College Basketball Nation: Marshall Henderson

Video: Ole Miss G Marshall Henderson

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
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Edward Aschoff talks to Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson about the Rebels' 78-66 comeback win over Mississippi State in the second round of the SEC tournament.
After cops found cocaine and marijuana in a car that Marshall Henderson was driving over the summer, Ole Miss fans feared the worst for the SEC star. Andy Kennedy had previously announced an indefinite suspension for the troubled standout who’d been reprimanded for a variety of antics since his arrival last season.

On Tuesday, Ole Miss threw the book at Henderson. A three-game suspension for incidents in the postseason and his behavior late last season -- a penalty that will cost Henderson the team’s first two SEC games.

The opponents in those league matchups? Auburn and Mississippi State.

[+] EnlargeMarshall Henderson
Benjamin Lowy for ESPNAfter a lot of talk about punishing Marshall Henderson, it seems as if the oft-troubled guard got off light with his suspension.
Harsh, I know.

But it’s typical.

Throughout the offseason, there has been more smoke than fire with regard to possible suspensions of significant players. The punishments will ultimately prove to be meaningless because players involved probably won’t miss a significant chunk of the season or contests that will matter much on Selection Sunday.

In July, North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston was cited for reckless driving weeks after an arrest for marijuana possession and driving without a license. Roy Williams promised “serious consequences” after Hairston was suspended indefinitely following his July citation. But Hairston will return.

He was the star of North Carolina’s “Late Night with Roy” preseason event last week. During the team’s media day earlier this month, Williams told reporters that he’s still undecided on Hairston’s punishment but earlier reports confirmed that he will play at some point in 2013-14.

“He’s been assigned some things that he has to do,” Williams told reporters. “He’s achieved some of those already -- he’s got some more -- and I promise everybody we’re not going to go in on game night and say, ‘Oh yeah, P.J., you’re not playing tonight.’ We’ll make an announcement before that, but right now he’s still going through the process, we’re going through the process and we’ll wait and see what happens.”

Got it.

Rick Pitino seemed furious at Louisville standout Chane Behanan when he recently announced that the forward had been suspended indefinitely and that the earliest he’d return would be early December. He also said that it was “not probable” that the junior would rejoin the defending national champions. That was mid-October. About a week later, Pitino announced that Behanan would return “in a short period of time.”

Oh.

Purdue’s A.J. Hammons, a Big Ten player of the year candidate, will miss two exhibitions and the season opener against Northern Kentucky due to a suspension for misconduct. Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin was suspended for the second time in seven months in June, but he’s back practicing with the Gators.

A memo to the mischievous: If you’re going to mess up, do it during the offseason.

Offseason problems give college coaches the ability to chastise players privately because there are no games for them to miss and there’s less overall chatter about the sport. The timing of the issues allows them to reprimand players without putting them in situations that require them to miss meaningful games. And they can shroud the entire process under the “rules violation” and “internal punishment” tags.

The players involved in some of the offseason’s high-profile mischief haven’t necessarily escaped punishment.

Perhaps Hairston has to run to Charlotte every week and Behanan has to do pushups outside the KFC YUM! Center with the national championship trophy on his back to make amends.

We’ll most likely never know the extent of the chastisement for them or other players in similar situations.

But they’ve avoided predicaments that would have potentially forced them to miss significant matchups had their challenges occurred in the middle of the season.

The offseason fuss has exceeded the actual aforementioned penalties thus far -- although we’re still not clear on the fate of Behanan and Hairston.

Overall, it seems as though the punishments won’t do a lot of damage to the programs that have disciplined key players.

Missing time against the Northern Kentuckys of the college basketball world is trivial.

The suspensions all warranted headlines when they were announced. But come March, we’ll barely remember them if the players return and thrive during the season without creating additional drama.

Seems to work out for everyone involved.

Marshall Henderson's second chance

October, 29, 2013
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LONG BEFORE HE suited up for Ole Miss, Marshall Henderson was a rebel. He admits he never liked following rules, whether set by his father or the police. Arrested in high school for using counterfeit money to buy marijuana, Henderson avoided jail but violated his probation while in college by testing positive for pot, cocaine and alcohol. A standout at L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, Texas, where he played for his dad, Willie, Henderson cycled through three colleges -- a freshman year at Utah, a transfer to Texas Tech, where he never played a game, and then a transfer 30 miles west to South Plains junior college -- before landing in Mississippi at the start of last season. Now entering his senior year, he has racked up impressive stats (20.1 ppg last season), a reputation for showboating and a lengthy rap sheet. Last season he led the Rebels to an upset over 5-seed Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament, but he was suspended indefinitely in July after receiving a citation for driving without insurance. (Police found marijuana and cocaine in his car but said it wasn't enough to prosecute.) Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy isn't sure when he'll reinstate his star guard, but Henderson says he's ready -- and has sworn off drugs and alcohol for the season.

