Monthly Archives: November 2010

Wipe than grin off your face

So, those sneaky ESPN cameras caught Arizona Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson chuckling on the sideline during the Cardinals’ lopsided loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

Anderson

Anderson

Big deal.

I know, in the 24-hour news cycle, it’s being made a big deal. But big deal.

Anderson laughed. Have you seen the Cardinals play this season? If so, don’t they make you laugh?

I know it’s unsightly to see a player on a losing team yukking it up. I don’t blame fans for being irritated and I don’t blame the reporter who, in the post-game news conference, asked Anderson about it.

I blame Anderson for blowing this thing up bigger than the zit on the end of my nose. Instead of downplaying the situation and giving a reasonable answer, something like: “Something funny was said in the moment and I laughed. It doesn’t mean I condone losing or find anything humorous about our situation in Arizona,” Anderson went all ballistic.

Pressed for an answer, he lost his cool. And he ended up giving this silly little story more legs than it’s worth.

Look, I don’t even much like it when opposing players gather on the field to shake hands after an NFL game. If they want to greet one another and hang out, do so before or after the game in private.

But it’s really not a big deal, certainly not worthy of all the talk its getting today on sports-talk radio and on 24-hour cable outlets.

* LeBron James returns to Cleveland on Thursday night for what has to be one of the most uncomfortable returns in sports history.

This summer, of course, King James broke Clevelanders’ hearts by announcing he was taking his game to South Beach. That hasn’t worked out so well, has it? And you just know Cavs fans are dying to bend LeBron’s ear.

Surprisingly, James plans on going through with his pregame ritual of tossing power into the air in front of the scorer’s table before the opening tip. I can’t imagine that’s going to sit well with Cleveland fans.

I’ll be watching LeBron’s Cleveland return, hoping Cavs fans give him the kind of reception he deserves. The more I hear from James, the more I think he’s just another shallow athlete who doesn’t get it. Whatever “it” is. He doesn’t seem to have much depth, which is why he apparently cannot comprehend the foolishness of his “Decision” and its ramifications.

* The Cardinals finally made an offseason move, trading relief pitcher Blake Hawksworth to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Ryan Theriot.

Theriot

Theriot

I give it a thumbs up, but only because I know the Cardinals aren’t through solidifying their infield. At least, they better not be.

Theriot was always a pesky hitter with the Chicago Cubs, who traded him to LA last season. He’s adequate defensively and looks to be in a utility role with St. Louis, one that should provide him around 350 to 400 at-bats.

The Cardinals also signed left-handed reliever Brian Tallet, a former Park City Cowboys pitcher in the National Baseball Congress World Series. Tallet, late of the Toronto Blue Jays, had a horrible season in 2010, allowing 20 homers in 77 1/3 innings. That won’t fly. But he was tough on left-handed hitters and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa loves him some left-handed specialists in relief roles.

Who is the Opinion Line contributor?

Yes, kiddies, it’s time for one of the most popular features of this blog. At least that’s what I tell myself as I ridicule people who take their precious time to post on The Wichita Eagle’s truly popular Opinion Line.

Here’s an actual Opinion Line post. My trick is to be able to identify the person who made the post, right down to their address. Of course, I’ll keep that private. Everything else, though, is on the table.

Here goes:

It is time to put things into perspective. Terrorism against aircraft is real. Grope me, pat me down, invade my person in the name of ensuring my safety.

I see a lonely person, definitely a man. Grope me, pat me down, invade my person . . . that’s a man talking, folks. Probably in his 40s, this man isn’t married and can’t remember the last time he had a girlfriend. He’s most comfortable on a park bench. He’s the only known American who makes contributions to TSA.
And here’s another:

I had to move to Wichita in March for my job, and I have to ask: Does anyone who lives here actually want to be here?

Since this person isn’t a native, it makes identifying him/her a bit tougher. I’ll say it’s a man, probably from Chicago or one of those fancy places. In his 30s, missing the night life. And how dare he post this question. We’re all happy to be in Wichita. We have a downtown arena, a few coffee bars and the Wingnuts. What could be better? We have a strong city and county government, a really good college basketball team and someday we’ll have a nearby casino. Not soon, obviously, but someday. So yeah, buddy, a lot of us are giddy to be here. Wanna make something of it?

Go east, young Horned Frogs

So, Texas Christian University is joining the Big East Conference.

