It’s Kentucky’s World (and everyone else is just in it)

Are you ready to read the fastest college basketball preview ever?
This year’s title is Kentucky’s to lose. Why do I say that?

Let’s start with the number 9.

That is how many McDonald’s All Americans John Calipari has playing for his team this year.
You know how many NBA teams have nine McDonald’s All Americans playing for them?
One–the Charlotte Hornets.

With a front-line of (Olathe’s own) Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee, and a backcourt of the Harrison twins (who led the team to Final Four during their freshman year–think about THAT), Kentucky is the hands down favorite to take the championship this year. People from Syracuse, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Lawrence ain’t gonna wanna hear that but it’s the truth.

If you are a hoops fan, this is the year to just watch for the players (There won’t be much drama–hate to say it). This draft could be just as deep as last year’s–if not deeper. The majority of those lottery picks will be coming from two programs, Duke, and Kentucky.

Kansas will be good of course, they reloaded after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Cliff Alexander stands to become the next Thomas Robinson, and Kelly Oubre is a great replacement at the wing. Wayne Selden will be returning to have an even bigger impact as the leader of that team. Perry Ellis will continue to quietly put up his double-doubles.

The biggest question (again) will be at point guard. Conner Frankamp, Frank Mason, and newcomer Devonte Graham will all get chances to handle the rock. I’m curious how much improvement we will see from Frankamp, Mason and former “Mr. Georgia Basketball” Brannen Greene. There is also some hype surrounding this new kid from the Ukraine, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (though I do wonder how an 16 year old from a war torn country will handle being away from his family). I’ve seen his highlights and I like what I saw from him (I was really impressed when I played with him on NCAA basketball on X-box–he was the only one who could consistently hit 3’s).

If you look at the Jayhawks roster, you’ll see that they are still pretty young, with only one senior on the team–benchwarmer Christian Garrett. If anyone other than Rick Barnes coached the University of Texas basketball team, I’d say the Horns were ripe to pluck the Big-12 title away from Bill Self. Texas will be entertaining to watch though, with Cameron Ridley, Isiah Taylor and newcomer Myles Turner as the top stars. Barnes will figure out a way to lose at least 3 games they should win this season.

If anyone is close enough to snatch that streak from KU, it is Fred Hoiberg and Iowa State. The “Mayor” always seems to get the best out of his players, and not in a Tom Izzo “scream at the players until he’s hoarse” kind of way. Iowa State will miss DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, but don’t sleep on the Cyclones. They could easily grab second place in the Big 12 standings.

I just looked at Duke’s stacked roster for the year and was tempted to write up a quick blurb about them, but then again what is there to say? They’ll blow through the ACC with that loaded roster and put up points against every team they face. They’ll win 20 plus games and lose maybe 5 (one of them to Carolina of course), and then they’ll get knocked out in the Elite Eight (yawn). Wake me up for the next lacrosse court case, otherwise I don’t wanna hear shit about Duke University.

Don’t sleep on the boys out of the Missouri Valley Conference–Wichita State. Sure they lost CleAnthony Early, but they return Tekele Cotton, Ron Baker, and Fred Van Fleet, along with coach Gregg Marshall. they won’t go undefeated this year, but they will still “play angry” and win their conference (and could go deep into the tournament depending on who they draw).

Living back on Tulsa time, I am right in the middle of things. I can catch a few Jayhawks’ games up in Allen Fieldhouse, down in Texas, or right here in Oklahoma. I’m honestly more excited about the NBA this year (again), but I have a couple of games circled this year. I want to be there in person for the KU-ISU game in Lawrence, KU-Texas is worth a drive up as well, and on December 5th, Florida visits Kansas for what should be a pretty hype affair.

Depending on what you are looking for, it will be a pretty entertaining year. There will be tons of draft hype, and there will be some good games for sure. If you are hoping for somebody other than Kentucky to win this year, you’ll more than likely be disappointed. Otherwise just enjoy it for what it is. If you saw how close Kentucky came last year to winning it all, then it won’t surprise you to see the Harrison boys and Alex Poythress cutting down the nets in April.

Next post: NBA Preview Click-Picka style!

