Hopefully, Andy Kennedy has been taking notes during the Renardo Sidney saga

1 Comment

Who won the fight between Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey?

The judge ruled in favor of Sidney. Hardly a surprise.

Effective immediately, the suspensions of both Sidney and Elgin Bailey, the 6’8″ behemoth of a young man that traded haymakers with Sidney in the stands of a game televised on ESPN, have been lifted. Bailey, however, has received his release to pursue a transfer.

Sidney will be allowed to play on Saturday afternoon, when Alabama visits Starkville in the SEC opener for both teams.

“I’m very embarrassed about what happened,” Sidney said in a statement. “I know how bad it looked on TV and the embarrassment it caused for everyone associated with Mississippi State. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and I will learn from this mistake, move forward and become a better man.”

Its no secret why Sidney was allowed to return, and its not just due to the fact that Bailey was the guy that instigated the fight, as Andy Katz and Doug Gottlieb have both reported. (And if this report from Susan Shan is true, than Bailey probably deserved to be removed from the team.)

In terms of raw talent, Sidney is arguably the most promising player that Rick Stansbury has ever brought into his program. He’s waited a year and a half — through three separate suspensions — to get Sidney onto the court. His return also coincides with the return of point guard Dee Bost, who will finally be eligible after being academically ineligible at the start of the season and then facing a nine-game NCAA suspension.

Mississippi State has been one of the most disappointing teams in the country early on this season. They’ve lost every meaningful game they played, getting upset by Florida Atlantic, East Tennessee State, and Hawaii while being blown out by Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s, and Washington State. With Sidney returning alongside Bost, the Bulldogs have a chance to turn things around playing in the weaker western division of a thoroughly mediocre SEC.

There is no way that Sidney was going to be let go. Not with the out that Bailey was the instigator.

We can sit here and argue about whether or not Sidney deserves to still be on the team if you’d like, but I’d rather not. Fights happen, especially when you are dealing with young men put into competitive, emotionally strenuous situations. The fact that Sidney was involved in two altercations with his teammates is alarming, but there are always two sides to a story and two parties in a fight. I could probably be convinced either way, but that’s not what is important to me.

What I don’t think can be argued is the fact that Stansbury’s gamble has back fired.

His team is currently sitting at 8-6 and in a state of complete disarray. One of his team captains is transferring out of the school. They’ve returned from a holiday road trip that was supposed to be their non-conference proving ground with a 31 points loss to Virginia Tech in the Bahamas, a 1-2 performance in Hawaii, and a 22 point loss to St. Mary’s in Las Vegas. To have any hope of earning an at-large big to the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs would likely have to sweep their games against the top of the SEC East and win the league’s regular season title outright.

That’s a long shot, to say the least.

Which is a shame considering the amount of talent Stansbury has at his disposal.

Andy Kennedy should take notice.

You may have missed it during the holidays, but Memphis transfer Jelan Kendrick decided on Ole Miss as the place that he would try to restart his collegiate career.

Kendrick is a supremely talented young man. A McDonald’s all-american in the class of 2010, he is a versatile 6’6″ forward, a do-it-all kind of player that can run the point as well as post up. He’s also had his share of issues in the past. He attended three different high schools, finished his AAU career playing with the Memphis Magic while living in Georgia, and was most recently booted out of the Memphis program after being involved in a number of altercations with teammates. Jeff Eisenberg of The Dagger spoke with Kendrick’s former high school coach who painted a less-than-glowing portrait of the young man.

Kendrick, like Sidney, is the kind of player that can change the course of a program for the good and the bad.

He’s good enough that Kennedy can conceivably build a team around him. McDonald’s All-Americans don’t land in Mississippi all that often. But if he doesn’t mature and if he doesn’t learn how to be a member of a team, he’s the kind of headcase that can destroy a season.

I’m a firm believer in second chances. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves a chance to make right on those mistakes, including Kendrick and Sidney. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t risks involved with a providing a talented, but troubled, hooper with their second chance at athletic glory.

Only time will tell if Jelan Kendrick will be worth the risk that Andy Kennedy is taking by adding him to his program.

As of now, Renardo Sidney hasn’t been.

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

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
7 Comments

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

Getty Images
4 Comments

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.