In related news, Mexico has decided to join the Czech Republic and Betty White is joining the cast of “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

OK, the Betty White thing isn’t that big of a stretch. But TCU – located in the good ol’ boy country of Fort Worth – in the Big East? What am I missing here?

TCUThe Big East already has more members than Sam’s Club and now it is expanding west. Way, way, way west. I can hardly wait for that first TCU-Seton Hall game. Has anyone in Texas ever heard of East Orange, N.J.?

Of course, what we’re witnessing is the further shaping of the college football world in this day of the BCS. Nobody wants to be left out of the Big Boys club and now TCU is in a conference that receives an automatic bid into a BCS bowl game. No longer do the Horned Frogs have to hope and pray; beginning with the 2012-13 school year they will control their own destiny.

By the way, did the Big East check the basketball credentials of TCU? Doesn’t the Big East pride itself as a hoops league? TCU plays hoops like I play the mandolin.

But we all know basketball doesn’t count. Despite what you’ve seen for the past week on ESPN and its broadcasting partners, which has aired college basketball non-stop, that sport doesn’t carry much clout. It’s college football’s world, and college basketball is just lucky to have a mattress in the corner.

I’m curious why the Big 12 didn’t make a play for TCU. Then again, the last thing the northern members of the Big 12 want is more Texas flavor in their conference. It’s not like their opinion matters, though.

TCU would have been a boon for the Big 12, which doesn’t have a team directly in the Dallas/Fort Worth media market. It would have brought the conference’s membership back to 11, after losing Nebraska (Big 10) and Colorado (Pac-10) earlier this year. I wonder if the Big 12 and TCU even had a conversation about the possibility?

Bringing the Horned Frogs to the Big 12 would have required a 12th member, most likely. And who might that have been? Houston? SMU?

As it stands, the Big East now has nine football-playing members with a standing invitation out to Villanova to be No. 10. And there are now 17 basketball teams in the conference, which spans from Chicago to Syracuse, from Tampa to Fort Worth, from Milwaukee to Washington D.C.

And we’re only just getting started in college conference re-alignment. The best could be yet to come.

* Kansas State and Kansas concluded their football regular seasons Saturday (K-State will be in a bowl game, most likely the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City) and both teams will immediately go to work on resolving defensive issues.

K-State has managed to put together a 7-5 record despite having the nation’s No. 107 defense. The Wildcats rank No. 118 out of 120 in rushing defense.

Kansas, meanwhile, is No. 100 in total defense and No. 105 against the run.

K-State gave up 41 points to North Texas on Saturday in Denton and won the game. The Wildcats’ defense has been going downhill for weeks and right now couldn’t stop Betty White (second reference to her today) and Abe Vigoda if they ran the football.

It will be interesting to see whether Bill Snyder, who never fires an assistant, will make some changes to his defensive coaching staff. First-year coordinator Chris Cosh has struggled to without his former co-defensive coordinator, Vic Koenning, who left after the 2009 season to join Ron Zook’s staff at Illinois.

In 2009, Kansas State ranked 39th nationally in total defense and 16th against the run. The decline in both areas is alarming and something the Wildcats will have to improve upon to become a Big 12 contender.

It’s almost unfair to point out the flaws for Kansas, which endured one of its most difficult seasons under new coach Turner Gill.

I don’t know where the Jayhawks’ are headed. I’m not sure Gill is the right man for this job and a new athletic director will be coming on board soon. It’s difficult to point to anything positive about Kansas football, but Gill, to his credit, sounds resolute about the future and optimistic about where the Jayhawks are headed. I’m not sure anybody else feels his excitement.

* So, according to ESPN and its “anonymous sources,” some players for the Miami Heat are unhappy with their coach, Erik Spoelstra.

Spoelstra

Spoelstra

You know, it’s these kind of stories that make it difficult to like professional athletes and what’s left of journalism, which in some cases isn’t much.

First of all, “anonymous sources” are a flimsy base on which to build a story. If players aren’t willing to come forward and identify themselves, then what do their words really mean? And why would ESPN.com be so eager to go with such unsupported accusations?

Because in the hunger to be the first with a story and to make the biggest splash, solid journalism is paying a price.

OK, I’ll get off that soapbox.

It isn’t a surprise that the Heat is reeling in the wake of its 8-7 record. Wasn’t this supposed to be the next NBA dynasty? Weren’t pundits, including yours truly, predicting a 60-win season, at least?

