Monday, March 28, 2011

No KU in Houston

VCU could shoot and make baskets from outside and the charity stripe; KU lost this ability this game. (Kansas City Star photo)

Do I really have to?
I have to write about Kansas' loss to VCU?
I guess I have to do my sports bloggy duty.

Kansas spit the bit on Sunday against Virgina Commonwealth University. They wanted it "too much," tightened up and lost the game due to poor execution to a team that was too good to execute poorly against and win.

You can still hear the sound of three point shots and free throws clanking off the previously friendly Alamo Dome rims even now. This team that swaggered through much of their schedule and the tournament up to this point ran into a team that played better than it did, especially under pressure.

Here's what I thought would transpire after the first few minutes of the game. You'll remember that Kansas went out to a lead at first, looking impressive. VCU then responded, gaining the lead themselves. I thought at that point we would see a taut back-and-forth basketball game with runs by each team, rather like the scintillating Arizona-UConn match of Saturday.

What did happen: VCU kept on with their run. KU, despite multiple time outs by coach Bill Self, could not stop them and ended up behind 14 points at the half. OK, KU fans said to themselves, we come roaring out in the second half and we catch and surpass them. It almost happened too, except the fouls and mistakes caught up with the Jayhawks, killing their momentum and letting VCU continue to lead. When clutch shots needed to be made it was the Rams that made them, not the Jayhawks. Final score: 71-61. KU's last play? Two missed three point attempts.

So no Kansas Jayhawks in the Final Four this year. The "if-only's" have to be making Kansas faithful crazy...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two in for Final Four

Well, we have two of four. Butler upset Florida in a game I really thought Florida should have won. Butler was just better under pressure, better coached and just generally better. It was a great college basketball game!
If I read the bracket right, if Kansas prevails over Virgina Commonwealth, it will be Butler they face.

The second game put rebuilding basketball powers UConn and Arizona against one another. This was a game of surges but UConn always seemed to have the last word. Arizona had several solid chances to win or tie the game but just could not get the ball to fall.
Connecticut now awaits the winner of Kentucky and North Carolina.

Not to look too far ahead, but KU would end up playing one of these classic programs from the southeast should they get by the streaking VCU Rams and the tough Butler Bulldogs.

Elite Eight

The games start in less than an hour to determine the Final Four. One more 1 seed fell on the way here--Ohio State was not able to best a young Kentucky team. You have to give the annoying Kentucky program and its equally annoying (and cheating or at least around when cheating happens...) coach John Calipari its due--they've won two tournament games with last minute buzzer beaters. Meantime, VCU's dream is still intact--someone pointed out yesterday that they are from the same conference as George Mason.

Kansas and North Carolina both cruised last night in games that were over after the first half.

Today it's Butler (8) and Florida (2) at 3:30 CDT and Arizona (5) vs. Connecticut (3) at 6:05 CDT.

Tomorrow it's Kansas (1) and VCU (11) at 1:20 CDT and Kentucky (4) vs. North Carolina (2) at 4:05 CDT.

I have no more predictions, since I was convinced that it would be Ohio State and Kansas in the final!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mike Anderson

It's been a gossip fest about Mike Anderson.

Yes, he is staying at Missouri, with a new contract. (Never mind he just renegotiated last year.)

No, he is definitely going to Arkansas for $2.2 million.

One thing I know for sure. He is not worth $2.2 million to Missouri. If that is the truth, that Arkansas offered him $2.2 million, then we should be sure to give him plenty of time to pack his stuff. His record is not that of a $2.2 million coach.

I think he's gone, from the print news, radio news and radio talk I've heard.

Monday, March 21, 2011

NCAA March Round Up

March Madness is pretty nuts this year and it could have been nuttier.

Duke almost lost. VCU--yes, they had to play in!--is through to the Sweet 16.

The Big East has stunk it up pretty good including the lost of #1 regional seed Pitt.

Kansas is lone Big 12 survivor--and looks good to have the chance to win it all. The Morris twins were on fire against Illinois.

Heart breaking loss for Kansas State against Wisconsin in a game I thought was very badly officiated.

Ohio State lurks though and the Buckeyes have just been taking care of their business. are your match ups:

Ohio State (1) vs. Kentucky (4)
Marquette (11) vs. North Carolina (2)
Duke (1) vs. Arizona (5)
UConn (3) vs. San Diego St. (2)
Kansas (1) vs. Richmond (12)
Virgina Commonwealth (11) vs. Florida State (10)
Butler (8) vs. Wisconsin (4)
Brigham Young (3) vs. Florida (2)

There are parts of the bracket that are quite intact and there are parts that are blown up completely. And the prez didn't do too badly--he got 10 of the 16 teams correct. Considering the upsets that's pretty good.

A few high seeds just escaped loses in the early rounds--Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke all came within a whisker of being upset. I would watch for these teams to be more focused. However, it does mean that vulnerability have been shown and better teams might be able to take advantage.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Basketball, Basketball, Basketball!

