SMU Mississippi Basketball

Larry Brown cut four players at SMU, and the problem is … ?

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As he has a tendency to do when he gets in the right mood, Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com took a hatchet to SMU’s decision to hire Larry Brown over the weekend.

Doyel’s biggest issue is that Brown set foot on campus and immediately started thinning out the Mustang’s roster. Three rising-sophomore forwards were told that their scholarships were not going to be renewed. The same thing happened to Jeremiah Samarrippas, a rising junior that not only started at the point during his first two seasons with the Mustangs but was also a team captain.

As an isolated incident, I don’t have a problem with this decision.

Simply put, these four players got cut. It happens, in every sport and at every level once you get past the age where everyone is required to play the same amount. As sports get more competitive at a higher level, fewer people are going to be able to play. If you’re not good enough, you get cut.

It sucks. I know. I’ve been there. I’m sure a lot of you have as well. But this is Division I basketball, and Jeremiah Samirrippas and his three former teammates are big boys. They’ll be able to deal with the disappointment and continue his basketball career somewhere else. If you can earn a scholarship to SMU, you’ll be able to go to college for free at a lower level as well. And it’s not like this is going to derail an NBA career; Samarrippas was the best of the group and he averaged 6.9 points and 4.2 assists for a 13-19 team.

Honestly, I don’t think that Brown did anything that wrong. When a coach takes over a program, he wants to coach players that he believes will excel in his system. Those four didn’t fit into that vision. Again, it sucks but it happens. And if you want to argue the academics angle, well, Doyel said it best himself: “as if college basketball players go to school to major in something other than basketball.”

No, the injustice here isn’t the fact that Brown told a third of his roster to pack their bags.

The injustice is that he is allowed to while, at the same time, being able to a) leave SMU whenever he decides he is done coaching the Mustangs and b) tell any player that decides they don’t want to play for Brown where they can and cannot transfer to.

Brown’s not alone, either. Any coach in the country can tell any player on his roster that their scholarship won’t be renewed the next season. Much has been made about the record number of transfers at the Division I level the past couple of years, but have you ever stopped to think about just how many of them were the result of a coach cutting ties?

That’s why so many people have made such a fuss about the actions of Bo Ryan and Phil Martelli and why the AD’s at Tulsa and FIU have come under such fire.

It’s unfair that a player’s former school has such influence in determining where that kid (and yes, they are still kids) will continue his career.

But it’s downright egregious that they have that much influence while simultaneously being able to kick the kid to the curb if he doesn’t perform and take off for a better job when it comes along.

If coaches were forced to give players four- or five-year scholarships — if they couldn’t kick a player out of the program on a whim — would we be as upset about head coaches restricting transfer releases?

No. 22 Cincinnati’s loss to No. 16 Butler shines light on AAC’s struggles

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts against the Butler Bulldogs in the first half of the game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on December 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Kelan Martin scored 20 points and Andrew Chrabascz added 12 points, four boards and five assists as No. 16 Butler bounced back from a tough loss at Indiana State to beat No. 22 Cincinnati, 75-65.

The Bulldogs had been undefeated on the season prior to the loss to the Sycamores, but their ranking was built on the fact that they had beaten Arizona, who was No. 8 at the time, as well as a trio of high-major programs that look destined for the NIT.

Cincinnati probably isn’t destined for the NIT. Their top 25 ranking is justified, which is what makes this win valuable. Quality non-conference wins matter, and this is just one of a handful of good wins for what has proven to be one of the most top-heavy conferences in the country. Villanova, Creighton, Xavier and Butler all look capable of reaching the Sweet 16 this season.

The opposite is true for Cincinnati, who look like the flag-bearer in a conference that isn’t really all that good. They’re the best team in the AAC this season, but that’s a conference that has consistently disappointed this year. SMU, Temple and UConn have all struggled more than we expected them to. Tulsa and Memphis are in rebuilding mode. Houston was supposed to be good this season but they’ve yet to live up to the preseason hype.