Instead, the Heat hasn’t been able to get on the same page. Not surprising, since the team is trying to incorporate LeBron James and Chris Bosh into a system that already had Dwyane Wade. The three superstars haven’t jelled and Spoelstra looks like he’s the victim of an idea that was never going to work, at least not until the Heat can surround the three superstars with a few other capable players.

It could be just a matter of time until Heat general manager Pat Riley comes to the sideline to coach the Heat, although it doesn’t sound like that’s something he wants to do. At least not while the team is a jumbled mess of superstar ego.

There have been reports than Spoelstra has been hesitant to get tough on the likes of James and Bosh, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. According to ESPN.com:

Exhibit A was a recent shootaround in which Spoelstra told James that he had to get more serious. The source said Spoelstra called James out in front of the entire team, telling him, “I can’t tell when you’re serious.”

“He’s jumping on them,” one source said. “If anything, he’s been too tough on them. Everybody knows LeBron is playful and likes to joke around, but Spoelstra told him in front of the whole team that he has to get more serious. The players couldn’t believe it. They feel like Spoelstra’s not letting them be themselves.”

Be themselves? You mean to tell me an NBA head coach is trying to instill some discipline into his team?

The nerve of this guy.

Gotta tell you, LeBron is really starting to irritate me. Actually, that started months ago with his televised ESPN circus when he announced he was taking his game to South Beach.

Well, how’s that sand taste, LeBron?

* Finally, I wonder how many people are watching the “Airplane” and “Naked Gun” movies today in the wake of Leslie Nielsen’s death? Bunches, I’m guessing.

Fade to white?

I’m in the press box at Washburn, awaiting the 6A state championship football game between Wichita Heights and Olathe North.

This is a monumental game for Heights and for the City League. Imagine if the Falcons and Bishop Carroll, which will meet Blue Valley in the 5A championship game in Emporia today, both win. That would be a strong boost for a league that hasn’t done much in football -at least on the state-wide level – for many years.

I like Heights in this game and here’s why. Try to stay with me here, because my analysis here is highly detailed and full of football insider stuff.

Yes, I think Heights wins today because Olathe North is dressed in all white – jerseys, pants and helmets. Yes, Olathe white helmetsNorth has pulled a KU on us here today. Have you seen those ugly uniforms the Jayhawks are wearing today in their game against Missouri? Apparently, Kansas hadn’t worn all white since 1978 and for good reason. It’s a terrible look.

Nothing says “pansy” like all-white football uniforms. And especially white helmets. KU was doomed the second the Jayhawks took the field today. As I write this, Missouri leads, 21-0.

Speaking of Kansas-Missouri, one of the nicknames for the game is “Arrowhead Armageddon,” because for the past four years the contest has been played at the home of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Armageddon, if I’m thinking correctly, is defined as: The scene of the final battle between the kings of the Earth at the end of the world.

First of all, if the end of the world is near I certainly don’t want to be stuck at a KU-Mizzou football game. Secondly, if MU and KU are the kings of the Earth, I don’t want to see the queens.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I thought officials at both schools wanted to soften the verbs in this rivalry. Isn’t that why we’re not supposed to refer to Kansas-Missouri as a border war? Instead, it’s now most often referred to as a border showdown. But isn’t Armageddon more serious than a war? I’m pretty sure that when we reach Armageddon, most of the fighting will be over.

* Well, Boise State blew it. The destruction of the BCS, which the Broncos were supposed to help initiated by beating Nevada on Friday night, instead blew up in Boise’s face with a thrilling overtime loss to the Wolfpack.

That’s it for Boise, which will probably play in a non-BCS bowl game even with an 11-1 record. That’s life outside of the BCS conferences where perfection is mandatory if you have designs on getting in there with the big boys.

Brotzman

Brotzman

If you only feel sorry for one person in your life, make it Boise State senior kicker Kyle Brotzman. He missed a 26-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in regulation against Nevada, then botched a 29-yard attempt in overtime. Either kick would have given Boise State at least a fighting chance to play in the national championship game.

Instead, who knows where the Broncos will land for a bowl game. And Brotzman’s name is sure to go down in Boise State infamy.

Too bad.

Just last season, it was Brotzman who surprised TCU with a 29-yard pass completion to teammate Kyle Efaw that set up the winning touchdown in Boise State’s 17-10 win over the Horned Frogs in the Fiesta Bowl. Lined up in field-goal formation, Boise State coach Chris Petersen, as he’s prone to do, called a play nobody expected and Brotzman delivered in a big way.

