NCAA Basketball News for September 30, 2009
September 30, 2009. My views on college hoops.
News and Insights into the World of College Basketball
NCAA President Myles Brand died of pancreatic cancer September 16th, 2009. Brand gained fame as the man who fired Bob Knight at Indiana University, and approximately two years later left IU to become President of the NCAA. His “zero-tolerance” edict was unfortunate because it put Knight in an unworkable position (who really expected Knight to be able to control himself until the day he retired?) and forced Brand to wait for the end. It’s easy to see why he accepted a new gig after firing the General—that was a no-win scenario. It was probably time for Knight to move on, but he made Indiana basketball what it was since the early 1970’s, and no decision to dump him was going to be popular. Knight’s replacement, Mike Davis reached the championship game of the NCAA Tournament in 2002 and announced he wanted a raise—that had to make Brand cringe as much as it did me.
As Director of the NCAA, Brand was seen as an advocate for the student-athlete, making athletic departments publicly accountable for the athlete’s performance in the classroom. He was just what the NCAA needed at the time—someone to preserve the integrity of amateur athletics. (I know, I know, a lot of folks contend there are no amateurs in college athletics. You may well be correct….) His perception of student-athletes took a hit from the NBA with their one-and-done rule, but Brand tried his best to make being a student matter; if not to the athlete, then at least to the universities that recruit them.
Rest in peace, Mr. Brand. You were a gutsy guy.
Twice in two days, the Kansas basketball team got into an altercation with members of the Jayhawk football team. Tyshawn Taylor went to the hospital with a sprained thumb, allegedly incurred by throwing a punch at a football player. The sophomore guard is expected to lose 4 weeks while recovering.
What a mess!!! Why get into a fight with someone bigger and stronger than you are? Run from ‘em, Tyshawn! It is disappointing to see a player who seemingly was becoming a leader, evinced by his play with the US Under-19 team, regress into juvenile behavior that embarrasses everyone. Details of the fracas still aren’t clear, but it doesn’t matter—RUN AWAY FROM THOSE GUYS!!! DON’T FIGHT ‘EM!!!!! And if Taylor started it, hopefully the altercation will teach him it’s not worth it.
Will Arizona’s basketball team make a 26th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2010? Without having played a game they are on the bubble and it will be close, but I will go out on a limb and say they will get in. While the Tournament selection committee harps on their own impartiality, I think the NCAA likes streaks like that, and will give the Wildcats the benefit of the doubt if they are on the bubble in March. I don’t want to suggest impropriety, but I’m not certain Arizona wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt last time, when they made the field in 2009 following a very average season. However, they played quite well in the postseason and obviously deserved their selection.
With the Pac-10 looking weaker than it has in a long time, Arizona could actually finish in the top four in their conference, which should be enough to get them in the Big Dance. UCLA looks to have a down year, and USC is tanked from the start with all the problems caused by the Mayo-Floyd fiasco. Arizona benefited more than anyone from the Trojan collapse, snagging USC recruits Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill, and Lamont Jones. These three join Kyryl Natyazhko and Kevin Perrom in a solid freshman class that will have to grow up quickly, but have the talent to compete.
New coach Sean Miller should be thankful star guard Nic Wise opted to return to Arizona for his senior year. The coaching carousel has to have affected this guy, and hopefully Miller will make the situation better, not worse. You have to admire Wise for coming back instead of trying to make an NBA roster, and I’m rooting for him this year.
Despite a roster with five freshmen and five sophomores, I’m going to pencil Arizona in for their 26th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
When the Memphis Tigers play the Kansas Jayhawks on November 17th in St. Louis, the rematch of their 2008 National Championship game can’t help but trigger a bit of regret in the hearts of Tiger fans. Not because Memphis lost a game for the title they had in the bag, allowing KU to come back from a nine point deficit with a little over two minutes remaining to force overtime; not because Memphis was required to forfeit its 38 wins that year due to alleged improprieties involving Derrick Rose, a ruling they are contesting; not even because they lost their head coach to the Kentucky Wildcats. It will be because they will look at the Jayhawk roster and see themselves.
Two sets of brothers—forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris, and guards Xavier and C.J. Henry originally committed to Memphis, only to change their minds and land in Lawrence, Kansas. All could figure prominently in KU’s plans for the 2009-2010 season, and Memphis fans can’t help but wonder what their team might be like if these folks ended up playing for the Tigers, where all four should have either started or played major minutes. KU certainly knows the feelings of rejection well. All Jayhawk fans will remember the most galling rejection of all, with Baron Davis eyeballing a KU cap on national television, only to throw it aside and announce he would become a UCLA Bruin.
Tennessee basketball has a lot going on lately, first with Bruce Pearl’s inane comment referencing the KKK and subsequent apology, and then with the sudden collapse of Emmanuel Negedu during practice Monday, September 28th. Negedu, a sophomore from Nigeria finished a “strenuous” workout, as well as a weight-training session, when he collapsed.
My opinions won’t have any meaning in the overall scheme of things, but it might be necessary to scale back workouts in favor of allowing kids to mature naturally. Thirty-five years ago summer league play, weight training, and the rigorous physical requirements players must now meet were unheard of. In 1974, a center weighing in at 220 pounds could compete in the middle. Three years ago, television broadcasters were talking about how much better Greg Oden would be if he packed twenty pounds of muscle on his already 270 pound frame. Have the expectations become so unrealistic that kids have to become bodybuilders to compete in organized sports? Will a Mr. Olympia someday become the first pick in an NBA draft?
Speaking of the NBA, allowing college students to mature on a more normal schedule would also scale back the number of players believing they are ready for the big leagues. The number of college students physically capable of competing with professionals would be limited to that rare physical anomaly that naturally matures faster than his peers. I also wonder what these players will look like when they’re 50 years old. Will their bodies have given out completely by then? I would prefer to see these kids live long, healthy lives rather than burn out by the time they’re forty years old.
I wish Emmanuel Negedu a speedy recovery and a safe, successful season.
A rules change I’d like to see involves the alternate possession for held balls. Get rid of the alternate possession rule and give the ball to the defense every time. If a defender can get his hands on the ball, let them have it and record it as a steal. Why should a tie-up only result in a turnover half the time? Why should an effort on the part of the defense be rewarded on an alternating basis? Where is the logic in that? Make it the responsibility of the team on offense to keep the ball out of the hands of defenders. Seems obvious to me, how about you?
Thanks for reading. See you next time.
It has been three years since I wrote about Myles Brand, Bob Knight and his firing from Indiana University. Knight landed in the Big 12, coaching the Texas Tech Red Raiders before turning the reins over to his son and coach-in-waiting, Pat. The interesting thing about the senior Knight's stay at Tech is that he did what he could not do at Indiana--stay out of trouble. There were minor incidents that probably would have gotten him canned if they happened at IU, but Bob Knight seemed to mellow with age and enjoy his role as elder statesman. The pressure to win wasn't as enormous, and the change did wonders for Knight's temperament. It should be noted he didn't win as much at Texas Tech as he once did at Indiana, but it was a different situation and, frankly, the expectations were different. Knight gave the Red Raiders what they were looking for--a well-coached and competitive team. They weren't expected to challenge the top tier programs like Kansas or Kentucky, but Knight's savvy allowed them to steal an upset victory on occasion. It was a good fit for him and a nice way for Bob Knight to conclude a legendary coaching career.
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