Talking freshmen, Royals

By Steve Sell
April 07, 2015

Tuesday’s thoughts...

• FABULOUS FRESHMEN — There’s been an infinite amount of talk and hype surrounding Kentucky’s fabulous freshmen during the college basketball season and rightfully so.

But flying under the radar has been the superstar class at Duke, which stepped into the national spotlight when it mattered most.

Had it not been for the Blue Devils’ Fab Four, it would have been Wisconsin parading around with the national championship trophy Monday night.

Tyus Jones, for the most part, won the game for Duke as it wore down Wisconsin at the end for a 68-63 victory. He scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half, and time and again made the big shot when Duke needed it most.

However, it was unheralded Grayson Allen who was the surprise performer. Averaging only 4 points a game, he burned the Badgers for 16 off the bench, showing no fear in taking the ball right at the heart of the Wisconsin defense. Jones and Allen basically lifted the Devils in the second half.

Of course, everyone knows that fellow freshman Jahil Okafor will be the No. 1 or 2 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, but he battled foul trouble all night. However, he came up big late and finished with 10 points.

The final freshman, Justice Winslow, slashed his way to 11 points.

All in all, the Duke first-year quartet accounted for 60 of the 68 points. 

Now that the Devils have won the title, three of the four frosh probably will be gone. Okafor figures to be joined by Jones and Winslow. I’ve seen mock drafts where Winslow is as high as No. 5 and Jones is in the Top 10.

The game evolved about how I expected. I really thought Wisconsin would suffer from fatigue because of all the emotion it expended against Kentucky. That certainly was the case for springy 6-9 forward Sam Dekker, who was 6 of 12 from the field, but 0 of 5 from 3-point, including two air balls and a couple of bricks. He really labored at times.

It was a great run by Wisconsin. It does lose National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky, but if Dekker comes back, the Badgers might be the preseason No. 1. They don’t go the McDonald’s All-American route like Duke and Kentucky, relying more on hard-nosed, blue-collar guys.

• PERFECT OPENER — The Kansas City Royals must have hired a Hollywood script writer for their season opener on Monday.

The Royals could do no wrong in dismantling division rival Chicago 10-1 before a roaring sellout crowd at The K. It was the first time in seven years the Royals had won their season opener.

The pitching was impeccable, the defense steady and the offense prolific. While Kansas City is built on pitching and defense, it’s the up-and-down offense that will dictate if this team has a chance to repeat as American League champions.

The Royals’ two offensive newcomers were dynamic. Alex Rios, who I believe is major upgrade over the departed Nori Aoki in right field, was 3 for 4 with a homer and three RBIs. Kendrys Morales, replacing Billy Butler as the DH, walked three times and also roped a double to reach base four times. 

Most promising, though, was Mike Moustakas’ start in the No. 2 slot in the batting order. Moustakas has frustrated Royals management and fans during his career, showing glimpses of being of All-Star ability. Last year he began the year 0 for 21, but on this first day he blasted a homer and had another hit, while showing the ability to take the ball to the opposite field. It’s only one game, but maybe The Moose is maturing into the player that everybody thought he could be.