And now this.

Brotzman had made 13 of 16 field-goal attempts going into Friday night’s game and hit a 33-yarder earlier. He made the first 118 PATs of his college career before seeing that streak end last season. He has been one of the best kickers in the Western Athletic Conference, a guy who had made 13 of 14 inside 50 yards before the two misses against Nevada.

Bizarre. And heartbreaking for the kid. Kickers have a tough life. They’re expected to make field goals. So when they’re successful, it’s normally ho-hum. But when they miss, it can be Armageddon. Or close.

My Facebook Friend

Coryanne Graham

Coryanne Graham

Coryanne Graham

Coryanne is an old Eagle cohort. Well, she’s not old. For me to classify Cory as old would be laughable. She used to work as a page designer, heady stuff for a lowly sports columnist. For quite a while, she designed Page 1. Needless to say, my Page 1 appearances over the years have been few and far between. I was born for Page 24, which is where I’m most comfortable. I never got to know Cory particularly well. In fact, I can remember only a few conversations with her. I think she’s quiet and, of course, I’m aloof.

But the conversations we did have were pleasant, if not revealing. That’s why they invented Facebook for revelations.

Here’s what Cory had to say about herself and our Facebook friendship:

I am a snarky, tea-drinking, NPR-listening, west-side soccer mom and proud Jayhawk. And I know Bob from my eight years working as a designer and art director at the Eagle. Though I didn’t often work in Sports, a person couldn’t work in that newsroom and not know Bob. A newsroom is sort of like a family, albeit an unconventional one that eats a lot of take-out, and Facebook is as good a place as any to keep track of your extended family.

Torn by the BCS

Reason No. 3,478 to hate the BCS and what it does to college football:
I like Auburn. I like Cam Newton, regardless of all the allegations floating around out there. I like Gene Chizik, the Tigers’ coach. I like the way Auburn fought back against Alabama on Friday in Tuscaloosa to beat the Tide, remain unbeaten and stay on track to play in the BCS championship game.
So, if I like Auburn and yada, yada, yada, why did I want Alabama to win the game? Not because I have any affinity for the Tide or Coach Nick Saban. Only because I want a BCS train wreck and an Alabama win likely would have knocked Auburn out of the national championship picture and opened up a spot for Boise State, most likely, or TCU.
Yes, my hatred for all things BCS colors everything else in the way I perceive college football. And it’s not good. The only thing I root for in this sport is a way to finally put the BCS out of its miserable existence so as to instill a playoff, preferably a 16-team playoff. But at this point, I’ll take anything.
I hate everything about the BCS – even the letters B, C and S. Since my name is Bob, hating the letter B is an issue. Without it, I would simply be named O and that’s not a name that really suits me.
I wasn’t devastated that Auburn won. As I wrote, I like Auburn. The Tigers pulled off an incredible comeback on enemy turf, overcoming a 24-0 deficit and winning on a day when Newton wasn’t as scintillating as he normally is. Everybody, it seemed, was picking Alabama to win the game and with good reason. The Tide, after all, is the defending national champion.
But Auburn came through. Part of me was happy; part of me was disgusted. These are the trials and tribulations we face with a system so flawed that it creates mass confusion. All other sports clear up confusion with a postseason designed to do so. Not college football. Not the BCS.

I’m looking forward to watching Kansas play Ohio tonight in Las Vegas, although I expect a blowout. I get my first live look at the Jayhawks on Thursday, when they play UCLA at Allen Fieldhouse.
This is setting up to be an incredible season of college basketball in our state and I’m excited about it. I loved being in Kansas City’ for the CBE Classic this week and even though Kansas State played poorly in losing to Duke, I expect the Wildcats to bounce back.
Tonight’s game against Texas Southern will not be a problem. Kansas State’s next semi-serious test will be next Friday, when the Cats play at Washington State. On Dec. 18, K-State will play Florida in a tournament in Sunrise, Fla.
Back to Kansas. ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said on the Duke-KSU broadcast the other night that the Big 12 championship still goes through Lawrence.
He made that statement because K-State is the preseason favorite to win the conference title. And I think the Wildcats have a legitimate chance.
But I have to agree with Vitale about KU. I think the Jayhawks are a better team than they were last season with Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry.
At this time last season, I was writing about the Jayhawks’ lack of chemistry. And that was pretty much the ongoing storyline for KU during the 2009-10 season. Collins, I think, tried to do too much when things were going poorly. Aldrich regressed noticeably as an offensive player and Henry, while having some nice games, was not as consistent as I expected him to be.
This season’s team looks to be in sync already with a lot of veterans. The Jayhawks still have stars (Marcus Morris, for sure), but it looks like a much deeper and balanced team.
Which makes me wonder where freshman Josh Selby will fit in when he becomes eligible on Dec. 18, when KU will play a home game against Southern California.
Selby is going to play and play a lot. He’s on par with Duke’s Kyrie Irving as one of the best freshmen guards in the country. Irving is a dynamo for the Blue Devils and Selby can be the same for Kansas.
But it will be interesting to see how KU coach Bill Self incorporates Selby into the rotation. He probably won’t start games at first, but there’s no doubt Selby is going to be a 25-minute player sooner or later.
With so many veterans, the transition should go smooth. But it will be worth watching.

