• UNDERWOOD TOP HIRE — According to Athlon Sports Magazine, McPherson native Brad Underwood was the No. 1 hire in college basketball during this past offseason.
He was given an “A-plus” grade by the magazine, the only new coach in the country to receive that mark. TCU’s new coach Jamie Dixon, formerly of Pittsburgh, and Bryce Drew, formerly of Valparaiso and now of Vanderbilt, earned “A’s.”
When Oklahoma State let go Travis Ford, Underwood was its prime target and it’s a big move up the ranks for the former Bullpup.
Here is what Athlon said:
“The once-proud Oklahoma State program is in need of a jolt. The Cowboys haven’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2000 under Eddie Sutton and they’re coming off their worst season since 1986-87. In Underwood, Oklahoma State adds a proven winner. He lost one Southland Conference game in three seasons at Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks notched two NCAA Tournament upsets, defeating No. 5 seed VCU in 2014 and No. 3 seed West Virginia in 2016. Underwood, a longtime assistant under Frank Martin at Kansas State and South Carolina, will be at home in a league with pressure defenses like Texas and West Virginia. Stephen F. Austin led the nation in turnover rate last season and placed in the top 15 in each of Underwood’s three seasons in Nacogdoches.”
Underwood’s team has been picked mostly eighth or ninth in most of the Big 12’s preseason polls, with TCU the consensus No. 10. However, he will have a terrific guard duo in Juwan Evans and Phil Forte, but needs help in the frontcourt. It will probably be a tough year for Underwood, but if the Cowboys buy into his frenetic defensive style, they’ll be a team nobody wants to play.
• WORLD SERIES PICKS — I’m not one to jump off the bandwagon.
At the start of the year, I had the San Francisco Giants winning their fourth World Series title of the decade, mainly because it’s an even year. The Giants have won titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
I won’t go back on my pick, though at this point it’s probably a fool’s pick. The Chicago Cubs are clearly baseball’s best team as their starting pitching is remarkable.
But Golden State easily was the best team in the NBA this past season, but didn’t close the deal in the NBA Finals as it lost to Cleveland. The Cubs probably will look at the season the same way if they don’t win it all.
As for the American League, look out for Toronto. It’s riding the wave of the play-in game and opened by hammering Texas in Game 1 Thursday.
As I recall, I picked the Yankees as the best team in the American League. I thought the lockdown bullpen of Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman would put them over the top. Miller and Chapman are in the playoffs, both for Cleveland and the Cubs as they were dealt before the trade deadline.
• JACKSON OVERHYPED — I saw one All-American college basketball list where KU freshman Josh Jackson was named to the first team.
What a joke.
Jackson is not even going to be the best player on the Jayhawks. That honor goes to Frank Mason, followed closely by Devonte’ Graham.
Too many people get hung up on athleticism. Jackson is a great leaper, but watching KU’s scrimmage on TV I noticed he doesn’t shoot it great as he has a bit of hitch in his form.
Hopefully KU fans won’t believe Jackson is the next Andrew Wiggins, another freshman who had to play under delusional expectations. Wiggins was one-and-done and never lived up to the fans’ hype even though he had a very good year and has gone on to become a better pro.