|
|
|
|
The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Sports Potpourri: Improvements to be made for KU

    • email print
      Comment
  • Before the season began, the anticipation and enthusiasm surrounding the Kansas basketball team had reached new heights. After the Jayhawks defeated highly regarded Duke (94-83) in the Champions Classic, KU fans were in a state of euphoria. KU played better -- early in the season -- against a quality opponent than any team in the Bill Self era. Even though they were superb against Duke, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Kansas beat Iona 86-66 on Tuesday and will host Towson on Friday. KU will beat Towson. The Jayhawks will then compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. In the first round, KU plays Wake Forest on Thanksgiving Day. If Kansas defeats Wake Forest, they will play the Villanova-Southern Cal winner on Nov. 29 -- AXS and NBC Sports Network will televise the games. The championship game will be played Nov. 30. Before the Big 12 season, KU will play road games at Colorado (Dec. 7) and at Florida (Dec. 10). Road games are challenging for young teams and the Jayhawks could suffer an upset on either trip, but that’s doubtful. The guess here is that Kansas will be no worse than 12-1 going into Big 12 play. Center is the only position that could pose an early problem for KU. Tarik Black is starting with freshman Joel Embiid coming off the bench. That won’t last long. Black isn’t quick enough or explosive enough to hold down the starting spot, but he will supply quality depth in many games. Redshirt sophomore Landen Lucas is likely to take minutes from Black as the season progresses. As for Embiid, the sky’s the limit. If he becomes acclimated quickly to Self’s system and his teammates, then KU will be hard for anyone to beat. Joel Embiid has shown encouraging progress after just four games and he could become one of the best centers in the nation. Sophomores Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor have been terrific at power forward and they will often combine in the low post. Kansas is well fortified in the pivot on offense and defense. Junior Naadir Tharpe and freshman Frank Mason are playing well at point guard. Mason had a sensational game against Duke. Freshman Wayne Selden is firmly established at shooting guard. He played like a seasoned veteran against Duke. Freshman Conner Frankamp will earn some playing time as he becomes familiar with college play. Frankamp is a deadly three-point shooter. Coach Self has a surplus of riches at small forward: Freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Brannen Green, and sophomore Andrew White provide skill and depth. Wiggins is already the best in the nation at small forward. KU will be one of the five best teams in college basketball, barring serious injuries. How soon the Jayhawks become a powerhouse depends on how quickly Embiid develops his skills. That could be soon. Kansas State’s football team is going to their fourth consecutive bowl game. The Wildcats improved their record to 6-4 by beating TCU 33-31. This season’s team represents another amazing turnaround by K-State’s iconic coach, Bill Snyder. After a slow start, the Wildcats are playing their best football of the season. After the TCU win, Snyder said, "The bottom line is, we didn't play nearly as well as I'd like for us to play, but we played well enough to win. Those are things we'll address on Monday. I want the guys to enjoy the fact that they won another ball game." K-State plays at home against Oklahoma on Saturday and then closes the regular season at Kansas on Nov. 30. The game with OU presents preparation problems for both coaches since neither team has much to play for. K-State and OU will be in bowl games and neither is contending for national honors. Kansas snapped a 27-game losing streak in Big 12 play with a 31-19 win over West Virginia. It was a vital victory. Afterwards, coach Charlie Weis said, “Let’s start with the kids who have been here five years and gone through multiple coaches and everything with that. They’re the ones that you feel best for. But I also feel good for all our students and fans that endured those losses.” The Jayhawks’ win took immense pressure off Weis and his coaching staff. It also increased their chance of landing an exceptional recruiting class for 2014. KU plays Iowa State in Ames on Saturday and could erase another negative streak with their first Big 12 road win since Nov. 8, 2008 at Nebraska. To one and all: Have a happy and heart-warming Thanksgiving! -Mac Stevenson is a longtime columnist on collegiate and professional sports in Eastern Kansas.

        calendar