All I needed to see [Originally posted on sportsblog.com 11/13/13

Last night was a nice glimpse into what is going to be a fantastic basketball season. I haven’t been this excited about college hoops since Kevin Durant was a one and done for University of Texas.
The hype dissipated and the truth unveiled itself. Here is what I took away from last night’s Champions Classic:

Julius Randle is the real deal. Bro put up 27-13 and could have had more had Kentucky been able to pass the ball effectively. His footwork is absurdly good for a freshman and he will undoubtedly dominate the paint for the rest of the year.

Unfortunately he doesn’t have much help. I’m sure Andrew Harrison will be fine come post-season time, his brother Aaron on the other hand, I’m not exactly sold on (1-7 shooting, 0-5 from 3 and 2 TO’s). This squad reminds me of some of Calipari’s Memphis teams where they were heavy on length and bigs but short on outside shooting. With no shooters to spread out the floor, teams are just going to collapse on Randle and dare the rest of the team to shoot it.

That being said, I feel like that Michigan State win was an aberration. They are good. They probably should win the Big Ten (I haven’t seen what Indiana or Michigan will trot out this year). I’m not sure that if they played a best of 7 that kentucky wouldn’t win 4-1. The Spartans looked good. I like Keith Appling’s game and Gary Harris and Adrian Payne had great games as well. I just don’t think that kind of game can be replicated. Kentucky looked very lost at times last night and Michigan State had a lot of easy looks, but also took a lot of bad shots that happened to go in the hoop. Of course, like most Tom Izzo squads, they played excellent defense. This alone will keep them in any game against any team.

Andrew Wiggins had a very quiet night at 22 points. I had predicted to some friends that his new haircut meant he was all business. I figured if the beast were going to be released it would be tonight on the big stage. Early foul trouble never let him get into a rhythm and it took a 16 point surge in the 2nd half to get it to 22. This should scare most teams because he hasn’t even gotten loose yet. It’s coming. Just you wait.

One of the reasons Wiggins didn’t have to put the team on his back the whole game was because Perry Ellis has broad shoulders himself. 24 points on 9-13 shooting, 3 steals, 9 boards, and a couple of really awesome hustle plays where he went to the floor for loose balls. In the words of Stephen A. Smith, Ellis “flat out balled.” If Ellis keeps this kind of production up, you can pretty much kiss him goodbye (especially if this year ends with a National Championship).

This may have been mentioned before, but KU is deep. Wayne Selden stepped up and made big plays on both ends of the court. Frank Mason showed no fear whatsoever. If for some reason Tharpe gets hurt or messes up somehow off the court, Mason could end up stealing his job. Mason is super fast and was not afraid to push the tempo. There were times he beat defenders down the court when it seemed impossible to get a transition bucket. He either got to the cup, or got fouled. I was really impressed with how well he played.

Duke is a pretty good team. Rodney Hood showed me something last night and 3 other players got double figures in scoring (Amile Jefferson, Quinn Cook, and Rasheed Sulaimon). They only had 10 collective turnovers (KU only had 10 themselves) and they played really well. KU just imposed their will near the end. With all the bodies Bill Self could just throw out there, it seemed like they just wore the Blue Devils down (foul trouble played a small part in that as well–who wants to pay good money to see Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins ride the pine?).

Jabari Parker may have vaulted himself into the number 1 draft pick with his performance last night. Dude’s game is so ill. There were a couple of shots he made last night that made me make faces only reserved for “his airness” Michael Jordan and the second greatest shooting guard to ever play, Kobe Bryant. Jabari is legit. I’m not crazy about making comparisons, but if there were a player in the draft whose games is anything like Kevin Durant, it might be Parker. He can sky, he can shoot, and he can penetrate.

I was so juiced after last night that it took me at least an hour and half to calm down enough to fall asleep. I was excited about the season before I saw Kentucky and Duke play last night. Now I’m just plain hype. Not only will I watch every single minute of KU basketball this year, but I won’t miss too many televised events that involve Jabari Parker or Julius Randle.

Last night felt very close to Final Four Semi-finals match-ups (I know Louisville is ranked #3 but I still feel like it was a very fluky win. Louisville had a lot of help from the officials in both games. Until they beat someone they gets no respect from me). In no way is it clear just how good these teams are or will be come post-season, however; I’m extremely impressed with this Kansas squad.