Happy Thanksgiving

I’ll be back on the blog Friday. Until then, feel free to eat.

When will Joe go?

Why do we care so much whether Joe Paterno returns next season to coach football at Penn State?

It’s obviously about his age. He’s 83 and has battled a few health problems this year. Show me an 83-year-old who doesn’t battle health problems.

Paterno – Joe Pa – is Penn State football. He’s been on the sideline as head coach for 45 years. The Nittany Lions have enjoyed a resurgence in recent seasons and are 7-4 this season going into Saturday’s regular-season finale against Michigan State.

During the Big 10′s weekly teleconference this week, Paterno told reporters that he intends on returning to coach in 2011, the final year of a three-year contract. After Penn State’s 3-3 start, there was some grumbling among fans as to whether Paterno was the right coach going forward.

I don’t know if he is. But I know that as long as Paterno wants to coach it will be next to impossible to remove him. And it sure sounds like he wants to coach.

I imagine the dynamics at Penn State are different than at most places in the country. I can’t imagine Paterno has a lot of day-to-day, hands-on duties with his football team, although I’m sure he shows up at the practices and makes his wishes known. Penn State’s assistant coaches have more responsibility than most staffs, I would think, simply because Paterno is 83.

Some quick hits from my world of entertainment:

I can’t wait to see the re-make of “True Grit” with Jeff Bridges in the John Wayne role. However, I’ve read it’s not a true re-make; that the story is different. Good. I’d see anything that includes Bridges, and in this movie there’s the bonus of Matt Damon and Josh Brolin.

“Dexter” is having another fantastic season. Julie Stiles has been great, but Peter Weller (RoboCop) is stealing every scene he’s in. I actually feel sorry for people who aren’t watching “Dexter” on Showtime.

I’m midway through Season 2 of “The Wire” and it’s one of the best television shows I’ve ever watched.

I love “Pawn Stars” on the history channel. You’re going to see me on that show somebody. If I just owned something that was worth something.

Give me some music ideas, people. What should I be listening to? I’m stuck in classic rock and feel like I should be listening to more contemporary stuff. Help.

Who is the Opinion Line contributor?

Here’s a post from The Eagle’s Opinion Line from this week. Of course, OL posts are anonymous, but I have the strange talent of being able to break through the anonymity:


Nobody in front of Bozo. WSU player makes a great play. Bozo gets excited, stands up in front of me. Now I miss the play. Come on, people, think of those behind you in the stands.

This person is old. Not Paterno old, but old. It’s a man, probably one who has been going to Shocker games since Dave Stallworth was in diapers. And, by god, he doesn’t want to have to stand at a college basketball game. In his mind, there are inherent freedoms in being an American as one of them is to not feel compelled to stand. In fact, if he had his way, Americans would do a whole lot more sitting. Alas, college basketball is an emotional sport and people stand. Some people would prefer standing for an entire game, which infuriates this old man. He sits. He’s always sat. And he always will.

Go with the Cats

The old bones don’t get as excited (do bones get excited?) as they used to, but I arrived at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., really early today. It has to have something to do with my anticipation of tonight’s Kansas State-Duke game in the championship game of the CBE Classic.

What a game. And to think K-State, which just a few years ago would have not belonged on the same practice floor with a program such as Duke’s, is on this stage, in this setting, playing in a game the nation will be watching.

