"Too early" college basketball poll just that

By Steve Sell
April 05, 2017

Wednesday’s ramblings while wondering what that bright ball in the sky is...

• TOO EARLY INDEED — There’s been a couple of stories about college basketball’s “Way Too Early Preseason” poll for next year.

The story I read had Kentucky as the No. 1 team in the country. That’s despite the dynamic backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk declaring for the NBA and muscular center Bam Adebayo expected to follow suit anytime now. But because the Wildcats are going to again have the top recruiting class in the country, Kentucky is expected to be a Top 5 team again. The school is nothing more than a stopover for graduating seniors who will be high picks in the NBA draft after their one-and-done season.

I found it interesting that Wichita State, which received no respect from the NCAA Tournament committee by being deemed a No. 10 seed before taking Kentucky down to the wire, is thought of as the No. 4 team. That’s heady stuff for the Shockers, who are expected to have their top 11 players back next year. I haven’t been hearing much about Gregg Marshall rumors, especially since Indiana and Oklahoma State have filled their positions. Marshall has something special going and he can only hope the rumors of the Shockers leaving the Missouri Valley for the American Athletic Conference are true. They definitely need better competition than what the Valley is providing.

Kansas was tabbed for No. 10, but a lot is going to depend on who’s coming back. If Svi, Devonte’ Graham and Legerald Vick all return (Carlton Bragg could be cut loose, given what a headache he was this year) and you throw in the return of Udoka Azubuike (plus Malik Newman and Sam Cunliffe becoming eligible), the Jayhawks should certainly be in the hunt for their 14th straight Big 12 title. Freshman Billy Preston is no Josh Jackson, but certainly a nice addition.

There’s a lot of praise being lavished on West Virginia. The Mountaineers are right behind KU in the faux poll as Bob Huggins has a system in place that’s working. They certainly will be the top challenger to KU, along with Baylor.

Ironically in the story I read, NCAA finalist Gonzaga and national champion North Carolina were Nos. 7 and 8, respectively. Semifinalist South Carolina was nowhere to be found and Oregon was just No. 21.

• GOOD LUCK TO RIDER — I was happy for Clint Rider, but sad for Hesston High, that the Swather football coach is moving up in the ranks.

Rider definitely left his mark on the Hesston program in his four years. The Swathers were 36-9, with the pinnacle being this season as they took second in Class 3A, losing to Rossville 48-42 in a memorable title game. It was one of the most exciting high school football games I’ve covered in a long time as both teams’ explosive offenses couldn’t be stopped.

Rider is the new head coach at Blue Valley Northwest, a school known for its basketball prowess under coaching legend Ed Fritz. But there’s certainly a ton of good athletes at the school and Rider will get the most out of them if his time at Hesston is any indication. It’s a big jump for 3A to 6A and Northwest will be knocking heads with schools like Miege, Mill Valley, Blue Valley and St. Thomas Aquinas. Some call it the most competitive league in Kansas in all sports.

The next Hesston coach has some holes to fill, but there’s still plenty of talent on hand for the Swathers to continue their winning ways.

• ROMO TO THE BOOTH — Oft-injured Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has elected to retire and will join Jim Nantz as CBS’ No. 1 analyst.

It wasn’t that Romo retired that I found more newsworthy, but the fact he was replacing Phil Simms as Nantz’s caddy.

Romo was a very good, capable quarterback. But in no way was he ever in the class of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and other big names. The Cowboys never came close to a Super Bowl sniff and much of his latter career was spent on injured reserve. It’s not like he was a legend retiring, just the fact he played for Dallas brought him extra attention.

I’m a big Simms fan and I thought he worked well with Nantz. To be replaced by somebody with no TV experience has to be a blow for Simms. I just hope he stays with CBS as he’s certainly an analyst I enjoy.