While looking for an egg under the Turkey that somehow escaped Thanksgiving dinner, I found a ... BASKETBALL! While we’ve all been busy with football and the Thanksgiving holiday the basketball season has exploded upon us. The college season is well underway and, this week, our high school teams tip it off. Here are a few things we’ve learned in this fledgling basketball season:
The Kansas Jayhawks look to be for real. After dominating Michigan State for 30 minutes, the Jayhawks let one slip away but, hey, the Spartans are really good too. Kansas rebounded in Hawaii, winning the Maui Classic and beating a very good Vanderbilt team in the championship game. The addition of Chiek Dialo, who became eligible this week, escaping the snares of the lethargic and bureaucratic NCAA, will give strength to KU’s inside defense and rebounding. It is obvious that the Jayhawks have a lot of depth BUT they will go only as far as Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden, Jr. take them. IF Selden has a consistent season, averaging in double figures, the Jayhawks are a national title threat.
The Kansas State Wildcats are better than advertised. Most observers picked the Cats for the lower echelon of the Big 12 standings but, so far, they’ve played at a much higher level than that. They lost a game to North Carolina-formerly ranked number one-that they coulda/shoulda won. After coach Bruce Weber cleaned house this past offseason it looked like he would have to depend on a lot of newcomers. That has proved to not be a problem. Area fans guessed that St.John’s Dean Wade would normally have a redshirt year but , needing his size, Weber has chosen to play him and, WHY NOT? Wade has been much more than a pleasant surprise. He has more than held his own with the big boys. Big 12 action will prove more difficult but Wade has already shown that he is going to be a rising star at Kansas State. The lack of depth on this team could cause problems as the Big 12 grind goes on but, so far, the Wildcats are one of the more pleasant surprises of the Big12.
The Wichita State Shockers have found out what it is like to be a “marked team”. Every opponent brings their “A” game against them because they have had two super seasons and began the season ranked in the Top Ten. No more. Partly because of injuries, the Shockers have already dropped four games, games they were expected to win. Yes, they really miss point guard Fred Van Vleet BUT, injuries are part of the game and the lack of depth-QUALITY DEPTH- has spelled doom for the Shockers. Not quite ready for prime time? The jury is still out. Let’s hope that when Van Vleet returns from injury he is the catalyst , the spark, for what so far has been a very tepid offense. Of course, when teams don’t score they have a tendency to not be as aggressive on defense and THAT will get you bench time under coach Greg Marshall. Marshall is a good enough coach that I think he will get this team straightened out but they’ve got to realize that there will be very few “easy” games for the Shockers this year. That’s the wages of past success. The Kansas Jayhawks can tell them all about it!
On the junior college front a change in scheduling will lead to a much different year in Kansas Jayhawk basketball. No more East and West divisions. It is a 14-team “King of the Mountain” affair with only one champion in Men and Women’s basketball. During league games this Winter Barton County Cougar fans will see some seldom-seen teams playing out on The Hill. Coffeyville, Cowley County and Independence will all be in town for league tussles along with the formerly West Division foes. Though it is not a true round-robin schedule the Jayhawk Conference will name just one champion. A lot of outstanding basketball will be right at Barton County all winter.
Baby it’s cold outside but the action in our area gyms will be hot. Dribble on!
Charles Tabler is a contributing writer from Larned.