Who Won the Week? Exotic Locales and Terrapins…Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2012
Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive anywhere to watch a basketball game.
WINNER: College basketball where you’d least expect it
One year after playing North Carolina on the USS Carl Vinson, Michigan State has found an even crazier place to play: Ramstein Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany. The Spartans will face a UConn team without Jim Calhoun as (full-time) head coach for the first time since Dom Perno led the Huskies in 1985-86. Two other games are copying Michigan State’s lead, as Marquette and Ohio State will play on the deck of the USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, and Georgetown heads to Jacksonville to take on Florida on the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship. Sunday, Syracuse takes on San Diego State on the USS Midway, in the Orange’s first regular-season game in the Pacific Time Zone in more than a decade. As long as there’s a few ingenious ideas about new locations — and some enterprising tournament hosts looking to make some cash — this could become the next scheduling trend to rush through college basketball, much as exempt tournaments have over the last half-decade.
(Related losers: Fans whose home openers get put off a little while longer.)
LOSER: Scotty Wilbekin
The junior at Florida was set to seize a starting role with the departures of Bradley Beal and Erving Walker, but instead managed to land himself in coach Billy Donovan’s doghouse for an undisclosed team rules violation on the eve of the season. In his stead, shooting guard Kenny Boynton will slide over to ballhandling duties — where his shot selection has been spotty in the past — and once-heralded Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario will likely start at off guard. Off the bench, Wilbekin led the Gators with a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio last season on a team that led the Southeastern Conference in the statistic. With significant scoring talent elsewhere on the court, Wilbekin’s distribution skills will be necessary throughout the year, and the Gators are a worse team without him.
(Related losers: Florida. Related winners: Georgetown, as Florida’s first opponent; Wisconsin, which heads to Gainesville on Nov. 14.)
Having to replace departed super-scorer Terrell Stoglin, whose 34.0 percent possession usage rate was seventh nationally last season (among players who played full seasons), was going to be an uphill challenge, even for a team getting point guard Pe’Shon Howard back from a season-ending injuries and returning talented underclassmen Alex Len and Nick Faust. So for the Terrapins to get Xavier transfer Dez Wells eligible immediately, that greatly buoys a team whose wing scoring would likely have been sparse this year. As a small forward last year next to the Musketeers’ backcourt of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, the then-freshman averaged 10 points, five rebounds and a steal per game as the fourth option. Heading to a team with multiple above-average distributors and a dearth of talent on the wing will let Wells and the Terrapins both reap the rewards of not sitting out for a year.
(Related winners: Dez Wells, fans of highlight-reel dunks. Related losers: Xavier, which has to replace the production of Wells, Holloway, Lyons and Kenny Frease.)
LOSER: The NCAA
In what I hope does not become a recurring theme of this column, it seems as if the NCAA has bungled another eligibility decision, this one of incoming Indiana freshmen Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Though there has been a fair bit of negative press about AAU coach Mark Adams — the legal guardians of both players during their prep careers — and his relationship to the Hoosiers program, the fact remains that he was these players’ legal guardians. And because Adams bought some bumper stickers and other Indiana memorabilia before these players were born — what ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan says was $185 — he’s regarded as a booster by the NCAA. So, when he paid for his kids’ cellphone bills, it became impermissible benefits, twice over, and Jurkin and Mosquera-Perea were both suspended for nine games, more than half of the top-ranked team’s non-conference slate. For the Hoosiers, it means losing out on time with two big-bodied players who could help their leaky interior defense. For the freshmen, it means being a month behind the growth and development of the rest of the team, and taking even longer to get into the flow of college basketball. For fans of any team, it means the NCAA’s targets are ever-moving, and its decisions ever-unpredictable.
(Related winners: Nobody. North Carolina, I guess, for playing Indiana while Jurkin and Mosquera-Perea are suspended.)