The biggest story line of this college basketball offseason has been Emmanuel Mudiay and his decision to turn pro.
Mudiay would have been a preseason all-american with a shot at being the National Player of the Year if everything broke the right way for him. He was the key piece on an SMU team that would have hit their peak this season, an uber-talented lead guard on a veteran, defensive-minded team.
The Mustangs were going to be a top ten team entering the year, a Final Four contender and the favorite to win the American.
But Mudiay, the No. 2 player is Rivals‘ Class of 2014 rankings, decided to turn pro, signing a deal reportedly worth $1.2 million to head to China where he will play for the Guangdong Dragons.We’ve written plenty about the decision, but what we haven’t heard much from is SMU head coach Larry Brown, who spoke to CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein about Mudiay’s decision:
I’m the best coach for that guy. I believe that and I don’t mean it in a bad way. I’m still close with the kid and the family. I thought it was a bad decision but I’m going to support him because he decided to come with us because he trusted us and thought we could help him. I was aware of some of the obstacles he faced but you can’t tell somebody that has nothing and is struggling for everything to pass up a chance like that. My theory is Emmanuel is going to make it. He’s that good and he’s a great kid. But it’s not going to be good for everybody. And I’m afraid that there’s a lot of people out there that are going to push people in that direction. Unfortunately, there’s agents and so-called agents pushing them that way and I worry about that.
To be frank, I agree with Brown in that this move probably isn’t the best for Mudiay’s future as a basketball player. Spending a year — maybe more — playing for a coach like Brown will allow him to develop much more than he will playing in the Chinese pro league.
That said, I still believe that this was a decision that was forced upon Mudiay due to the potential that he would not be able to play for an extended period of time this season.
Regardless, Mudiay is headed to China and the chance for us to see SMU turn into a legitimate basketball powerhouse, even if just for one season, has gone out the window.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 4 Iowa at Indiana, 9:00 p.m.
As a result of their surprising loss at Penn State Saturday night, Tom Crean’s Hoosiers enter this pivotal contest a game back of the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten standings. And with their backloaded conference schedule, this is a game Indiana has to get if they’re to entertain thoughts of winning the Big Ten title. Two of the Big Ten’s best players will be on display in Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, but both have plenty of help behind them offensively.
Iowa’s Peter Jok has been one of the conference’s most improved players, and the Hoosiers can counter not only with forward Troy Williams but with freshman center Thomas Bryant as well. The key in this one: turnovers, as Indiana has lost the ball on more than 20 percent of their possessions in conference play. That can’t happen tonight if they’re to win.
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 11 Oregon at California, 9:00 p.m.
The Ducks have been the class of the Pac-12 to this point, but a win in Berkeley won’t come easy. The Golden Bears may not be enjoying the success many expected before the season began, but Cuonzo Martin’s team has won all 14 of its home games this season, most recently whipping rival Stanford last weekend.
The problem for Cal: Tyrone Wallace is still out due to injury, and given Oregon’s many versatile scoring options that’s a problem. Pac-12 POY candidate Dillon Brooks leads the way, but Chris Boucher has emerged as one of the conference’s best big men in recent weeks. Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb and Jordan Mathews will need to come up big, as this is a huge contest for Cal’s NCAA tournament hopes.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
The top two teams in the Big West get together in Honolulu, as Hawai’i hosts UC Irvine (1:00 a.m.) in the first of their two meetings this season. This will be a matchup of strengths when the Bows have the ball, as they lead the Big West in two-point field goal percentage (54.7) while UC Irvine leads the conference in two-point percentage defense (38.9) thanks in large part to 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye. Hawai’i forward Stefan Jankovic (15.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) has been a much-improved player under first-year head coach Eran Ganot, leading the team in both scoring and rebounding.
Two ACC teams with matching 6-5 league records meet at the Carrier Dome, as Syracuse hosts Florida State (7:00 p.m.) in a game both teams need for their respective NCAA tournament résumés. Jim Boeheim’s team should be well-rested, as they haven’t played in nine days, and they’ll need that energy to slow down FSU guards Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon. The Seminole backcourt is young but talented, and they’ll face two fifth-year seniors in Syracuse’s Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney.
Picking up a home sweep of Utah and Colorado may have given Oregon State’s NCAA tournament hopes some life, but they really need to go on a run here. Tonight’s game at Stanford (11:00 p.m.) represents a good opportunity for Gary Payton II and company to win their third straight, but the Cardinal did win the first meeting in Corvallis back on January 6. In that game rebounding was the deciding factor (Rosco Allen finished with 21 and eight boards, too), as Stanford grabbed half of their available missed shots. OSU can’t let that happen again.
With SMU ineligible for postseason play, the other American Athletic Conference teams are jockeying for position in next month’s conference tournament. Tonight UConn looks to avenge its home loss to Temple January 5 with a win in Philadelphia (7:00 p.m.). Since Amida Brimah’s return the Huskies have played much better basketball, as they have their rim protector and a finisher for Daniel Hamilton’s alley-oop passes back on the court. The Owls have won their last three games, and tonight is their second-best remaining opportunity for a quality win (they play No. 1 Villanova next Wednesday).
At this point, no one’s catching Wichita State for the Missouri Valley regular season title without the Shockers collapsing in epic fashion. But when it comes to who can earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, both Illinois State and Evansville have a shot. The two teams meet in Evansville tonight (8:00 p.m.), with three of the Valley’s best players on display in ISU’s DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell and Evansville’s D.J. Balentine and Edigijus Mockevicius. Evansville won the first meeting by 11 in mid-January, as the Redbirds shot 6-for-31 from three on the night.