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Quick Hits - April 15

Apr 15, 2014 -- 2:00pm

By Chad Rader

The summer months approach, and the sports world in Kansas City certainly hits its droughts, and its oasises during those months...

Of course, most is predicated on the Royals, and if Kansas City doesn't get its road woes cured and fast, it will be a very dry summer for Kansas City on the diamond. Hopefully, once and for all, Kansas City realizes to NEVER pay a DH again. First Mike Sweeney. Now 8-digits to Billy Butler. If its David Ortiz blasting 30 HRs, 100 RBIs annually, sure. But for a DH-only who has only broke 21 HRs or 93 RBI once in his career, umm...

There are more issues than that, but again, we're barely 10 days into the season, so no smoke, fire or alarms yet. Just get the first W on the road out of the way, and Kansas City should be fine for baseball chatter for at least 3-4 months.


At least Joel Embiid didn't play out the string on the decision to pursue the NBA Draft, leaving KU with a chance at another super big man in Myles Turner. Otherwise - and KU still could be - looking to replace a big man in the middle. But landing Turner, well, KU will be just fine.


Mizzou - wow. Um, next topic. But in all seriousness, applause to Gary Pinkel and MU not hesitating to dump DGB to the waiver wire. That isn't applause for everything else that has gone on in Columbia - and not all can be controlled. We are talking 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds, so stuff happens at all schools. But it really hit hard and fast at Mizzou. Hopefully the DGB Dumping is the first step in the right direction.


All quiet at K-State, and well, that's just how they like it in Manhattan.


No moves from the Chiefs have everyone abuzz, but I'd rather be patient than jump into a mega-year deal that straps the organization for years. I'd expect a flurry of moves in the next month though... and of course, the NFL Draft awaits!



KU: What's the Point? Frustration Over Ire

Mar 24, 2014 -- 9:18am

By Chad Rader

Maybe I’m getting older. Maybe having kids has softened me up. Or maybe I just wasn’t really “attached” to the players.

Or maybe, any Kansas fan just saw this one coming.

Regardless, those factors all added up in some way to not caring as much about this year’s Kansas loss in the NCAA Tournament, and not being upset for days or weeks. They added up as much as Joel Embiid’s injury, too many new players into the heat of multiple defenses against a veteran team and of course, no high level to elite point guard.

Yeah, I was very upset that Kansas looked to seize control of the game with a five-point lead early in the second half, only to see it wiped out very quickly. It wasn’t like Stanford was on fire or dominating at any point, which made the game even more painful to endure. Flashbacks of an ugly Virginia game in 1995, Syracuse game in 1996 or UTEP in 1992 or many others kept rolling past, like the infamous Bradley-Bucknell games - that KU just couldn’t get out in front and stay there. Instead, they were locked into an ugly battle that any bucket by the other team makes the mountain just that hard to climb. Two more points by Stanford equated to two more minutes needed to overcome.

Yes, I sat and wondered where Conner Frankamp was for most of the entire second half. Also wondered why Andrew Wiggins wasn’t sitting in the middle of the zone, where he could’ve had 40 points, or busted up that zone in a matter of four possessions.

Instead, no penetration from the point guards – that resulted in a bucket, that is. No outside shots hit. And aside from a set play here and there, no screens set.

Then when a Wiggins three rattled in-and-out, then a foul on the rebound or after two straight steals and nearly seven attempts on one possession resulted in a Stanford bucket the other way, well, you knew where this was going.

Perhaps I'm more perplexed than upset after this year's NCAA Tournament loss.


Bill Self shouldn’t be judged upon his performance in a single-elimination format, as only one team emerges a winner. League title after league title, 30 wins, a high graduation rate and some nice NCAA runs and title should be the marks which he’s graded.

But when you’re paid millions annually, that’s ultimately where you’re judged upon – under the umbrella of the national tournament. Especially with a one-and-done team, loaded up for a run at the national title, Final Four minimum.

