Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Your basic evaluations as to which high profile freshmen should be declaring for the Association or should decide to stick around for another season in the college ranks.

Derrick Rose, Memphis – Guaranteed lottery pick, and depending upon the franchise that lands the first overall pick, could go #1 in the draft. Regardless of what happens against Kansas tonight, should punch his ticket to the Association.

Michael Beasley, Kansas State – If you are averaging 26 points and more than 10 boards a game in your freshman year in college in a conference like the Big 12, you are probably ready to go pro. Those are numbers beating Carmelo Anthony’s marks, and if Beasley had someone else to play with outside of Bill Walker the Wildcats might have gotten further.

Jerryd Bayless, Arizona – Already declared, might have wanted to stay another year. It may not be fair or right, but he reminds me a lot of a bit less polished version of Gilbert Arenas (and no, it isn’t necessarily because he wore “0” at Airzona too.)  He’ll probably turn out fine, but a year actually being coached by Lute Olson and a more open offensive system would have been better for him.

Eric Gordon, Indiana – I really don’t know if there was any other choice than for Gordon to leave.  There was too much instability and uncertainty about NCAA violations that Kelvin Sampson left with that Gordon might have been stuck with a school that could be punished severely. He was consistently good in conference, but faded when hitting the Big 10 and NCAA tourneys.

O.J. Mayo, USC – Started out his freshman year flat, got much better as Pac-10 conference play rolled on and grew into his role as leader.  Honestly, he needs to stay one more year and then he’ll be set to go. There are some shot creation situations he could use some more work on, at least from what I could see when I watched USC games this season.

Kevin Love, UCLA – After watching him just get boxed in by Memphis’ front-court tandem on Saturday, he needs to spend another year in Westwood lifting weights and focusing that post game further. The Tigers had players that are the caliber of guys Love will see in the Association — and he just looked kind of schlubby in comparison.

Photo: AP/Matt York

Tom Crean, Hoosier Savior?

The only logical explanation I can muster for Tom Crean accepting the head hoops job in Bloomington is that Rick Greenspan is paying him a lot over the next eight years and he’s wanted this job for a while. Otherwise, from a pure basketball standpoint, it stinks right now. Two senior starters are done with their eligibility, Eric Gordon is probably going pro, and the other two starters have been dismissed from the team. And we didn’t even get into possible NCAA sanctions for violations incurred by Kelvin Sampson.

Indiana’s going to suck for the next couple of years unless Crean possess magical properties that can turn the less-than-spectacular recruit he’s going to get right now into a college first-team All-America. The payoff and prestige from being the coach that “shepherds” a down program through a down period to renewed success is a big one in the coaching world; it validates ego and the coach’s methods for years (particularly if you have any success in the NCAA tournament.) It looks like IU hired the right coach, whether it pays off is another matter.

Crean Introduced as Hoosiers Coach [AP via SI]
Crean The Right Move [The Meaningful Collateral]
Bassett and Ellis Get Das Boot [Cobra Brigade]

Above The Rim: Isn’t It “Los Soles” Or Something?

Despite the Spanish cross-promotion that gave us “Los Spurs” versus “Los Suns” yesterday, Phoenix at least gave us a glimpse of something of what they could be when they made the trade for Shaquille O’Neal and held a team to under 90 points for once. If you’re getting 14 points and 16 boards from Shaq, he’s doing his job. Let’s face it: the Spurs’ Big Three didn’t have a great shooting day, but always give credit to a defense when a team doesn’t shoot well. For Phoenix, it’s somewhere to start.

Chicago is crumbling faster than a cheap Subway cookie. At least 7 points to the Pistons is a close loss, but when Chauncey Billups is torching you for 34 and you can’t put a body on Tayshaun Prince (15 points in the last 17 minutes of the game), you’ve got problems and you’re not getting in the playoffs this year. John Paxson may be trading his way down into the Bad GMs Club.

The Pau Gasol trade didn’t negate one thing about the Lakers: if Kobe Bryant isn’t having a good night shooting (at least in terms of accuracy, if not number of shots), they can lose to bad teams, and a one-point loss to Sacramento in this manner stinks. Beno Udrih (25 points, 10 assists) sunk two free throws to get the lead with 4.6 seconds left, then Kobe missed the fadeaway at the last second. Gasol had 25 points.

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Short Notes On College Hoops

Arizona is probably going to miss the tournament save a very deep run in the Pac-10 tournament — and losing a very, very close game to UCLA was really the last thing the Wildcats needed.  Obviously, most teams in college hoops don’t have a way to really body up on Kevin Love, but the Wildcats don’t have enough talent on the floor to match up in a conference with one stand-out team and a few other good ones crowding for space (Arizona State, Wazzu, USC) and tourney bids.   The program may be in transition, and it needs a solid post player to go with it next season.

Tennessee ekes out a needed victory over a surprisingly resilient Kentucky squad, one without Patrick Patterson — and while it does give us a glimpse of how the Vols were able to bounce back, I’m a bit more impressed with the work Kentucky is doing after such a tough start to the season.  Billy Clyde Gillispie will be okay in Lexington — if he keeps being competitive now, wait until more of his recruits come in to town.

Is getting blown out by 29 points merely a blip or a harbinger for Indiana? The recent chain of events in Bloomington doesn’t necessarily point to anything good in that regard, but considering that this is the Big Ten we are talking about, the Hoosiers have enough talent to get over, if not actually being a Final Four threat.  The Spartans just came out hot early and got so far in front that it wasn’t ever really close.

