Charles Carmouche

Charles Carmouche’s fifth-year isn’t exactly the spirit of the rule

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Charles Carmouche only played seven games last season, but he could have played many more.

He was suspended after Memphis got back from their trip to Maui, missing seven games in total before he finally saw the court again. Carmouche apparently got a massage during the trip and charged it to his hotel room. When he refused to pay for it, the massage became an NCAA violation. Thus, Carmouche was suspended.

After returning for three games, Carmouche once again was forced to the bench with a knee injury. It was classified as tendinitis and by mid-January, he was cleared to return to action. But head coach Josh Pastner let Carmouche decide when he wanted to come back. Carmouche didn’t, and instead opted to sit out and appeal the NCAA for a medical waiver.

And, surprisingly enough, he won.

On Wednesday afternoon, Carmouche was granted a fifth-year of eligibility by the NCAA. He was rewarded despite the fact that he missed seven games as the result of a suspension stemming from an NCAA violation and the second half of the season due to a knee injury that wasn’t serious enough to keep him from being cleared to play.

Making matters all the more confusing is that Carmouche has now graduated — he spent his first two years at New Orleans and the last two with Memphis, where he was allowed to transfer without sitting out when the UNO program dropped their sports to Division III — meaning that, if he were to transfer, he would qualify for the graduate student waiver.

Think about it like this: Carmouche committed an NCAA violation that a) sent him to the bench for seven games early in the season, b) took him out of favor with Pastner and c) took him out of the Memphis rotation. Because of that mess, he decided to sit out the rest of the season, which resulted in the NCAA rewarding him with the ability to transfer anywhere in the country?

That’s not exactly the reason either of those rules were created.

I’m as strong of a proponent of giving NCAA athletes rights and taking away all of the connotations that come with being a “student-athlete”. Pay ’em! Let ’em transfer freely! Don’t sign an NLI! I’m with it.

But this? This just doesn’t feel right to me. Carmouche shouldn’t be rewarded for having a season ruined because he committed a violation. (For those that don’t know, you can only receive a medical redshirt if you play in fewer than 30% of your team’s games, which usually means the magic number is nine.) And in doing so, he’ll only give credence to the argument that advantages given to athletes will be abused.

Oh well.

Anyone on college basketball’s waiver wire looking to pick up a veteran guard?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.