Is this the year KU is overtaken?

By Steve Sell
July 20, 2017

Thursday’s thoughts...

• KU STREAK IN JEOPARDY? — The longer the streak goes on, the more we think it could come to an end.

That would be the Kansas Jayhawks’ ownership of the Big 12 basketball championship, which is now at 13 years if you include the years they shared the title.

But as they gear up for No. 14, there may be more questions surrounding this team than any other Bill Self team ever, especially with Wednesday’s announcement that Jack Whitman was leaving the program before he had ever played a game.

Was Whitman going to be a major factor? Probably not, but the 6-9 and 235-pound graduate transfer from William and Mary was a warm body, more importantly a big body that could bang inside every day in practice against Udoka Azubuike. Whitman had a modest career at W & M, but Self spoke highly of him upon his arrival and he figured to be the fourth man in the four-man rotation that Self likes to play.

But this is all that’s left inside — Azubuike (who will never play more than 30 minutes because of stamina issues), Mitch Lightfoot (undersized) and freshman Billy Preston, who looks more like a wing player.

Dwight Coleby might wish now that he had not left. Coleby’s reason for leaving was lack of playing time, but he would have had plenty this year. The player who really put KU in this bind was Carlton Bragg, who showed so much promise as a freshman but went off the rails as a sophomore by being suspended twice. I don’t think Bragg was ever going to live up to his McDonald’s All-American hype, but he was a good offensive player who was serviceable.

Self now has only eight scholarship players to start the season. Sam Cunliffe, a transfer from Arizona State, becomes eligible in mid-December. This is looking more and more like a Self team that for the second year in a row will play with just one big and four perimeter players. Thanks goodness Svi came back or KU would really have been hurting.

Self took a gamble by bringing in three transfers who won’t play until 2018, the Lawson brothers out of Memphis and Charlie Moore of Cal. While it hurts KU for this year, it should make it dynamite in two years if the Lawsons play up to their Memphis form.

You can bet the other Big 12 teams have more hope of wresting the title from KU than they have in a long time.

• QUITE A STREAK — Speaking of streaks, McPherson High’s football team has quite a streak of its own going when it comes to the Shrine Bowl.

For the first time ever, MHS will have two players in the game, Jack Reifschneider and Jared Ruth. They’ll be playing for the West team on July 29 in El Dorado at Butler County’s gorgeous Veterans Stadium.

That makes it 10 straight years that the Bullpups have had a player chosen. Tanner Hawkinson started it off in 2008, though he didn’t play in the game because he was at KU where he wound up starting 48 games in four seasons and then had a brief career in the NFL.

Zach Peterson followed and for the next several years MHS had at least one selection: Joel Piper (2010), Christian Ulsaker (2011), Jordan Hart (2012), Collin French (2013), Garrett Larson (2014), Ty Hart (2015) and Jake Nikkel (2016).

Given the outstanding seniors on this year’s team, I fully expect the Bullpups to have one or two players chosen for the 2018 game.

• SPRINGBOARD FOR ROYALS? — The Kansas City Royals went from one of their most potential crushing losses to one of their most exhilarating victories on Wednesday.

The air went out of Kauffman Stadium in the ninth inning when closer Kelvin Herrera served up a two-run homer, wiping out a 2-1 Royals lead.

But in the home half, Brandon Moss doubled in a run to tie the game at 3 and Alex Gordon, for one of the few times this year, came up huge with a sac fly to score Moss for a 4-3 victory.

What a change in fortunes. A loss and the Royals would have been facing the possibility of being swept today in the finale of the four-game series. Now they have a chance at a series split.

And they gained a game on suddenly slumping Cleveland. The Royals are still right in the middle of the division race even though they have lost 6 of 8 and their offense has gone back on hiatus.

With the Chicago White Sox unloading many of their stars this week and coming to town for three games, tonight’s game with Detroit is big. KC certainly has to believe at worst it will take 2 of 3 from the Chisox and be thinking sweep.