Fans were upset with Roy Williams for years, despite never losing a first-round game or four Final Four trips in 15 years. It's not the games you win, but the ones you lose that fans dwell upon. The one-that-got-away syndrome always lingers with people, and such was the case.

After multiple befuddling losses in the NCAAs in the late 1990s, even ol' Roy stated he'd have to change his offense, and came up a little more up tempo, more guard oriented with Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Miles and Jeff Boschee. The results were two Final Fours and on the cusp of a title in 2003.

I'd hope Self looks at a couple of things. It seems the offense is so oriented on spreading the floor and one-on-one plays, with action developing after driving past the defender. This is the nature of today's game, especially since its easier with the summer league / AAU style and one-and-done's. But still, a few more screens wouldn't hurt anyone.

And a few more dead-eye, penetrating guards. We know Self pursued Marcus Smart a year ago, and Tyus Jones this year. It's easy to play backseat driver, but perhaps KU should target the tier below, get a point guard every two years that will earn his playing time and develop as a three- or four-year player.

Unfortunately for Kansas, they are stuck with the triad of Naadir Tharpe, Frank Mason and Frankamp in 2014-15. Maybe Frankamp emerges as the next Bobby Hurley. Heck, we’ll take Doug Gottlieb, Aaron Craft or Sean Sutton, pass-first, but creating something player. Because its quite apparent Tharpe is streaky, and Mason flat out doesn’t get it, running past Wiggins on the final play to find a guarded Frankamp.

Perhaps I was more upset about the loss to Michigan in 2013 in the Sweet 16 because it was a weekend further. Maybe because the manner of the loss since the Elite Eight – and possible Final Four – was in Kansas’ grasps. Maybe because Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey were seniors.

Or maybe because the wheels were falling off in the final eight games (4-4) and even with Embiid, the Jayhawks would’ve been up against a tough Florida team in the Elite Eight anyway.

Or as Kansas fans had to understand entering this season, in the first true one-and-done roster, that you have to take the frustrating second-round losses with the potential of a national title the next year. An all-or-nothing approach that Kentucky endures, winning it one year, NIT the next and now, right back in the Sweet 16.

Also, its hard to say the level of desire for the one-and-done's. For the moment, the lockerroom has long faces, typical statements about needing "to play better", "feeling bad for the fans", etc. But 24 hours later, they are caring about if they should leave, what pick they'll be in the draft and what city they'll be living in.

As one writer told me last year, after a horrid start to the NCAA Tournament, Ben McLemore looked relieved after the Michigan loss, because he had a good game and likely felt better about his NBA stock. Why wouldn't he or others to follow?

So onto the next wave of elite recruits. Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander and others will merge with Perry Ellis, an emerging Jamari Traylor and possibly Wayne Selden (who very well should return after his late-season fade).

But let’s say even if Selden and Embiid return, who’s going to give them the ball, break down a zone with penetration or drill 3’s when needed?

Kansas hopes appear to lie on the shoulders of Frankamp. Otherwise, just play the Stanford game over next March, save the agony of another 40 minutes of watching the new wave of Jayhawks trying to figure out a zone and exiting before the Elite Eight or even just the second weekend of the NCAAs again.

KU Needs Star At Point, Before Will Reach NCAA Stars

Mar 23, 2014 -- 2:10pm

It's difficult to criticize Bill Self. It really is.

A decade of Big 12 titles, a national title, on and on. But when you're paid millions, there's heat to feel when losing in the season's biggest moment.

We won't even get into the game, though where was Connor Frankamp in the second half? Why wasn't Wiggins or Selden in the middle of the zone? Why... okay, enough.


Land a top notch, playmaking point guard. Not since 2008, and perhaps Sherron Collins, has KU started a true play making point guard. A case can be made for Tyshawn Taylor on a smaller scale. Even those statements are reaches.

But its been a few seasons now, and KU still doesn't have a solid answer at the helm for 2015.

