Catching up on correspondence during a lull in action
Posted: Tuesday December 27, 2005 10:45AM; Updated: Wednesday December 28, 2005 3:58PM
Some believe Rick Pitino could have signed Rajon Rondo if he had played his cards right.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Greetings, Hoop Thinkers. While the college hoops season is in the midst of its annual holiday lull, I figured this would be a good time to answer some emails, which have been piling up in my inbox like so many unopened Christmas cards.
Let's start with last week's Jigsaw Man column, in which I discerned missing pieces for 10 puzzling teams. Plenty of folks took me up on my invitation to send in their own suggestions. A few submissions were too obvious for my taste. (For example, Greyson Murff from Kansas City wanted Missouri to pick up Louisville's Taquan Dean, who should be on everyone's short list of All-America candidates.) Dave from New York, who apparently was too worried about the approaching transit strike to provide his surname, was closer to the spirit of the game when he paired up Tennessee, which is lacking an athletic post player, with Oral Roberts forward Caleb Green. "Green's been dominating the Mid-Con for two seasons now," Dave wrote. "One would think it's reasonable to expect the 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward to put up 12 points and seven boards a game in the SEC."
Another solid idea came from Matt Hampton of Miamisburg, Ohio, who looked at Kentucky's lack of frontline rebounding and suggested we plug in Louisiana Tech forward Paul Milsap. And as long as we're in the Commonwealth, Chris Brown from Louisville laments the way Cards coach Rick Pitino slavishly recruited Sebastian Telfair, thus prompting Louisville native Rajon Rondo to choose UK.
Speaking of Kentucky, I got a wide variety of responses to my column appraising the situation facing Wildcats center Randolph Morris. The piece was published after the NCAA had announced Morris would have to sit out the entire season, but before it decided he could return in January. Todd Jones from Lexington asked, "Don't you find (the NCAA) a bit hypocritical for suspending Morris for the entire season, yet they suspend a KU player just seven or nine games for accepting something like $7,000?"
Todd is referring to Kansas forward Darnell Jackson, who was suspended nine games for accepting around $5,000 in extra benefits from a KU booster. The difference, Todd, is that not only did Morris accept more than $7,000 in expenses from NBA teams, he also entered into a de facto relationship with the SFX sports agency. Once a player crosses that line, he has stepped into a much more precarious situation.
Another Lexington native, Andy Sallee, echoed the beliefs of lots of folks in town when he wrote, "Morris, I think, was misinformed by a few individuals (who said) that he would be picked very high in the draft. I think he stupidly believed them and ignored all the other good advice." That's undoubtedly true, Andy, but don't forget, Morris would definitely have been a first-round pick coming out of high school. So who was the "stupid individual" who told Randolph he would be better off playing at least a year in college?
As a postscript to the case, let me say that while I am genuinely happy for any young man who is unexpectedly given a chance to play, the logic behind the NCAA's ultimate decision baffled me. They appeared to give much weight to the miraculously unearthed fax that Morris originally sent Tubby Smith stating his intention to enter the draft but preserve his collegiate eligibility. Yet, Morris clearly indicated otherwise by his actions -- including delivering the news to Smith by fax instead of a phone call. I'm told that UK brought other information that was of a personal nature to the NCAA's attention that led to the reduction in Morris' penalty. Whatever you think about the resolution to this case, I'm hoping that players who go this route in the future will learn from Morris' many mistakes.
It's always amusing to me when a throwaway line yields lots of emails from disenchanted readers. Last week, I mentioned that I thought the race for second place in the Big Ten (behind clear favorite Michigan State) was getting my attention. That, however, did not go over well with Illinois fans who are convinced that it is the Spartans who are actually playing for second. Writes Mike Lommler of Springfield, Ill., "Isn't that just a bit premature, considering that (the Spartans) haven't been stopping anybody's offense? Right now, Illinois is actually tops in efficiency margin, and I think must at least be the co-favorite for the title."
First, Mike, congratulations on living in Springfield. I spent a few days there when I wrote a story for SI a few years back and enjoyed the place very much. But whether Illinois fans like it or not -- and why wouldn't you like it? -- Michigan State is the clear favorite to win the Big Ten. Illinois has been impressive in starting off 12-0, but coach Bruce Weber purposely downgraded his nonconference schedule in anticipation of a rebuilding season. I'm not saying Illinois can't win the Big Ten, I'm just saying they're not the favorite. At any rate, we'll know more after the two teams meet in Champaign on Jan. 5.