BOZICH | Monday Muse: If you could add one player at Louisville, Kentucky or Indiana
If you could upgrade the Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana basketball teams by fixing one recruiting miss over the last two seasons, what player would you pick?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Early returns suggest this will not be a vintage season on the local college basketball scene.
Good. Perhaps very good. But unlikely to be great.
A national championship appears to be a long shot. Kentucky looks a notch below Michigan State, Duke and Villanova. Louisville has slipped out of the Top 25 — in the human and computer polls. Indiana needs to upgrade its resume to carve out space on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Time to make that my launching pad for the Monday Muse.
1. If You Could Add One Player …
As I just said, there are more holes than usual with the Big Three local college basketball teams.
John Calipari lost more recruiting battles than usual at Kentucky last season. Louisville has a fine four-player freshman class, but the Cardinals’ depth remains a work in progress. Archie Miller needs a wing or guard that can simply take the ball and get a basket.
It’s not like the Cardinals, Wildcats and Hoosiers did not try to fill those holes during recruiting. They absolutely did.
But if you could erase one recruiting whiff at each school from the last two classes which guy would you add?
Louisville did not have many whiffs in its 2017 class. Too much time has already been burned discussing Brian Bowen. Not going there.
The list of guys that Louisville pursued but failed to sign is not lengthy but I believe it is led by this guy — Brandon Randolph, a 6-foot-6 wing from Westtown, Pa.
He picked Arizona over Oregon, Villanova and others, including Louisville, which had strong interest during the summer evaluation period. He’d fit perfectly at the off-guard, small forward slot because he has a solid perimeter game.
Randolph has averaged 11 points in Arizona’s last half-dozen games. He’s also made 15 of 33 shots (45.5) shots from distance. That works.
Kentucky finished runner-up on a string of players last season. That happens when you’re competing with Duke, Arizona, North Carolina and Kansas.
But finishing second to Oklahoma is the loss that hurt the Wildcats because they missed on point guard Trae Young, who has been kicking up comparisons to Steph Curry.
In most situations, Calipari does not have to fear Oklahoma as recruiting competition. But Young is from Norman. The Sooners were coming off a Final Four season. Young saw the numbers that Buddy Hield put up for Lon Kruger. Perfect storm.
The kid has made 33 shots from distance in nine games, one reason Young sits first on Ken Pomeroy’s national player of the year rankings. Imagine a weapon running Calipari’s team.
Recruiting whiffs explain why Miller is coaching Indiana this season. Indiana’s inability to sign one of four Top 75 in-state prospects in the 2017 class perturbed the fan base.
But it was two near-misses in 2016 that actually hurt the Hoosiers more. They did not have a point guard ready to replace Yogi Ferrell last season, and the issue has raged again this season.
Either Rawle Alkins or Bruce Brown would have been plug-and-play replacements for Ferrell, but Alkins picked Arizona and Brown went to Miami.
Miller believes he has fixed that problem with Robert Phinisee, a Top 100 prospect who scored 50 points for McCutcheon (Ind.) High Friday night.
2. Mexico City Ahead of Louisville with the NBA?
I don’t expect an NBA franchise to move to Louisville. I don’t expect an NBA expansion franchise to be awarded to Louisville.
There were times that was a possibility, but circumstances, politics and personalities conspired to keep Louisville on the bench. Doesn’t matter who you blame. Adam Silver is not walking through that door.
Despite that confession, I do enjoy the annual NBA speculation game. When I hear that Seattle has moved to the head of the class of NBA expansion cities, I do not howl. Great basketball town that should have never lost the Sonics to Oklahoma City.
When I read that Las Vegas is a serious player, I’m not surprised. Athletes love going there. The town has embraced the NHL. Hard to compete with Caesars Palace.
But this New York Times story went down like a lump of coal with me: Mexico City has positioned itself for serious consideration for an NBA team, too.
No offense to Mexico City. Vibrant place. Seven or eight times the population of the Louisville area. Would open the game to a major international market.
But at some point Basketball DNA should count for something.
Seattle, yes. Las Vega, sure.
Mexico City, I certainly hope not.
3. Donovan Mitchell Climbs Another Ladder
Donovan Mitchell is performing like a guy who deserves a weekly update in the Monday Muse. So with the help of the King of Louisville Statistics, Kelly Dickey, I have another offering:
NBA rookie pts by UofL alumni:— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) December 18, 2017
542-Donovan Mitchell (30 games)
Barely a third of the way through his first NBA season, Mitchell ranks 11th on the rookie scoring list of U of L products, overtaking Butch Beard and Charlie Tyra.
At his current rate, if Mitchell stays healthy for all 82 games, he will finish with 1,481 points, second to Doctor Dunkenstein.
