KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Earlier this week the Associated Press unveiled its All-Big 12 basketball squad, and not a single player from fifth-ranked Kansas made the first team.
Never mind that the Jayhawks are 28-3. Forget that they've won four straight league titles and have at least five players who will be selected in one of the next two NBA drafts.
According to the voters, Kansas doesn't even feature one of the Big 12's top five players. Is it me, or does something just not sound right?
"We're a balanced team," guard Brandon Rush said. "Things happen like that sometimes."
In other words, sometimes sportswriters get it wrong, which is why I'm expecting plenty of you to spew venom after viewing my 2007-08 All-American selections. That's fine. I can take it. The good thing, though, is that this year, you get the chance to pick your team, too. We'll call it the first-ever Reader's All-American team.
The only catch – and this is for technical reasons only – is that you must select from the players in the accompanying ballot box. Please vote for five, and only five, players and then check back throughout the week to view the updated results.
And don't forget, my First through Fifth Team All-American squads are listed below.
Michael Beasley, freshman, Kansas State – The best player in college basketball should be the top overall pick in this summer's NBA draft.
D.J. Augustin, sophomore, Texas – Helped Longhorns improve after Kevin Durant left.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, junior, Memphis – Most consistent player for one-loss Tigers, especially in the clutch.
Tyler Hansbrough, junior, North Carolina – Tar Heels will retire his jersey, and rightfully so.
Kevin Love, freshman, UCLA – Country's most-skilled big man hopes to lead Bruins to third straight Final Four.
Luke Harangody, sophomore, Notre Dame – Nation's most-improved player averaged 21 points.
Shan Foster, senior, Vanderbilt – Catalyst behind one of the most exciting seasons in recent Commodore memory.
D.J. White, senior, Indiana – Big Ten's Most Valuable Player averaged a double-double despite turmoil-filled season.
Jamont Gordon, junior, Mississippi State – Bulldogs' SEC West title came because of Mr. Versality, who averaged 17.3 points, 6.3 boards and 4.8 assists.
Derrick Rose, freshman, Memphis – Tigers couldn't have asked much more from the top player in a deep class of guards.
Brook Lopez, sophomore, Stanford – Future lottery pick kept Cardinal in the Pac-10 title hunt until the final week.
Brandon Rush, junior, Kansas – Shot 44 percent from three-point range and averaged a team-high 13.5 points in league play after battling back from ACL tear.
Tyler Smith, sophomore, Tennessee – Best all-around player for potential No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament.
Ryan Anderson, sophomore, Cal – It's a shame one of the country's most underrated talents doesn't get more exposure.
Roy Hibbert, senior, Georgetown – Seven-footer led Hoyas to second straight Big East title.
Eric Gordon, freshman, Indiana – Big Ten's leading scorer is expected to enter NBA draft.
Brian Butch, senior, Wisconsin – Fundamentally sound senior is the top player for Big Ten champs.
OJ Mayo, freshman, USC – Highly touted recruit struggled early but silenced critics late.
Jerryd Bayless, freshman, Arizona – Future lottery pick is the most underrated player in an amazing freshman class.
Curtis Jerrells, junior, Baylor – Versatile guard has Bears back in the NCAA tournament mix for the first time in 20 years.
DeMarcus Nelson, senior, Duke – Had Blue Devils one win away from ACC title.
Chris Lofton, senior, Tennessee – Became SEC's all-time leading three-point shooter.
Blake Griffin, freshman, Oklahoma – Would've been higher if not for injuries; may be the best player in college basketball next season.
A.J. Price, junior, Connecticut – Huskies will enter the NCAA tournament as one of the nation's hottest teams thanks to their point guard.
Darrell Arthur, sophomore, Kansas – Future NBA forward had a good season. Recurring foul trouble prevented it from being great.
Arm tattoos on chicks – I'm not saying I'm always a fan, but last week's picture of Willa Ford made me realize that a little ink on the guns can look hot sometimes. Another example: Pam Anderson.
