acknowledged as the best NBA prospect among collegiate big men. The cover boy on the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Jones was a preseason pick for player-of-the-year in the Big 12 and a consensus first team All-American.

Now, 24 games into their season, the Bears have only lost three games and, as of this week, were a top ten ranked team. Yet, it's the way they've lost their three games, including last night's second loss to Kansas, which makes me wonder what the heck is wrong in Waco?

Last night, Jeff Withey played, in Baylor head coach Scott Drew's words, like an "All American" with his 25 point career best outing. KU's offense played through Withey once Thomas Robinson went to the Jayhawk bench with foul trouble and the Arizona transfer responded with a personal best 17 points by halftime.

The other Baylor loss, beyond the two to Kansas, came against Missouri and in that game Ricardo Ratliffe torched the Bears for 27 points on 11 of 14 shooting.

The sobering fact for Bear fans is that Ratliffe and Withey have gone into Waco and, combined, scored 52 points while Baylor star Jones III had a whopping 13 in those two games.

Jones III has been knocked for playing soft and being too passive. But, the real culprit here is Drew. The Baylor coach insists on sticking with his zone defense even though, last night, KU shredded it during a 37-7 run. When the Jayhawks went on that tear, they were scoring 1.6 points per possession compared to their normal 1.1 points per possession.

Baylor has length and athleticism and observers of the team have publicly questioned why Drew insists on the zone. Or, they wonder why he plays a 2-3 variety versus a zone approach which uses the length of guys like Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller, plus guys like Anthony Jones and Cory Jefferson off of the bench.

It'll be a minor miracle if Baylor somehow finds a way to yet win the conference regular season title--it now appears to be a true two-horse race between Kansas and Missouri. But, Baylor still has an opportunity, in the postseason conference tournament and NCAA tourney, to tap their potential and deep bench in order to win the Big 12 and make a run into the later rounds of the Big Dance. The question now may become the guys sitting on the bench who aren't in uniform--even Baylor PG Pierre Jackson acknowledged Kansas' coaching staff by saying "they made adjustments" and the Bears' staff did not. How Baylor responds to last night's loss, in a game on the road at Missouri on Saturday, will be very telling.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Top sports venues

Business Insider, a business news/entertainment website, last week published a piece on the "top 100 sports venues." The media outlet used a three criteria filter for judging which sports venues internationally are best--architecture/ambiance/aesthetics, history and passion.

The list contains several surprises--Madison Square Garden did not crack the top 25, clocking in at #30, and Notre Dame Stadium, arguable the most famous collegiate football stadium in the U.S., was listed at #46.

The top three slots were taken by U.S. professional venues--Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers), Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs), and Soldier Field (Chicago Bears.) Now, I like Wrigley as well as the next guy but it falls way short in the "history" department--the Cubs have not won a World Series in 103 years!

The remainder of the top ten is dominated by European and South American soccer stadiums--L'Estadi Camp Nou, Barcelona; Stamford Bridge, London; Stade Louis II, Monaco; Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Italy; Estadio Alberto J. Armando, Buenos Aires; and Ibrox Stadium, Scotland. Squeezed in between these various "football" venues is Fenway Park in Boston at #5.

The highest rated collegiate venue is none other than Allen Fieldhouse, home of the Kansas Jayhawks. "The Phog" was listed at #12 right behind Wembley Stadium, London.

How did other notable U.S. venues rate? Here you go:

Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke University - #14
Yankee Stadium (new version), New York - #15
Kyle Field, Texas A&M - #20
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh - #21
Cowboys Stadium, Dallas - #22
Tiger Stadium, Clemson - #23
Gillette Stadium, New England - #25

The only other Big 12 conference venue to make the list was Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium at the University of Texas.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Kansas-Missouri post-mortem

- It was a class move when Bill Self complimented the Missouri crowd after last night's game. Self called the atmosphere "classy," affirming that this game and the crowd's behavior matched the pre-game hype.

- Great players play well in great games, whether in the midst of a slump or not. Marcus Denmon of Missouri played 39 minutes, scored 29 points and had nine rebounds. His nine points in MU's stretch run single-handedly erased an eight point KU lead.

- Thomas Robinson should have been called for a technical when he flexed and woofed at Ricardo Ratliffe in the middle of the second half. Robinson was on a tear at that point and was using his size and strength to take advantage of the Tigers.

- Conversely, how does an All-American and Player-of-the-Year candidate get called for a charge--against no less than Steve Moore--on a call made by the official standing by the Kansas bench? Robinson's basket was waved off at the two minute mark when the Jayhawks were up five and trying to stem the beginning of MU's rally.

- Everyone will point to the points he scored, the critical turnovers at the end, and the two missed free throws. But, let's credit Tyshawn Taylor for his defense on Phil Pressey. Taylor limited Pressey to two points and three turnovers and, for the most part, kept the quick MU guard out of the lane.

- I texted in the first half that Connor Teahan was playing scared--no points and two turnovers. In the second, Teahan had two steals and two threes. He also was in Denmon's grill on the shot which put MU in the lead--a case of a great player hitting a shot even though he was defensed well.

- MU's bench contributed 17 points, four rebounds and five assists. Kansas' bench provided nine points, four rebounds, and one assist.

- Kansas played its last game in Columbia, MO and finishes with a 65-54 record there. KU is 4-4 in games at Mizzou Arena. Overall, KU now leads the series 171-95 with the final game--at least for the foreseeable future--taking place in Lawrence on Saturday, February 25.

- Speaking of "last game," I wish I had a dollar for every time Dick Vitale, Dan Schulman and/or Holly Rowe brought up that topic on last night's broadcast. Please, give it a rest...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

KU vs. MU: Can we just play the game?

I can't remember a Kansas-Missouri basketball game hyped more than tonight's unless it was the KU at #1 versus MU at #2 match-up in 1990 in Lawrence. And, I'm certain that game didn't have the coverage of this one given the overabundance of sports media outlets created by the web, the Worldwide Leader and others.

Tonight's match-up, as always happens in these situations, will be decided by the "x" factor guys. Thomas Robinson's brilliance will be negated by a big game from a recently slumping Marcus Denmon. Tyshawn Taylor and Phil Pressey will likely cancel each other out.

So, what'll be the difference? For Kansas, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey are the keys. Withey must play to his size and block or alter shots in the lane. He also will likely be in a position where he has to guard Kim English at some point during the game. Releford is KU's best defender but must also be a viable third option on offense. For Missouri, it'll be English's ability to draw Withey and/or Robinson away from the basket. And, look for Michael Dixon as his usual productive self off of the bench, to likely hit a big shot late.

My prediction? MU, with a late run, wins by four.