Kentucky has Randle. Duke has Parker. But Kansas to me has the best team of all the squads that played last night. Duke played about as good of a game as they could have and KU played no where near as good of a game as they are capable of. I think injuries aside, this Kansas team can beat anybody out there. I will not be surprised one bit to see Perry Ellis, Andrew Wiggins, and company, cutting down the nets in April. The beauty of the Men’s game of course is that it will be decided on the court and not in the polls.

Bowled over in Boulder and Other Icy Receptions [originally posted 12/9/13 on sportsblog.com]

Much like most of the people in this region who are experiencing an early visit from the winter, I spent the majority of my weekend indoors. The football games, with the added elements were entertaining to watch, but I wouldn’t trade places with not a player nor fan this weekend. I felt rather lucky to be comfortably lying on the couch, vegging out on what turned out to be a spectacular sports Saturday.

Friday night found me at a buddy’s apartment, sitting in front of his television, praying that the Baylor-Kentucky women’s game did not go into a 5th overtime. Luckily I had taken a nap after work, and hadn’t lost all my juju, but I was worried that the delay would affect the quality of play with the Men’s game–played in a fairly empty JerryWorld.

I was happy to be proven wrong. Not long after tip off, both teams had traded dunks within the first five possessions. It ended up being a really entertaining matchup with Baylor’s front court length being too much for Kentucky.

Julius Randle still put up 16 and 8 but was not able to dominate the game like he had been for the past 2 weeks. Aaron Harrison “the knucklehead twin” had a decent game with 15 points and 6 assists. James Young continued his consistent efficiency with 14 points on 5 of 11 shooting (4-7 from 3 point land).

Kentucky only had 2 points from their bench. That will not cut it against a ranked team like Baylor. All that being said, Kentucky looks like they could be really good come March. This team reminds me of the ’08 Memphis squad that Calipari took to the Championship against the Jayhawks.

They have lots of length (I’m really feeling Willie Cauley-Stein’s game), inconsistent outside shooting, and their free throw shooting is pretty poor. A team can get pretty far with a makeup like this if they are blowing teams out, but the margin is much smaller in tightly contested games against good opponents.

John Calipari is a great recruiter but as X’s and O’s go, he’s been known to get out coached when the talent gap has been even between teams. I keep joking to my buddy, a lifetime Wildcat fan, that as soon as Calipari leaves (because of the inevitable sanctions that will creep up), Travis Ford will be his replacement.

Baylor looked really good. Their front court really impressed me. Isiah Austin and Corey Jefferson really brought it. The point guard Kenny Cherry had a great game as well, pouring in 18 points. I could see Baylor winning a couple of home games against Oklahoma State and Kansas on the right night. Their Achilles heel will be at the guard positions.

Cherry is decent but it took him 15 shots to get 18 points, and they had trouble getting the ball up the court without turning it over. They didn’t get very much production from Brady Heslip, Ish Wainwright, and Gary Franklin (5 pts combined from the 3). They messed up five consecutive pick n rolls during one particular stretch; either not seeing the open big man or messing the pass up altogether.

They’ll make the tourney but will get knocked out by a team with good back court and good head coach with a good zone defensive scheme (Syracuse maybe?). They shoot too many jump shots to be taken seriously as a contender.

*** I got to watch the Duke vs. Michigan game last Tuesday night. What a waste of time that was. If you want to know how Mitch McGary will look in the NBA, just watch the tape of this game. I’m not sure why everyone is so high on him. At best he reminds me of a poor man’s David Lee. McGary looked too slow for Duke’s pressure D and they took advantage of him and the Wolverines’ lack of an elite point guard.That being said he still managed to put up 15 and 14. If he learns how to play D at the NBA level and rebound he can be as good as Nick Collison, an energy and rebounds guy. Maybe I’m wrong, who knows.

Michigan looked horrible. The only one who showed up to play was that Levert’s nephew Caris.Quinn Cook and Rodney Hood got to the rack whenever they wanted to and Michgan couldn’t rotate fast enough to get out on the shooters. Duke made 8 – pointers but chucked up 23 attempts (many of them wide open it seemed). Had Jabari Parker shot been falling the game would have been a blowout. Let me tell you that the game never seemed as close as a ten point deficit. Duke was in control the whole time.

**** Saturday was a highly anticipated day around here. The KC Sporting were in the MLS cup championship and for the first time since I have been here, I was in a bar where the Jayhawks were second fiddle. Sporting fans would be rewarded for their diligence, with an epic win in overtime on penalty kicks.