To continue reading, click here.

Impressions: SEC media day 1

October, 16, 2013
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- For a conference accustomed to hosting thousands of media for its football events, and for a blueblood program obsessively tracked by one of the largest hordes in the country, the first day of the SEC's 2013 media days almost felt like a friends and family affair.

You could blame it on basketball's second-fiddle status in SEC country, or the down 2013-14 expectations for many teams. But the more likely cause -- Kentucky having its own media day earlier this week -- kept most of the Wildcats faction home.

Don't let the cognitive dissonance fool you. All eyes remain very much focused on Kentucky.

This is usually the case, but never more so than this season. Just a few months after a first-round NIT loss to Robert Morris, and two seasons after a dominant national title run, Kentucky coach John Calipari has reloaded with what most believe is the best group of freshmen ever. Nor is Calipari interested in keeping expectations in check. Many coaches would never come close to mentioning even the remote thought of the possibility of the inkling of going undefeated. On Tuesday in Lexington, Ky., Calipari was happy to discuss it.

[+] EnlargeJohn Calipari
MCT/ZUMA Press/Icon SMIAs expected, most of the talk during the Day 1 of SEC media days centered around John Calipari and Kentucky.
"The other option is to go into the season with no expectations," Calipari said. "I'm not sure I'd prefer that."

But that doesn't mean he's predicting an undefeated season. Indeed, the outsized hype surrounding the Wildcats was belied by many of Calipari's comments Wednesday. Though he cited the huge number of NBA scouts at UK practices this fall -- over 40 to date, he said -- he just as quickly admitted that he is still installing the bare-bones basics of his offensive scheme. Forward Julius Randle, selected by the SEC media as the preseason player of the year, is playing slightly out of position in practice; the whole team is still adjusting to the system's improvisational imperatives. The process is intense enough that the topic of defense -- where Calipari has been the most consistently effective with his young teams in the past decade -- hasn't even been broached.

"The practices have been pretty good," Calipari said. "Very competitive. High energy ... We're not a good defensive team right now. We're not a good rebounding team. We haven't worked on it.

"We're scrimmaging three-quarters of our practices right now. It's controlled, but it's scrimmaging. What I'm saying is 'fail fast.' It means, play uncomfortable. Go harder, so we can correct you, so you can feel what works and doesn't work now. ... We're all offense, because I'm trying to build their confidence. No defense. And it shows. No rebounding stuff right now, and it shows. But they pick [things] up."

The result of Calipari's unconventional developmental process is almost as much of a question as what kind of league the Cats will be attempting to win when SEC play begins in January.

The 2012-13 season was nobody's idea of a banner season. Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency metric tracks and ranks conferences based on overall, pound-for-pound strength; last season the SEC ranked seventh, behind its traditional power conference brethren and the Mountain West. It earned just three tournament bids.

Those struggles caused no small measure of soul-searching in the league's Birmingham offices this offseason. When Wednesday's media day queries didn't revolve around Kentucky's incoming class or Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson (which was rare), they focused on the current state of the SEC.

One measure designed to alleviate the SEC's at-large issues last season is this summer's collective agreement, spearheaded by commissioner Mike Slive and consulted on with former NCAA basketball operations VP Greg Shaheen, on nonconference scheduling. Collectively, the league is working with coaches and administrators on scheduling tougher in November and December in the hopes of boosting everyone's RPI come March.

"It's a responsibility for all of us," Calipari said. "We can all be about our own programs and we'll all go down one by one. Or we can be about each other. You gotta bury the jealousy. Let's go."

Most coaches seem to be in favor of the effort, at least where applicable. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said it's important that members realize the impact they have on each other, but wasn't totally convinced SEC coaches needed to start scheduling like Long Beach State.

"I told this to an administrator the other day: 'If your team is bad, you're bad,'" Stallings said. "All conferences have ebbs and flows to them. Last year might not have been our best year, but don't be surprised if this year is dramatically, dramatically different than that. If we get six or seven teams in the tournament this year, which will not surprise me in the least, nobody will be talking about that anymore."