Friday Night Lights – My second-favorite TV show – "The Wire" has catapulted into first place – will be back for a third season. Even better news: It appears Adrianne Palicki (who plays Tyra Collette) will be a future guest in "This Week's Spicy Dish."
On Demand – Forget Blockbuster and NetFlix. If you can't find a good, free movie on On Demand then you're just too picky. The recent lineup in the King household has included "Clueless," "Beyond the Mat," "Bugsy" and "Fletch Lives."
CiCi's Buffet - If you're starving and can tolerate a mess of rugrats, this isn't a bad place to grub. Did some major damage the other day for five bucks. Here's a hint: It won't be on the chow line, but request a supreme. They'll make you your own, whole pizza – hot, fresh and crispy.
Bridget Marquardt – Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson get a little more hype, but my favorite Girl Next Door is the 34-year-old Bridget, who has a master's degree from the University of the Pacific.
Duke – Blue Devils fans made a class move by wearing ribbons and observing a moment of silence for slain North Carolina student Eve Carson prior to Sunday's game against the Tar Heels.
Smoothie King – Love this place – and something tells me I'll be visiting more frequently in the coming weeks.
Courtney Lee – Western Kentucky star will be one of the best players you've never heard of in the NCAA tournament.
Amy Lee – With so many computer-altered voices out there, I always appreciate the folks who can really croon. Not many do it better than Lee, the lead singer of Evanescence. She also has a great cameo in Seether's "Broken." No relation to Courtney.
St. Mary's – My favorite mid-major – shhh, don't tell anyone I used that term – enters the NCAA tournament on a downslide following recent losses to Gonzaga and San Diego. Hopefully Patty Mills and the boys can bounce back and win a few games next week.
Media spread at the Missouri Valley tournament – Usually the press has its choice of snack mix and popcorn at postseason tourneys. But last weekend in St. Louis the food table featured Twinkies, Ding-Dongs, Ho-Hos, powdered donuts, chocolate donuts, a soft serve ice cream machine, Big Grabs of Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch Doritos, Krunchers and – as a nice touch – Baked Lays. I stayed away as far as you know.
Southern Illinois – I know they don't deserve a bid, but I still hate that the Salukis won't be in the NCAA tournament. Love watching Chris Lowery's team get after it on defense, and Randal Falker was always one of my favorite people to interview.
Dawn Wells – Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island had four, half-smoked joints in her car when authorities pulled her over for swerving. She said the hooch belonged to some hitchhikers she'd given a ride to earlier. I find that about as believable as a professor who can make a telephone out of a coconut but can't fix a hole in a boat.
Blue Cheese Crumbles – They're OK in moderation, but an overkill can completely ruin a salad.
Lute Olson – I realize he's a prince of a man, but what purpose did it serve to announce this week that he'd be returning to coach Arizona next season? The Wildcats are struggling lately and need to focus on the Pac-10 tournament. The handling of the situation was a disservice to the team and to interim coach Kevin O'Neill, who should be commended for the way he's dealt with so many distractions.
Spoiled, rotten ketchup – Nothing, not even too much tomato sauce on pizza, is more repulsive than the taste of old, rank, spoiled ketchup. I've actually had nightmares about it.
Lowered basketball goals – Always get annoyed when I see 14-year old kids outside dunking on 8-foot rims. No wonder we're getting passed up by countries that stress fundamentals.
Hot pockets – Never have understood the craze. They're 75 percent bread/batter.
UNC-Asheville and Rider – Neither team will be in the NCAA tournament, which means we won't get to watch 7-foot-7 standout Kenny George (Asheville) or potential first-round draft pick Jason Thompson (Rider).
Whether she was doing the Samba on "Dancing With the Stars," winning a Bra & Panties match in the WWE or gracing the pages of magazines such as Maxim and Stuff, chances are strong that you've seen Stacy Keibler.
