Breakout juniors, Indiana crowd control, more mailbag (Cont.)
Congrats to Indiana on a well-deserved win Saturday. That said, is there not something troubling regarding how IU security lost any semblance of control over the crowd, leaving Kentucky players to fend pretty much for themselves in getting off the floor?
-- Dave Salisbury, Xenia, Ohio
I could not agree more. I have been arguing for years that schools need to do a better job preventing crowds from storming the floor. Yes, it's fun, and yes, that was a spectacular scene at Assembly Hall. But it is not hard to envision something really ugly happening during one of these things -- either an injury or a fight between fans and an opposing player.
Frankly, I'm surprised that something regrettable (if not tragic) has not already happened. It's only a matter of time. To my knowledge, the SEC is the only league which has a policy in place that mandates hefty fines against a school if it fails to prevent fans from storming the court. I wish every league had that policy, but it is still the schools' responsibility to keep people safe. Here's hoping the folks in charge put the requisite security measures in place before it's too late.
I'm sure you've received quite a few e-mails from Syracuse fans. I appreciate your point on why you think Ohio State should be number one over Syracuse, but I think you're wrong. Your reasoning is based on speculation: OSU would beat 'Cuse on a neutral court. But here is what's certain: Syracuse is undefeated and OSU is not. That's a certainty (for now). So, I'll take certainty over speculation.
-- Ermin, Edgewater, MD
Ermin makes a fair point, albeit one that I'm guessing is not shared by Ohio State fans. Ermin also likes certainty over speculation, so let me give him a few more certainties: Tulane is also undefeated. So is Murray State. So is Illinois, Missouri, Louisville, Indiana, Marquette, Xavier and Baylor. Should I take those nine teams along with Syracuse and call them my top 10?
Of course not. That's because voting is by definition a subjective exercise. That subjectivity is even more liberating considering that -- and this is the important part -- these rankings don't decide anything. We voters take our fun seriously, but that's all it is -- fun.
Jared Sullinger isn't just Ohio State's best player. He is arguably the best player in America. If he were going to be out for an extended period of time, I would not have ranked the Buckeyes number one, but since he is due to return soon my instinct was not to penalize Ohio State for losing at Kansas. If anything, in my view Ohio State strengthened its case by playing the Jayhawks so tough on the road.
Am I right that Ohio State would beat Syracuse on a neutral court? Who knows? Hopefully we'll get to find out. In the meantime, let's all remember that the only certainty in college basketball is uncertainty. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
I agree that Julius Peppers could play basketball, but one basketball player who could play football was Sam Clancy. He excelled at the University of Pittsburgh as a basketball player and then excelled in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns.
-- Jim O'Dwyer, Richmond, Va.
I got lots of comments on my Twitter feed (@SethDavisHoops) about football players playing basketball and vice versa. I'd love to see a more comprehensive study from some eager fan out there with way too much time on his hands. (You know who you are.)
Clancy is great example. I never saw him play in college, but I did watch his son, Sam, play power forward for USC from 1998-2002. Lots of folks also suggest Tony Gonzalez, but as good as Gonzalez was at Cal, he always struck me as a football player playing basketball. Peppers, on the other hand, could have played in the NBA if he wanted to. I have no doubt about that.
Of course, the best modern example of the basketball player-turned-footballer was Kent State's Antonio Gates. I was at the regionals in 2002 when Gates led the Golden Flash to within a game of the Final Four. He was a very effective, undersized post player. I remember reading in Gates's bio that he was a former football player (he originally wanted to attend Michigan State, but Nick Saban insisted he only play football). However, there was no reason to believe at the time that he would turn into one of the best tight ends in NFL history.
If you all have some other examples, both recent and historic, send them my way and I'll revisit this topic in a future mailbag.
I usually enjoy your columns, but you really appeared to disrespect Kansas a little in regards to this week's rankings. KU beat Ohio State and remained at number 11, while OSU, despite the loss, moved to the top ranking. Injuries are part of the game, and Tyshawn Taylor played with a torn meniscus and received no credit for toughness on your part.
-- Galen Anderson, Newton, KS
I put together my AP ballot on Sunday evenings, and I honestly can't remember if I knew that Taylor had played that game on a torn meniscus. However, I also can't say that it would have made much difference. I know Jayhawks fans are excited about the win -- as they should be -- but because of Sullinger's injury I basically looked at it as a wash. I didn't move Ohio State up as a reward for losing. I moved them up because Kentucky lost to a team with less talent than Kansas has, and while they were at full strength. (Though you could make the case the Wildcats had to play that game without Terrence Jones.)
I frequently get tweets and e-mails from fans who are frustrated that their team has moved down despite not losing, or that a rival school moved up after a loss. A lot of that is dictated by the movement of other teams. That's not hard to understand if you look at the whole ballot instead of just your team, but rabid fans tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to supporting their teams. And I love 'em for it.
Will this year be the final year of the Trent Johnson era at LSU? As a LSU fan out here in the northwest, when they hired him my thinking was it would be a good fit, but it doesn't seem to be working.
-- John Hayes, Spokane, WA
I don't do a lot of coach-on-the-hot-seat speculating because it is often baseless, and I'm sensitive to the fact that these are real people whose livelihoods are at stake. But while I hope that Johnson can hang on because I think he is a good coach and a good guy, there is no doubt that his job security is tenuous.
