▪ Welcome to what looks like will be a cold, snowy, icy weekend. That’s fine, as long as it’s winter’s last blast. But I don’t trust winter . . . never have. Winter will fool you.
▪ Of course, the big Northern Iowa-Wichita State game is on everybody’s mind. I hope the weather cooperates with everyone who wants to get out to the ESPN GameDay festivities Saturday morning. It should be a spectacle and something new for Shocker fans, who have experienced so much over the past few basketball seasons that their heads must be spinning.
▪ Is this the greatest era of Shocker basketball? It’s so hard to compare. Two others stand out: Ralph Miller’s golden years from 1953-54 through 1963-64 which can also include WSU’s Final Four season in 1964-65 with Gary Thompson as coach; and Gene Smithson’s run in the early- to mid-1980s. The Missouri Valley Conference was a much better group of teams in those days and the Shockers during the 1950s and 1960s always played a big-time non-conference schedule. But it’s hard to pick any era above the current one as far as postseason success. WSU basketball is at an all-time high.
▪ As good as Northern Iowa is – and the Panthers pounded Wichita State by 16 in Cedar Falls a month ago – it’s difficult for me to believe the Shockers won’t win Saturday. It’ll be an electric home crowd and a Missouri Valley Conference championship will be at stake. I expect a tough, close game. Let’s put it this way: If UNI comes into Koch Arena and beats a Wichita State team that is 26-3, has won 28 straight games on its home floor plus two more at Intrust Bank Arena, the Panthers deserve a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
▪ Oh, and it’s Senior Day for the Shockers. There will be a ceremony to honor Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter after Saturday’s game. Can you imagine such a ceremony after a Wichita State loss?
▪ That said, Northern Iowa will want this game just as badly as the Shockers. And UNI will be pumped to come into Koch Arena and ruin the day for Wichita State. It’s one of the most appealing aspects of this showdown. The Panthers are a veteran team that won’t be intimidated by the atmosphere or the moment. I just think the Shockers will play a lights-out game and win, 67-60.
▪ I really feel badly for the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose. And for basketball fans, because much of Rose’s exquisite ability has been robbed because of bad knees. Rose is expected to miss at least four weeks after his most-recent surgery. Bummer.
▪ It was interesting, to say the least, to watch Vanderbilt basketball coach Kevin Stallings berate one of his players, Wade Baldwin IV, after Thursday night’s win over Tennessee in the name of sportsmanship. Yes, Baldwin did a silly thing by taunting a Vols player in the postgame handshake line. But Stallings took silly to a higher level by attacking Baldwin verbally and profanely, telling him at one point: “I’m going to f---ing kill you.” Unfortunately for Stallings, the whole thing was caught on video. So, of course, he was put in the situation of having to apologize. Whether he’s really sorry or not is something only he knows. But if you’re a true champion for sportsmanship, shouldn’t you be more sportsmanlike?
▪ I’m really looking forward to watching spring training baseball. The sun, the warmth, the sounds. If you ask me, baseball’s offseason is way too long.
▪ Yes, I read every NFL mock draft that is printed. I’m a sucker for this stuff, even though it really has little significance. I suppose it’s a good way to gauge the rising and falling NFL prospects. This year, I even paid some attention to the NFL Scouting Combine, but mostly because Blake Bell was in Indianapolis and is trying to make it to the NFL as a tight end. Looks like he’ll be successful, too.
▪ NFL types are also high on Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett after the Combine. No surprise here. I think Lockett will be a big-time weapon in the NFL. Who doesn’t?
▪ March is always a hectic month, what with all the basketball. I’ve always really enjoyed March, even though I’ve been gone from home a lot during that month. This year, though, I’ll be home for my birthday, which is a rarity. So is a 60th birthday. I’m not sure how I’ll handle turning 60. I suppose it’ll be a lot like 59, only without the ‘5’ as the first number. Growing old is an interesting process, as anybody who has grown old can tell you.
▪ It’s been fun sitting in as host on The Shane Dennis Show a few times over the past several weeks. I really enjoy doing radio and believe it’s important to have banter, give-and-take and debate. I also do my best to make radio light-hearted and funny. It’s probably not the approach some would take, but for me radio is about personality. I enjoy hearing from listeners, even when they express viewpoints different from mine. There’s no right and wrong, usually, when it comes to sports talk radio. Opinions are opinions and everyone’s should be heard. Well, most of the time.
▪ Have you seen Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook play lately? Wow!
▪ I enjoyed the Academy Awards last Sunday. I hope for a better batch of movies in 2015, though. It was just a so-so year.
▪ I haven’t seen the final couple of episodes of Parks and Recreation yet. I wasn’t a fan of the jump-ahead in that show but it’s still in my top 10 television comedies group.
▪ Top four: The Andy Griffith Show, The Office, All in the Family, Cheers. It’s a tough list to put together. Who did I leave out that I shouldn’t have?
▪ It’s too bad KU’s Perry Ellis was dropped from all the college basketball watch lists early on because of a relatively slow start to his season. Ellis is playing at a very high level now and deserves more recognition. He’s the best player on a Top 10 team, after all.
▪ The Big 12 is a really strange conference, isn’t it? TCU and Texas Tech aren’t good teams by any stretch, but both can step up occasionally and beat or give a scare to the teams in the upper division. Then Baylor goes on the road and beats Iowa State the other night, giving Kansas back its one-game lead after the Jayhawks lost at Kansas State. The same Kansas State which lost to TCU and Texas Tech. Crazy.
▪ Thanks for reading. Stay safe and as warm as possible. Saturday should be a fun day for basketball fans in Wichita. Are there Wichitans who aren’t basketball fans? Show yourself.