KU fans were treated to a really exciting, but revealing loss to the Colorado Buffaloes. I liked how krunk the fans were in that building. I have been told that historically, their venue would joking be referred to as “Allen Fieldhouse West” The CU fans represented though. The ball players fed off it and it was definitely a tough environment.

I liked how the Jayhawks handled themselves. They didn’t fold up, they fought back to tie it, and almost came back and won a game they didn’t deserve to win. Wiggins came on in the 2nd half after playing sparingly the first half (picked up a careless reaching foul that put him on the bench very early). He had 16 second half points down the stretch (22 points on 7-11 shooting).

They needed his production too. No one else got close to scoring 20 points. Joel Embiid had only ten points as he struggled with foul trouble. Perry Ellis only had 10 points. Ellis only shot the ball 6 times .The team as a whole shot attempted 20 3 pointers and only made 5 of them. The team also only had 11 assists and were only got 8 offensive rebounds to the Buffaloes 15. These stats will tell you all you need to know about the game and why the Jayhawks were lucky to only lose by 3 points.

They made the Buffs look like a team better than what their ranking (currently unranked) suggested. Guard Jaron Hopkins was the only starter to not hit double digits in scoring. The Buffs found way to find the hole in the zone on almost every possession and seemed to hit every open jumper that was available. They looked in sync down the stretch, making the correct passes and getting the ball to the open perimeter player.

Spencer Dinwiddie (whose mustache and name suggest a future as a high school principal somewhere in the Denver area) played a great game. He had 15 points and 7 assists (3-8 shooting) and seemed to be in on every critical play (save the quarter court heave at the end by Askia Booker).

So bad officiating, foul trouble, and a little bit of luck and heroics conspired to hand the Jayhawks their second loss of the season to an inferior opponent. One could argue that this was the story line to the first loss out in the Bahamas (if you take away the distractions of alcohol, the holidays, the stomach flu, and the Bahamas).

There is no reason for Jayhawks fans to panic. The Buffaloes played out of their minds, good for them. We’ll see how good they are in March. I think this game on Tuesday will be a great revelation of what adjustments the team needs to make. Perhaps that means starting Embiid and Mason and going with a near all Freshman lineup. I’m excited to see how they do in Gainesville.

***** A quick nod to the NBA ballers who went HAM this past week. We’ll call it THACLICKPICKA’s ALL KOSHER ALL STARS for dudes who go ham throughout the week.

PG STEPH CURRY- BALLING!!!!

PG DAMIEN LILLARD- BALLING!!

SF PAUL GEORGE– Did you see his game against the Trailblazers last week? Bro went HAM!

PF KEVIN DURANT– dude was straight balling against Indy last night. FILTHY!!!

and lastly at

Center from Seagoville, Texas:

LAMARCUS!!!!!!!!

A Chance to Catch my Breath [Originally Posted on sportsblog.com 2/3/14]

A wild week of basketball orgasms left me spent and I slumped into bed almost immediately after the Seahawks destroyed the Broncos last night. On Saturday I fell asleep in the middle of what people called the game of the year. I woke up just in time to see Syracuse outlast Duke in OT, but I was too tired to even be sour about missing the game. I saw the highlights, I was into it as much as my serotonin would allow; but I have Feb.22nd circled on my virtual calendar for the rematch in Cameron Indoor (also for KU-Texas but we will get to that later). As it is, I’m in recovery mode from a wild week and an even more enlightening weekend.

First off, how about a second to process what we witnessed from Kevin Durant last month? When I said last post I went on record as saying KDTV was must see until the streak was over, I never considered that he would shoot himself out into breaking it. His performance on Friday was a work of art. He shot 10-12 with 26 points in 30 minutes of action. Serge Ibaka shot 12 for 12, and by the end of the third quarter, it was obvious that OKC was going to pull their starters early into the last quarter of the game.

What has been so amazing about “Iceberg Slim’s” (credit Jalen Rose for the best nickname anyone can think of for KD) streak isn’t just the points he’s been scoring, but how easy the points have been coming. Anyone who ever watched Kobe or Allen Iverson play in their primes, can attest to the sheer volume of shots that both players put up to get high numbers. Kevin Durant is much more efficient and has not forced many of his shots. Many of them seem to come in the flow of the game. He almost always makes the right basketball play, passing the ball when necessary and getting his teammates involved. For the month of January he scored 550 points and had 90 assists. The last person to do that was Michael Jordan, and that was in 1987.

