Don't Kill The Mellinger

Scattershooting with Branden Albert, Greg Holland, Andrew Wiggins, Bruce Weber and Mizzou

Updated: 2014-02-13T16:25:04Z

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

No time to waste. Either that, or I can’t think of something catchy to get into these quick points around our teams…

Not bringing Branden Albert back has been the most likely scenario all along, and a fringe benefit of drafting Eric Fisher first overall last year and having Donald Stephenson around. Albert is the Chiefs’ best tackle, but the team knew going into the year he wasn’t worth the $9.3 million he made under the franchise tag, and they also know he won’t be worth the $11.1 million he’d make next season under the tag. The Chiefs have a lot of bills that are about to come up, including their desire to sign Alex Smith long-term. Fisher and Stephenson are much cheaper, and if the Chiefs can use Albert’s money in other spots (Justin Houston, if he’s interested) it’s a move they have to make.

Of course, one of the consequences here is an even brighter light on Fisher. If his second half improvement was real and continues, the team should be fine. But if he struggles again like he did early (and if Stephenson has any relapses to the turnstile he was in the game at Tennessee) it’s going to be a long season.

Kansas City is getting an NHL team! Wait. Hold on. /reads Randy’s story/ Oh. Just an exhibition. Where starters probably won’t play much. But at least they’re charging up to $153 for tickets.

It’s been a while since we’ve been reminded about AEG’s broken promises, so this is useful.

Dayton Moore still has a perfect record in avoiding arbitration with players, and no matter what he says publicly, this is part of a plan. Dayton will never say that, because there’s nothing to gain in him doing so, but this has always been important to him. He values camaraderie, he values relationships, and a terrific way to undermine both of those things is to go into an arbitration hearing where your player sits and listens to you bash him in the name of saving some money.

The last case settled is Greg Holland’s, and he’s making $4.675 million, an enormous raise and he’s earned every penny of it.

I have no reason to believe the Royals are thinking about this, but for all of Holland’s successes, they’d be wise to avoid a long-term contract with him. The track record for closers not named Mariano Rivera is an abomination.

Kansas State beat Kansas in one of the more entertaining games you’ll see this season, just the fourth win for K-State in its last 52 tries against Kansas, and this truly is one of those moments that can define a season and impact tournament seeding and all sorts of things but … well … it’s just that …

"For the rest of their life, they can remember this," K-State head coach Bruce Weber said after the game.

Weber said a lot of other things, like that he doesn’t have to listen to when-are-you-going-to-beat-Kansas questions anymore, and it’s easy to understand the emotions. Self has been like a gorilla on Weber’s shoulders for years, even back to when Weber replaced Self at Illinois. He took over a wildly talented team, coached them all the way to the national championship game, and nobody ever gave him any credit because they were "Self’s players." Then he comes to K-State, and instantly, he’s at the program looking up I-70 at Self.

So this is personal in a way for Weber that it wouldn’t be for other coaches (and wasn’t for Frank Martin, for instance).

But there was still a little bit too much We’re going to Disney World! from Weber in the postgame.

If it ended Monday night (or, technically, early Tuesday morning), then no harm done. Sports are supposed to be fun, and if you can’t enjoy the good times, then what’s the point?

But this can’t be it for K-State. And if they’re not ready to play at Baylor on Saturday, then the progress shown against KU on Monday will be cancelled out in some ways.

Didn’t realize this about Andrew Wiggins until seeing ol’ Rustin’s blog post the other day, but at least one advanced metric has Wiggins as the most productive player in the country.

He really is a fascinating player, and only in part because of the hype. If we could create a make-believe world in which there was no hype, no expectations, then I think most people would see Wiggins as the guy averaging 16 points and 5.9 rebounds, the best defender on a top 10 basketball team as a freshman. But with the hype, I think a lot of people see a guy that, well, let’s just be honest: he’s not a combination of Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James and a Cessna.

The fairest criticism of Wiggins, in my view, is that he’s weak around the rim. He is 6-foot-8 with otherworldly athleticism. A terrific first step in a year where college basketball is giving players with good first steps an enormous advantage. But he’s either not strong enough with the ball, or thinking too much about getting fouled when he gets close to the rim^.

^ I think teams are catching on to that, too. K-State fouled Wiggins approximately 83 times, and the gameplan worked.

But here’s a startling statistic: Wiggins, with all of those gifts, is shooting 58.3 percent at the rim. The average for Division I players is 60.9 percent. He’s also taking just 37.3 percent of his shots at the rim, compared to 38.3 percent for all Division I players.

Which means, at least with these two metrics, the most athletically gifted player in college basketball is somehow slightly below average finishing around the rim.

Important game for Missouri tonight. The Tigers are the definition of a bubble team^, and play a bubble peer in Arkansas tonight at home.

^ ESPN’s latest " Bracketology ," for whatever it’s worth, has Wichita State as a 1, Kansas as a 3 (in the same bracket) and K-State as a 7. It may just be too early for me with not enough coffee, because I don’t see Missouri anywhere on the bracket but MU is listed under "last four in." So, whatever, it’s still mid-February. Bubble team.

Mizzou won at Arkansas a few weeks ago, of course, so this is a chance for a season sweep and put some separation between the two programs.

As it stands, Mizzou is 44th in Ken Pomeroy’s calculations, 48th in a reproduction of RPI, and 32nd in ESPN’s BPI. You figure they need to get to at least 10-8 in the weak-sauce SEC to have a chance, and 12-6 to feel good about that chance.

They’re 4-6 right now, which means not much room for error. The good thing is the hardest part of their schedule is in the past, but there are still three road games (including Georgia, which won in Columbia, and a season-ender at Tennessee).

These things are so hard to predict, especially a month out, but this is the kind of game that would be tough to make up for later.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/mellinger.

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