However strong the rest of the SEC ends up being, Kentucky is sure to improve. The question is how much better the Wildcats will be, whether Calipari's high expectations -- his "dream" of coaching an undefeated team before he retires -- make the man at the center of it all look prescient, or silly.

3-point shot: Rutgers' plan for Okoro

September, 17, 2013
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1. Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said Iowa State transfer Kerwin Okoro will be the Scarlet Knights' fourth guard. Okoro, who received his waiver to play immediately due to his personal hardship, can also play small forward. "Our three guards are all under six-feet tall,'' said Jordan. "We need Kerwin to defend bigger guards.'' Rutgers is still waiting on Pitt transfer J.J. Moore's waiver appeal to play immediately. Jordan said the Scarlet Knights are hoping to hear something this week. Rutgers got good news last week to help clean up a depth issue when Junior Etou was deemed a qualifier. Meanwhile, Illinois coach John Groce said Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks is still waiting to hear on his waiver to play immediately. The same is true at Oregon where the Ducks are awaiting news on whether Houston's Joseph Young will be allowed to play immediately without sitting out a year.

2. Ole Miss got two injured players back but lost another. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said sophomore Terry Brutus is done for the season with a torn ACL, suffered last week in practice. But the Rebels do have forward Aaron Jones back from his ACL injury, which occurred against Kentucky on Jan. 29. Forward Demarco Cox is also back after missing all but seven games last season with a stress fracture in his foot. The depth can still be there for the Rebels up front, despite the loss of Brutus. But the Rebels will go as far as Marshall Henderson can carry them. He is currently suspended but the SEC's top scorer is expected to be back in the good graces by the heart of the season, giving Ole Miss a potent offensive option.

3. The NIT Season Tip-Off is supposed to release its long-awaited bracket Tuesday. This is what we know for sure: the four hosts are Arizona, Duke, Rutgers and Alabama. And you can lock in Arizona and Duke will be on opposite sides of the bracket so they can meet in a potential final at Madison Square Garden the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 29. If that occurs then you'll get a treat of seeing two of the top freshmen in the country in Arizona's Aaron Gordon and Duke's Jabari Parker. Both of these teams should be considered Final Four contenders. The NIT bracket has been "the best secret in college sports,'' according to Arizona coach Sean Miller. That's called sarcasm and he's right. The bracket has taken way too long to be revealed.
1. Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson is expected to be in class when fall semester starts next week in Oxford, coach Andy Kennedy confirmed. Henderson was suspended earlier in the summer for reportedly failing a drug test. Henderson hasn't been cleared yet. The plan is for him to work on regaining the trust of the department and school before being reinstated. Henderson has been quiet this summer since the suspension. He led the Rebels to the Round of 32 last March and was the leading scorer in the SEC. The Rebels won the SEC tournament, too.

2. UCLA coach Steve Alford said during our ESPNU college basketball podcast Monday that he was willing to play his old team, New Mexico, and best friend Craig Neal sometime in the future. But Alford wouldn't commit to a year. Alford should get the game done while his son Bryce and Neal's son Cullen are still in school. The two had a budding rivalry to go along with their close friendship when they were Albuquerque scoring studs. This is a new era out West. In the past, UCLA wouldn't play New Mexico for fear it wasn't a quality game. But now the Lobos are as much of a high-profile game as any game beyond the traditional powers. Playing New Mexico at the Pit -- where Alford said he would be willing to play for a true home-and-home -- would be arguably a better game for the Bruins then their recent series with Missouri. Playing UCLA for the Lobos would be a big deal and another sign the program has arrived on a larger stage.

3. The Super Tuesday schedule was released with two interesting side notes: The amount of exposure for LSU in the SEC and Iowa in the Big Ten. LSU got two high-profile home games against Tennessee (Jan. 7) and Kentucky (Jan. 28). This is a golden opportunity for the Baton Rouge faithful to show their true spirit and ensure the Tigers are a feared road spot. LSU enters the season as a bit of a sleeper in the SEC. Win one or both of those home games on a night when it will be the featured game could give the Tigers shelf-life NCAA-type wins. Iowa is a trendy pick in the Big Ten and was rewarded with three games -- two at home against Michigan State (Jan. 28) and Ohio State (Feb. 4) and one on the road at Indiana (Feb. 18). Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he has an NCAA team. The Hawkeyes won't be short chances with an opportunity to produce advantageous home crowd situations against a few of the top teams in the league.
1. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, appearing on our ESPNU Katz Korner special Thursday night, still hasn't ruled out a return for Marshall Henderson. Henderson is suspended after a violation of team rules (ESPN and media reports cited a failed drug test). But there doesn't seem to be any indication that Henderson has played his last game for the Rebels. If Henderson can stay straight and behave over the next few months, as well as handle all of his requirements that are being placed on him, then don't be surprised at all if he returns to the Rebels in some form next season. That doesn't mean he wouldn't have any kind of game suspension. But I didn't get the idea that Henderson is done playing for the Rebels -- yet.

2. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy, who said he's feeling great now nearly two years after being diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson's, would love to rekindle the rivalries from the Big 12. He said he wants to play Texas but the interest is not reciprocal. He said he wanted to play Baylor in Dallas to start the season but the Bears didn't want to play the Aggies. The SEC's Aggies are playing one former Big 12 school -- Oklahoma -- in a game in Houston next season. Kennedy said he could play eight of the 10 Big 12 schools if the schedule permitted, but the resistance from long-time rivals Texas and Baylor is still too strong. He said he's hopeful that he can one day get the Aggies to play their tradition-rich schools.

3. Air Force coach Dave Pilopovich was on our Katz Korner show as well, but off-air repeated what the NIT told the Falcons last March. The Falcons were deserving of an NIT bid, but their best player Michael Lyons (45 points in a game against Colorado State) was done for the postseason with a knee injury. Pilopovich said the NIT asked him if Lyons could play. He said no. And the NIT then didn't invite the Falcons. They were then forced to go to the CIT. Air Force deserved better and as Pilopovich said the entire Falcons team was punished because of Lyons' injury. The Falcons finished in sixth place at 8-8 in the MWC, one spot behind Boise State. Pilopovich said he thinks the Falcons would have had a shot with a healthy Lyons to earn an NCAA berth. Air Force knocked off UNLV and New Mexico during the regular season. In the CIT, the Falcons won at Hawaii before losing at Weber State. The NIT has to a tough job to field the event, especially with taking automatic qualifiers that didn't win their conference tournaments. But the Falcons deserved a rare NIT berth, even with Lyons being out. I'm not a fan of the selection committee asking if a player can play, an honest answer being given and the rest of the team being relegated to a lower-level tournament.
Now that realignment is behind us, rosters are mostly finalized, and freshmen are getting used to living in dorm rooms (oh, to be reborn at summer orientation), we're spending the week looking ahead at some of the more interesting players and storylines we expect to track in 2013-14. Next up: players facing crucial senior seasons, both individually and for their teams.

(Important note: This is not a list of the best seniors, or even necessarily the most important or most indispensable). It is a list of seniors -- some who have underachieved to date -- that need to, once and for all, make good on their star potential in their final year in the college game. Make sense? Cool.)

10. C.J. Fair (Syracuse): Fair's career to this point has been characterized by admirable consistency. In his first two campaigns he maintained similarly promising offensive ratings (109.5 and 114.6) while averaging a 17.3 percent usage rate, while blending in quality defense, rebounding and stellar work on the offensive glass. Fair's usage jumped slightly as a junior (to 20.5 percent of available possessions), and he grew far more comfortable wielding his outside shot, but the rock-solid fundamentals of his game remained mostly the same. As a senior, even on a team with plenty of oncoming talent, Fair may yet be expected to do even more. If he can expand his game further on the perimeter and provide go-to scoring in the midrange without losing the things that have made him so solid for so long, the Orange should make a massive impression in their first year in the ACC, and Fair should do the same for NBA scouts.

[+] EnlargeKevin Ollie, Shabazz Napier
John Woike/Hartford Courant/MCTGuard Shabazz Napier has taken on a leadership role under coach Kevin Ollie.
9. Shabazz Napier (Connecticut): Napier has had one of the most up-and-down careers of any player in recent college hoops memory. You can make the argument that he got where he needed to be as a junior. Not only did he have his best year by far statistically (he posted a 115.3 offensive rating on 24.3 percent usage and a 54.4 effective field goal percentage, shot 39 percent from 3 and created plenty of steals) but also, under new coach Kevin Ollie, assumed the leadership role denied him by that apathetic 2011-12 team. The only problem? UConn was ineligible for the NCAA tournament. With a full batch of returning players and that APR-induced postseason ban behind the Huskies, Napier is in position to make his biggest impact since Kemba Walker was on campus.