I actually missed the majority of the Kansas-Iowa State game on Wednesday to see KD go head to head with Lebron. KU is undoubtedly the reason I live in Lawrence right now, but I couldn’t forgive myself if I missed my favorite basketball player on the planet go up against the BEST player on the planet. I was not disappointed to say the least. The hype and atmosphere of the match-up felt bigger than a playoff game, and this sequence in the third quarter confirmed that feeling.

Even when the thunder were up big, it still felt like Miami had that final run in them. I must admit that I was wrong about this OKC team. Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, and even Derek Fisher are playing better than I imagined at this point in the season. I knew KD would step up, but I didn’t think he would get much support. How much of this is KD being a great leader and making his teammates better? Does the absence of Westbrook, and Durant’s ability to take his game to an unbelievably high level mean that he is this year’s NBA MVP? I would like to think yes. Look at the record. Look at the conference OKC is playing in and then think about how many other players could do what he is doing. I thought Presti was a fool to let Harden go for so little, but a year removed from the trade and the Thunder look as dangerous as ever.

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It’s been fun watching some of these lottery bound teams and trying to figure out what player in the draft would be a great piece of the puzzle for such teams. Teams like New Orleans, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Orlando, Dallas and Sacramento could be one player away from being playoff contenders next season. Seeing what happens to these teams will be almost as interesting as seeing who will dethrone the champs this year.

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I really wanted to see Demarcus Cousins and Lance Stephenson on this year’s All-Star Teams. It would have been that much more entertaining weekend. If missing the teams make them improve even more, then look out NBA. I thought “Boogie” and “Born ready” were deserving this year though.

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This week I experienced a bit of lull in my Jayhawk fandom. I had to watch the Iowa State game on replay, and the Texas drubbing left me (and probably the rest of Kansas and Missouri) stunned.

The Iowa State rematch was about what I thought it would be. The game anchored out at around 11-12 points. I had given someone 17 points thinking the blowout would be in effect because of the home crowd, but ISU actually showed up. I like DeAndre Kane. He plays like a grown man (how about that block–not a foul on Embiid early in the game?) and I hope he gets to play in the League next year. He has this “take no guff” attitude that I love. I think his aggressiveness and swag will get him far in life–even if its outside of basketball.

Iowa State may become the regional rivalry that has been missing since Mizzou took the money and ran to the SEC. KU fans respect the Hoibergs, much more than the ‘cats in Manhatten, and they actually make the Jayhawks sweat. A third game against the Cyclones in the Big 12 tourney could turn out to be really competitive.

As for the Horns……..well they done up and snuck up on everybody. I hadn’t had a chance to watch them this year, but I figured with Rick Barnes and the lack of NBA talent on the squad, they would be an after thought. It is never a good sign when a team out-muscles your team, out-hustles your team, while your team whines to refs and looks around for foul calls.

I don’t know if the team got a taste of that Austin nightlife or what, but they admittedly were not ready for Texas had to bring to the game. Cameron Ridley and Isiah Taylor were awesome. Texas was not intimidated in the least bit by the Jayhawks. They took it to them. The problem with having such a young team is that some games that team will look unbeatable, then the next game can look like a bunch of DIII players.

Consistency is something a team aims for but usually doesn’t achieve until they reach a certain level of maturity. Senior laden teams usually prepare better, because they know talent can only take a team so far (ask the 2010 Kentucky team if this is true). This butt whupping is exactly what KU needed. They looked soft on defense and on the boards, but take nothing away from Texas. This is a team that can actually push the Jayhawks for the Big 12 title. They a legit point guard in Isiah Taylor and they have a bruising front court. I was planning on going to a Shocker game on the 22nd, but Saturday proved that I need to stay in town and get tickets for when the Longhorns come to Lawrence.

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Quick Big Up’s to:

Golden State’s second half D vs. Portland/L.A. Clippers a few nights ago. I know Portland hasn’t been playing all that well and the Clippers came off a back-back, but Golden State put on a show in both games. They scored a lot of points, but a lot of points came off turnovers as well. They are twice as much fun to watch when they play defense, because of the increased number of fast break points created. Seeing Iggy and Steph run that break is a thing of beauty.