A 5-foot-11 stunner, she's rather tough to miss.
Stacy achieved her fame in the wrestling business, where fans were fond of her 41-inch legs and striking physique. But lately she's moved on to bigger and better things in Hollywood – most of which still involve Stacy being in front of a camera.
Can't ask for much more than that.
Stacy was gracious enough to take part in a 20-minute chat Tuesday evening. She couldn't have been any more friendly or upbeat.
KOTR: I read that you were born and raised in Baltimore. Were you involved in any type of sports growing up?
STACY: Early on in high school I ran track and played soccer. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school. My very first track meet as a freshman was this really big meet with all the schools in the area, including the boys' schools. I was running the hurdles and I fell. I caught my toe on one of them and fell flat on my face right in front of the stands where everyone was sitting. That was it for me and the hurdles.
KOTR: How did you become a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader?
STACY: The Ravens had just built a brand new stadium, so they were looking for mascots and cheerleaders. They were re-organizing a lot of things. They were having this big casting call with open tryouts. My dad said it'd be really cool if I was a Ravens cheerleader, but I was like, 'I don't want to do that.' Eventually, I decided to go to the audition, and there were hundreds of girls there. I was like, 'Wow, if I was able to make this, it'd be really cool.' There were cameras and reporters there. It was my first taste of being around the media. I thought it was a pretty cool feeling. So when I made it I was like, 'Of course I'm going to do this.' If my dad hadn't told me about it I never would've done it.
KOTR: What was the best part about it?
STACY: I did it for two years. My favorite part was being out there in front of 60,000 or 70,000 people and seeing how excited they all were. I liked singing the anthem and watching the jet planes flying over the stadium before kickoff. It was such a rush. That's the highest level you can get as a cheerleader. To be able to stand there and perform in front of that many people is awesome.
KOTR: Are you still a Ravens fan?
STACY: Yes, I have season tickets. And when I go to the games I realize that no one is watching the cheerleaders (laughing). But when you're out there you feel like everyone is watching you.
KOTR: I know you got your start in the wrestling business as a Nitro Girl (dancer) in WCW. How did that come about?
STACY: I had become a fan. My friends were all going to the events and holding up signs. My grandmother was watching wrestling and my parents were watching. That was when wrestling was at its highest point. When I was in college, everyone was walking around wearing Stone Cold t-shirts and Rock t-shirts. There was a contest for the Nitro Girls. Fans could get on the internet and vote. They had auditions in eight cities throughout the country and the prize was $10,000. I was still in college, so that sounded great. I decided to go and do a little cheerleading routine. I drove to Philadelphia, I tried out, the fans voted for me and I won. They said, 'You start next week.' That's how I fell into the wrestling business for eight years. It completely changed my life.
KOTR: Eventually you went from being a dancer to a valet to a manager to an actual wrestler. Were you surprised at how rough things were in the ring?
STACY: Wrestling isn't something you should do to the human body. The training was very hard. It's like a constant whiplash. It wasn't something I wanted to do. I never signed up to be a wrestler. I loved performing in front of the crowd, but I never had much passion for the physical part of it. I always winced a little bit when I got to the arena and they told me I had a match.
KOTR: What was one of the toughest bumps you ever took?
STACY: The worst was when I was thrown through a table. Somehow the table was a little bit misplaced. Bubba Dudley was supposed to help me break the fall, but I basically ended up breaking the fall by myself – partly with my neck. That was one of the scariest ones.
KOTR: What did you like the most about the WWE and the wrestling business in general?
STACY: The best thing was the fans. There are so many diehard, loyal fans that are passionate about us. I will never have another experience where I'll get to walk out four times a week in arenas full of 20,000 people chanting your name. The rush that you get is the best part of the business.
KOTR: Who are a few former opponents that you respect for their in-ring talent?
STACY: I was there when Trish Stratus and Lita were big stars. They were definitely great to work with. Molly Holly was one of my teachers. I loved working with her. She's probably at the top of the list.
