We are hitting another cross over of seasons with basketball finishing up and the start of Royals season and Sporting KC. It's time to manage expectations.
Hoops - The Big 12 comes to an end without any drama in the final week. Kansas wins the league outright, somehow the Jayhawks win another league title despite losing three players to the NBA Draft and two other valuable pieces off a team that made it to the Elite 8.
I still don't think Bill Self and the KU coaching staff gets enough credit for this season. One returning starter and four guys who played less than 20 minutes per game each last year. I know it's “Kansas” but the job they did was remarkable in getting guys to step up their game. Self says says many times winning is a ”relief" but he was more jubilant about this conference title than some others.
Unfortunately at times they've created a beast in that while it's good win to 7x, not following it up is considered by some a failure. Kansas' run of titles will come to an end at some point, but it won't be a failure, disappointment maybe, but not a failure.
Can KU make a long tourney run? Sure. Will they? To me the jury is still out, the good Kansas can, the lackadaisical one can easily get bounced. But isn't that always the tournament?
Missouri has had a tremendous season and will enter the tourney as a very high seed, with a #1 still not out of the realm of possibility. The Tigers can make a long tourney run as well, but there are no guarantees in March. Matchups, matchups, matchups and one bad night sends you packing.
I think the Tigers need to zero in on the defensive end of the floor. I think they have plenty of offense from so many spots, but where they can get into trouble is allowing open looks. While they are tops in turnover margin, which is a great stat, they are last in the Big 12 in FG% defense and 3pt % defense. I think they really zoned in early in the season and I'd like to see them turn it on again.
Baseball – Bob Fescoe asked me this week why I wasn't buying into the Royals winning the division this year. I don't know, maybe the box below. I'm a jilted lover. I went to the '80 World Series and fought with plenty of Cardinal fans when I was growing up in Iowa during the '85 series. But this recent vintage is soooo dark. It has to be about the record at some point.
Place, record, win %, games out of 1st
2004 AL Central 5th 58 104 .358 34
2005 AL Central 5th 56 106 .346 43
2006 AL Central 5th 62 100 .383 34
2007 AL Central 5th 69 93 .426 27
2008 AL Central 4th 75 87 .463 13½
2009 AL Central 4th (Tied) 65 97 .401 21½
2010 AL Central 5th 67 95 .414 27
2011 AL Central 4th 71 91 .438 24
Look I believe the Royals are in better shape than they have been for years, but I'm to the point that I cannot get all geeked up until they actually DO it. I will enjoy this season and be hopeful of good things to come, just not ready to bank on it yet. I won't be negative and I don't think they CAN'T do it, I just need to see it happen.
Soccer – Sporting KC is embarking on 2012 with a lot of momentum. Great crowds, great energy surrounding the franchise, and an on the field rally which nearly had them in the MLS title game. Now what for an encore?
SKC is in great position on the field to build off of last season. They've brought back the core group, added some veterans and reported to camp in terrific shape. Now it's about how will they handle expectations? In 2011 they snuck up on people, not so this year. It's a long season, unfortunately they can't fast forward to the playoffs and make up for last year's disappointing exit.
But I expect this team to contend all year and not get off to the very slow start they had last year thanks in part to the 10 game road trip to start the season. It should be another fun year on the pitch, one that give us all reasons to be out at Livestrong Sporting Park for year 2.