Unbeaten Wichita State Shockers are really good but underappreciated

The Shockers are ranked second in the coaches’ poll and fourth by The Associated Press. They meet the eye test, and they stand up to cold analysis at fourth in the most recent NCAA RPI. And now they’re five games away from being the first major-college team in a decade to enter the postseason unscathed. Yet for all that, through no fault of its own, Wichita State is in a strange perception vacuum right now even amid a world of instant and constant analysis.

Michael Sam’s struggle in coming out only validates his success

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam’s announcing publicly he is gay was a harder-earned victory than anyone wants to focus on right now, and that’s understandable, but it neglects a more meaningful truth: Having a player come out to teammates for the first known time in major-college football history wasn’t simple for anyone, and the struggle only validated the success.

U.S. skating champion Gracie Gold took first strides to Sochi in Springfield

It’s well-known that U.S. figure skating champion Gracie Gold was born in Newton, Mass., and thus it’s widely assumed she started the sport on some convenient neighborhood pond. But the truth is Gracie learned to skate while growing up in Missouri. As a girl, Gracie was star-struck watching skaters spin at a rink in Springfield. “And she told me that’s what she wanted to do,” said her mother, Denise.

Brown, Clarkson carry MU, but can’t carry Tigers to victory

Brown and Clarkson’s influence on a game in which MU’s forwards were faint factors represents, in fact, a double-edged reflection on a confounding team: They are special. But they can only carry Mizzou so far. After a rare Southeastern Conference road victory Tuesday at Arkansas, the Tigers fell 84-79 to the 11th-ranked Wildcats after a rally from a 16-point deficit fizzled.

MU’s Alden apologizes in swimmer's death

In his first public statement on the piercing, tangled case of former University of Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey, MU athletic director Mike Alden late Thursday night offered conciliatory and sensitive remarks on the matter. This represented a stark change of tone from what had been a defensive posture by his department.

Parents say the system failed former MU swimmer Sasha Menu Courey

For all the trauma they’ve absorbed and haunting questions unanswered about the suicide of their daughter, former Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey, her parents’ quest now is simple: To ensure that the disturbing, complicated circumstances that preceded her death, as outlined Sunday on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines,” don’t mean she died in vain.

KU’s Joel Embiid cool under pressure

Whether the notion was to provoke or merely suffocate Kansas freshman Joel Embiid, it took only seconds Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse for Baylor to reveal its priority: Swarm, stifle, pester and otherwise harass Embiid. He was fouled hard three times in the first 2:02, but Embiid responded without a squawk. The tactic failed, and the Jayhawks beat the Bears 78-68.

After thumping Kansas State, Jayhawks show they are force to be reckoned with

As easy as it might be to dismiss what happened Saturday as just another birthright thumping of the Wildcats, it was more than that against a team that remains intriguing itself even if can’t solve KU. For the Jayhawks, this was a meaningful strand in the DNA of a still-forming force just six days after they had fallen for the fourth time in their first 13 games, including in Allen Fieldhouse, no less, against San Diego State.

Mark Mangino spent time examining his life during break from coaching

At times during the early days of what he now calls his three-year “coaching sabbatical” in Florida, former Kansas football coach Mark Mangino felt more like he had been exiled. But his recent hiring as offensive coordinator at Iowa State was a substantial step toward having a chance to redeem his reputation and revive his career.

Defense lets Chiefs down at the worst possible time

Yes, Alex Smith had a few plays he’ll have to rethink, particularly his overthrow to a wide-open Cyrus Gray for what would have been a pivotal touchdown. But the Chiefs’ playoff loss to the Colts ultimately was on a defense that through the first nine games of the season generally made mayhem. That asset eventually became a liability that saved its worst for last as the Chiefs gave up a season-high 45 points when it mattered most.

Missouri had to win this game to make this season special

MU entered the Cotton Bowl toting an 11-2 record and a SEC East title. But the Tigers also were lugging the 59-42 SEC title game loss to Auburn and the preposterous 545 rushing yards they allowed in a game that would have propelled them into the national-title game. So beating Oklahoma State on Friday to match a school-record 12 victories wasn’t just a luxury if Mizzou wanted this season to be remembered.

Chiefs QB Chase Daniel proves his value as a starter in the NFL

There were rough moments, sure, but the good far outweighed the bad in the first NFL regular-season start for Chiefs backup quarterback Chase Daniel, the former star of the Missouri Tigers. Any doubts Daniel was a capable NFL backup were dispelled with his first start in a game that counted since five years ago to the day in Mizzou’s Alamo Bowl win over Northwestern.

Clunker against the Colts underscores concerns about Chiefs’ offense

Maybe the Chiefs just sagged in what crumbled into a 23-7 loss. Or maybe the Indianapolis Colts out of nowhere became really good on defense after giving up 133 points in its last four road games. Whatever really happened Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, it diminishes any concrete conviction that the Chiefs offense and quarterback Alex Smith are beyond concern.

Mizzou may not have Kansas to battle, but Braggin’ Rights game will do

Resuming the basketball element of the Missouri-Kansas rivalry at, say, the Sprint Center, would instantly become one of the most-anticipated events and most-coveted tickets on the annual Kansas City sports calendar. And the template for that was on display, again, on Saturday in St. Louis, where MU fell to Illinois 65-64 in the final seconds of the fevered 33rd Braggin’ Rights game.

As season has progressed, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has flourished

Highlighted by Alex Smith’s five touchdown passes and AFC player of the week Jamaal Charles’ five touchdowns at Oakland on Sunday, the Chiefs’ offense suddenly has produced 19 touchdowns in the last four games after it managed just 20 in the first 10. And Smith has shown he can not only go downfield but that it’s a worthy element in his game.

With a playoff berth, the Chiefs can celebrate their rebirth

Sure, a playoff berth for the Chiefs became virtually a foregone conclusion after their 9-0 start. But that didn’t diminish the moment it became real on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum, where their quirky, turbulent 56-31 victory served as a proper exclamation point on this improbable season of seismic change.

Success of Sporting KC helps quench KC’s thirst for a champion

In a metropolitan area long parched for nourishment from its professional sports teams, Sporting KC has shown the way and shone a light, claiming the MLS Cup on Dec. 7 in spectacularly painstaking fashion over Real Salt Lake before more than 20,000 delirious fans who shrugged off the frigid conditions.

Chiefs lineman Jeff Allen fights adversity with compassion

Chiefs offensive lineman Jeff Allen’s resolve has prevailed at every turn — after his father died when he was 10; through a thicket of potential trouble on the southeast side of Chicago; and reconciling with the man who became his father figure, an uncle who later was sent to prison following a bank robbery.

Coach Frank Haith dials up a new demeanor for Missouri basketball

Coach Frank Haith’s team is further along at this stage than last season’s talented-but-erratic group, which was less than the sum of its parts. And it has the apparent mesh, versatility and defensive mind-set to give it a chance to become a team to watch instead of one to fret over if the attitude is as good as Haith thinks it is.

Chiefs’ Dexter McCluster enjoys the snow as he shreds Washington

To watch him romp in the snow on Sunday, you might not guess Dexter McCluster was born and raised in Largo, Fla., and played college football at Mississippi. And you wouldn’t know that all he knew about playing football in the snow was that it looked like fun on TV and that he couldn’t wait to get out and muck it up and mush through it on Sunday.