How about LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III against the Kentucky front line? 29 points and 9 rebounds. He gave Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein the business. He single handedly put LSU on my must-watch list.

We’re expecting snow tomorrow night. Tuesday will be a good night to curl up and stream some hoops and not drink whiskey. Some cola beverages will just have to suffice.

Winding Down [originally posted 4/1/14 on sportsblog.com]

The life has been sucked out of this town since the Sunday of round 2. It’s amazing to see how many people living here in Lawrence don’t really care about basketball– just KU basketball. Everyone I talked to said “wait until March Madness, the town is so fun around that time.” I guess that was assuming the Jayhawks would make a deep run in the tourney. After what I have seen out of Naadir Tharpe the past few weeks, I’m no longer as confident about Kansas’ title chances come next year. Am I out of line for questioning this guy’s judgment?

We’re down to the Final Four. If you picked Wisconsin, Florida, Kentucky, and UCONN in your final four, then congratulations, you’re a liar…. the sweet sixteen was anything but sweet for my bracket, and now I only have one team left standing. The dream is over. I had KU taking it all last year, and my bracket then wasn’t anywhere near as disastrous as this year (and this is the MOST college hoops I have watched in a very long time). Regardless of how I picked ’em, I’m very happy with the match-ups for next weekend. The last two rounds brought some phenomenal games–especially the ones involving Kentucky. Let’s pause for a minute and reflect on the run UK is on. K-State, an undefeated Shockers team, Louisville in an epic game, then Michigan in a barn burner–you gotta give Coach Calimari props.

Poor officiating aside (been a long running story all season), its been a heck of a tournament. I really enjoyed the Iowa State -UCONN matchup. Shabazz Napier went ham, and has made me a believer. He was in control of the game the whole time, and got to the rack whenever he wanted. Deandre Kane only got 16 points on 18 shots, but it was only a matter of time until they ran out of steam after losing their starting center. Props to Iowa State for the season they had. With the “Mayor” running the helm up in Ames, I feel confident that they will push KU next year for that Big 12 regular season title.

Frank Kaminksy and the Wisconsin Badgers have made me question my beliefs about the Big Ten conference. Even though they are so boring to watch, they still find ways to win. They play defense and they are well coached. I’m not sure if they’ll have enough to keep Kentucky from making it an all SEC final. The same can be said for UCONN and Napier.

I really enjoyed Grant Hill’s analysis and insight this tournament. He has a great sense of humor and wears awesome suits. It’s hard to freely give so many compliments to a Duke guy, but man the cat is as smooth off the court as he was on the court. I hope I can raise a son to grow up to be that classy.

Lastly, I’m sorry to say goodbye to the last set of really hot cheerleaders. University of Arizona is a close third to UCLA and Arizona State for hottest cheerleaders in the nation. I see now how they get recruits down to that part of the country. If I were a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers, Pac-12 games would be my bread and butter. It’s probably a good thing I’m not one, because you’d probably find me on Reddit, with a selfie of me and two of Arizona’s finest. Some good games this week, and I’m not just talking about the tournament. Don’t get too excited about the Spurs-Thunder on Thursday night. It’s a back-to-back for San Antonio and “Pops” will probably rest the starters. Just saying.

What tha Kentuck? [Originally posted 4/7/14 on sportsblog.com]

Since I started watching college basketball back in 1991, I have never correctly predicted a tournament winner. This year was the most perplexing field to predict this year because there was no clear cut favorite and the region that had my favorite teams to watch, was also the toughest one to win. What Kentucky has done to emerge from the Midwest is nothing short of incredible. Aside from the opening round (in which I incorrectly picked K-State beating them), every game they ended up being the most entertaining game each round. As much as I dislike the history of Kentucky hoops, I find it hard to root against Texas boys, Julius Randle, and Aaron and Andrew Harrison. I don’t see them spitting the bit in what amounts to a home game for those three young men. Now with Myles Turner and Emmanuel Mudiay both stepping onto the scene for next year, Texas hoops has to be on the map for putting ballers out into the spotlight.

