• INVITE PAIRINGS TO BE TOLD WEDNESDAY — Pairings for the 50th annual McPherson Invitational will be announced on Wednesday.
McPherson High is expected to be the No. 1 seed. The Bullpups take a 6-0 record into their home game tonight with winless Rose Hill.
Shawnee Mission East is the probable No. 2 seed. It is 6-1, the only loss coming to highly touted Bishop McGuinnes out of Oklahoma.
Other records at this point are Derby (5-3), Blue Valley West (3-2), Buhler (4-3), Lawrence Free State (4-4) Wichita North (3-5) and Bishop Carroll (2-5). Carroll and North met last Friday with Carroll coming away with a 55-41 win.
While the records of the teams may not be as shiny as those in recent years, all of the schools have big-time reputations. It should make for yet another outstanding tournament, with the first-round games all extremely competitive.
• GREAT ATMOSPHERE AT MOUNDRIDGE — One of our loyal readers emailed me today about the atmosphere at Moundridge Friday night when the Wildcats hosted Inman in what I’ve always dubbed, “The Greatest High School Rivalry West of the Mississippi.”
The fan told me that the gym was packed and the student sections on both sides were terrific. It was what the high school basketball experience should be all about. From what I was told, the noise level was deafening.
It didn’t hurt that the boys’ game was an “instant classic.” Moundridge came from 11 points down with about 3 minutes to play to get the game tied, then won in overtime.
I had breakfast with Moundridge coach Vance Unrau on Saturday and normally he’s quite ebullient. But on this day, he was still feeling the effects of the game, as he was simply physically and emotionally drained. He gave a lot of credit to Inman coach Brett Froese and his team for putting up such a great fight and to his own team for never giving up. Kind of makes me wish I’d been there.
Let’s hope the crowds for the McPherson Invitational next week will be as good. Since this is the 50th year of the event, I’m expecting something special to happen.
• WHAT HILTON MAGIC? — So much has been made about Iowa State's “Hilton Magic.”
And rightfully so. Iowa State has one of the best homecourt advantages in college basketball.
But apparently that fact is lost on the Kansas Jayhawks.
With Monday's 77-70 victory, Kansas now has won nine of its last 10 games in Ames, which is stunning, though not quite as stunning as Kansas being 48-3 against Kansas State in the last 51 meetings.
To be honest, I really thought this was a game Iowa State would get. Kansas was coming off its best performance of the year and normally that's followed by a clunker.
KU did plenty of things to lose. It handled the ball poorly — a grade-school-like 24 turnovers — and hacked away for 26 fouls. Perry Ellis was a nonfactor as it appeared his head was somewhere else on this night.
This was one of those nights, though, where its superior talent simply won the game. The inside play of Joel Embiid was devastating, as he put the team on his shoulders in the second half. And while Andrew Wiggins was tissue soft in taking the ball to the basket and turned it over six times, his numbers were still staggering — 17 points and 19 rebounds. I even saw him smile a couple of times, which means he starting to enjoy the game.
That's something that KU coach Bill Self talked about after the game. He said during nonconference play that his team didn't seem to be enjoying itself, but now that Big 12 play has kicked in, basketball is fun again.
And that's bad news for the rest of the Big 12.
• TOO MUCH TRASH TALKING — While watching the San Francisco-Carolina NFL playoff game on Sunday, all I wanted was to see the officials throw a flag on every play.
The trash talking and woofing between the teams was more than I could stomach. Former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman, now an analyst for Fox, thought the same thing as he implored both teams to cut the crap and just play football.
Carolina was still talking smack when it was behind. That made me want San Francisco to win even more, though the 49ers were hardly choir boys themselves. Anquan Boldin was up in everybody’s face and should have been flagged on one play for a head butt, but it went undetected.
We have great matchups this weekend in both conference championship games. You can bet with the bad blood between San Francisco and Seattle, it’s going to be a fist fight. The Denver-New England game should be more serene, as both are finesse teams.
• BIG GIRLS GAME TONIGHT — The eyes of Kansas will be on Salina tonight.
The girls’ game between Maize and Salina Central could be the premier game in Kansas to date.
Maize is 6-1 and ranked No. 2 in Class 6A. Salina Central is 7-0 and third in 5A, behind private schools Kapaun and Aquinas.
One of Central’s wins came in the season opener against McPherson High. The Mustangs have two of the state’s best players in Kansas State-bound Shaelyn Martin and Nebraska-bound Emily Wood.