8. Tim Frazier (Penn State): As promised above, some of the guys on this list have underachieved for most of their careers; it's not fair to lump Frazier into that group. There are two reasons he isn't already a household name: Penn State and injuries. When Frazier was healthy for his true junior season in 2011-12, he led the Big Ten in assists (and posted the nation's second-highest assist rate, higher than either Kendall Marshall or Scott Machado), averaged 18.2 points per game (second in the Big Ten), created four steals per 100 possessions and drew an average of six fouls per game, while playing 92.8 percent of his team's available minutes. Thanks to a medical hardship waiver -- the 2012-13 campaign was derailed by a brutal ACL injury Achilles tear in just the fourth game of the season -- 2013-14 will provide Frazier with his last chance to earn the kind of individual national attention that gets scouts to raise an eyebrow. If he can also pull Penn State over the rebuilding hump, hey, all the better.

7. Aaron Craft (Ohio State): You couldn't say Craft has underachieved in his career. Quite the opposite. During his prep days, Craft was seen as a merely respectable but hardly a program-changing recruit, provided your head coach didn't lie to NCAA investigators about having him over for a barbecue. (Ba-dum-ksh.) Craft has long since exceeded those expectations. As a freshman, he seized a starting role in Thad Matta's very good veterans-plus-Jared Sullinger-led lineup, and he has maintained his spot by cementing the respect of teammates and coaches and, most noticeably, playing the best, peskiest perimeter defense in the country. That's his calling card, and it won't go anywhere, but one can't help wondering whether Craft still has more to pick up on the offensive end. Can he be a leading scorer? A more confident 3-point shooter off the dribble? Is that even possible, given the tireless work Craft does on the defensive end? (Related: Can Shannon Scott, who morphed into a deadly defender late last season, take on some of that burden?) Losing Deshaun Thomas means Ohio State has to replace a large chunk of scoring one way or the other; more incisive stuff at the point of attack would be a good place to start.

[+] EnlargeMike Stobe/Getty Images
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesCory Jefferson was a force during Baylor's NIT run.
6. Cory Jefferson (Baylor): It is never wise to project too much based on the disproportionately weighted sample of a few postseason games in March. This is especially true when the postseason in question was the NIT. So yes, you can expect Jefferson's 21.2 points per game in the Bears' NIT title run -- which ended with a 74-54 vivisection of a very good Iowa defense -- to earn him his fair share of prospective love this fall. But Jefferson was good long before March. He posted a 128.1 offensive rating on 19.1 percent usage -- and shot 61.8 percent from inside the arc, leading the Big 12 in overall field goal percentage (61.0) in the process -- in 2012-13. Could he approximate that effort with more of a lead role as a senior? We'll see.

5. Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss): Here's another question: Did Henderson already max out his talent? After a season in which he took 394 3s (which is insane!) and made 35 percent of them (less insane, but pretty good), it's hard to imagine Henderson somehow finding a way to take more shots. It's even harder, given the volume involved, to picture him finding a way to improve that 113.5 offensive rating. According to Synergy scouting data, 38.2 percent of Henderson's possessions ended with off-ball screen action; no other play type came remotely close to that sort of frequency. (No. 2? Spot-ups, with 17.2 percent, trailed by transition offense and hand-off plays -- all of which screams "not allowed to put it on the floor.") With a less experienced frontcourt, there are only so many screens the Rebels can set. There are only so many shots Henderson can take.

So the premise for improvement is twofold. To dig an even better senior season out of his madcap heart, Henderson needs to become a better ball handler, distributor and scorer off the dribble -- less a gunner than a capable combo guard. He also, obviously, has to get to the court in the first place, which will be no small feat given the substance abuse issues that put his status at Ole Miss in jeopardy this month. Henderson appears to be taking that stuff seriously -- which he clearly wasn't at first -- and that's a good thing. It is also crucial for his career. If Henderson has any shot of making his NBA dreams a reality, he has to adjust his skill set and quell any and all concerns about his life away from basketball. It won't be easy.

4. Kendall Williams (New Mexico): It is hardly fair to tie one's assessment of a player to one particularly bonkers scoring night, but I know what I saw, and what I saw was Williams score 46 points in 33 minutes against a good Colorado State team on the road. It's not like he had a bad season otherwise -- 13.3 points and 4.9 assists per game is perfectly respectable -- but it was impossible to watch him that night and not think there was something more below the surface. Truth is, Williams hasn't really improved statistically in his college career. He was a better passer and drew more fouls as a junior, but his freshman season remains his most efficient. His 3-point accuracy fell to 34.8 percent, down from the 42.6 percent mark he posted two years prior. Without newly minted Chicago Bull Tony Snell in the backcourt, it's fair to wonder whether the Lobos will have the same defensive chops that anchored their excellent 2012-13 season. Williams will have to work more efficiently alongside emerging star Alex Kirk to find another gear going forward.

[+] EnlargePatric Young
Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty ImagesPatric Young may see more opportunities in the post this season.
3. Patric Young (Florida): Young has always felt a bit disappointing. That's rarely been his fault. During his first two seasons at Florida, he frequently languished on the low block while Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton fired away from 25 feet. As a junior, the calculus changed somewhat and Young began to get more genuine post touches in a strikingly balanced edition of the Gators' spread attack. Still, he remains the college game's greatest physical specimen for three years running; you can't look at him and not expect him to dominate everyone in his vicinity. He got closer on the defensive end last season. Overall, he still isn't there. This may be the year. Boynton, shot-magnet Mike Rosario and fellow four Erik Murphy are all gone. Scottie Wilbekin is not an aggressive attacker by nature. Freshman phenom Chris Walker's status remains up in the air. Odds are, Young may finally get the chance to go to work on the low block, even if by default. The question is whether he's ready.

2. Keith Appling (Michigan State): When Appling first popped up as a freshman at Michigan State, he was a breath of fresh air. That 2010-11 team was one of the few -- honestly, maybe the only -- in Tom Izzo's tenure to genuinely underachieve. Delvon Roe fought admirably through career-ending injuries, and a young Draymond Green pointed toward a bright future, but the team's three lead guards (Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, and Korie Lucious), so key in bright back-to-back Final Four runs, proved to be corrosive, selfish influences. Appling quickly provided a contrast. His offensive game was tentatively promising, and his tenacious defense earned him Izzo's immediate respect. Here was a young, willing guard coached by a guy who made a career out of turning the Keith Applings of the world into Spartan legends. He was as sure a bet as the sport had to offer.

Remind me not to start a career oddsmaking business. Three years on, Appling's offensive game hasn't really improved. As a junior, he averaged 46.4 percent from inside the arc and 32 percent outside it. Turnovers are not uncommon to Izzo's teams, but Appling's inability to get his turnover rate down -- it was still 18.6 percent in 2012-13, just two points lower than his 20.6 percent assist percentage -- has compounded the effects of mediocre shooting. Last season, he went whole games, even whole weeks, when he would either (A) disappear, or (B) play so poorly (or at best, so tentatively) that Spartans fans would wonder whether option A wasn't preferable.

Appling has never been bad, per se. His perimeter defense hasn't gone anywhere. He has battled injuries with characteristic toughness, battled his slumps with determined accountability. You never hear bad things about him; he's been a reliable, hardworking presence within the program. But he has also never developed into what his coach once so convincingly proclaimed he would be.

This season is his final chance. The Spartans will be loaded again, with the Big Ten Freshman of the Year Gary Harris set for a monster sophomore season and forward Adreian Payne still blossoming into a devastating talent. Appling doesn't have to morph into a turnover-free replicate. He merely has to do what he does already and shoot the ball a bit better. If he does, there won't be many teams in the country capable of matching Michigan State man for man. If he doesn't, the Spartans will still be good -- but they, like Appling himself, risk leaving something on the table.

1. Joe Jackson (Memphis): Fortunately, Memphis won an NCAA tournament game in 2013. Getting that monkey off coach Josh Pastner's back meant knocking back at least some of the steadily growing "But can he actually coach?" talk in the Bluff City (and reinforcing a personal pet peeve about tournament sample size). It also meant less pressure on the player that has, for both better and worse, defined Pastner's tenure at the school.

Like many of the very best players Pastner has recruited in his tenure, Jackson is a local product, one of the first Pastner landed, who was unafraid to place his hometown's hopes -- and its uniquely provincial baggage -- on his back. He has also been emblematically frustrating. Hugely confident but too sensitive to criticism. Talented but too inconsistent. At times, he has been Memphis' best player. Just as often, he has moped his way to the bench.

