Kelly Oubre will enter the NBA Draft and this was always the plan — high school to one year at Kansas to the NBA — never much of a doubt. But Oubre’s official decision, along with Kentucky’s run at 40-0, is a chance to talk about how Bill Self and Kansas have fared with one-and-done players.
The Kansas basketball flame burns hot. White hot. So hot that when Bill Self was hired as coach 12 years ago next month, he touched his chair at his introductory news conference and joked that his hands burned.
There is no question KU coach Bill Self wanted this one with a particular passion. The Jayhawks led Wichita State by eight with five minutes left in the first half. Which had to make watching his team fall apart over the last 25 minutes hurt even more.
The phrase is simple and to the point, somehow both specific and vague. It is strong enough to be the basis of how Bill Self maintains one of college basketball’s powers, but flexible enough for him to bend into the moment.
Rivalry between Kansas and Wichita State? Not as far as the players are concerned. Any added intensity comes from geography, and fans, and a recent push from Wichita and media in the state for these programs to play each other. The Jayhawks and Shockers play for a slot in the Sweet 16 at 4:15 p.m. Sunday.
KU is at the point where winning another league title outright and earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament is not nearly enough. Expectations are so high that this team is looked at by many fans as uninteresting, and this tournament as unworthy of investment, because the Jayhawks are such underdogs to make the Final Four.
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For first time, it is likely that left fielder Alex Gordon will leave spring training with the possibility of this being his last season with the Royals. His contract is up after this season; if team and player were to negotiate a long-term contract, now would be the time.
The Royals hit 95 home runs last year, the fewest in the majors, and just the sixth team since 2000 to not hit at least 100 home runs in a regular season. The Royals won anyway, but new right fielder Alex Rios presents what might be the Royals’ best and most interesting shot at adding power. He replaces Nori Aoki, who hit just one home run. Rios has 11 seasons of 10 or more home runs and three of 20 or more.
Other than pitchers Wade Davis and Yordano Ventura, no Kansas City Royals player made as much of an individual jump as Lorenzo Cain did last year. He is such a spectacular outfielder that he always will be a valuable big-leaguer, but how well last year’s breakout is followed up depends largely on Cain’s hitting.
Everyone asks Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar if he’s going to take more pitches in the leadoff spot, but manager Ned Yost wants him hitting with a clear mind. Yost’s management style has always been to trust his guys, and as much as anyone else on the roster, Escobar is one of Yost’s guys. Escobar is one of the most durable and dependable players in a sport that worships durability and dependability.
It’s been apparent for some time now that this particular team is as matchup-dependent as any coach Bill Self has had in 12 seasons at KU. We knew that before this week, of course, so seeing it packed into three days at the Big 12 Tournament was a more reinforcement than revelation.
Sports give us some amazing moments. Needed escapes. Bonds we keep for life, and memories we hold onto. But sometimes they’re the wrong memories. Sometimes, they’re closer to nightmares, which is why Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler is hunched over in a folding chair with a towel covering his face and shutting out the world.
In five games over the last three weeks, the Kansas Jayhawks have made just eight of 56 three-pointers. That’s 14 percent. It is a bizarre and concerning turn for a flawed team whose strengths, in theory, include three-point shooting.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ new star wide receiver has never met Eric Berry, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma last year. But after Maclin’s 2010 season with the Eagles, he went through a terrifying period of sickness when many signs pointed to him having cancer. It turns out it was just a scare, but there probably isn’t anyone on the team who can better understand what Berry is going through.
In many ways, Kansas State has the most interesting team here as the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament begins Wednesday at the Sprint Center. The Wildcats are 5-3 against the tournament’s top four seeds, and 3-7 against everyone else. Their best player has been benched and suspended. Their top newcomer has been mostly underwhelming. And much of the rest of the team has been hurt, at one time or another.
The rule exists, and if that rule was broken, it’s probably best to acknowledge that penalties are justified. But in a time of massive change for college sports, this is one of those rules that should and likely will be changed by the NCAA to closer mirror common sense — but that might only happen after the rule could effectively end Cliff Alexander’s basketball career at KU.
As Big 12 men’s teams head toward Kansas City for this week’s conference tournament, they know that they have to get this right: The No. 1 RPI league in the country has to validate itself now that college basketball is in its most important part of the season.
Kansas had some kind of moments Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse with decibels and tension filling the air — moments when a 76-69 overtime win felt impossible before slowly materializing in front of another sellout crowd and national television audience.
A year ago, the Chiefs could have saved themselves a lot of time, trouble and money by signing linebacker Justin Houston to a long-term contract. Had they done so, they’d today have more cap space, longer control over a premier pass rusher and more flexibility to fill other needs on their roster.
Pull up a chair. KC Royals manager Ned Yost is going to tell you all about his offseason, facing criticism and nearly winning the World Series. This is the new Ned — same as the old Ned, just more with even less filter. More confidence. More comfort. Success looks good on him. This will be fun.
Mike Jirschele’s place in baseball and with the Royals is so much more interesting than the dramatic, one-dimensional depiction of a third-base coach given a split-second decision that would’ve made him infamous. Even the chance for him to make the decision to hold Alex Gordon in game seven of the World Series was both a miracle and a lifetime in the making; he didn’t reach the majors until he was 54.