* As we near the halfway point in Missouri Valley Conference play, it’s interesting to assess how many Wichita State basketball players might make the All-Valley first team. It would seem at this point that Cleanthony Early and Fred VanVleet are locks.
* But what about Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton? Baker got off to an incredible start but an ankle injury suffered on Dec. 13, the day before the Shockers played Tennessee at Intrust Bank Arena, slowed him down. And I don’t think Baker is all the way back yet. In seven Missouri Valley Conference games, Baker is averaging only 11 points. And he’s shooting just 34.4 percent from the field. There’s no doubt in my mind that Baker is one of the best players in the Valley. And nobody would be surprised if he made a strong push for first-team All-Valley honors the rest of the way. But he’s not an All-Valley player yet.
* Cotton, meanwhile, is as good a defensive player as there is in the Valley and all of the other conferences in America. If he’s not the Valley’s defensive player of the year, there should be an investigation. But Cotton probably doesn’t score enough to be a first-team All-Valley pick. Then again, his defense and intelligence for the game are so overwhelming that he has a shot. Conceivably, WSU could get four players on the All-Valley team.
* Who are candidates from the other nine teams? Bradley’s Walt Lemon and Evansville’s D.J. Balentine are outstanding scorers. So is Southern Illinois senior Desmar Jackson. All three, though, are deficient in other aspects. And because the teams they’re on are void of much other talent, they have to score.
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* The best player I’ve seen outside of Wichita State’s yellow and black is Missouri State’s Jarmar Gulley, who has an all-around game that would fit being an all-conference player. Gulley is good offensive and defensively and works hard on both ends.
* Drake’s Richard Carter, who the Shockers will see Saturday night when they play the Bulldogs in Des Moines, has impressive numbers. So does Loyola freshman Milton Doyle, who started his career at Kansas two seasons ago before transferring to Loyola. Northern Iowa big man Seth Tuttle is another who will be in the All-Valley discussion. But I’m not sure I’d trade any of the four top Shockers for another player in the conference.
* I finally made it to see The Wolf of Wall Street on Thursday night in Bloomington, Ill. Wow. It was so over the top; three hours of craziness. Leonardo DiCaprio was a raving lunatic for most of the movie. There was so much sex and drugs. But you know what? I was entertained. It was the most frenetic Martin Scorsese movie I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something, considering Scorsese is Hollywood’s most prolific envelope pusher.
* DiCaprio was great. I don’t think he was Academy Award-great because the role was so wacky. But that man acted his tail off. There was a scene near the end, where he and his Wall Street buddy, played by Jonah Hill, are taking one quaalude after another, convinced the pills have lost some strength from being on a shelf for so long. Turns out, the pills had gained strength. It just took the drug a bit longer to unleash. But boy, when it did. The result is the best scene of the movie.
* Then there was Margot Robbie, who played DiCaprio’s second wife. I had never heard of this actress. She, folks, looks like a movie star. She’s stunning. Why didn’t I know who she was?
* I still need to see three of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture: Philomena, Her and Dallas Buyers Club. My favorite to win is still 12 Years a Slave.
* The Grammy Awards are always fun and they’re coming up Sunday night on CBS. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are scheduled to appear. I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t appear together. There’s no way the Grammys could have these guys in the same building and not put them together, right? Starr is scheduled to perform his 1973 hit Photograph against a montage of photos from his book of the same name. Paul has to join him. Has to.
* I’m looking forward to seeing Robin Thicke perform with Chicago. The Grammys always produces odd combinations like that, which makes it fun.
* Harry Connick Jr., has been a great addition to American Idol. The man is funny. And he’s a tough judge. Putting those two qualities together can’t be easy, but so far Connick is pulling it off. He’s given the show new life.
* I’m having trouble following all of the story lines in Justified so far this season. Maybe I’m slowing down. It’s still a very entertaining show, but I’m not sure exactly what’s going on. Anyone?
* Why aren’t Eden Sher, Charlie McDermott and Neil Flynn bigger stars? Have you heard of them? Do you even know what I’m talking about? They play Sue, Axl and father Mike Heck on The Middle and they’re all great. That show’s been great for a while now but none of these actors have become stars. That’s surprising to me.
* Baseball season nears. That makes me happy. I love college basketball, trust me. And covering the Shockers the past few seasons has been one of the highlights of my long, long, loooonnnnggg career. But I’m always really happy when baseball arrives. And spring. I think they’re related.
* I made the drive from central Illinois to central Iowa today. It’s not one of the prettiest. But I love driving. I’m not sure when that started, either. I don’t think I used to love driving. In fact, I’m pretty sure I used to hate it. But we change in life, which is part of what makes life so wonderful.
* There’s no extra charge for the blog when I philosophize, by the way.
* Will Tiger Woods win a major this year? I say he won’t.
* Interested in coaching a youth baseball team in League 42? Give me a holler. I think you would love the experience.
* I love Suite Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills and Nash. And I love anything Linda Ronstadt sings. I heard her do a Frank Sinatra song on the drive over to Ames today and was riveted.
* Have a great weekend. Gonna hit the town in Ames with some friends tonight. We might be out until 8 or 8:30. Watch out Ames, here we come.