John used the exact right word in his e-mail: fit. Whether a certain coach can succeed in a specific situation depends mostly on how well he fits there. Trent Johnson was born in Berkeley, went to high school in Seattle, played college ball at Boise State and was the head coach at Nevada and Stanford before coming to LSU. He had no ties to the southeast. Not only that, he had just taken Stanford to the Sweet 16. The main reason Johnson bolted for LSU is that the original athletic director who hired him was replaced in 2006 by Bob Bowlsby, and he and Johnson and Bowlsby did not get along. That may have been a good reason to leave Stanford, but it wasn't a good reason to come to LSU.
It also didn't help that Johnson was replacing John Brady, who had taken LSU to the Final Four in 2006. (It shows how badly Brady treated people that despite that incredible accomplishment, LSU fired him just two years later.) If LSU had been simply bad under Johnson that would be troubling enough, but the Tigers have gone 5-27 in the SEC the last two years, and they have already lost this season to Coastal Carolina, Northwestern and South Alabama.
The bottom line is, Johnson has not recruited well enough. Is that because he refuses to cheat? Perhaps. But the bottom line is, a coach is hired to deliver results. I'm hoping like heck that Johnson turns this thing around, but right now there's not much indication that's about to happen.
I watched [Washington sophomore forward] Terrence Ross play against a very good Marquette team and I think he is on the same level as Jeremy Lamb in regards to NBA potential. How do you compare the two players?
-- Langdon Daughtrey, Cleveland
Heading into the season, I probably would have Ross in Lamb's company, but Langdon raises an interesting question. Even though Ross is shooting a comparable three-point percentage (38.1 percent to Lamb's 37.9 percent) and free throw percentage (84.2 to Lamb's 85.7), I think Lamb is a more natural scorer. On the other hand, Ross is a better, more aggressive athlete, and he's a much stronger finisher on the break. Ross uses his athleticism well, which is why even though Lamb is playing about six more minutes per game, Ross is grabbing 7.0 rebounds per game to Lamb's 4.4.
The question of who will get drafted first depends on the needs of the team that is drafting. The gap between them might have seemed significant six weeks ago, but there is no question that Ross is rising fast.
Finally, as you might imagine I got quite a bit of mail in response to my column about the Xavier-Cincinnati fight (and more specifically Xavier guard Tu Holloway's comments afterward). Here are a few examples:
I'm a Xavier grad and Cincinnati native (I have a kid attending UC), and I believe the penalties were on the light side. Chris Mack was willing to put up with the trash talk as long as Tu kept them winning. I'm not dismissing the players' actions, but the adults around them who proclaim to care about their education and well being only really care about the money.
-- Tom Dulle, Cincinnati
Why were all the starters in the game for Xavier with a 23-point lead with nine seconds to go? Didn't that inflame the situation?
-- Lew, Pittsburgh
These are not "kids." These are grown men who have had plenty of opportunity to shape an appropriate response to adversity. What happened to playing fair, playing clean, having good sportsmanship and letting the game outcome be determined by talent and skill?
-- Ed Harmon, Fort Worth, Texas
Since when did trash talking become part of the game? There is no place for it and it needs to stop. Why won't the NCAA inform ref crews to tee up the guys that do this?
-- Ed Rivers, Atlanta
I'm not defending what these kids did, but I think a six-game suspension for a 30 or so game season is plenty. And as for their comments after, I don't think an hour or two is long enough to let someone cool off. Just ask Mr. Suh.
-- David Zimmermann, Beaverton, Ore.
The last e-mail aside, it seems pretty clear that the consensus of public opinion held that the penalties were too light. Everybody had a different idea of exactly what the penalties should have been, but I still believe they fell considerably short given the transgressions that occurred.
Regarding the question of why Xavier's starters were still in the game during the final minute of a blowout, Xavier coach Chris Mack told me that he regretted leaving them in so late. Mack said he wanted to pull his starters, but the clock wouldn't stop during that last minute, and Mack didn't want to call time out because he feared that might look like he was rubbing it in.
That said, I like the general thrust of these e-mails, which contends that the adults in this situation -- namely, the coaches and the refs -- need to be held more accountable. Frankly, I was shocked that there were no suspensions dealt to the referees. After all, players from both teams had gotten into a heated jawing match on the way to their locker rooms at halftime. Why wasn't anybody teed up then? And why wasn't Tu Holloway immediately teed up for talking trash to the Cincinnati bench before things got out of hand? The refs either missed that, or they saw it and did nothing about it. Either way, it was inexcusable.
I also believe that Mack and Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin should have volunteered to suspend themselves for one game. The fight wasn't necessarily their fault, but it was their responsibility.
If nothing else, I hope this whole ugly episode provokes a much-needed national debate about sportsmanship. (And yes, that includes innocuous but unseemly acts of showmanship like the three goggles.) I understand trash talking has been and will always be a part of the game, but coaches and referees have become way too tolerant of it. It also doesn't help that too many coaches spend too much time complaining to refs instead of coaching their teams.
Those of us who owe our livelihoods to this great game -- coaches, players, referees, sportswriters, etc. -- have a special obligation to serve and protect it as best we can. And the game deserved far better than what Xavier and Cincinnati gave it last Saturday.