Until then, we'll see March early exits, over and over. An Elijah Johnson implosion. Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason driving in trees, with no hope of a play aside from a rebound off their misses.

Yes, KU lost on recruiting battles for the likes of Tyus Jones, Marcus Smart and others. But still, the fact of the matter remains ... no real PG, no Final Four or beyond.

Throwing a zone at KU in the tourney is like tossing a Rubik's Cube at a 9-year-old. Even take one-and-dones at point would be fine, though for now Frankamp's name will be touted by fans ahead. KU can recruit solid wings and big men, but the lineage of Collins-Taylor-Johnson-Black isn't national championship caliber. Or barely Elite Eight.

Again, many, many former and current players would love to say they were the point guard for a Big 12 title team, or a 30-win team or ... Plus, It's hard to criticize anyone in a one-and-done format.

But this is in the context of the NCAA Tournament, that the big programs are stacked against in the end. And when you're reaching for the stars, you need a star point guard leading you there.

Guide to Area Schools in NCAA

Mar 17, 2014 -- 10:40am

By Chad Rader

The bracket is set. The Madness is about to begin.

Basketball fans version of Santa Claus dropping off gifts under the tree has come and gone, and now we all can review the bracket, analyze it and overanalyze it, listen to pundits babble how every team from a No. 2 seed and below will get upset and, well, its just an all-you-can-eat buffet that never runs out of NCAA basketball material.

For the area, the stage is set for a very fun weekend in St. Louis. Wichita State, Kansas and K-State all are set to tip across the state. Factor in the Kentucky masses just five hours away, and suddenly it may be incredibly hard to get a ticket to a first- and second-round game, especially with the games not held in the Dome. But still, what a college basketball haven that St. Louis will host!

Those who can’t attend at least will get a very good call with Jim Nantz and Greg Anthony on the headsets for the CBS/TNT/TBS/Tru TV quartet.

So , what lies ahead?

Wichita State

First Round: vs Cal Poly/Texas Southern winner (Line: TBD)
Tipoff: 6:10 pm
Broadcast: CBS (Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony)

Not that the Shockers should be worried about the No. 16 seed, but WSU will get the winner on two days rest. Of course, as any fan, any game is nerve-racking, especially now being the hunted instead of the hunter.

The second-round matchup obviously was laid up for TV. Either catch an in-state DI program with K-State or the all-time power Kentucky in the round of 32.

Either way, the second-round matchup poses a headache. K-State has been familiar with the Shockers just by osmosis and being in the region. And perhaps want to prove a point, though on the flip side, Wichita State would loooovvvve to punk out either KSU or KU on a prime time stage.

The concern would be Kentucky. Yes, underachieving. Yes, talented. But the last thing any team wants is to catch a talented roster which gears up for new life.

If the Shockers emerge from St. Louis, I can’t say they’d love the likelihood of facing Louisville in Indianapolis. A jaded Louisville team. If Wichita State makes the Final Four, the likely road would be Kentucky-Louisville-Duke/Michigan. Wow.

Analysts: Yet CBS’ Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis pick Wichita State to emerge. However, out of ESPN’s quartet of Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Jay Williams and babbling Vitale, none picked WSU to reach even the Elite Eight.

Rader: I’d love to pick the Shockers to get to the Final Four. But the NCAA didn’t treat an undefeated team well with the other teams in the region. Getting to the Sweet 16 will be hard enough. I’d like to say the Shockers beat Louisville, but Rick Pitino is 11-0 in the Sweet 16. That’s a tough buzzsaw to get through, I’d say.


First Round: vs Kentucky (Line: Kentucky -5)
Tipoff: 8:40 pm
Broadcast: CBS (Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony)

K-State has shown it can beat a talented team with the Kansas win. But it also won’t the annual Super Bowl for the Wildcats, and a packed, frenzied Bramlage. Yeah, there may be a double crowd with Wichita State and KSU fans, but that won’t offset the Kentucky Blue.

