Shocks in Dixie, Royals Rising
For What it’s Worth
A warm moment with the family Haertl last night—
11 year old Kate, leaning in to her father: “Dad, you’re the best”. 14 year old bother Jake, not biting, replies, “Suck up”. “I’m not a suck up," Kate responds, “I just don’t feel good and when I don’t feel good I’m nice to people”. Eat your heart out Ward Cleaver.
I wasn’t as worried about Tennessee as much as I was Alabama for the Shocks. The Tide hasn’t been up much this year, but they’re long, athletic and capable and the Shocks were coming off a tough, emotional win in Wichita over the Vols. Even the slightest let up would be dangerous against an unbeaten team at home that really needed a win over a highly ranked foe.
It didn’t start well when Cleanthony Early almost scored for Alabama to start the game; fortunately it was one of his few misses of the night. There were still a couple questionable shots and decisions, but his 26 points were needed on a night when a lot of their key people were in foul trouble. 20 of those 26 points came after the break and 11 of them came on 11 attempts from the line. In short, Early looked the part of the NBA prospect on his way to a season high.
Odds and ends---
Even the most hardened of Shocker fan couldn’t go with the conspiracy theory at Alabama; the Shockers outscored the Tide by 11 at the line, hitting 25 of 27. ‘Bama actually had one more field goal than WSU, but the Shocks out rebounded the Tide by 12. Wichita State improves to 3-0 in true road games with a five point win, the same margin they enjoyed at St. Louis. WSU committed just two turnovers in the last nine and a half minutes against pretty fierce pressure, which underscores their poise and toughness, something you have to have to be one of the best road teams in the country, which the Shockers have been over the last three years. Wichita State is now 4-0 against the top 50 in the KenPom (KenPom.com—great site that’s widely respected), with two of those wins coming on the road.
After a pretty arduous run in the conference, it’ll be good to only play a couple of times in the next 12 days, everyone can probably stand to catch their breath and Ron Baker needs a few days to get that bad ankle mended. Games against North Carolina Central and Davidson should be relatively easy tests at home, then its right into conference play with the start of the New Year. What a ride this has already been, but just think about how much more crazy it could get.
One more pitcher… maybe---
The Royals keeping greasing the pan on the hot stove. Kansas City will have more than a reputable lineup next spring; they’ll have a dangerous one. In Omar Infante they pick up one of the best on base guys in the American League, a legitimate two hole guy who can hit in front of Eric Hosmer, Bill Butler and Alex Gordon. The Royals have made solid upgrades offensively at the top of the lineup with Norachicka Aoki and Infante. That KC went four years for a guy who probably made more sense for three (Infante is 32 years old) shows that they are serious about winning now. That urgency is underscored by a payroll that’s expected to exceed $90M. They’re still going to have to get one of the homegrown young guns to come through on the hill, but the Royals are a legitimate playoff contender .