▪ Hey, what a weekend of basketball coming up. Oh, and a kinda big football game, too. But it’s basketball that has me pumped at the moment. Let’s delve in.
▪ Kansas State at Kansas on Saturday afternoon. No chance for the Wildcats, right? Especially if senior forward Nino Williams can’t play because of a sprained right knee. Right now, Williams is doubtful. And a Kansas State win is doubtful, obviously.
▪ There was a time this season when I would have picked against Kansas winning an 11th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship. And I don’t think I’m alone. When will we learn? When will we understand that Bill Self is a master of making a team better as the season goes on and that the rest of the Big 12 is intimidated as heck by the Jayhawks? KU has already won at Baylor, at Texas and at TCU. The Jayhawks are, once again, sitting pretty.
▪ Prediction: Kansas 75, Kansas State 65.
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▪ Now for the Wichita State-Northern Iowa game in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon at 3. Who do you have? I’m just so happy to have anticipation for a Missouri Valley Conference basketball game that I don’t know how to feel. It’s been a while. I’m looking forward to watching this one; it’s the biggest Valley test for the Shockers in a couple of seasons, since Creighton departed for the Big East. Those games at Creighton always had such an incredible feel and this one rivals them.
▪ I’ve been a harsh critic of Missouri Valley Conference basketball for a while now. And I believe my skepticism is warranted. But Northern Iowa is a fantastic Valley team and one more than capable of ending the Shockers’ 27-game conference regular-season winning streak. The Panthers have size, experience and an outstanding coach. Everything Wichita State has.
▪ For me, the Wichita State edge is with veteran guards Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton. They won’t be daunted by playing on the road. They defend as if their lives were at stake. And they’ll make it difficult for Northern Iowa to get into its offense.
▪ An underrated aspect of the Shockers’ game is their ability in transition. It’s something I’ve especially noticed the past couple of weeks. Those guards push the ball. They take the ball to the basket with almost-reckless abandon. They force the matter and more often than not they come up with a reward for doing so. It’s a strong group, both physically and mentally.
▪ I expect WSU senior center Darius Carter to have a big game. Coach Gregg Marshall has given Carter and his sore back a lot of rest the past couple of games and I think some of that was to make sure he’s ready and healthy for Saturday’s game against Northern Iowa. Carter will have to battle the Panthers’ Seth Tuttle. If he holds his own in that confrontation, it bodes well for Wichita State.
▪ As you can tell, I’m not coming up with any reasons the Shockers won’t win Saturday. Being on the road doesn’t faze this team. They’re a better ball club than Northern Iowa, although the Panthers are legitimate. They’ve been on big stages before. What’s not to like about WSU in this one?
▪ Prediction: Wichita State 56, Northern Iowa 52.
▪ Now for the Super Bowl. I don’t see a one-sided game like Seattle had last year against Denver. The Patriots are going to be in this one. And I sure hope we don’t hear a bunch about Deflategate. That scandal sure seems to have gone away, huh? Wasn’t it the biggest story in the world a week ago?
▪ I’m a Patriots fan. I like Tom Brady and while Bill Belichick annoys me at times, isn’t he the greatest coach in NFL history?
▪ I also like the Seahawks. Quarterback Russell Wilson is becoming one of my favorite players. And Pete Carroll doesn’t bug me.
▪ Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch does bug me some. Stop with the obscene gestures after scoring touchdowns, Marshawn. Grow up. You want us to respect you like a man, act like a man. That said, I’ve got a bone to pick with my media brethren. Since it’s obvious Lynch doesn’t want to talk to you, stop talking to him. Pretty simple.
▪ Prediction: I see why Seattle is a favorite, but I’m going with New England. It’s hard for me to believe the Pats will be denied a fourth championship a third straight time. So, New England 34, Seattle 28. Yes, that’s a bunch of points for the Patriots.
▪ I love the writing done for Justified, one of my favorite television shows. And how will two of my favorite actors, Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, find steady work in Hollywood after playing Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder all these years? Plus, Sam Elliott is in this final season of show. Along with regular Jere Burns. Every actor in this show is great. There’s no justification for not watching Justified.
▪ I know a lot of people who believe February is the worst month for a sports fan. Football is over and basketball is in that period just before things get really interesting. But pitchers and catchers report to spring training, which makes it a wonderful sports month for me.
▪ I’m still trying to decide on seeing Bob Seger, Fleetwood Mac and Chicago in concert in the next couple of months. I need to get on that. I’ve seen Chicago a few times, but have never seen Seger or FM. Those are two gaping holes in my concert-going resume. I think I may have answered my own concern here.
▪ My band, the Eagles, is touring Australia in March. Then, who knows what? There have been no announced plans. I’m hopeful that Don Henley finally releases his new country CD, Cass County, sometime soon. But I’m hold holding my breath on that one. Henley is never in a hurry.
▪ Have a great, fun weekend everyone. Lots of sports to watch on television. I’m spending my day today in a car headed for Cedar Falls, the coldest place on the planet. Antarctica has nothing on this place. Talk to you soon and thanks for reading.