And you know what? I think the Wildcats are the favorites. I know Duke is the defending national champion with many key players returning and, of course, another blue-chip recruiting class. I know a guy named Krzyzewski is still calling the shots for the Blue Devils. I know, I know, I know.

But what I’m seeing from Kansas State so far this season is a team with even more purpose and more intensity than last season. Frank Martin has a system firmly entrenched now in his fourth season and it’s not a system for the queasy. K-State will get after Duke the same way it got after Gonzaga Monday night in a semifinal game.

I was asked earlier today what the Wildcats need to do to beat Duke. Not so fast there, fella. How about this: What does Duke have to do to beat Kansas State? I think that’s a more applicable question.

Listen, Duke is great and worthy of its No. 1 ranking. And in a way, this game could ultimately cost Kansas State, even if the Wildcats win. If there’s another hook-up between the two teams in March, for instance, the Blue Devils will be better off for having played this game. If you have to play against Kansas State – and nobody wants to – it’s probably beneficial to get a second chance after you’ve maybe learned something.

The first time against the Wildcats’ intense pressure – on both ends of the floor – doesn’t usually go well.

This should be a classic. Duke is probably the country’s most intelligent team and extremely talented, too. Big Mason Plumlee had a breakout 25-point, 12-rebound game in the Devils’ win over Marquette. But Plumlee wasn’t pushed much; the Golden Eagles lack the kind of size to match up with a player like him.

Kansas State has the size. And a lot of players who possess size. If the Wildcats shoot the ball from the perimeter anywhere close to the way they did Monday night and do a reasonable job at the free-throw line – 70 percent or better – this is their game.

I like K-State, 81-76.

* In Maui, Wichita State salvaged a game it had to have, easily beating host Chaminade. The story isn’t the win – it was expected – but the continued development of 6-foot-5 junior David Kyles, who had 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Kyles is becoming a star right before our eyes. He’s not showing the mental lapses he did during his first two seasons and this guy is a gifted athlete. In fact, I struggle to think of anyone like him. He reminds me of Vince Smith, a Shocker from the 1970s who could jump out of the gym and fly down the court. Smith was about the same size as Kyles and also an outstanding shooter.

But Kyles is a highlight reel. His dunks were made for Top 10 plays. He plays fearlessly and looks to be harnessing all of that ability into one really nice package.

Through three games, Kyles is averaging 19 points and has made 22 of 34 field-goal attempts. He’s stroking three-pointers and is an adequate defensive player who is getting better.

The only rub with Kyles is his inability, so far, to get to the free-throw line – he’s shot only two free throws so far.

It’s early, but Kyles is tearing it up.

That’s a tough one

* Wichita State should have beaten Connecticut today. You can make the argument that the Shockers did beat UConn in the Maui Classic.

But they didn’t beat Kemba Walker. They barely made Walker, the Huskies’ sensational guard, make a  pass. Instead of clamping down on Walker and protecting a nine-point lead in the second half, Wichita State continued with straight up man-to-man defense and

Walker

Walker

Walker scored at will, allowing UConn to come back and win, 83-79.

The Shockers led 60-51 with 9:26 to play and were outscored 32-19 the rest of the way. Walker scored 21 of those UConn points mostly by driving to the basket and either finishing or getting fouled. He scored 29 of his 31 points in the second half after playing only a few minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.

Yes, Walker is a great player. But the Shockers allowed him to be greater than he is by not switching up defensively. It was obvious WSU didn’t have a player quick enough to keep Walker from doing his thing and the Shockers’ help defense was non-existent.

I’m sure some people will dwell on the disparity in free-throw opportunities. Connecticut went to the line 44 times; Wichita State only 13. There were a couple of really questionable calls made down the stretch, one on WSU’s Gabe Blair who appeared to get a clean block on a Walker driving lay-up but was whistled and another on an illegal screen by Garrett Stutz.

But the real key to the loss was that WSU’s experience, which was the biggest factor in building that nice lead, went away late. The Shockers played tentative on the defensive end and forced bad shots in the final couple of minutes.

This was such an important game and one WSU had in hand. A win would have sent the Shockers against No. 2-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday, provided the Spartans beat Chaminade later today. That is a formality.

Instead, WSU will play Chaminade, a blah game that will do nothing for its RPI. And when you’re Wichita State and a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, RPI means a lot.