KOTR: Why did you quit wrestling?
STACY: The lifestyle is the reason why I left the business. It's a very, very hard lifestyle. It's kind of like a traveling circus. Let's say you fly into a city on a Friday. You have to pay for your own hotel and your own rental car. You have to get yourself from town to town. If you're lucky enough to ride with other people, great. If not you're on your own. We were trying to save money because we weren't making much. We were staying at Super 8 and Red Roof Inn and Motel 6. We'd just drive until we were tired and then pull over on the side of the road.
KOTR: Sounds pretty taxing.
STACY: It is. You're away from your friends and family. You're getting out of shows at 11 p.m. and there's no food to eat. You're trying to make it to the next town and you're tired. It's just a circle. You get sick of it. Then you get home on Tuesday and you're exhausted. You try to get some stuff done and suddenly it's time to do it all over again. I did that eight years without taking one week of vacation.
KOTR: No vacation?
STACY: They don't give you any vacation. They make you think that if you take a vacation, you're going to get fired. Everyone is on pins and needles about stuff like that.
KOTR: Do you still have friends in the business?
STACY: Torrie Wilson is one of my good friends along with Gail Kim – who works for TNA now – and Maven. Those people are still a big part of my life. I still talk to them a lot.
KOTR: You mentioned Torrie. She and some other wrestlers have posed nude for Playboy. Were you ever approached about doing a photo shoot for that magazine?
STACY: Ive been offered three times and I said no. Right now I have a deal with ABC, which is Disney. I don’t think Disney would approve (laughing).
KOTR: Obviously wrestling helped open up some doors for you. Did your experiences with the WWE help contribute to your third place finish on Dancing With the Stars?
STACY: Yes, because when you're used to performing in front of television cameras and in front of 20,000-30,000 fans at sold out arenas, anything after that is going to be a breeze. I had an advantage because of that. The live audience … I fed off its energy. I feel like I'm at home in those situations.
KOTR: What kind of projects are you involved in these days?
STACY: I was just on October Road on Monday on ABC. People can probably watch that right now on ABC.com. I have a deal with ABC. Hopefully I'll be on a new show sometime soon. I'm also doing a campaign for Axe Body Spray. They have a new line of shower gels and body scrubs for men called Skin Contact. I just shot a commercial for Reebok with some NFL football stars. I've been in acting class four days a week at three different studios, trying to get better at my craft.
KOTR: What do you do to stay in shape?
STACY: I have a trainer. I do circuit training, weight training, cardio, Pilates. I take an aerobics class. I'm working out four or five times a week.
KOTR: Any guilty pleasures?
STACY: I love Cold Stone Creamery. It's my favorite. I actually have a photo shoot on Thursday, so I've been watching what I eat. I can't wait to leave that photo shoot and go to Cold Stone Creamery. I love ice cream.
KOTR: Last question: Who are you going to be rooting for in the NCAA tournament?
STACY: My boyfriend (actor Geoff Stults) is a huge sports fan. He's pulling for Michigan State, so I will be, too.
This week's column will mark the final edition of King of the Road until mid-April. Initially my plan was to blame the brief hiatus on the need to focus my energy on NCAA tournament coverage. But now I've decided to come clean.
It's all because of The Slinger.
For the first time in "May I Suggest" I'm offering my opinions on a specific dish rather than a restaurant. The Slinger is peculiar concoction that can be ordered at almost any diner or late night eatery throughout the St. Louis area. My life-altering experience occurred at the Eat-Rite Diner on Choteau Ave.
Other than an order of Aussie Cheese Fries at Outback Steakhouse, I'm not sure I'll ever eat a meal as unhealthy as The Slinger, which consists of two eggs, hash browns and a hamburger patty – all covered in chili. Mix in some onions and grated cheese and this late-night delicacy will leave you gasping for air by the time the waitress takes away your plate. Especially if you mop up the scraps with four pieces of buttered toast, a la yours truly.
