TJ discusses the likelihood Royals fans will get the payoff they deserve and have been waiting on for nearly three decades. Royals fan's anticipation of Yordano Ventura's debut continues to grow. Andrew Wiggins time at KU was largely about minimizing risk to his pro career, not winning games - and there's nothing wrong with that. Let's not pretend the SEC was a good league and the Big 12 stunk just because of how the NCAA tournament played out, nothing could be further from the truth. Mick Shaffer of TWC Sports Channel joins TJ to talk about KU basketball and the Royals. The Redskins understand, if you can't be good, be interesting.
By TJ Carpenter
This March weve had quick first and second round exits by Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State, and Missouri didnt even make the tournament. Was it a waste of a season? Is anyone better than they were when the season started? Heres what we learned about Kansas Citys college basketball this season:
TALENT AND EXPERIENCE IS A WASH
Perhaps the best collection of talent on any Bill Self coached team at Kansas played at Allen Fieldhouse this season. Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins are clear top 3 picks in the NBA draft, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis look to potentially be solid players at the next level as well (though it looks like both will and should return for another season at Kansas), and the remainder of the team was about as solid a collection of role players as one could hope for.
So why wasnt the season a greater success?
In short, if was still a very good year for Kansas, just not a good March. KU, dominated the regular season with one of the toughest schedules in the history of the sport. KU won at least a share of their 10th consecutive Big 12 regular season championship, a phenomenal feat. Wiggins performed at one of the highest levels any freshman has ever performed at one of the sports most prestigious programs. But in many respects hes still a boy, not a man (which when you think about it is kind of terrifying). Embiid went from a big man with potential to a top 3 NBA draft pick in about half a season. Given his lack of experience around the sport thats also an incredible and terrifying progression.
Yet, with all that talent, KU lost to Stanford, the definition of an average tournament team. How? Experience sometimes beats talent. But it wasnt a definitive win. It wasnt emphatic. KU was a shot away from sending the game to overtime for a potential win. One shot. KU was still a very good team, but they lacked the experience necessary to be special. Theyll have A LOT more of that at key positions next season, and the players who are coming back will be better for it, which is why Cliff Alexander may thrive as a scorer. He wont be busy trying to be all things to all people the way Wiggins often had to be.
Conversely, right after we saw the uber-talented KU fall to experienced but pedestrian Stanford, we watched uber-talented Kentucky, which underperformed all season, play its best game of the year and beat the undefeated, super experienced Wichita State that Gregg Marshall admitted was made up of players who didnt even get a sniff from the bigger programs. How? Talent sometimes beats experience. But it wasnt a definitive win. It wasnt emphatic. Wichita State was a shot away from winning the game. One shot. Perhaps Wichita State lacked the talent to truly be special. Even though they were pretty close.
Both KU and Wichita State were well-coached, top notch teams, with key elements that could have taken them all the way. But in the end, the downfall of both came in their inherent weaknesses.
We learned that talent can beat experience and experience can beat talent. It took one of the most experienced teams in the nation to beat one of the most talented teams KU has ever had and it took the ESPN described greatest recruiting class in the history of college basketball, to beat Wichita State, only team to ever win 35 consecutive games in a single season. More so, it took herculean efforts from both Kentucky and Stanford to win, efforts I do not expect to see in later rounds.
DONT BLAME WIGGINS BLAME THE SYSTEM
Andrew Wiggins said he blamed himself for the loss to Stanford. He said he could have done more to win. And on some level I suppose he could have done more. Kenny Smith said it best after the game, 1 of 12 tells me its just not your day, 1 of 6 tells me you arent trying hard enough.
But the reaction from KU fans has been perplexing. Instead of understanding the situation, and chalking up the loss to Wiggins being a teenager with a lot of growing left to do, fans have reacted with, yeah, you should blame yourself for not living up to the standard of KU.
Wiggins is under no obligation to you. He was for all intents and purposes, FORCED to go to college. And dont give me this, well he could have flipped burgers instead, crap college basketball fans always put out there as a legitimate alternative to the current, ridiculous rule system that deprives current players of capitalizing on their own market value.
Wiggins owes Kansas fans nothing he didnt give them. It was a blessing KU fans got to watch his special talent for this one season. It was a blessing I got to cover and watch him. He was gracious, he never pouted, he always stayed above the fray and he played hard. He did absolutely everything right. He learned about himself and became a better player in his time at Kansas. He listened to his coaches and he worked hard for his teammates. He could have just done his time, the way Ben Howland characterized Shabazz Muhammad's time at UCLA, but he didnt. We played his butt off for Kansas, and hell finally be rewarded for his year of mandatory probation in college by being the no.1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
COLLEGE ANALYSTS KNOW A LOT LESS ABOUT THE NBA DRAFT THAN NBA ANALYSTS DO
This is where the crossover of the two levels happens and the commentary from the two sides on should Joel Embiid (or any other prospect for that matter) stay in college for go pro, separates the knowing from the ignorant; the biased from the unbiased.
Dick Vitale thinks the college game is a better preparer for the NBA than the NBA is okay. Literally every NBA expert, former player currently covering the league, and NBA scout disagrees. Vitale has an investment in the college game and thats fine. But lets not act like he knows the current system in place for the development of players at the NBA level. Lets not act like the distractions are so great it will offset the massively increased amount of practice time a player gets. Not to mention the money.
Kevin Garnett made 97 million dollars more than Tim Duncan in his pro career. One went straight to the pros, the other spent four years in college. 97 million dollars.
During the tournament Charles Barkley remarked it would be ridiculous to expect Joel Embiid to play in the tournament and borderline irresponsible for coaches to play him given what was at stake on a professional level for him. Barkley was thinking about it from a players perspective as someone with a massive amount of experience as a player at both the college and NBA level.
