Self pushes KU to develop killer instinct; more national notions (cont.)
What happened from there is a matter of some debate. It has been widely reported that to Washington's chagrin, Kanter de-committed last February, re-opened his recruitment and two months later signed with Kentucky. When I asked Emmert why Washington recruited Kanter, he told me that as university president he did not get involved with basketball recruiting and thus did not know his coach's thinking. My own sources have indicated to me that the Washington coaching staff originally believed Kanter would have to miss some time but could retain his eligibility. But the more information they received on Kanter following his commitment, the more the Washington coaches realized it was unlikely he would ever be eligible. Kanter never visited the Washington campus and never applied for admission. He also never contacted Lorenzo Romar to tell him he was de-committing. The two just quietly went their separate ways.
Would Washington have rolled the dice like Kentucky did if Kanter wanted to come? Possibly. They would have had nothing to lose, right? Still, the fact is, Washington, like everyone else who was involved with Kanter, believed he would never clear the NCAA's amateurism hurdle. That's why Romar eventually backed off.
To suggest that Kanter would have been eligible had he gone to the NCAA president's former school is to give full embrace to conspiracy theory. I'm sure it will not shock you to hear that Emmert scoffed at Vitale's allegation. "Not to put too fine a point on it, but that's ridiculous," he said. "By all accounts this is a very talented basketball player, but yet there were very few schools recruiting him. Why was that? Because everyone understood that there was a very large probability that he was not going to be deemed eligible. This has nothing to do with Kentucky or Coach Calipari. It has to do with a clear rule and a clear set of facts."
Some final thoughts on the Renardo Sidney mess at Mississippi State. First, if you think that the player Sidney fought in the stands in Hawaii, Elgin Bailey, came up with the idea to transfer on his own without some very strong prodding from coach Rick Stansbury, then I've got a bridge to sell you. Second, some people have made the point that the reason Stansbury didn't punish Sidney harder is because he wants to win games. But that's the thing: Renardo Sidney can't help anyone win games right now. Besides being woefully out of shape, he is obviously an emotionally troubled young man, partly because he has had too many adults in his life who enable his worst behaviors. Sidney had all of two points (on 1-for-8 shooting) and five turnovers in 26 minutes during the Bulldogs' 17-point home loss to Alabama on Saturday. Does that sound like a guy worth taking a public-relations hit for?
Reason No. 124 to love the Pittsburgh Panthers: They're ranked third in the country in assist-to-field goals percentage. They had 24 assists on 30 made field goals in Saturday's win over Marquette.
I still believe there is a better chance than not that Kyrie Irving will not play for Duke again this year. But I am sensing a mite more optimism coming out of the Duke camp regarding the prospect of his return. The problem is not just the seriousness of the injury, but also the uniqueness. Irving essentially has turf toe, which is primarily a football malady, so there's a lot of uncertainty about how to proceed. It appears the initial decision to hold off surgery was the right one. Irving's toe is healing, albeit slowly, and last week he started doing some cardio workouts for the first time. Even under the best-case scenario, he will be in a cast for another month and then have to rehab for a month after that. If all goes perfectly, that would make him available in early March. It's hard to tell how sharp or conditioned he'll be by then, but I do know this: If Irving can get himself on the court, he can help this team win. So stay tuned.
True college hoops denizens already knew about Colorado sophomore guard Alec Burks, but I'm guessing more casual fans will follow him more closely after he hung a career-high 36 points on Missouri last Saturday. At this point Burks is more of a scorer than a shooter (he has only made 11 three-pointers all season, including three on Saturday), but he has the size of a prototypical NBA two-guard.
I realize most people will remember Kemba Walker's 22 points, including the game-winning bucket in overtime and a time-capsule desperation three-pointer that beat the shot clock, in UConn's big win over Texas on Saturday. To me, however, the more important performance was turned in by sophomore center Alex Oriakhi, who grabbed 21 rebounds, including 10 offensive, while helping the Huskies to a 10-rebound advantage. (The Longhorns came in ranked 22nd nationally in rebound margin at plus-8.1.) We know Walker is going to score -- and in fact, his late-game heroics overshadowed the fact that he needed 27 shots to score those 22 points -- but he is going to need more help for this to be a great team. These Huskies could do a lot worse than build their identity around defense and rebounding.
If you count my four years in college, then I have been covering this sport for 21 years. And I have never seen the ACC this bad. Not even close.
While I'm at it, here are my top five worst power-conference teams in the country: 1) Auburn; 2) Wake Forest; 3) DePaul; 4) Oregon; 5) Iowa.
Is there enough oxygen in the atmosphere in Provo for Jackson Emery to get a little love? Emery, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, is no Jimmer. (No mere mortal is.) But if defenses are too aggressive in swarming The Jimmer, Emery makes them pay -- which prevents defenses from being too aggressive against The Jimmer in the first place. Emery is the team's second-leading scorer at 12.4 points per game, and even though his three-point shooting is down from last season, he's still making 38.8 percent. Emery had 22 points on 6-for-9 three-point shooting in the Cougars' very impressive win at UNLV last week.
With so many ranked teams losing on the road over the weekend, allow me to remind you of my simple rule for success on the road. When you're at home, you can shoot three-pointers. When you're on the road, you have to shoot free throws. Class dismissed.
One man's midseason All-America team: BYU's Jimmer Fredette, Duke's Nolan Smith, UConn's Kemba Walker, Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger. Took me about 20 seconds to make that decision.
You all know I have been pretty much the lone passenger on the Washington bandwagon this season, so let me assure you that the season-ending ACL injury to sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy does not change my opinion. This team would obviously be better off with Gaddy healthy, but two things are happening that could make them just as good if not better. First, Venoy Overton has been promoted to the starting lineup. Overton is not as good a scorer as Gaddy, but he is a much better defender. Second, the injury will force Romar to give 6-6 freshman guard Terrence Ross more minutes. Ross had 25 points in 27 minutes (both season highs) in a win over Oregon, and he added 14 points and a season-high seven rebounds in a win over Oregon State.