WITH THE second class of star freshmen out and about, the effect on college basketball of the NBA rule that prohibits high school players from entering the draft is becoming clearer.
If this is simply about watching more good players in college and more competitive games, there is no question the rule has been a positive. Last season, it gave us Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. This season, it has given us Michael Beasley (Kansas State), Eric Gordon (Indiana), Kevin Love (UCLA), Derrick Rose (Memphis), O.J. Mayo (USC) and Jerryd Bayless (Arizona). Without the rule, almost all of them already would be in the NBA. So, from a hoops standpoint, it is better for college and the NBA, which really does not need to be in the business of teaching more people how to play the game.
There are other sides to this. Beyond the freedom-of-choice argument (which is a rather good one), there is also the student argument that Texas Tech coach Bob Knight, among others, has put forth. How many of these players who are on their way to the NBA are going to be serious students or students at all?
At the BCS-league level, college basketball has been quasi professional for years. What the new rule essentially does is sanction it. When Mayo was asked why he was going to USC, he cited "marketing opportunities.'' He did not cite "library opportunities.''
I have no particular problem with Mayo. He was just being honest and using the game as it no doubt would use him if it could.
To anybody who follows the sport or covers it, none of this comes as a great shock. There are hundreds of serious "student-athletes,'' as the NCAA loves to call them. There are also hundreds of serious athletes at serious schools that seriously want to win. And neither the "students'' nor the schools really care how it is done.
Classes are often obstacles to overcome, like zone defenses. Some "students'' spend much more time watching film and going over scouting reports than they do listening to lectures or going over class notes. My guess is that one or more of this season's great freshmen fit right into that category.
Beasley (25.0-point average, 14.3 rebounds) is sixth in scoring and first in boards. Gordon (24.3 points) is eighth in scoring. When all the playing is done, Love is going to have the most impact on winning and losing. He is a throwback with the skills to play the modern game.
Villanova's record 13-game Big 5 winning streak includes 11 games that were decided by double digits. Only Penn (2005) and Sunday's Temple game were decided by fewer than 10 points. And the eight-point win over Temple was actually a 26-point lead with 6 minutes to go. The Wildcats' 13 wins have been by an average of 16.1 points.
Villanova really did trail LSU, 64-49, with 3 minutes left last Thursday. The 'Cats scored nine points in the next 36 seconds. LSU insanely committed five fouls in those final 3 minutes. The 'Cats scored 19 points in 3 minutes after scoring 49 in 37 minutes to win, 68-67. Absolutely the wildest comeback in the shortest time by a Big 5 team
I have ever seen.
When La Salle's Darnell Harris took a foul with 8.6 seconds to go with his team leading by one point at Bucknell on Dec. 3, it triggered a memory.
John Griffin made two foul shots to give Bucknell a 67-66 win.
Almost the same, exact thing happened in a La Salle game 20 years ago, nearly to the day. Only the ending was different. On Dec. 2, 1987, La Salle, playing at Princeton, had overcome a 40-24, second-half deficit to tie the Tigers when sophomore Lionel Simmons (30 points, 15 rebounds) dropped in a layup to tie the game with 8 seconds left.
La Salle senior guard Richie Tarr lost track of the score and fouled Princeton's Tim Neff in the backcourt with 4 seconds left. Neff made a pair.
The ending? Senior Tim Legler took a pass from freshman Doug Overton and launched a three just before the buzzer. The ball hit the front of the rim, bounced as high as the top of the backboard and dropped right through the basket to give La Salle a 63-62 win.
The bigger difference between then and now? Legler, Simmons and Overton were all on their way to the NBA.
The Longhorns (9-0) lead the country in fewest turnovers (9.9 per game), are second in assist/turnover ratio (145/89), fewest fouls (13.3 per game) and three-point accuracy (46.8 percent) and fourth in field-goal accuracy (52.7 percent).
The Dukes have been bad forever. Last season, they were fun, but played no defense as their second-worst (of 325 teams) field-goal defense (50.7) fairly shouted. This season, they are 17th in field-goal defense (37.4 percent). The difference? Shot-blocker Shawn James, the transfer from Northeastern. He has 43 blocks in nine games and who knows how many alterations.
The league was 76-44 in non-conference games through Sunday. None of the locals has done anything noteworthy, although Saint Joseph's certainly had breakthrough chances against Gonzaga, Syracuse and Creighton.
Xavier figured to be good. Rhode Island is not a big surprise. Dayton has been a revelation. The Flyers had not won consecutive non-conference road games in 20 years. They won two road games last season. Then, they went and won at Miami (Ohio), Holy Cross and Louisville in succession. All three of them are potential NCAA tourney teams. Dayton has put itself in great early position to join them.
When the Atlantic Sun's Gardner-Webb and Mercer beat Kentucky and USC, respectively, one had to wonder if the tide had come in for the A-Sun. Forget it. Gardner-Webb is 5-6 and Mercer 4-5. USC was not ready. Kentucky is just bad. Tubby Smith knew what he was doing and why he was doing it.
When Abdulai Jalloh transferred from St. Joe's to James Madison after leading the Hawks in scoring during the 2005-06 season, it seemed curious. After all, JMU had been 7-21, 6-22 and 7-23 in the previous three seasons. The Dukes were 7-23 last season while Jalloh sat out.
There were a few issues at St. Joe's, but maybe Jalloh knew something. JMU is 6-1. The team is shooting 52 percent, sixth nationally. Jalloh is averaging 16.0 points and, yes, 4.9 turnovers. One of the reasons he went to JMU was to play with Terrance Carter, his friend from District Heights, Md. Carter leads the team in scoring (17.3 points per game).
-- Niagara senior Charron Fisher (Roman Catholic), who has come back from two devastating injuries, is the nation's second-leading scorer (27.0 points). Only Hofstra's Antoine Agudio (27.6 points) is better.
-- Fifteen of the A-10's non-con losses were by four points or fewer.
-- Michigan State senior Drew Neitzel has 42 assists and just 10 turnovers.
-- Georgetown and Washington State are two/three in scoring defense (52.1 points, 52.4 points). It is hard to believe the Hoyas might be better without Jeff Green. But it might be true as they have more athlete/players in the program. Definitely the team to beat in the Big East.
-- West Virginia is shooting 51.3 percent and holding teams to 35.7 percent shooting. New coach Bob Huggins has kept some of John Beilein's offensive concepts while instituting the same tough defense his Cincinnati teams always played.
-- The top five in the Big East (Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Villanova, West Virginia and Marquette) are combined 36-3.
-- Some things do change. Temple, which could never shoot fouls, is at 77.6 percent, seventh nationally.
-- The best ongoing home winning streaks belong to Memphis (36), BYU (35) and Notre Dame (25).
-- Freshmen O.J. Mayo (20.4 points), Jerryd Bayless (19.9) and Kevin Love (16.7) are second, third and seventh in Pac-10 scoring.
-- Oregon already has two 1,000-point scorers in Malik Hairston and Bryce Taylor. Maarty Leunen (895) is going to join them soon.
-- Randy Monroe's UMBC team is 3-0 vs. the A-10 (George Washington, Richmond, La Salle) and 7-2 overall, with a chance to win the America East.
-- Saint Joe's senior Pat Calathes' younger brother Nick is off to a great start as a freshman at Florida. Last week, Nick averaged 22.0 points, 9.0 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals. On the season, he averages 15.6 points and an SEC-best 6.0 assists.