Early returns don’t look great for the Valley, which could easily send only its conference tournament champion to the 68-team NCAA Tournament. The Shockers, though, should be a good enough team to get an at-large spot in the tournament if they don’t win the Valley tournament championship. However, WSU’s at-large resume took a hit Monday and not getting to play Michigan State is another jolt.

On the postive side, how good a tandem are Toure Murry and David Kyles becoming? Both made big shots and appear to be rounding into one of the finest backcourt duos around. They combined for 37 points on 13-of-24 shooting, although Murry did take an ill-advised three-pointer in the final minutes when the Shockers needed to find a much better shot.

Worries?

Stutz looked slow and out of place while playing only 12 minutes. He has started the regular season slowly and the Shockers need him to help the steady J.T. Durley with frontcourt scoring. Outside of Durley, the Shockers had no consistent inside scoring threat.

UConn had five freshmen on the floor Monday and the Huskies were beatable. But it was a junior, Walker, who decided he was going to beat the Shockers pretty much on his own. And the Shockers allowed it to happen.

* Nebraska coach Bo Pelini issued something that people will say is an apology Monday for his sideline behavior during Saturday’s Huskers loss at Texas A&M.

Really, all Pelini said was that he made his attacks on the officials personal and that he shouldn’t have done that. And he insisted things are OK between himself and Nebraska freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez, who was the target of one of Pelini’s many tirades.

Still to be heard from is Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, one of the most gentlemanly coaches in college football history. It didn’t seem like Osborne ever raised his voice when he was Nebraska’s coach. I’m curious what he thinks about Pelini’s demeanor, which became the focus of Saturday’s game.

* I’m in Kansas City and will write about Kansas State’s game against Gonzaga tonight in the semifinals of the CBE Classic at the Sprint Center.

This should be fun. In all my years of covering the NCAA Tournament, this will be my first in-person look at Gonzaga. The contrast in styles tonight should be stark.

Duke and Marquette meet in the other semifinal and the winners play in the championship game Tuesday night. Of course, Kansas State-Duke is the game everybody here wants to see. Let’s hope that’s the case.

That crazy Bo

Just a quick note on a busy Sunday. I’ll check back with more on the blog later today, but I wanted to get a thought out there on Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini.

Big 10,or whatever you’re going to be called, take him. Please. Now.

Pelini loses it

Pelini loses it

What an embarrassment Pelini was on the Nebraska sideline during the Huskers’ 9-6 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday night. Ranting and raving all night against his player and especially the officiating crew, which called a shaky game. No doubt about it. Some of those flags shouldn’t have been flags, especially a late hit against Courtney Osbourne’s late in the game after he made a clean hit on A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. That’s football, folks, and Osbourne shouldn’t have been called for a penalty.

That doesn’t excuse Pelini’s overall boorish behavior. Fans watching that game on ABC who had no connection to either team must have been thinking to themselves: “This guy’s nuts.”

And almost 100 percent of those unconnected fans must have decided to go ahead and root for Texas A&M because of Pelini’s antics.

Not that Nebraska fans care about that. They have an unwavering “us against the world” mentality that has worked for decades. But Pelini is no Tom Osborne or even Frank Solich, gentlemen who competed like the dickens but didn’t make fools of themselves in doing so.

The ABC cameras couldn’t avoid Pelini, yet the ABC commentators never said much of anything about his behavior except to acknowledge that he was upset. Neither my guy Brent Musburger nor analyst Kirk Herbstreit called Pelini out about how his madness was potentially costing the Huskers the game. He drew a half-the-distance penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct in the fourth quarter that put the football at about Nebraska’s own 5-yard-line. Fortunately for Pelini, Nebraska moved the ball out of that dangerous territory without paying a bigger price.

There are Nebraska fans who believe the Big 12 – and its officials – are out to get the Huskers because of their impending move to the Big 10. Conspiracy theorists are almost always wrong, and this case is no different. They would argue that 16 penalties to A&M’s 2 is a wide enough disparity to convince the naysayers that the conference does, indeed, have it out for NU. But I saw only a couple of shaky calls go against NU, albeit the Roberts late hit was a huge one.

Officials are human and after being screamed at incessantly by Pelini, it’s plausible that their eyes might have been more closely trained on the Nebraska players. But I was struck at the calmness retained by the back judge who was catching most of Pelini’s wrath. He never lost his cool, at least that I could see during the telecast. And he never backed down to the bully.

