* It’s always fun to cover the Missouri Valley Conference tournament at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. But I was just talking to Wichita State beat writer about how difficult it is, at times, to write about this Wichita State basketball team.
* All the games are looking the same. One lopsided win after another. This is a fantastic team, obviously, so there are always going to be good stories to tell. But as a columnist, an opinion-writer, it’s not easy to find flaws. And you know me; I love flaws.
* Evansville guard D.J. Balentine is the real deal, one of the best players to come along in the Valley in a while. Of course, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who played three seasons in the MVC before the Bluejays bolted for the Big East this season, is the star of stars in the recent past. But Balentine is an incredible offensive player with unlimited shooting range. The best thing is that he has two years remaining. I suppose that might not be the best thing for the rest of the Valley, although this league needs every good player it can get at the moment.
* As usual, I drove around Busch Stadium as I was getting into town last night with my wife. We saw the ongoing construction of Ballpark Village, just to the west of the stadium. It’s going to be a fantastic venue and I’m told the Cardinals are sparing no expense when it comes to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, which will be housed inside Ballpark Village. Can’t wait to get back to St. Louis for a game this summer.
* I peruse every spring training box score for the Cardinals. That’s just the way I am. Today, young second baseman Kolten Wong had three hits. That’s significant because of the way Wong, a former No. 1 draft pick, struggled after being called up from Triple-A last season and because he had been having a terrible spring so far. Good for him. I have faith.
* I can’t wait for the finale of True Detective on Sunday night. That show started slow, but it hasn’t disappointed. How could any cast with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson disappoint? Now, that being said, this hasn’t been the easiest show to follow. I feel like I needed to go back and watch each episode again, maybe three times. But I’m hanging in there for the conclusion.
* Poor John Travolta.
* Back to the Shockers for a moment. We’re really going to learn a lot about this team when they play their second game in the NCAA Tournament, likely as a 1-seed vs. the 8-9 winner. There isn’t a Valley opponent that comes even close to being an 8-9, so that will be the best team Wichita State has faced in a long time, perhaps all season.
* I made a big personal decision this week. Personal decisions are very difficult for me. I’m trained to see both sides of every story.
* I’m looking forward to getting out to some state tournament high school basketball next week. Although I know the lack of a shot clock will frustrate me. Basketball is now played with a shot clock. It’s that simple. For high school hoops to continue with the status quo antiquates and downgrades the sport. Personally, I would go with a 35-second shot clock, the same as exists in men’s college basketball.
* America has been at war since 9/11. I just wanted to remind everyone of that fact. Do with it what you want. I’m not implying that these conflicts are unjustified or unwarranted. But I remember a time when we were at peace with the world and it’s sad that those days are gone. I hope they’re not gone forever, but I have my doubts.
* Yes, I know I’m a lowly sports writer and that I should never give an opinion on anything serious. Forgive me, please.
* I want to go to Zia’s tonight for dinner, but it’s Friday and the wait will be long. So we may try to get there for a very early lunch tomorrow before Wichita State’s 1:30 p.m. game against Missouri State in the Valley tournament semifinals. I do not anticipate a close game, by the way. The Shockers have proven everything they need to prove in this conference this season. There will be no major upset or miracle in St. Louis this weekend.
* I turned 59 this week. I wanted to type that number and stare at it for a few minutes. It’s such a crooked number, isn’t it? OK, I’m done staring.
* The NCAA is going to be a complete crap-shoot this year. I can’t wait. It’s going to be one of the most fascinating tournaments of all-time. In his latest Bracketology on ESPN, Joe Lunardi still has Wichita State as a 1-seed in the Midwest region. The next 13 seeds are: Wisconsin, Creighton, Louisville, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado, either Nebraska or Arkansas, Southern Miss, Stephen F. Austin and Belmont. How loaded is that? And remember that key 1 vs. 8-9 game I mentioned earlier? In this case, the Shockers would face the Arizona State-Baylor winner. Not easy at all.
* Frank Martin has been suspended by South Carolina, where he coaches basketball, for verbally attacking one of his players during a timeout. Hmm, where have we heard this before? Listen, Martin is a profane man and guess what? South Carolina’s administration knew that when it hired Martin to take over its men’s basketball program. Martin requires his bosses to swallow hard. When his team wins, as it did at Kansas State, the end can justify the means. Maybe. For a while. But South Carolina isn’t winning and Martin is in his second season. I wish he would tone it down. I’ve always wished he would tone it down. Because he’s not a bad guy. But he comes across as one on television when he’s doing his job and it doesn’t take a fan base or an administration long to grow tired of that.
* Thanks for reading, everyone. I always appreciate it. Gonna hit the town here in St. Louis until, oh, about 7:30. I’m a wild man.