4. Dear Nebraska: Please Stop
Exciting times in Lincoln. The volleyball team won another women’s NCAA title. The football program has hired a coach (Scott Frost) ready to stir memories of Tom Osborne, Mike Rozier and Rich Glover.
But the basketball fan base needs a remedial course in sportsmanship.
In their quest to be the next Cameron Crazies or Stanford band, folks at Nebraska proved that comedy writing is best left in the hands of David Letterman, Jim Murray or Barney Fife.
Some funny guy students in Lincoln chased cheap laughs by cooking up bogus bios for the student section media guide for Bill Self’s five starting players when Kansas visited Nebraska Saturday night.
Calling center Udoka Azubuike one of 12 passionate Kansas football fans produced a grin.
Saying guard Devonte Graham ordered off the kid’s menu at restaurants was haha worthy.
But calling Lagerald Vick a dog breeder (like Michael, get it?) and saying that Malik Newman was responsible for the Mississippi State basketball coach being fired (not true) were air balls.
Stick to volleyball, Cornhuskers. (Here's another story link.)
5. More Love for Juwan Morgan
At least one national outlet watched Indiana’s Juwan Morgan outplay Notre Dame senior Bonzie Colson Saturday in Indianapolis and decided Morgan deserved one more round of headlines.
Rob Dauster of NBCSports selected Morgan as his national player of the week after his 34-point, 11-rebound effort in IU’s upset victory.
Morgan averaged 20.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in IU’s five game stretch against Duke, Michigan, Iowa, Louisville and Notre Dame.
Morgan is about to add himself to the list of borderline Top 100 recruits uncovered by Tom Crean — a list that features Dwyane Wade, Victor Oladipo and OG Anunoby. Not a bad list to make.
6. Never Too Early For NBA Draft Talk
Jeremy Woo is off to a solid start with his forecasts and outlooks for the 2018 NBA Draft. No big board, pick by pick projections — yet. Need to let the season play out.
But, like me, Woo has been captivated by the performance of Young, who has put up Buddy Hield numbers for Lon Kruger at Oklahoma. (Here’s the link.) With SEC play approaching, Kentucky fans should also be interested in Woo’s thoughts on Arkansas big man Daniel Gafford.
7. One More Ovation for Teddy Bridgewater
The only thing that would have made Teddy Bridgewater’s thunderous return from a horrible knee injury better would have been a touchdown pass instead of an incompletion and an interception.
There will be plenty of time to judge Bridgewater on results. Until that day, it’s time to applaud him for overcoming an injury many predicted was likely to end his career.
His return to the field in Minnesota Sunday was a wonderful snapshot of sports at its best — a player overcoming a setback, teammates celebrating the perseverance of one of their brothers and fans showing Bridgewater how much they care.
Maybe the University of Louisville can recruit Bridgewater to appear at a Cards’ basketball game in February so he can earn another roar here.
8. Questioning Jimbo
Speaking of roars, how about some applause for Booger McFarland of the SEC Network. Apparently he’s been reading my mail or Twitter account.
McFarland is one of the few national voices to utter a discouraging word about Texas A&M’s outlandish 10-year, $75 million guaranteed contract for new football coach Jimbo Fisher.
McFarland noticed that Fisher has delivered mostly ordinary results the last two seasons even though Florida State had four straight seasons of Top 10 recruiting classes.
The guy who did the most disappointing coaching job in CFB got paid the most money ever , Jimbo is a pass happy coach who inherits a team that has been too soft over the last several years Aggies are loaded with athletes however so let’s see how this goes— Booger (@ESPNBooger) December 17, 2017
Yes, Fisher won that national title at FSU. But he’s no Nick Saban or Urban Meyer. Not close.
9. Don’t Ask Jack about Tiger, Tiger, Tiger
No matter how many times he yanks it into the rough, there are media cheerleaders hyperventilating to proclaim that Tiger Woods is on the brink of becoming something he has not been for nearly a decade — one of the best golfers on the tour.
Do not bore Jack Nicklaus with the details.
Once upon a time, the scouting reports projected that Woods was a lock to overtake Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles by now. Hasn’t happened.
Woods had one reasonably solid performance at a funsies tournament that he organizes — and that ignited another burst of “TIGER IS BACK!!!!!” stories.
Somebody asked Nicklaus about it. Mr. Nicklaus said that he wished Woods the best, but that he was “not interested in watching him.”
Here is the link to the complete story — if, unlike Nicklaus, you’re still fascinated by Woods.
10. Poll Results
Who is likely to be Mike Krzyzewski's replacement at Duke?
Bobby Hurley, Arizona State 37.4 percent
Jeff Capel, Duke assistant 26.1 percent
Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics 17.6 percent
Chris Collins, Northwestern 13.7 percent
Steve Wojociechowski, Marquette 3.3 percent
Johnny Dawkins, UCF 1.8 percent
Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved