• BIG GAME FOR BULLPUP BOYS — The digging-out process hopefully will start tonight for the McPherson High boys basketball team.
Saddled with an uncharacteristic 3-3 record, the Bullpups head to Buhler tonight to take on a red-hot Crusader team that has won four straight since opening the season with a last-second loss to Goddard.
The senior-less Bullpups need a road victory over a good team to jump-start their season and bolster their somewhat-shaky confidence. They have meandered so far, unable to put together one of their patented long winning streaks, though a beefed-up schedule has something to do with it.
MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon no doubt did some tinkering of his club during the holiday break. The biggest flaw so far has been an inability to score off its defense, which has been a Bullpup staple. They are getting very few easy baskets in transition, instead relying on a halfcourt offense that includes more reliance on 3-point shooting than in recent years.
Buhler will provide the Bullpups a stern test and has to be enhanced by knowing it’s playing a team that hasn’t yet hit its top form. It plays at a quick pace and has a terrific shooter in Tanner Lackey and an emerging big man in Grant Owen, who is 6-7 and takes up a lot of space in the paint.
At this point, the Bullpups are tied for the No. 3 sub-state seed with Ulysses as both teams are 3-3. Hays is off to a flying 5-0 start, with Buhler a game back.
• GIRLS GO FOR SIX IN A ROW — Chris Strathman’s McPherson High girls blasted three straight opponents after losing to Bishop Miege, with defense the common thread of the victories.
MHS, 5-1, takes on a Buhler team tonight that is 1-4 and has had trouble putting points on the board. In fact, the Crusaders have had games of 17 and 20 as they’re having a hard time moving on without All-Stater Jessica Steffen.
The Bullpups currently are the No. 2 sub-state seed as Hays has gotten off to a surprising 4-0 start. Ulysses currently is 3-3, so Buhler is the No. 4 seed.
• WHAT A ROSE BOWL — I didn’t watch many bowl games this year, but I did watch Monday’s Rose Bowl and it easily has to be the best of the endless bowl season.
USC and Penn State went back and forth as the teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense and the game also featured some wild momentum swings.
USC probably saved the NCAA bigwigs some embarrassment. Penn State was the team that was probably most angered when Ohio State was picked for the Final Four, even though it lost to Penn State and didn’t even win its conference. The Buckeyes then offered little pushback against Clemson, being shellacked 31-0.
USC freshman quarterback Sam Darnold probably elevated himself into next year’s Heisman Trophy conversation with a fabulous game, throwing for 453 yards and five touchdowns.
I just hope the championship game Monday between Alabama and Clemson comes close to duplicating the excitement of the Rose Bowl.
• KU, K-STATE MEET TONIGHT — The students are still on break, but the usual 16,300 will show up tonight for the first installment of this year’s Sunflower Showdown at Allen Field House.
Both teams have just one loss, though Kansas State has played a somewhat suspect schedule. Nobody really knows just how good this Wildcat team is, but tonight will be the litmus test.
One thing the Wildcats have going for them is that they could have the advantage inside. KU can hardly expect for Landen Lucas to play as well as he did last week against TCU, while Kansas State can counter with D.J. Johnson and Dean Wade. KU’s Carlton Bragg, who spells Lucas since KU has gone with a one-in, four-out look, could be a key as he needs to step up and play big.
How well the Kansas State guards play is its key. Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes are talented, but we’ll see how they fare against KU’s dynamic Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham. Wesley Iwundu is Kansas State’s best player and he needs to play like it.
While KSU coach Bruce Weber is 0-4 in Lawrence, with the average loss coming by nearly 20 points a game, I have a feeling Kansas State will take the Jayhawks down to the final 5 minutes.