Kansas started the tournament run against America East's Boston U (Kansas City Star photo)

The college basketball post season is in full swing and the NCAA March Madness thing is down to 32 teams before play started today. As usual, there were bracket busting upsets, mostly in the match ups between the 11-12-13 seed and the 4-5-6 seed. To wit:

Xavier (6) lost to Marquette (11)
Vanderbilt (5) lost to Richmond (12)
Louisville (4) lost to Morehead State (13)
Georgetown (6) lost to Virgina Commonwealth (11)
Texas A&M (7) lost to Florida State (10)
St. John's (6) lost to Gonzaga (11)
UNLV (8) lost to Illinois (9)

In addition Arizona (5) and Kentucky (4) just escaped the upset bug--Kentucky with a last second hoop against Ivy League school Princeton. (Darn, that's too bad...and it might have woke them up too. Today they had no problem with West Virgina [5])

Locally, Missouri, seeded 11, lost to Cincinnati. The Tigers continued to shoot poorly and they could not stop the Bearcats on defense at all. Any time Mizzou got a little run on, Cincinnati would just breeze through the Tigers' half court defense and score pretty easily. The team needs to be bigger, and perhaps just a little tougher next year to progress in the tournament.

Kansas State's game--and seed (5)--scared me. That 5-12 match seems especially susceptible to upsets. Kansas State prevailed over a game Utah State team. Jacob Pullen had a nice game leading the Wildcats but many contributed to a good firm win. Next up for K State is Wisconsin tonight at about 7:40 pm our time.

Kansas (1) started slow and tight, but in the second half got their act together and pulled away from America East rep Boston University (tabbed with the dreaded 16 seed). The Terriers showed well for the conference of the UVM Catamounts giving Kansas everything they wanted until just wearing out in the second half. Next up for the Jayhawks: Illinois (9) who won their 8-9 match handily over UNLV.

Speaking of Vermont, the Catamounts played in the NIT. Seeded No 7, they drew No. 2 Cleveland State. Playing without Evan Fjeld, UVM gave the Vikings all they could handle, but ended up losing 60-63. UVM ended the year with Fjeld's injury stealing precious momentum and wins. It might have been the Cats giving the Jayhawks a tough time instead of BU.

Plenty left to watch--sorry for all you who filled out brackets. Take heart though--your chances of winning were pretty slim to begin with as this article points out.

UVM played tough against Cleveland State without vital cog Fjeld. (photo: Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Royals 9-5-1 in Cactus League Play

Spring training is a notoriously difficult time to evaluate ball clubs. On paper the Royals, stripped down of many of the best performers of the past couple of years but not yet ready to bring up ballyhooed youngsters look to have a very bad, long year. However, there are signs that the team is making the right progress.

Don't expect the 2011 Royals to surprise--they are just too raw and there are too many questions, especially in the pitching area. With youngsters though you just never know. I would be thrilled if the 2011 Royals won more than 63 games, and just played smart baseball all year.

Kauffman Stadium is still a nice place to spend a summer evening too!

Kansas Through to Big 12 Finals

The efforts of Grandview native Alec Burks were not near enough to help Colorado, who came through by upsetting Kansas State, defeat mighty Kansas. The game was respectable at half time--the Buffs had even led during the first half. Kansas started the second half strong and took care of business. The game ended 90-83 for the Jayhawks.

Missouri lost big to Texas A & M--the Aggies are playing Texas for the right to face Kansas in the finals. Both teams have the potential to give the Jayhawks trouble. I have to commend KU--they have come into the tournament and taken care of business. As I listened to the game tonight, I noted that players like Josh Selby, who have struggled to find rhythm in the last games, got chances to play and took advantage of them. Kansas with better guard play is a much scarier team than the Kansas that throws the ball away.

NFL Labor Situation Poor

Frankly, I am not that up on all the legalities of this but apparently if a union has the status of "decertify" it effectively puts the negotiation process in the ice box. The NFL union has been "decertified"--the commentators are all saying that this means an owner lock out is virtually certain. This very much puts the timely beginning of normal NFL off season team activities in serious peril as well as the season itself.

It also has implications for the draft. How do teams sign the players they draft? Do they bother? How will the delay affect the development of the rookies?

The NFL is the hottest professional sports league right now in the United States. They should remember the lessons that baseball had to learn from the 1994 strike debacle. They could easily alienate the fans from the game and wound themselves. I would suggest getting back to work at the negotiation table. Now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alas, Ruskin Lost 45-40

Just to catch up here--unfortunately the Ruskin Eagles did not get past the Lee's Summit North Broncos, losing 45-40. That final score makes me think that LSN, who had beaten Ruskin earlier in the year, kept the Eagles in check with slow play. Still this was an excellent way to begin the new era in hoops at Ruskin High School. We will be looking forward to next year!

College Hoops Round Up

The UVM men's basketball team will not be dancing in the big dance this year. They took a bad defeat from .500 NY-Stony Brook 69-47. They were undone by good defense by Stony Brook, injuries to important players and poor shooting.

The Vermont men are going to the NIT by virtue of their regular season championship. They will find out who they play Sunday night. Hopefully by then they will have their momentum back.

Their loss in the America East tourney illustrates how important it is to have some good flow going into the post season. Of our three local teams, two have good flow, Kansas and especially Kansas State, who has been playing very well. Missouri? Not so much. The loss to Kansas in Columbia was a tough one, the Tigers couldn't shoot a lick in that game. 28%? Two three point goals the whole game? Mizzou stayed close by dint of Kansas turnovers and making most of their foul shots. Still it had to be a bit of a demoralizing loss for the Tigers. That, coupled with the loss to Nebraska in Lincoln gives negative momentum for MU. Also they have no bye in the Big 12 Tournament.

Kansas State has been winning consistently for about a month now, and is playing its best basketball. Kansas is winning ugly, has point guard and chemistry problems, but as long as the Morris twins and Robinson keep up their strong inside work, Kansas will be tough to beat. The Jayhawks are likely a #1 seed in some region or another. Both KU and K State have byes in the Big 12 tourney so they will be less worn out if they go all the way to the finals.

March Madness (copyright NCAA) is here!