By Mac Stevenson
The 95-79 shellacking that Kansas received from Villanova didn’t totally ruin what was otherwise a superb season, but it certainly scraped the icing off the cake.
KU was soundly beaten by a far superior basketball team that had a great shooting night. Villanova hit 13 of 26 three-point shots in the first half opposed to two out of six by the Jayhawks. That tells the tale right there. Kansas was exposed for one fatal weakness that was disguised during the season by their exceptional offense: KU’s defense was mediocre at best.
Bill Self showed what a remarkable coach he is by carrying Kansas as far as he did; the difficulties he faced throughout the season were too numerous to revisit. After the Villanova debacle, he said, “I’m really proud of our guys . . . we didn’t have the perfect roster in many ways to win 31 games and win the league in a great conference and win the conference tournament and get to the Final Four. And to be honest with you, it felt like today it kind of just caught up with us.”
Kansas will have another talented team next season, but who leaves for the NBA and who stays will be a major factor.
Self has one of the best recruiting classes in the nation coming to KU next season. In addition, he has three transfers waiting in the wings. But the Jayhawks lose a lot: Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk will graduate. And the most critical unknown is whether or not center Udoka Azubuike will be back or off to the NBA, long before he is ready for the pros. That leaves Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick who could both return, but that’s unlikely. Newman is almost certain to jump to the NBA.
KU’s guards next season, without Newman, will be inexperienced and that will be an issue from the start. Teams relying on freshman guards—no matter how talented—are destined for an up-and-down season. The Jayhawks will be no exception.
The Kansas City Royals have a 162-game schedule, so after just two games it’s way too early to judge what kind of team KC has. Maybe that old cliché is true and maybe it isn’t. On opening day, manager Ned Yost put his best pitchers on display against the Chicago White Sox, an average team.
It was a cloudy, cold, dismal day with the wind blowing in from the north against the White Sox hitters; it was a pitcher’s day. KC’s ace, Danny Duffy, took the mound and pitched well for three innings and then he was hammered. And the bullpen fared no better. It’s well-known that Kauffman Stadium is a pitchers ballpark; home runs are difficult to come by, especially when the wind is blowing in. Chicago crushed six homers off Duffy and the bullpen and none of them were wall scrapers—they were rocket shots. KC lost 14-7.
To say that KC has some unfamiliar names in their bullpen is a master understatement: Blaine Boyer, Brian Flynn, Justin Grimm, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Hill, Brad Keller, Brandon Maurer, Eric Skoglund, and Burch Smith make up the Royals’ 2018 pen. The only recognizable names among those listed are Herrera, Flynn, and Skoglund. The prediction here is that Kansas City will have the worst bullpen in MLB this season—what a far cry from the glory years of Herrera, Davis, and Holland.
Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall took a jolting one-two punch in the last few weeks; prized point-guard recruit Alex Lomax was granted a release from his letter-of-intent so he could attend Memphis and starting point guard Landry Shamet is off to the NBA. That hurts.
Marshall has justifiably received praise for his release of Lomax, but the Memphis star gets off scot-free. Wichita State quit recruiting point guards after Lomax signed and the good ones are now gone. Lomax decided, understandably, that he wanted to go to Memphis; however, we have to wonder if he even considered how his decision affected Marshall and the coaches who spent so much time and money recruiting him. They were counting on Lomax.
Many of these young players today are so used to being pampered by everyone around them that they don’t take into account how their actions affect others. Loyalty and respect should be a two-way street. The guess here is that Lomax hasn’t lost any sleep over his decision.
If you enjoy gorgeous scenery and sensational golf, this is your week. The Masters Golf Tournament begins this Thursday, April 5, at Augusta, Georgia. TV coverage will be exceptional on one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. And here’s the predicted winner—Matt Kuchar.