Yet, Kentucky has been underachieving all year. But K-State away from home, and surely John Calipari can light a fire under UK for a game or two. Will be tough for the ‘Cats, but hey, is it that much different that KU, Iowa State or Baylor, which KSU went toe-to-toe with through the season?

Rader: It’s so hard to pick against Kentucky, even on a down year. Especially with the huge contingent in the house. Be very happy if the ‘Cats win. That is, the K-State Wildcats.



First Round: vs Eastern Kentucky (Line: Kansas -15)
Tipoff: 3:10 pm
Broadcast: TBS (Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony)

The concern remains how susceptible is Kansas without Joel Embiid? When or does he even return for the tourney? Like 2003, when Jeff Graves emerged in Wayne Simien’s absence, suddenly Kansas fans didn’t realize how important Tariq Black has become.

I’d be less worried about Kansas had Embiid been absent for a month, and Kansas was more accustomed to playing without him. Which they have – and won – over Texas and various spans in the season. Even without him, Kansas should be good enough to reach the Elite Eight.

The glamorous pick is New Mexico to knock off Kansas in the second round. It definitely can happen, but its difficult to click that one in a pool. Nice names lurk in Syracuse and Ohio State, but unless the ‘Cuse gets rested up and regroups, there’s a reason Syracuse has slipped to a No. 3, and definitely why the Buckeyes are a No. 6.

Analysts: For the first time in decades, Seth Davis of CBS didn’t pick Kansas in the Final Four. But Jay Bilas does pick the ‘Hawks to the Finals Four.

Rader: Such a wild card with the Embiid factor. Will he ever play another collegiate game? Does he want to, or did KU just posture his return for a good seed? KU should make it to even the Elite Eight without him. If he returns, a rematch with Florida lurks, and I like the loser in the rematch, especially in a blowout on a home floor and months elapsed. And who knows, the Gators may not even make the Elite Eight, but Billy Donovan has won six straight Sweet 16 games, and is 6-1 … with the one being a one-point loss to Gonzaga in 1999. So don’t count on the Gators getting bumped …

It’s a long shot with the Embiid injury situation, but why not. KU has vast improved since the first Florida matchup, Florida can have a false sense of security and … Kansas to the Final Four.



As everyone has stated, the NCAA committee seems to have poo-poo’ed on Wichita State’s schedule, and the mid-major high seed, laying name after name for them to wade through.

The Big 12 got its seven teams in the tournament. For once, the Big 12 needs to get another school into the Final Four besides Kansas. Curious that Oklahoma and Okie State were laid into the same top half of the bracket.

Overall, amazing somehow No. 4 seeds are the overwhelming favorites – if you watched ESPN. Every one of Bilas, Phelps, Williams and Vitale picked Michigan State to win it all, and three had Louisville, also a No. 4 seed – in the final. I’d take a bet against that exact combination any day.

But looking at the East, can’t say I can go against Michigan State beating Virginia and either Iowa State or Villanova.

Looking at the Midwest, well, its tough going against that mark of Pitino in the Sweet 16, then playing right in Indianapolis.

Darn it, now I have Louisville and Michigan State in the Final Four. Maybe the “experts” aren’t so off. Or more so, the oddsmakers.

Vegas odds

To win it all, seed in parenthesis:

Florida +500 (No. 1)
Michigan State +550 (No. 4)
Louisville +800 (No. 4)
Arizona +800 (No. 1)
Kansas +1000 (No. 2)
Wichita State +1500 (No. 1)
Duke +1800 (No. 3)
Virginia +1800 (No. 1)

So good luck to those filling out brackets. Those traveling to St. Louis. And of course, if you win the billion dollar contests, just keep a fella in mind …




Quick Thoughts After Bramlage W 3.0

Feb 11, 2014 -- 12:06am

By Chad Rader

A few nuts and bolts while K-State parties like its 2008...