Give Jackson credit for this much: He's still here. Many of Jackson's teammates have been fellow Memphis natives, and by many accounts the dynamic around the program has often resembled a youth team writ large, with whole neighborhoods and high school sets standing in for bickering parents arguing on behalf of one player or another. Rumors of intrasquad squabbles have been just as common. Jackson could have transferred, cordoned himself away from the local intensity, but despite all the struggles he remained. As a junior, he was much improved. His improved third season -- more unselfish and efficient than either of the two that preceded it -- built an excellent foundation for his senior campaign, but there is much more to be accomplished -- a deep tournament run chief among it.

When he arrived four years ago, Jackson embraced the unique pressure of his situation. As he told our own Dana O'Neil:

"I want to be remembered," Jackson said. "I want to be a legend. I want to be a hero. I want old people to see me on television and say, 'Look at that kid. He made it. He did it. That's who I want you to be like.'"

His performance has never quite matched that ambition. He has one more chance to close the gap.

In Marshall Henderson's crazy-pants world, Wednesdays are not merely Wednesdays. They are "#whitegirlwednesdays," whatever that means. Most Wednesdays, the hashtag is accompanied by typical athlete-tweet self-motivation. On this particular Wednesday, Henderson accompanied his ritual with a vague, ominous warning:

Needless to say, the prophecy has been fulfilled: Three hours after Marshall issued his advisory, Ole Miss announced it had indefinitely suspended Henderson for a violation of team rules, according to its release. Multiple outlets, including ESPN's Jeff Goodman, soon learned the suspension was a result of multiple failed drug tests, according to sources.

In 2012-13, after a long, winding, trouble-pocked career at Utah, Texas Tech and South Plains Community College, Henderson finally made good on his talent. He led Ole Miss in scoring (attempting an insane 394 3s in the process), and the Rebels made their first NCAA tournament under Andy Kennedy, which included an upset of No. 5-seeded Wisconsin in the first round -- a win that played no small part in the previously embattled Kennedy's new four-year, $1.8 million contract.

Henderson rose to national prominence not only for shooting a gazillion 3s, or for getting Ole Miss into the bubble picture, but for being, as he has readily admitted, crazy. Henderson screamed at himself and opposing players, taunted fans with hilarious abandon, and even showed up at a bar after Ole Miss beat Wisconsin. Much of it was the kind of thing that tends to enrage old, stodgy, humorless types, and there were immediately detractors. But Henderson's reckless style, the barely concealed rage he channeled into his game, was impossible to ignore. In a climate that seeks to conceal any and all flashes of personality at every turn, Henderson was a raw nerve. It was thrilling.

[+] EnlargeMarshall Henderson
AP Photo/John BazemoreMarshall Henderson gave Ole Miss fans plenty to scream about last season, including an NCAA tourney win.
For many, the shift from "whatever, this guy is awesome" to "OK, too far" came in March, when Henderson responded to Ole Miss' season-ending second-round loss to La Salle by whipping a pair of obscene gestures at fans. In the offseason, Henderson wrote an open letter on the Rebels' athletics website apologizing for letting his anger boil over.

"I play the game with a lot of passion, and sometimes that passion boils over," Henderson wrote. "I take responsibility for my actions this season and apologize to anyone I offended. However, my edge on the court has made me the player that I am. I can’t change that, but I do understand that I can take things too far.

"I have come to understand this year that I represent this team and this university, and I have to hold myself to a higher standard than people in the stands, because I am a student-athlete at Ole Miss."

Turns out, the biggest problem isn't what Henderson does when he's on the court. It's what he spends his time doing off it.

This latest suspension is hardly Henderson's first drug-related issue. In high school, when he fielded scholarship offers from Gonzaga, Notre Dame and Stanford, Henderson was arrested for trying to buy $800 worth of marijuana with counterfeit currency. He subsequently tested positive for alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. In 2012, and after repeatedly failing to perform his court-ordered community service, Henderson spent 25 days in jail.

Now, following these latest reports -- and rumblings that Henderson is legitimately close to being dismissed from the school -- Ole Miss must undertake a classic cost-benefit analysis. Does Henderson's talent outweigh his problems? He was the Rebels' best player last season and will surely be their prized asset in 2013-14, provided he makes it to November. He is also, in many ways, the best thing to happen to Ole Miss basketball in a long time -- a player with must-watch casual-fan appeal, someone who can compel viewers to closely follow Kennedy's typically forgettable Rebels hoops program where otherwise they might rightfully shrug.

