Archive for Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Fly Route

January 26, 2006

Jim Wooldridge, why do you do this to me?

I thought I had it figured out. I told my family, my friends and my fellow fans that Wooldridge was not the guy for the job, and he politely backed me up through the first half of the season.

All seemed to be following the Wooldridge script into Big 12 play, the Cats losing a heartbreaker on the road and in disgusting fashion to Nebraska, but then I was surprised.

K-State beat KU. Days later K-State beat a decent Texas A&M team. Granted, the game was ugly and the win came in gut-wrenchingly typical don't-sew-it-up-yourself Wooldridge fashion, but it was a win.

And finally the Cats beat Missouri. They beat the heck out of Missouri. I really didn't see that one coming. I thought K-State could win a close one, but 15 points?

Why do I feel that I'm not the only one having a hard time deciding what's going on with our local college basketball teams?

The Big 12 was supposed to be a hairy affair this year and everyone knew it would be a slugging match, but I didn't expect it to unfold this way.

First, I didn't expect Kansas to be as average as they are.

Oh, I hoped.

But I figured the "amazing" freshmen would be, well, amazing. I was equally wrong about the Jayhawk sophomores. To this point in the season, both of KU's two primo classes have been underwhelming.

So what happens next? I think the only thing anyone can honestly say is we have no idea.

I've seen this from Wooldridge and the Cats before. They've had big wins. K-State beat then-No. 10 Texas in 2004. They knocked off Texas, then No. 9 Oklahoma State in 2001 in back-to-back games, but failed to qualify for any postseason tournament.

If the Cats are going anywhere, NIT included, they have to take advantage of the three-consecutive wins they've picked up.

K-State's next game is Saturday at Colorado. It's hard to label it a must win given that Colorado's a pretty solid team and K-State has never fared well away from home, but pulling one out in Boulder, Colo., would go a long way to show this isn't another hiccup of nice wins for the team -- it's a real step forward.

The Cats have winnable games at Baylor and at home against Oklahoma State and Iowa State before facing a toughie on the road at Missouri. The Cats, currently 3-2, can't afford to drop more than one of the next four. Dropping two, or the emotional blow that would come from losing at Baylor or getting stomped by any of those teams would be very tough to bounce back from.

As for KU, I don't see a whole lot easier road ahead, but I don't expect things to continue as dismal as they were when the Jayhawks lost to two rivals in about 48 hours.

KU's immediate future may swing on Saturday's visit to Iowa State. Like everyone else, the Cyclones are up and down and can be very tough at home. A win would be huge for KU. A loss, on the other hand, would make winning the next two at home, Monday against Texas Tech and Feb. 5 against Oklahoma, very tough and all the more crucial.

How will it all translate into NCAA berths? I, again, have no idea.

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