Funny how 72 hours can swing a season. Entering Saturday, Kansas State was reeling from another road loss at West Virginia, with NCAA Tournament hopes in flux. Now, Kansas State went from on the NCAA bubble entering the weekend vs Texas and Kansas to now back in the Top 25, and perhaps playing up to a No. 6 seed, maybe a No. 5 if they surge down the stretch and reach the Big 12 finals. But more fun, the Wildcats (17-7, 7-4) are just a game out of second place in the Big 12 standings and who knows what can happen in Kansas City if on the opposite side of the bracket from Kansas - a Sunflower Showdown III ?


KU fans can giggle about the K-Staters rushing the floor, but Jayhawks tearing down the goalposts after beating a 4-7 West Virginia team in football? 'Nuff said.


K-State found some inside presence with D.J. Johnson muscling for nine points, a few on some nice finds from Will Spradling. From a fan's standpoint, it was also nice to see Spradling, the senior from Overland Park, graduate with a win over Kansas in his career that he can reflect upon years from now.


Not that Bruce Weber had many objectors, but those should be silenced with a win over the mighty Kansas program. Short of a Final Four, that is the next measuring stick for a K-State coach, and Weber has stuck that feather in his cap in just his second season, along with a co-Big 12 title. Not bad at all.

And personally for Weber, a win over Bill Self, whom with his days at Illinois, probably has a dart board secretly hidden with Self's mug as a bullseye.


Marcus Foster has emerged from all the other hyped freshmen to one of the top 10 in the nation himself. Even with a couple of duds in the Big 12 (2 points vs Texas Tech), Foster is averaging nearly 16.5 ppg in Big 12 play, with 20 or more points in 4 of his last 5 games.


As for fellow freshman Joel Embiid, the Big 12 has perhaps cooled the jets on him entering the draft and being taken as the No. 1 pick. His last four games (points): 8, 5, 11, 6. Minutes: 25, 17, 17, 18. Averages: 7.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 19.3 minutes.

On Monday, the game wasn't Embiid's, and this can happen for centers at times, as well as an injury hampering Embiid. But the continued foul trouble, some emotions on the court and getting some game outside 6-8 feet are needed, as shown with 7.5 and 19.3.

Fact of the matter - stamina, strength and getting stronger are part of being ready for the next level. If Embiid is currently having trouble in a 30-35 game, what will happen over a 100+ game schedule in the NBA with preseason, regular season and potential playoffs.

Is Embiid talented? Yes. Does he merit a No. 1 pick? Maybe in 2015. Because whether foul trouble or maturity, yes its better to do it while being paid an NBA check, a la Jermaine O'Neal or others. But we've also seen lottery picks get lost on the long side of the bench like Meyers Leonard, the No. 11 in 2012, Hasheem Thabeet, the No. 2 overall in 2009 and of course, Cole Aldrich at No. 11 in 2010. Sure, none may have been as talented as Embiid, but big men in the lottery don't always mean an All-Star career. Of course, its best to cash in the chips when the stock is the highest, but 19 minutes and 7.5 ppg recently, while just a small sample size, lean more towards coming back for another year than being an autoclick for the NBA Draft.



Overall, its still remarkable that Kansas remains 23-3 in Bramlage Coliseum, considering ESPN places the game annually on Big Monday for the season's annual sellout. And it was apparent late in the game that its "I remember being there the year we rushed the floor!" So while KU fans probably want to grumble that Kansas lost, Brannen Greene should've caught the ball on an easy pass, where was Joel Embiid? and on and on, any program will take 23-3 on their rivals home court in prime time madness.

And one more, the first of three KU losses in Bramlage, the memorable one to Michael Beasley, Jacob Pullen and Bill Walker in 2008, ended with Kansas cutting down the nets in San Antonio...

Road Ahead for K-State, Mizzou; Spring Over Snow

Feb 04, 2014 -- 7:26am

By Chad Rader

Random thoughts as the wait for Blizzard, 2014 continues.


