BOZICH | Questions on U of L recruit McMahon, the SEC, Murray State, Tark
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Customers Always Write:
Thanks for the emails, Twitter messages, voice mails (502.585.0702) and notes delivered by carrier pigeon. I've decided to collect the latest questions and answer in one item.
(If this is something you enjoy, send me a note at RBozich@WDRB.com and I'll make it a regular feature. The back-and-forth is entertaining, as long as we remember we're discussing sports, not world hunger.)
On to your questions:
QUESTION: Can Ryan McMahon really become a contributor at the University of Louisville? He committed Friday, but he's a 6-foot-and-change guard from the Florida Gulf Coast who had zero scholarship offers from Power Five schools a month ago.
ANSWER: Dick Vitale thinks so.
“I've been singing his praises, believing in him and Tweeting about him for more than a month,” Vitale said Friday.
Indeed he has. Vitale said he told Louisville, Roy Williams of North Carolina, Bo Ryan of Wisconsin, Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt, Bob McKillop of Davidson and dozens of other coaches about McMahon, who is unranked by the major recruiting services.
Rick Pitino dispatched assistant coach Mike Ballado to scout McMahon several weeks ago. Ballado told Pitino that he needed to scout the player. McMahon and his father, Dave, visited U of L.
Thursday night Ballado and assistant coach Wyking Jones observed McMahon one final time. He scored 32 points, 22 in the second half, while leading Cardinal Mooney High to an overtime victory in a regional semifinal game in the Florida state tournament.
U of L offered the scholarship Thursday night. McMahon accepted Friday.
Vitale said that he agreed with Pitino's assessment that McMahon's game reminded him of Mark Price, the former Georgia Tech star.
That's unfair to any player. Price played 12 seasons in the NBA, making the All-Star game four times. There have not been many guys like Mark Price.
The size comparison works. Price was listed at six feet, 170 pounds.
I've found descriptions of McMahon that range from 5'11" to 6'1". He weighs 175. His wingspan is 6'4". His vertical jump is 39 inches.
McMahon might not be finished growing. His father, a former player at Valparaiso, is 6'3" and his mother is 5'10".
Nobody questions McMahon's ability to shoot. He averages 30 points per game. “He can flat out stroke it,” Vitale said. “I don't have any questions about that.”
QUESTION: Didn't you and Eric Crawford err on SportsPageLive recently when you said the Southeastern Conference was in line for two or three NCAA Tournament bids?
ANSWER: Yes, we did.
If the tournament field was announced today, at least five and likely six SEC teams would be included in the 68-team field.
The roll call would begin with Kentucky, the overall top seed. Move along. Nothing else to discuss about the Wildcats.
But the rest of the league?
The three bracket projection web sites that I follow all have at least four (Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana State) or five (add Texas A&M) additional SEC teams in the tournament.
The SEC has not placed five teams in the tournament since 2008. The league has only generated three NCAA Tournament teams in the last two seasons, although SEC teams went 12-3 a year ago.
The current three-game gap between Kentucky and the second-place SEC team is likely to grow to six games by the end of the season. That's great for the Wildcats, but it's not so great for the perception of SEC basketball outside the area.
But unless something outrageous happens, look for at least five SEC teams in the tournament.
QUESTION: Several readers were not pleased that I voted for Stephen F. Austin (20-3) instead of Murray State (22-4) on my latest ballot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Haven't the Racers earned more love?
ANSWER: They're correct. I should have invested more time in considering the Racers, winners of 19 straight.
Coach Steve Prohm's team is unbeaten in the Ohio Valley Conference, and eight of the Racers' dozen OVC wins have been by 10 points or more.
But...(had to be a but, right?) Stephen F. Austin sits 28 spots ahead of Murray in Ken Pomeroy's computer formula and 22 spots ahead in Jeff Sagarin's Predictor Formula.
Best wins by each team: Austin beat Memphis and Sam Houston State. Murray beat Western Kentucky and Illinois State.
Worst losses by each team: The Lumberjacks do not have a bad loss. They fell against Northern Iowa, Xavier and Baylor. Northern Iowa and Baylor are Top 25 teams. Murray has two defeats to teams ranked outside the Top 100 – Houston and Portland.
Advantage Stephen F. Austin, but I'll keep watching the Racers.
QUESTION: What was your reaction to the passing of two college basketball legends, Dean Smith of North Carolina and Jerry Tarkanian, who made his name at UNLV?
ANSWER: Sadness, certainly.
It signaled the end of an era for me. My introduction to Smith came in the late 60s when he brought two of his teams to the Final Four. He dominated a league (the Atlantic Coast Conference) that should have been difficult to dominate
Tark showed up later because in the time before 118 games were televised every weekend, I didn't see UNLV until they showed up in the 1977 Final Four in Atlanta. Even then they were considered outlaws, a role that Tarkanian embraced.
I had more individual dealings with Tarkanian than Smith. Tark had a voracious appetite for news about Kentucky and Louisville basketball. He battled U of L for several recruits (Scooter McCray and Sidney Green are two I remember). He was always available to talk when news was swirling in this area.
He was particularly interested in the Chris Mills' situation at UK because UNLV was one of the schools that tried to recruit Mills out of Los Angeles. Tark was eager to share his thoughts about what happened during that scandal, which resulted in the departure of Eddie Sutton and the arrival of Rick Pitino as the UK coach.
I'll remember Tark as the guy who did more than any coach to change public sentiment toward the NCAA. Pre-Tark, I think the public was more trusting of NCAA investigations and rulings.
That's not the way it is today. Credit – or blame – Tark.
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