Seriously, when I got back to my room at the Sheraton around midnight, I looked into the bathroom mirror and had a little self-evaluation. I realized I need to cool it for a few weeks and go on a diet of twigs and berries. And it wasn't just me. A day after eating The Slinger, my buddy said he woke up, got in his car, drove to a local health club and purchased a membership.
You'll be able to find me at Bally's a little more often, too.
That way, by the time King of the Road resumes in three or four weeks, I'll be fresh and energized with plenty of room in my stomach for new adventures. But as for now, I'm throwing in the towel. I'm raising the white flag. The Slinger got me, folks. It got me.
The thing that scared me the most? I actually liked it.
Worcestershire Sauce – Most people seem to prefer Heinz 57 or A-1, but when I'm eating a steak this is the only choice.
Sour Patch Kids – Not too tart for my taste.
Tater Tots – The best alternative to a French fry, especially when they're crispy with a dab of ketchup.
Ding-Dongs – Forget Twinkies. This is the treat I like the mostess from Hostesss.
Crystal Light – Pour a half-pack of this powder into a bottle of water and shake. I'm a fan Fruit Punch, Pink Lemonade and Raspberry Ice.
THIS WEEK'S FOOD POLL
Because stories on our site receive so many hits – thanks to you guys – I've been told our "system" can only handle one poll. I didn't think anyone would mind if I nixed this section for a week so each of you (and all of your friends: hint, hint) could vote for the All-American team. I apologize if you're disappointed, but we'll return to regular programming soon.
LAST WEEK'S RESULTS
Best BBQ Meal
Ribs – 51 %
Brisket – 18%
Pork – 14%
Chicken – 10%
Burnt Ends – 4%
Sausage – 4%
Ham – 1%
1. Folks continue to ask me about sleeper teams in this year's NCAA tournament, and Clemson keeps coming to mind. I know this isn't the first time I've used this space to give the Tigers some love. Something about the way they outwork people on the offensive glass makes me think they could pull a second round upset of a No. 3 or 4 seed. Love James Mays in the paint and K.C. Rivers and Cliff Hammonds on the perimeter. Six players average between nine and 14 points. Their balance reminds me of Kansas, although the talent level may not be quite as high. I'm not saying Clemson is a Final Four-caliber team. I just think the Tigers capable for pulling an upset or two. What's maddening is that they're also capable of losing in the first round.
2. Other midcard teams I've been impressed with after watching them in person: Drake, Gonzaga, Mississippi State and, when they're playing at a high level, the Jekyll and Hydes of Texas A&M.
3. Was impressed by a Q-and-A I read recently with former wrestling star Jake "The Snake" Roberts, who for years has fought a well-publicized battle with drugs and alcohol. Roberts said he recently took advantage of an offer made by Vince McMahon to any current and former wrestler: Enter rehab, McMahon said, and the WWE will pay for it. Roberts said he successfully completed the program and that he's now filled with an energy and enthusiasm about life that he hasn't had in years. He said Scott Hall and Ron Simmons have also taken McMahon up on his offer, which comes in the aftermath of the tragedies involving Chris and Nancy Benoit and their son.
4. Speaking of wrestling, my apologies for not including a Ric Flair quote in last week's column. Here's a jewel Flair often uses on his female admirers: "Honey, you can't be the first, but you can be the next."
5. The missus and I just made it through Season One of The Wire and I'm officially hooked – although I can't see how the series can go on without Avon and DeAngelo Barksdale, who are now in jail.
6. Thanks to everyone who pitched in with some Vegas hotel advice over the last few weeks. It looks as if Mirage will be the headquarters for my buddy's bachelor party May 8-11. I go to Vegas about four times a year and – other than Casino Royale and Slots-A-Fun - Mirage has always been my favorite place.