In a way, many Chiefs fans may have wanted Denver to win the Super Bowl, only if it meant that Peyton Manning would retire. Instead, one of the most  lopsided Super Bowls since the 1984-1995 span when nine Super Bowls were decided by 17 points or more.

Now Kansas City – and the nation – must endure another season of the Peyton watch, can he win that elusive second title, how will Denver react after its epic loss, blah blah blah. Odds are likely that given Peyton’s age and simply the fact its hard to repeat and make it back to the Super Bowl, that 2014 was Denver’s shot. But an offseason of loading up on defensive players, another Broncos run to the Super Bowl and more Manning media mania wouldn’t be shocking either.


Mizzou finishes a tough little stretch with No. 11 Kentucky and No. 3 Florida in back-to-back games, followed by a trip to Ole Miss. After then, the road is paved for Mizzou to finish 7-1 or even 8-0, as the rest schedule combined is 25-30 in SEC, with only team (Tennessee) with a winning league record at 5-3. Though Mizzou plays the Volunteers twice, realistically a 6-2 mark in that eight-game stretch leaves the Tigers with a 10-8 league record (assuming they lose at Florida and Ole Miss).

With an RPI of 51, Mizzou should finish in the top 50 by year’s end. Combine that with a league record over .500 and Mizzou is in the tourney. Not that they wouldn’t be anyway, but at 4-4 with two road dates to Florida and Ole Miss, a possible 4-6 league record would have most fans a little wary.


Meanwhile, K-State also needs to nab a win in its next three games (vs Texas, vs Kansas, at Baylor). The Wildcats sit at 5-4 in the Big 12, but a possible 0-3 run could be ahead. However, a 2-1 run also could be ahead, since Texas at home and schizo Baylor are winnable games.

But I fear K-State, with a 1-4 road record in league play and that 1 is at TCU, which almost doesn’t count, has a tough time on the road. Losses at Baylor, Oklahoma and in the home finale for Oklahoma State are very likely, with the game at Texas Tech a swing game. Still, that’s a 2-7 road record, and leaves K-State in a position that they need to win at least 2 out of 3 at home vs Texas, Iowa State and Baylor.

With an RPI of 41, K-State shouldn’t worry excessively, but an 8-10 league record is a tough sell come NCAA selection time. Get to 9-9 and win a Big 12 tourney game, and K-State doesn’t have any worries.


As the snow likely moves in, time to think spring … training. Curious about the move to ink Carlos Peguero and toss him on the 40-man roster, while bumping off Emilio Bonafacio. While this is likely a cost-saving move, Bonafacio seemed to supply KC with a utility man with speed galore. This leaves KC’s backup infielders likely Danny Valencia and either Christian Colon or Johnny Giavotella. The likely candidate? Someone not on the Royals roster currently, with a signing awaiting.

Its fun to scan the non-roster invitees, with hopes a player from yesteryear reaching back and pulling out one more productive season. The candidates jumping off the page are Brad Penny (119 career wins), and catcher Ramon Hernandez (169 career homers). But Hernandez hasn’t reached double digits in homers for two years and will be 38 in May.

The two – aside from prospect Kyle Zimmer who already is in the Royals long-term plans – who I’d say may find their way into a role are Jon Rauch, the 6-foot-11 reliever who has enjoyed success in bullpens around the league, and Guillermo Mota, who simply may be a glorified mop up man. But with Rauch saving 56 games from 2008-2012, and Penny registering 11 wins in 2009 and 2011, perhaps there is hope that each fills a needed roster spot, even for just a month stretch or so.

Thankfully, Kansas City has come a long way, because in the 90s, these two would’ve been talked about as a potential closer (Rauch) and No. 4 starter (Penny). Now, we’re talking a two-week stopgap at long reliever for each.

Ah, spring training. More drifting off thinking of the ball popping, the bats cracking in warm weather, with under two weeks to go… as two hours to go until this snow drops on KC.

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