Hoop Thoughts (Cont.)
I spoke with UCLA coach Ben Howland last Friday night and put to him the question everyone is asking: Why did it take him so long to jettison Reeves Nelson? The Bruins' 6-foot-7 junior forward has been a major headache ever since he came to Westwood, and Howland had already suspended him twice before finally dismissing him Friday morning.
"That's a fair question," Howland replied. "I was optimistic about him being able to change and try to come around, and that didn't occur. He's a kid who's unique in that when there's adversity and things aren't going well, he just shuts down. He'll stop playing in the middle of a game or in practice. If I were an NBA coach, I would have done this sooner, but when you're dealing with kids, you're trying to do more than just run a business."
If we're passing around blame for that Xavier-Cincinnati fight, let's be sure to include officials Tony Crisp, Jeff Anderson, Michael Roberts for letting the woofing go unchecked. Contrast that with the refs in the Ohio State-Kansas game, who teed up Kansas forward Thomas Robinson with 8:44 remaining because he talked a little trash to Ohio State freshman center Amir Williams. It was a good example of a referee nipping bad behavior in the bud.
Vanderbilt senior center Festus Ezeli played for the first time at Davidson on Saturday after missing the team's first eight games because of an NCAA suspension and sprained knee. His return came not a moment too soon. Ezeli finished with 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes in an 87-83 victory. Afterward, Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said the Commodores would have lost the game if he hadn't played. Ezeli is a good player, but he has special value because he is the only player who gives the Dores an inside presence and physical toughness. They certainly don't get that from Jeffery Taylor. I was courtside when Vandy lost at Louisville in overtime, and I don't know that I've ever seen a player who is as athletic as Taylor be so reluctant to attack the rim.
Just so you know, if you're in a public place and Sweet Caroline comes on the sound system, there's nothing wrong with singing a few lines or bobbing your head a little bit. But if you get to the chorus and you shout "So good! So good! So good!" I think you've crossed a line.
Between their blowout loss at Ohio State and their near-collapse against Washington on Saturday, it's becoming evident that Duke doesn't have a talent problem so much as a leadership problem.
I honestly can't remember the last time I saw a great player deliver a complete no-show in a big game like Terrence Jones did against Indiana.
If you didn't see Michigan State's Draymond Green hang 34 points on Gonzaga Saturday night, you missed a performance for the ages. I'm not sure what NBA scouts think about Green, but I'd be shocked if there wasn't a place for him in that league. Between his size, his skills, his intelligence, his leadership and his charisma, Green is just about my favorite player in college basketball.
On the flip side, Gonzaga forward Elias Harris may be the most frustrating player to watch in college basketball. He has good stats but never seems to show up in big games. Harris made just 2 of his 11 field goal tries against the Spartans and finished with six points.
I've been pretty tough on Tyshawn Taylor, but it's going to be interesting to see how Kansas plays while he recovers from a torn meniscus the next three weeks. One bright spot for the Jayhawks is that Kevin Young, a 6-8 juco transfer, had his best game in a Kansas uniform against the Buckeyes, contributing 14 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.
North Carolina's Kendall Marshall had another sterling night at the office in Saturday's win over Long Beach State: 16 assists and two turnovers. Marshall really excels at throwing the ball ahead in transition, but it's worth pointing out that he is not the traditional speedster with the ball (Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson) that Roy Williams' other championship teams had.
Wisconsin's Ben Brust showed on Saturday why I included him on my list of breakouts sophs: 25 points off the bench (on 7-for-7 three-point shooting) in the Badgers' big win at home over UNLV.
Sucks seeing Marquette junior center Chris Otule go out with an ACL injury that will sideline him for the foreseeable future. He was the only real effective man the Golden Eagles had.
Khris Middleton put in a strong effort in his first game back for Texas A&M since the season opener. Middleton is a raw, but gifted 6-7 junior swingman who missed seven games because of an injury. He had 24 points and six rebounds in a win over Louisiana-Monroe. I think Middleton has a great deal of potential, and his return reinstalls Texas A&M as one of the favorites in the Big 12.
Speaking of the Aggies, here's a stat you don't often see: They shot 0-for-17 from three-point range in a win over Alcorn State. You'd think after the 16th miss they would have shifted to Plan B.
Illinois got itself a great find in Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco, a 6-foot senior. He's not nearly as talented as Demetri McCamey, but he's much tougher and far more dependable.
M.O.T. alert: Penn senior guard Zack Rosen is averaging 20.8 points and shooting 48 percent from three-point range. L'chaim!
Florida center Patric Young had 25 points and 10 rebounds in the Gators' overtime win over Arizona, and it seemed like he could have scored twice that many. If the Gators had gone to him more down the stretch -- while Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker were shooting a combined 5-for-27 from the floor -- then the game would never have gone to overtime.
A link worth clicking: CBSSports.com's Matt Norlander on the "Silent Night" tradition at Taylor University. The fans show up in costume and stay totally silent until their team scores its 10th point. Then they end the game linking arms and singing "Silent Night." Reason number 4,578 why I wish I were still in college.
We usually think of Mississippi State as being undisciplined, but the Bulldogs are actually leading the nation in fewest fouls committed. Just making sure you knew.
It's tough to see Washington junior point guard Abdul Gaddy struggle this way. He was a huge recruit coming out of high school and was finally playing well last season before tearing his ACL in January. Gaddy hasn't been terrible, but his inability to score has forced Lorenzo Romar to give freshman Tony Wroten more playing time than he should have.