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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Sports Potpourri: Forecasting a Wichita State-KU tourney showdown

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  • Wichita State wrapped up a cinch for a number one seed — probably in the Midwest Regional — by winning their final conference game against Missouri State.
    The 31-0 Shockers were the first Division I team in the last 23 years to finish the regular season undefeated.
    Speculation has KU being the number two seed in the Midwest Regional, which would set up a potential matchup with Wichita State.
    The state of Kansas will have three teams at the Big Dance, with Kansas State also going.
    It’s putting the horse way before the cart, but it’s irresistible not to analyze how KU and Wichita would compare in talent if they play.
    Wichita’s two guards could start for KU: Fred VanVleet is a better point guard than Naadir Tharpe. And, by the slimmest of margins, Ron Baker is a better shooting guard than Wayne Selden.
    Tharpe is either great or just awful — like he was in the recent loss to Oklahoma State — and there’s little in between.
    Selden and Baker are both top flight players and close to even. Baker is well-established and Selden has been peaking at the right time for KU.
    KU has a big edge at center with Joel Embiid and Tarik Black compared to Chadrack Lufile and Kadeem Coleby.  However, Embiid hurt his back again at OK State and may be hindered from here on.
    Wichita State has the best power forward in Cleanthony Early — he is superior to Perry Ellis or Jamari Traylor.  And Darius Carter would challenge either Ellis or Traylor for playing time.
    Kansas would have the biggest advantage at small forward with Andrew Wiggins matched against Tekele Cotton.  That’s not to say Cotton is ineffective, because he isn’t, but Wiggins is in a class by himself, although he often plays like the freshman he is.
    Wichita has more experience and the Shockers are a much smoother ball club than KU. They have NCAA experience and that’s invaluable, especially in the first two rounds when upsets are so common.
    If the two should meet in the tournament, Wichita has ability that’s equal to Kansas, particularly if Embiid’s back is going to be a problem for the rest of the season. Wichita State can play with anyone.
    Kansas won a 10th straight Big 12 title on Saturday, but it had a bittersweet taste because of inept play in the loss at OK State.
    Nevertheless, the Jayhawks are guaranteed a number-two seed in the NCAA Tournament.
    KU has a number of things going for them as they prepare for the tournament. They have played the toughest schedule in the nation and that will stand them in good stead at the Big Dance.
    Page 2 of 2 - The players know what to expect from big-time opponents.  Kansas has exceptional depth in the frontcourt. The Jayhawks also have an experienced and proven coach in Bill Self, who knows how to prepare for the tournament. 
    And, KU has two of the best freshmen in the nation in Wiggins and Embiid.
    Kansas has two glaring weaknesses: Careless and inconsistent ball handling from the perimeter players in general, and the point guard in particular has been an ongoing problem all season.
    KU had 22 turnovers at OK State — it’s far too late in the season for such a pitiful performance. In addition, the Jayhawks are a Cracker Jack 3-point shooting team — a surprise in every game. And all of the surprises aren’t pleasant.
    Every NCAA Tournament is different and what has occurred in the past doesn’t matter. If a team can win the first two games, then anything can happen.  But, the guess here is that turnovers will do the Jayhawks in.
    Kansas State solidified its position as an at-large selection for the NCAA Tournament with a home win against Iowa State on Saturday. Shane Southwell’s return has given the Wildcats a needed boost, and he’s a key component on offense and defense.
    Turning to the baseball diamond …
    Looking out the front window, it’s clear that March has come in like a 400-pound, roaring lion.
    Let’s hope the lamb doesn’t forget to show up. Believe it or not, the Kansas City Royals baseball season begins in about three and a half weeks.
    KC was terrific in spring training last year and then had a horrible May that doomed their playoff chances.
    Spring training games are like NFL exhibition games: they mean little or nothing. The main object is to avoid any serious injuries, which seem to occur often in spring training.
    As far as actual play goes, it can be deceiving.
    Pitchers work on their control and hitters are experimenting with their approach at the plate. Consequently, some of the results appear discouraging in the early going.
    After the winter we’ve had, Royals’ fans are more eager than ever for some warm spring days and baseball.

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