For What it’s Worth: Sunflower Showdown, Shocks on the road and Prince’s legacy

Published On: Jan 11 2014 10:18:16 AM CST   Updated On: Jan 11 2014 10:23:53 AM CST
Bruce Haertl: For What It's Worth...

It’s called the ‘Sunflower Showdown’, but it might as well be the ‘Sunflower Shutdown’, Kansas has won 12 of the last 13 against K-State, in fact, the ‘Hawks have won 94 percent of the meetings with their rivals over the last ten years. Kansas has won 29 of their last 30 conference home openers, but their only loss during that stretch was to K-State. Hey, anything we can do to spice up this meeting today.

See you in Lawrence---

Is there ever a good time to be going into Lawrence? KU is coming off a home loss to San Diego State and K-State rolls in on a ten game win streak. The Jayhawks are still trying to figure out who they are—Bill Self has not gotten the type of defensive consistency that’s been his trademark, his team shot the ball well from deep in a win at OU earlier this week, but have generally struggled from beyond the arch. As recently as last week he was calling his team ‘soft on the boards’, but all of this is splitting hairs for a team as talented as the ‘Hawks.

Kansas State appears far for settled on its identity, the ‘Cats are going to defend and rebound even though they’re generally outsized. Points will be at a premium on certain nights, but Bruce Weber has a rapidly rising star in Marcus Foster. As freshmen go in this game—Foster is the one with the best start. Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid may have the most upside and Wayne Selden Jr. is coming off a 24 point effort in Norman, but Foster has easily been the most consistent newcomer in this battle.

K-State coach Bruce Weber came into this rivalry with both barrels firing, he’s been outspoken about Self and KU but hasn’t been able to beat them. Kansas State may have shared the Big 12 title with the Jayhawks last year, but they went 0-3 against them.

Shocks on the road---

I’ll be over in Springfield tonight watching the Shockers face Missouri State in a bid to go 17-0. The Bears are an interesting team, at 12-3 the record looks good, but those three losses to Virginia, Louisville and, most curiously, Loyola of Chicago have come by an average margin of 27 points.

Fred Van Vleet has gone four straight games without a turnover for the Shocks and has assisted 31 times with just 1 turnover in his last five starts. Ron Baker had 11 points in the win over Illinois State last weekend, his best effort since a sprained ankle slowed his game last month. That Baker didn’t miss any time and never complained about an injury that was clearly holding him back is a testimony to his toughness and has to be an inspiration to his teammates.

What’s amazing about Van Vleet, Baker and Tekele Cotton is the total calm that they play with. The trio is incredibly confident but very even keeled and that’s a cue the rest of the team takes from them. It’s one of the reasons they’re so good on the road-- hostile situations haven’t affected them, in fact, they seem to bring out the best in them.

The legacy of Ron Prince---

Many fans would rather forget the Ron Prince era at Kansas State, but he helped produce some interesting coaching stories. Yesterday, James Franklin, who was Prince’s offensive coordinator at KSU became the head coach at Penn State. Before that Raheem Morris, who was Prince’s top defensive coach in Manhattan spent three years as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tim Horton spent a season in Manhattan with Prince leaving for Arkansas then Auburn where he’s currently running backs coach. Prince, meanwhile, is the offensive coordinator at Rutgers, I wonder how he views his coaching tree.