7. Never have been a huge fan of the San Antonio Spurs, but now that they've got a graduate of Dallas' Hillcrest High School coming of the bench in Kurt Thomas, I guess they'll have to be my No. 2 favorite team behind the Mavericks.
8. Read a depressing article lately about 20 of the most-unhealthy meals at chain restaurants. A chicken burrito from Chipotle, for example, has 1,179 calories and a taco salad from On the Border has 1,450 calories and 102 grams of fat. Spaghetti and Meatballs with meat sauce from Macaroni Grill has 2,430 calories and 128 grams of fat while the aforementioned Aussie Cheese Fries at Outback Steakhouse have 2,900 calories and 182 fat grams. Yipes! With numbers like that, I could order a Whopper from Burger King and actually feel as if I'm eating healthy.
King – Texas Roadhouse? Dude, I'm glad you're not a restaurant critic. For my money, 40 Sardines is the best restaurant in the Kansas City area. It'll put a dent in the checkbook, but it's well freakin' worth it.
Jeff Passan, MLB reporter, Yahoo! Sports
KOTR: Thanks for the tip about 40 Sardines, Jeff. I'll try it out as long as you promise it will put a dent in my hunger pain along with the dent in my wallet. In the meantime it never hurts to review a common man's restaurant, and my beloved Texas Roadhouse is certainly that.
Jason – I just completed reading your article on Sasha Kaun. I've known Sasha personally for his four years at KU and I believe you captured the essence of Sasha. He is sweet, intelligent, respectful and totally unlike most big-time Division I athletes. The horror he has had to live with – knowing what type of 'business' took his father – could've been crippling. Thanks for taking the time to get to know such a great young man.
KOTR: Bill's kind e-mail was among hundreds I received regarding last week's story about Kansas center Sasha Kaun. My only regret is that I never got to know this kid sooner.
Jason – Are you really a college basketball sports writer? I guess so because (your bio) says you have won multiple writing awards. You need to watch the Big Ten tournament next weekend, pal. You'll see a couple of the nation's top coaches. Their names are Matt Painter and Bo Ryan. How you left them off your list is beyond me.
Mary Fredericks, Arlington Heights, Ill.
KOTR: Purdue and Wisconsin fans deserve credit for sticking up for Painter and Ryan, who I left off last week's list naming the Top 15 coaches of the season. I received more than 100 e-mails from supporters of each school. I definitely made a mistake by forgetting about Ryan. I had Painter on the list initially but, as I was writing the story, I was watching the Boilermakers lose to Ohio State. Then I remembered seeing them fall to a putrid Missouri team. So I took him off. In hindsight, it may have been a mistake. I'm just glad the Wisconsin and Purdue fans didn’t react like this next guy from Kentucky.
Jason – Why don't you sit on the bench with Kentucky, you ignorant moron. Billy Gillispie couldn't coach a snowball fight. You left Rick Pitino off of your coaches list and put a 10-16 guy like Gillispie on it. Why don't you just drop dead you loser.
Brad Wiley, Gamaliel, Ky.
KOTR: Kentucky is 18-11. Not 10-16. Nice e-mail, though, Brad. Show it to your parents. I'm sure they'll be proud.
Jason – Keep up the good work. I'm vegan and I still enjoy the descriptions of food and the like. It almost makes me want to cheat on six years of no animal products.
Eric Devin, Eugene, Ore.
KOTR – Do it, Eric. Do it! No one will ever know, and I'll feel like I've truly accomplished something with this column. Haha. Just kidding. Stick to the coffee and granola bars up in Oregon. Nothing wrong with that. Heck, I may do the same thing during my short hiatus from these King of the Road columns. Hope everyone enjoys March Madness. I'll see you back here sometime in April. I've got lots of fun stuff planned for this space in the spring and summer but, as you know, I always love your suggestions. Feel free to tell me about the parts of this column you've liked and disliked, and don't hesitate to offer suggestions on new things you'd like to see. Take care. I'll see you down the road.