I watched the game on Saturday with a die hard Kentucky fan, and hanging out with him, reminded me of the downside of blind fan loyalty. Instead of enjoying what was a classic game, the guy sat on the couch, red faced and screaming, agonizing over every possession. It didn’t look like fun. After he went nuts over the Aaron Harrison game winner (again????), he slumped down onto his sofa in relief. I’d forgotten how nerve wracking rooting for your favorite team can be (because it seems like forever since I’ve watched a Jayhawks game). I had a brief flashback of the Christian Laetnner shot back in 1992, and instantly wanted to inch out of his apartment in case, another one of those miracle endings happened. I don’t feel sorry for people very often, but I would have if that Traevon Jackson shot had gone in. As exciting as buzzer beaters can be, but you can’t help but feel for kids who lose in such heart breaking fashions.

I remember the ulcer I nearly gave myself during game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals, when I sat up in LOUD CITY, screaming at Danny Crawford as the refs gave Miami the W, in one of my more frustrating basketball experiences. My buddy invited me over to watch the championship game and I wonder if I should go. I think if it were me, I’d be so stressed out, that I would want to watch it alone. My dude was almost in tears when Traevon Jackson for Wisconsin, got fouled at the end of the game to set up his three free throw attempts. I asked my buddy if he was going to buy some bubbly, but he’s too superstitious to set up a post game celebration. Frankly, unless its a blowout, it doesn’t sound very enjoyable, and isn’t that the whole point of championships–to enjoy the experience? The more I think about it, the better off I am going up to Henry T’s and eating some wings and drinking a cola beverage. I don’t want to watch him crying after a defeat, and I don’t want to celebrate a Kentucky win.

Even if UCONN wins I won’t be happy. I’m still smarting over their win on Saturday against the Gators. I didn’t think I need another reason to dislike the University of Florida, but their loss on Saturday derailed my last chance at winning the house money from my bracket. A Florida win would have put me over the top in points, but thanks to Shabazz Napier (who was in control of the whole game despite only taking 6 shots) with his 12 points, 4 steals and 6 assists, a guy who picked his bracket winners based on the strength of every school’s mascots won the pot. I hope that UCONN wins, but watching tonight will be like monitoring the 2008 presidential election, I don’t care for either party, but it just so happens that the blue state represents the lesser of two evils.

At about 10:30 tonight, people will either be writing about 5 freshman putting together an unprecedented run, or they will be writing about how a senior point guard put a team of average ballplayers on his back, and willed them to an unlikely championship. Either story line works well for the tournament. No matter which teams prevail, Jerry Jones will be the real winner. Despite my dislike for basketball games being played in huge domed football fields (with elevated courts that can lead to players injuring themselves on loose balls and fans being so far away from the action), there is not a bad seat in the house. The place is gigantic, but every seat is tailor made for good viewing, AND there is a enormous screen that makes it impossible to miss any action (you might even find yourself just watching everything on the big screen–which seems a little silly). The city of North Texas (Arlington gets no love do they?) will be in for a treat tonight. Hopefully there won’t be a lot of drinking and driving or shootings at the strip club tonight.

Wrap it Up B [Originally posted 4/9/14 on Sportsblog.com]

Believe it or not I’m quite happy to see the end of the college basketball season. I now have time for other things in my life, like learning guitar, taking walks, chasing tail, or watching NBA hoops. I’m going to take a little break from basketball until the playoffs start, but before I do, let’s have a quick run down of the season in whole; in addition to an entertaining campaign by the 2013-2014 Jayhawks.

First I have to give a shout out to the NCAA Champions UCONN Huskies. What a run. I still can’t believe they pulled it off. If you think about how many potential future NBA players are on the Wildcats roster and how many are playing for UCONN, forget about the seedings, that was a major upset.

People have been bubbling about how great of a tournament it was, and for the most part I agree, but the second half of the final was some of the worst ball I saw all tournament. Both teams were sloppy and careless, and besides the dunk by James Young, the second half was damn near unwatchable. Had that game been anything but the final, I would have turned it off. UCONN more outlasted the Wildcats than beat them. It seemed like both teams were tripping over themselves to give that game away.

That being said, UCONN’s backcourt was ill, and seeing what they did pretty much affirms what I have been saying all year about guard play being the key to winning the tournament. Despite some intermittent struggles, Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright carried the Huskies to a win. I’m not convinced that either will be more than NBA backups, but that takes nothing away from what they accomplished. Lebron thinks Napier should be the first pg taken in the draft; so maybe I’m wrong–it just seems like he’ll be too slow for the NBA, his dribble seems a little too high and his release point looks like his shot will get blocked consistently at the next level. It will be interesting to see him consistently face players who are as long and as quick as this year’s Kentucky team.