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Above The Rim: Calling The Comeback

Lakers 93, Blazers 86 – Kobe scores 30 as the Lakers come back from 15 down against the Trail Blazers, who reflect the youth on their squad by not being able to close out with a big lead. Jordan Farmar had 21; LaMarcus Aldredge led the Blazers with 24.

Bucks 105, Cavs 102 – Michael Redd nails the final three with the buzzer sounding, as LeBron’s new supporting cast struggles in its first road game — shooting 4 for 13 combined. James had 35, while the Bucks’ Mo Williams led all scorers with 37.

Rockets 94, Wizards 69 – No Yao, no problem…for now. It helps when your opponent scores only 21 points in the first half to help spot you a 28-point lead, y’know? Luther Head led the Rockets with 18.

Suns 127, Grizzlies 113 – Six Suns finished in double figures, with Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire, and Grant Hill all pumping in 20+. Shaq had 13 and 11 boards, his best game in a Suns uniform so far. Rudy Gay led Memphis in the losing effort with 36 — the Grizzlies let the Suns pull away late.

Vanderbilt 72, Tennessee 69 – What a comedown. Shan Foster had 32 for the Commodores, who upset the Vols a day after UT tops the men’s hoops poll for the first time ever. Maybe they’re better when Chris Lofton barely scores; he had 25 (no, probably not better when that happens.)

Indiana 72, Ohio State 69 – The Hoosiers keep on playing with win #2 for interim coach Dan Dakich. Armon Bassett led with 23, Eric Gordon had 17, and Kosta Koufos ralled the Buckeyes close with his 21. Dakich says all the right things, brushing off the extra (and unwarranted plaudits) from the IU faithful.

Missouri State 83, Drake 68 – Keno Davis’ squad isn’t immune to the letdown, as the Bears shot 59 percent in the game in order to knock off the 20th ranked squad.

Photo: AP/Kevork Djansezian

Above The Rim: Walking In Memphis (All-College Edition)

Tennessee 66, Memphis 62 – Chris Lofton has an off night with two layups and Tennessee takes the win on the road thanks to good bench play and Memphis’ inability to make free throws (again, I will not pick them to make a Final Four until they shoot at least 60% as a team). Derrick Rose still looks like a dynamo who’s ready to play 82 games.

Indiana 85, Northwestern 82 – The players show support for their departed coach (Kelvin Sampson) on their shoes while picking up what usually is a gimme win in Evanston that was anything but, considering the tension.

Drake 71, Butler 64 – The Humane Society is offended at such a dogfight, but the rest of us were entertained when two teams of Bulldogs faced each other: Drake got 25 from sophomore Josh Young, including the closing free throws that put the game out of reach. A.J. Graves led Butler with 18.

Baylor 92, Kansas State 86 – Yes, apparently you can have a team where one player scores 44 (Michael Beasley), another scores 31 (Bill Walker), and still lose when the rest of the team only scores 11 points. Balanced scoring keeps Baylor in the hunt for a tourney spot.

UCLA 75, Oregon 65 – The Ducks, in yet another hideous experimental uniform courtesy of big booster Phil Knight’s company, get up early on the Bruins yet allow them to come back at home in Westwood. Kevin Love gets 15 points and 11 boards, still looks like he needs another year in school.

USC 81, Oregon State 53 – This game was 45-15 or something like that at the half. The Beavers have just fallen apart this season and showed it at the Galen Center. O.J. Mayo led the Trojans with 21.

Arizona 65, Wazzu 55 – Chase Budinger nails down 22 points while Jerryd Bayless chips in 20, doing the “0” in a Wildcats uniform proud. Wazzu’s still in third place in the Pac-10, but Arizona needed it more to keep pace in the standings.

Photo: AP/Mark Humphrey

Cheap Shots #107

Rough week full of day job and working for the other place. As usual, tips et al can be sent to the email.

In The Wake of Tragedy: Northern Illinois University’s athletic events have all been called off for the weekend in the wake of yesterday’s shooting by a former graduate student. Five were killed before the shooter took his own life. [Chicago Tribune]

One Hell of a Typo: So, some time yesterday afternoon a release gets distributed saying Barry Bonds tested positive for ‘roids after hitting 73 in a season — and a few hours later, turns out that “2001” really was “2000”, and an already disputed test. So, no new ground there, but you could have seen the spinning go as soon as it hit ESPN. Still, this will hit the ground running. [SF Chronicle, ESPN]

It’s Not Just Devean George That’s Wrecking A Trade: More on George himself in a separate post, hopefully — but Jerry Stackhouse’s openly talking about being bought out and re-signing with Dallas after 30 days may put the Jason Kidd trade in further danger of not happening. [Yahoo Sports]

Now The NFL May Get A Taste of Congressional Kabuki Theatre: Ack, ack, ack. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) wants to keep going on the Patriots’ videotaping investigation, and now the Judiciary Committee chair, Pat Leahy (D-VT), is encouraging him. Don’t you guys have intelligence bills and judiciary scandals that require more immediate attention? [ESPN]

Visa Problems Hold Up Twins Pitcher: Francisco Liriano is having trouble getting to spring training due to a DUI arrest from 2006, and it’s part of a new immigration law — he’s got to go through a program first in his native Dominican Republic. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune via SbB]

Kelvin Sampson Death Watch: IU prez holding a news conference, is still coaching for now. My guess as to whether he makes it to the end of the season and the tourney: yes, but he will be gone at the end of the season.

Sampson vs. Slimer: Yep, as odd as you think it sounds. [Rumors and Rants]

Watch The Tree People: Stanford, under the radar (well, I suppose so if you’re not up late enough to watch the Pac-10.) [West Coast Bias]

Why Power Rankings Blow: You start them WAY too early. [Crashburn Alley]