• WHAT TO MAKE OF KU? — From all indications, the Kansas Jayhawks have returned home from Italy after four victories against non-descript competition that probably resembled good NCAA Division II teams.
The Jayhawks weren’t threatened in any of their games and played two of them without big man Udoka Azubuike, who fell ill after the second game.
What the trip came down to was a chance for the Jayhawks to play some low-stress practice games before starting for real in October.
It’s apparent this will be a perimeter-oriented team. Point guard Devonte’ Graham is going to emerge as one of the elite players in the country, while transfer Malik Newman apparently is worth the wait, if his 32-point outburst in the fourth game is an indication, 25 of those points coming in the first half.
Svi is going to be Svi, shooting inconsistently from 3-point range, but enough of a threat to keep opponents from collapsing on the inside against the mammoth Azubuike.
Lagerald Vick is the probable fifth starter as he’s poised for a breakout year. I have to admit I never thought he’d ever be that much of a factor when he signed on, but he’s worked hard and shown some explosiveness in his career.
Billy Preston, KU’s top incoming freshman, may find himself coming off the bench at the start. He tweaked a knee and his minutes were limited late in the proceedings. He’s probably not in the mold of other incoming star freshmen, but he’s probably better than Carlton Bragg and far less than Josh Jackson.
Developing depth (Mitch Lightfoot, Sam Cunliffe and Marcus Garrett especially) is a key since Self is somewhat shorthanded thanks to three incoming transfers who are not eligible until next year. I think Self has to be concerned that he has so many players sitting out, but that should be one heck of a scout team the regulars go up against.
I look for this to be one of Self’s most vulnerable teams in terms of winning the Big 12. He has far less margin of error than most of his past teams. This is a team that will be good if it can rebound, which is the biggest question mark it faces.
• CARDINALS POUND ROYALS — Maybe my struggling St. Louis Cardinals are finally figuring it out.
The Cardinals had been under the .500 mark for more than two months before finally reaching the break-even point Monday by pounding the Royals, 11-3.
St. Louis is now 56-56 and still in the hunt for the AL Central, probably its only avenue to make the playoffs. There’s virtually no way it can qualify as a wild-card, as those spots figure to go to Colorado and Arizona.
The Cardinals have pounded out 24 runs in their last two games after struggling mightily recently. What has bothered me most about the Cardinals is their shoddy fielding, which has been among the worst in the majors.
Kansas City, after winning 10 of 11, has now dropped six of eight and is in danger of dropping out of the wild-card spot as it’s now tied with Tampa Bay for the second spot. The Royals need a well-pitched game from Jason Vargas tonight to get them out of this latest slumber.
• HAPPENINGS AT DERBY — Thanks to Derby High, there’s been no shortage of high school basketball news this summer.
The Derby boys have added nearly 45 points to their offense with the transfers of Tyler Brown (formerly of Valley Center) and Bryant Mocaby (ex-Goddard). Given the Panthers have some big graduation hits, the incomers should help them not miss a beat.
Now comes word that the girls team has added former Wichita State head coach Jody Adams-Birch as an assistant. That should be of great help to head coach Jodie Karsak, whose team probably will start the year ranked No. 1 in Class 6A.
One of Adams-Birch’s former WSU players, Jessica Diamond, has been added as another Derby assistant.
The Panthers will be at the Roundhouse on Dec. 5, which is followed by a game at Bishop Miege.