Vitale is thinking about the college game. Why wouldnt he think the college game is better for Embiid? Thats all he knows. Understand the source and know when to trust it.
Embiid came out and said he would have played in the tournament if they had advanced. Of course he did. I doubt he would have, but NBA GMs like to hear a guy was willing to fight for his team. Embiid had an edge in college, one I love, one his teammates didnt seem to possess. He was a good college player, but but he has the potential to be an amazing pro. Lets hope he understand which sources he should and shouldnt trust.
THE REGULAR SEASON IS ABOUT YOUR CONFERENCE THE POST SEASON IS ABOUT YOUR TEAM
The fact that the SEC has more teams in the sweet 16 than the Big 12 this year has been a sore spot for many people. Namely because the SEC was perceived as a joke of a conference this year and the Big 12 had the no.1 conference RPI in the nation. So, the SEC MUST be better than the Big 12 right? Wrong. Florida is better than any team in the Big 12, but you could say that about Florida and any conference in the country. Kentucky and Tennessee are just teams on runs. The Big 12 was a better more competitive league to watch with closer games, a more entertaining tournament and it was because the coaches were better, the fans cared more and the player played harder. It was a better league to watch. The product was apparent to everyone that watched.
The SEC was a disaster of a product outside of a handful of teams which either had fans that cared, teams that won or both. Outside of those few squads it was an unholy unclean wasteland. Texas A&M sold 12 tickets to the SEC tournament. 12!!! This is a fanbase that puts 90,000 people into its football stadium in a BAD year. Last season, A&M had to set up campsites around the city for fans they couldnt fit into the stadium. They couldnt watch the game live they just wanted to be near the stadium they sold 12 tickets to the conference tournament. 12.. Texas A&M almost beat Missouri who has two future pros on the roster. The SEC was so bad, NIT Arkansas beat Kentucky twice in the regular season on the sheer willpower of its fans at home and the appearant apathy of the Wildcats talent on the road.
The SEC was awful, and no one watched or cared nationally (or locally really) because of how terrible the product was. The Big 12 was great, everyone watched and loved it because it was a great product and we all knew it. Lets not rewrite the season because of the tournament.
The tournament had the right amount of SEC teams and the right amount of Big 12 teams. Its a 3-week league of its own and it in and of itself, independent of the regular season, is spectacular. Lets not use it to make rash sweeping statements about conference strength. They call it March Madness for a reason.
BRUCE WEBER IS A LOT BETTER THAN FANS THOUGHT
What Bruce Weber did this season was nothing short of amazing. What Bruce Weber has done over the past TWO seasons has been nothing short of amazing. Weber has made the tournament twice out of zero expected years, won a share of a conference title, rebuilt a roster in one offseason, and has beaten every ranked team hes played save KU (which K-State has beaten once under Weber) and Texas (which K-State has also beaten).
Weber was expected to be a disaster. Hes been great. And hes done it with maximum effort and focus and minimum talent. Marcus Foster is legitimately talented, but the rest of his teammates we may view as much more gifted than they are because of how well Weber got them to play. Give those players credit though, they bought in and it paid off in the regular season. All thats left is for Weber to get K-State some tournament wins. But to this point, given expectations, hes done everything and more for the Wildcats.
But not all coaches improved their stock the way Weber has unfortunately.
FRANK HAITH IS NOT NEARLY AS GOOD AS FANS THOUGHT
We expected the Tigers to dominate the SEC in basketball, not football. Yet, the opposite so far has been true. Frank Haith took a team built by Mike Anderson and won 30 games in the Big 12. Then lost with that team in the tournament to Norfolk State. For his next trick he took the remainder of the team Anderson built and meandered his way through a pedestrian SEC to a gentlemanly 9-seed and was courteous enough to lose to Colorado State in the first round then as well. And FINALLY, after ridding the team of all those clearly bad influences of the big mean Mike Anderson, Frank Haith built a team of rent-a-players from coast to coast - the best squad limited-eligibility could buy - from Oregon to Auburn Missouri had a squad with legitimate pro-level talent that went .500 in the awful SEC, missed the tournament all together and lost in the NIT to Southern Miss.
No, Frank Haith is not going to get fired this offseason. Mike Alden wont do that, especially given how much he values coaches with sterling reputations both on and off the court. (Ill suppose Alden, has had several electro-shock treatments to erase the memory of Haiths early season suspension for past crimes against the NCAA when he was at Miami.
Yes, Haith was a great hire, that just so happened to take an elite 8 level program and turn it into an NIT, dont mind us, were just basketball, team with an unsustainable transfer model for building its foundation. Hang on to the fact Haith recruited Mr. Basketball out of the state of Georgia Mizzou fans, just dont hang on to Haith himself hes not who you thought he was and it wont get much better down the road.
I LEARNED KANSAS CITY LOVES COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Kansas City is a perfect college basketball town. Its a college basketball Mecca of the midwest. People care, fanbases locally are passionate and that environment creates a product that is second to none. I get the stigma of college basketball in the Northeast, but for me, it doesnt get any better than what we are seeing in the Big 12 right now, lets just hope someone knocks KU off their perch soon to keep the passion and hunger alive too much domination by one team CAN be a bad thing for a league.
Sprint Center and Power and Light fanfest presented by our station was by far the best conference tournament experience in the country this year and is perfectly suited for such an event. Iowa State fans were spectacular and the event in general is truly special.
Im from the South. College basketball may as well be cricket in most of the South. In Arkansas basketball matters in a huge way, but it isnt football. Nothing holds a candle in football to the SEC. In basketball, the Big 12 was the best top to bottom of any league in America. In Kansas City, college basketball holds a special place, and there isnt a better city in America for it.