I haven’t much cared for Pelini since he called out Kansas State’s Bill Snyder during a game in Lincoln earlier this decade, a game K-State won. Pelini, then an assistant, thought the Wildcats had tried to run up the score late and he wasn’t at all shy about letting Snyder know his feelings. It was a classless move.

Pelini reportedly has made attempts to gain more self control over the years. Now that he’s the head coach of one of the country’s most traditional college football programs, self control makes sense. But self control flew out the window Saturday night and Pelini was left looking like a lunatic.

He’ll be gone soon. Good riddance.

Odds and ends

A few short-hitters on a Friday:

Headed to Oklahoma City today to see Barry Sanders’ son, Barry, Jr., play in a Class 3A playoff game for Heritage Hall, that city’s version of Wichita Collegiate.

Kind of wish I were going to be here tonight. Lots of great things going on: Bishop Carroll at Hutchinson, Dodge City at Heights, Shocker volleyball vs. an outstanding Northern Iowa team, the big ABBA show at The Orpheum.

Look for my column on Kid Sanders in Sunday’s paper. Really curious to see him. He’s bigger than Barry (about 6-feet and 190 pounds) and is being heavily recruited already, as a junior, and has narrowed his list of potential choices to four: Oklahoma State, Alabama, UCLA and Florida State. It’s difficult for me to believe he’ll end up anywhere other than OSU, where his father won the Heisman Trophy in 1988.

Looks like they’ll only be using one end zone at Wrigley Field for Saturday’s Illinois-Northwestern game.

Which begs the question: Why is this game being played at Wrigley?

I know, it’s fashionable now to play football games at baseball stadium. But there’s not enough room in Wrigley, which is something the organizers of the game maybe should have known earlier. Yes?

Anyway, only the west end zone will be used; the east end zone is too close to Wrigley’s right-field wall and officials fear significant injuries.

Bruce Pearl is really difficult to like. He’s smarmy and all his supposed charm just repulses me.

So I was happy that SEC commissioner Mike Slive decided to suspend Pearl, Tennessee’s basketball game, for the first eight games of the conference season. NCAA penalties have not been handed down and probably won’t be until the spring for Pearl’s part in not telling the truth about recruiting parties held at his home.

Unbelievably, Tennessee is standing behind Pearl, who should have been fired for this stuff. It shows how desperate universities are to win in athletics these days.

Will I be watching some of Sunday’s NASCAR race from Homestead, Fla., the final event of the longest season in sports? I just might because of the drama as Denny Hamlin tries to hold off Jimmie Johnson, who is chasing his fifth Sprint Cup championship in a row, and Kevin Harvick, who is within striking distance.

I’ll at least check out the race in the middle and see if it’s worth following.

* Some college football picks:

Colorado 24, Kansas State 20

Oklahoma State 37, Kansas 7

Oklahoma 40, Baylor 24

Texas A&M 24, Nebraska 21

Missouri 35, Iowa State 24

Boise State 44, Fresno State 17

Virginia Tech 30, Miami (Fla.) 20

Ohio State 31, Iowa 20

Shock Talk

Chris Ronen I Soph. I Track and Field (javelin) I Newton

Ronen

Ronen

Why are you such a fan of sports-talk radio?

I just love sports and I love to hear people talk about sports and give their opinions. I love to hear people call in and give their take. With some of them, I couldn’t disagree more. But it’s just the idea of people giving their opinions on things. I like that.

What do you miss about playing football?

I miss the team and my friends big time. That’s really the only part that I miss about it, jus6 playing with my best friends from high school. Three of my best friends are playing in college at Kansas State, Friends and Adams State in Colorado. They even talk about how much they miss high school football. They say it’s not the same, that college is more work.

You’re studying law enforcement. What kind of law enforcement person do you want to be?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. I red-shirted my first year here at Wichita State after Tommy John surgery. So when I get to my fifth year, I’m planning on doing some Master’s work that I hope will lead me to doing something in federal law enforcement – Secret Service, DEA, U.S. Marshal. I’m not sure yet, but something like that, I hope.

You mentioned you love a lot of styles of music, but especially classic rock? Where’d that come from?

This is something people your age get a kick out of. My friends and I, we’ll be driving around and Foreigner comes on, or Styx, some of the 80s hair stuff. That’s something we all identify with. We painted houses all summer in high school and we listed to 104.5 The Fox all day. To me, doing that just brought back memories. (Foreigner’s) “Juke Box Hero” is my favorite. I can’t even explain why, it’s just such a good song.