As for Kentucky, well who knows what is in store for them. They only have two guys who I feel confident will be immediate impact guys, James Young (who really impressed me with his play Monday night–I feel like he was only one who didn’t play scared) and Julius Randle (who I’m curious how he will adapt to playing against men his size, when he gets to the next level).

I think Dakari Johnson might be Andrew Bynum 2.0. I was on the fence about the Harrison boys. They need more time to develop but with their size (didn’t realize they were 6’6) they should be decent players.

Overall though a good tournament and a pretty good season. I wish Wichita State would have been given a fair shot , just so we could see what kind of team they really had, but I’m satisfied with the way things played out. And now, let’s move on to the local team.

2013-2014 Jayhawks

It’s hard to predict what a team what a team will do when they are as young as the Jayhawks. As up and down as Kentucky’s season was, they still made the championship game. Kansas had a better regular season than UK, but come tourney time, Calimari’s squad made more noise. So who had a better season? I guess that’s a matter of what is more important to a team, the regular season, or the tournament. So in the name of academics, let’s give these kids the first honest grades they have probably had all year.

BENCH C +

The bench play was more inconsistent than what I expected. I expected the older cats to make a bigger impact. Andrew White was a non factor, Justin Wesley’s biggest contribution was taking on the role of Wilt Chamberlain in a movie. Connor Frankamp and Brannon Greene were hard to count on from game to game. Frank Mason started out challenging Naadir Tharpe for his starting position, but Tharpe came on during conference play, and Mason couldn’t get enough minutes to get in a rhythm. Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor, and Tarik Black improved as the year progressed (go figure; the bigs would get better while the guard play suffered–please Coach Self hire Aaron Miles as an assistant).

Guards C

I won’t get into Tharpe’s off the field play (get it? cause you know he was getting play), but now things totally make sense as to why he sometimes seemed….distracted maybe? Starting point guard for the Kansas Jayhawks is bigger than than starting quarterback for the football team. I imagine it may have gone to his head. He is going to have to do some soul searching this off season and decide how serious he is about playing, and how he wants to be remembered after his career here is done.

Wayne Selden played great at times and gave everyone a glimpse of how good he can be. If he decides to be to be the defensive leader next year, he is going to be a boss. I assume his shot will improve and he will be aggressive taking the ball to the rim. As good as the guard play will be next year (I expect Frankamp and Mason will play bigger roles in the offense next year), the offense will still need someone to focus on distributing the rock to the playmakers. This will be the biggest question going into next season. You know the Jayhawks will be stacked on wings and bigs. Speaking of……

Forwards A

Andrew Wiggins met and surpassed any expectation I had for him this year. He was the real deal. His performance alone (despite the final game against Stanford) this season deserves merit. Wiggins set the freshman scoring record, won Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award, and has the highest points scored in a game by ANY KU player.

Perry Ellis had a solid season. He took over when the team needed him to, and he was pretty solid offensively. He wasn’t much of a defensive player and I wonder if he’ll get better next year in that area. I’d also like to see if he will be more aggressive next year on the offensive end. I also wonder (depending on whether Embiid returns or not–he announces his plans for next year at 2 today) if he’ll be starting next year over Cliff Alexander. There is a serious logjam at power forward and someone is going to have to be the person to come off then bench and immediately go into beast mode.

Center A

Besides having some of the illest dunks this season, Tarik Black managed to be a calming presence in the locker room and on the floor. At the beginning of the season he fouled too much, but man did he come on as the season progressed. His play alone would have gotten this position a B.

Joel Embiid progressed faster than anybody could have imagined. He’s almost become a basketball prodigy in his three years. He’s so good, quick, smart, and fluid. He’s also a ferocious rebounder and defender. If he comes back, suddenly the hype jumps back up to full tilt. If he leaves, the Jayhawks may have a chance to fly under the radar for a little while. Whether he stays or he goes, I hope his back is able to hold up.

Overall, it was a fun year. I’m extremely happy about the time I have devoted to watching this team, and it has definitely been one of the more memorable squads in a while. I can’t wait to see how they will look when Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander get to town. Despite the ending, Jayhawks fans should be satisfied with the progress the team made. Despite the high expectations year in and year out, there can only be one champion, and this year its the UCONN Huskies. See you in a couple weeks when the big boys start playing.