Think about it like this: The only team in the AAC without multiple losses on the season is now UCF. That’s … not ideal, and it’s going to be interesting to see just how many bids the league is able to generate.

Think about it. Temple has beaten West Virginia and Florida State while losing to New Hampshire and UMass. SMU’s best win is either Pitt or TCU, both of whom are borderline tournament teams. UConn beat Syracuse but has some atrocious losses on their resume. Houston beat Rhode Island but lost to Arkansas and LSU. Memphis beat Iowa, but Iowa’s not all that good. UCF’s best win is … Mississippi State?

Cincinnati’s lone quality win is at Iowa State, who is about to drop out of the top 25.

POSTERIZED: Wichita State’s Daishon Smith dunks on Oklahoma big man

WICHITA, KS - NOVEMBER 13:  Guard Daishon Smith of the Wichita State Shockers drives up court past forward Roschon Prince #23 of the Long Beach State 49ers during the first half on November 13, 2016 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
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Daishon Smith is 6-foot-1.

Kristian Doolittle is 6-foot-7.

The lil guy won this battle:

Here’s another angle of the dunk, which sent Wichita State’s bench into hysterics:

POSTERIZED: Duke’s Grayson Allen with a Dunk of the Year candidate (VIDEO)

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It looks like Grayson Allen’s toe is healthy. I’d say his explosivness is back:

Whoa.

Yeah.

POSTERIZED: Five-star Class of 2017 guard Trevon Duval dunks on 6’8″ defender

CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 9: Trevon Duval during the 2015  Under Armour All-America Basketball Camp on July 9, 2015 at Queens College in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
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Class of 2017 point guard Trevon Duval put down a huge poster dunk on a 6’8″ defender on Saturday as the five-star prospect showed why many consider him the top lead guard in high school basketball.

The 6-foot-2 Duval is considered the No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.

Nigel Hayes shines against as No. 17 Wisconsin beats Marquette

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 10:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers is fouled by Luke Fischer #40 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half of a game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 10, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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What a difference a year makes.

Last season at this time, Wisconsin dropped a home game to a Marquette team that was headed to the NIT.

This year?

The Badgers put six players in double-figures as they went into Milwaukee and knocked off Marquette, 93-84.

Bronson Koenig continued his hot shooting, finishing with 18 points and six assists while shooting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Vitto Brown chipped in with 15 points, Khalil Iverson had 16 and Ethan Happ chipped in with 11 despite battling foul trouble all afternoon.

But the really story here – hell, the story of Wisconsin’s season to date – has been the change in the way that Nigel Hayes plays.

Hayes was terrific again on Saturday. He had 17 points, nine boards, four assists and three steals. He shot 6-for-10 from the floor and attempted just a pair of threes, making one of them. He had the ball in his hands when Wisconsin was trying to kill off the game, and, more importantly, head coach Greg Gard has seem to start to take advantage of just how good Hayes can be as a facilitator.

There are a couple of points that need to be made here:

  1. When Hayes plays like this, he deserves to be in the all-american discussion. He’s averaging 18.0 points, 7.3 boards and 6.7 assists in the three games Wisconsin has played against high-major competition since the change, and the Badgers have won five straight games while playing easily their best basketball of the season.
  2. And it’s not just because of the numbers he puts up. When Hayes operates as Wisconsin’s de-facto point guard, it makes everyone else on the roster better. For starters, it allows Koenig to play off the ball, where he seems to be more effective. He’s at his best when he’s hunting shots and trying to create off the bounce, but his aggressiveness can be detrimental when he’s the only one touching the ball. It also means offense runs through Happ more often since Koenig isn’t dominating possession, and it lets guys like Brown space the floor because they’re actually able to get rhythm threes.

As of today, Wisconsin is the favorite to win the Big Ten, even if Indiana is far more likely to end up being a No. 1 seed in March.