Mac Stevenson
Big 12 basketball, as predicted, is off to a thrilling start. Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech are tied at the top with 4-1 records. All five games last Saturday were close and exciting; KU edged K-State in Allen Fieldhouse 73-72, Texas Tech downed unbeaten West Virginia (72-71) in Lubbock, and Oklahoma State defeated Texas 65-64 in Stillwater.
In the other two games, Iowa State beat Baylor (75-65) and Oklahoma downed TCU (102-97). So far the home court advantage hasn’t been dominant, but that’s about to change. The second semester starts this week and consequently the crowds—with the students back—will become raucous. It makes a difference.
Oklahoma guard Trae Young has taken over center stage among Big 12 players; Young scored an astounding 43 points while hitting 10 of 18 three-point shots and also had a team-leading 11 rebounds to go with seven assists. Young also had nine turnovers, but he handles the ball on virtually every Sooner possession.
OU is a young and talented team that is improving consistently. With Trae Young as their point guard, the Sooners are emerging as the team to beat in the Big 12.
Unbelievably, the NCAA came to a positive decision on KU freshman recruit Silvio DeSousa (6-9, 240) in time for the K-State game, but no news on Billy Preston (6-10, 240). Kansas will be helped by DeSousa, but the player they really need is Preston; he knows the system and has been with the Jayhawks during the offseason.
Kansas center Dok Azubuike (7-0, 285) has improved significantly since the season started; against K-State he scored 18 points, hitting eight of nine field goals to go with eight rebounds and five blocks. Azubuike is moving with great agility for his size on defense; his footwork is getting better with every game. And he’s just 18 years old and playing his first full season of college basketball.
K-State coach Bruce Weber is going to have a difficult decision to make when point guard Kamau Stokes’ injured foot heals: redshirt sophomore Cartier Diarra (6-4, 180) has been superb in his play against O-State and KU. The KU-K-State game could have gone either way, mainly because of Diarra’s sensational second half against the Jayhawks. Diarra is bigger and more athletic than Stokes; it looks like Diarra has taken over the point guard position.
It’s too bad that ESPN can’t set up the starting times for Big 12 games so they can be seen in their entirety. KU fans missed almost eight minutes of the Iowa State game because of the usual overlap from the preceding TV game.
When it becomes obvious that the TV coverage can’t start on time, the tipoff should be moved back 15-20 minutes. But that would make too much sense. ESPN is more interested in solidifying their new, non-sports liberal agenda than taking care of their viewers.
Kansas football coach David Beaty has fired offensive line coach Zack Yenser and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest. Beaty’s staffs have been in a continual state of flux since he became head coach.
Beaty hired Yenser and DeForest; that evidently was a big mistake. And now for the obvious question: What are the chances of finding first-class replacements? It’s like trying to hire a couple of new crew members for a ship that’s slowly sinking in the harbor because of numerous leaks. But rookie president Douglas Girod’s observation that KU’s coaching staff and AD Sheahon Zenger are doing everything right must be reassuring to Jayhawk fans.
Wichita State moved their American Athletic Conference record to 5-0 with a 72-69 road win against Tulsa. Coach Gregg Marshall’s Shockers proved they could play below their normal capabilities and still win a close game.
Marshall’s team has talent, experience, and depth; Wichita is becoming comfortable with their high national ranking and the Shockers will continue to move forward as the season progresses.
This season’s NCAA Tournament is going to be a wild shootout; the parity of the best teams across the nation is unprecedented. Wichita State belongs in the upper echelon of the best teams in the nation—the Shockers have just as good a chance to win the national championship as Duke or Michigan State or any of the other top teams.
From here, the NFL playoffs have lost their luster. No one disputes the players’ right to protest their perceived slights within the society of the United States, even though they are much better off than most of their fellow citizens. But the sports fans across the nation also have the right to quit watching those same players during televised NFL games. And many of them are doing just that. America can do without the NFL, but is the opposite true?