But at what point does his fame paint the entire program with an ugly brush? At what point does Kennedy begin to look like an enabling pushover, just one more coach willing to trade scruples for wins? At what point does the attention undermine everything positive that could come along with it? When is there such a thing as bad PR? Where is the line?

If Henderson hasn't already crossed it, he's dangerously close.
One time, when my brother and I were little kids putzing around on summer break, we got, as little kids often are, bored.

To entertain ourselves, we decided to push our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy chest down the stairs. I don't exactly recall the logic underpinning this decision, but I was like six, so there probably wasn't much logic involved. Now, this toy chest was boss. It was a few feet tall, wooden with metal clasps like a music roadie's amp box, and heavy. When we shoved it down the stairs, gravity did its thing, and at the bottom it slammed into our home's newly plastered drywall. The hole it left behind -- and our sudden terror at what we had done, and what would happen when our parents saw it -- is one of my most vivid childhood memories.

I share this story because I want to empathize with the NCAA: Summer boredom makes us all go a little stir-crazy. That's probably the best, or at least the most generous, explanation I can come up for the Division I men's basketball recent committee's spate of delayed, ineffectual, borderline pointless reprimands handed out in a series of statements this week.

The first object to catch the NCAA's remarkably belated judicial gaze was Kansas coach Bill Self, who on Wednesday was "fined and reprimanded" for hitting the scorer's table during KU's NCAA tournament win over North Carolina. Our own Jason King discussed this Wednesday night. As King said, no one even noticed Self's outburst, which apparently busted an LED light, at the time. But committee chair Ron Wellman had his crack forensics team re-open the cold case just in time to end Self's monstrous reign of terror. Thank goodness.

Next up was a hearty tsk-tsk sent in the general direction of Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, who memorably flipped fans the bird after his team's second-round loss to La Salle. At the time, most everyone (even those who get really bored by crusty arguments about decorum and/or the good old days) agreed that Henderson's antics had crossed the line from "insane but enjoyable" to "just plain dumb." Henderson, for his part, agreed, and in early April penned a thoughtful letter apologizing for being offensive.

Case closed? Nope. The NCAA circled back this week, almost three months after Henderson's letter, to make sure he knew, as Wellman put it in a statement, that the committee wants to ensure "championship participants act in a manner that represents the highest standards of sportsmanship" and that Henderson's actions "failed in this regard." You can almost smell the justice. It's intoxicating!

And last but not least, the D1 men's hoops committee's turned to the vile international outlaw known as Darron Boatright (if that is his real name), an associate athletic director at Wichita State. Boatright's crime? A "verbal confrontation with the Staples Center security staff prior to Wichita State’s regional semifinal contest against LaSalle." Wellman issued another public reprimand, and another quote that ended with "highest standards of sportsmanship," and who would dispute the world is a great deal safer for it?

Some have criticized, and even gone so far as to lampoon, the men's basketball committee for this. Many have insinuated that the NCAA's punishments are so meaningless as to be nonexistent, and so drastically delayed as to be irrelevant. Some have even been so insulting as to begin their blog posts comparing their six-year-old exploits toy chest destruction as analogous to the NCAA's motives.

Now that we've had a chance to review the evidence, though, we can only praise the men's committee's bravery in this matter. Wellman and his rogueish band of brothers are the only people standing between March Madness as we know it and the bird-flipping, table-punching, Staples Center-employee-arguing dystopia that lies just beyond our walls. They may not be the heroes we deserve, but they're the ones we need right now.
1. Colorado didn't burn any bridges when it left the Big 12 and the Buffaloes are taking advantage of the relationships to schedule quality nonconference games for a team that should make the NCAA tournament in 2014. The Buffaloes already get Kansas in the return game of a home-and-home series with their former Big 12 rival. Colorado coach Tad Boyle then searched for an opponent to play at the MGM Grand -- site of the Pac-12 tournament -- on Dec. 20. Boyle locked in Oklahoma State, a team likely to be picked to win the Big 12. The Buffaloes now have the potential to have two top 10-15 nonconference games by scheduling KU and OSU. The Buffs already had scheduled Front Range games against Wyoming at home and Colorado State and Air Force on the road -- both extremely difficult stops. Boyle said he's trying to add one more neutral site game and one more home-and-home series as well as two other guaranteed games. Meanwhile, the Buffs, who lost Andre Roberson early to the NBA draft, are getting great reviews on incoming freshmen Jaron Hopkins and Dustin Thomas.

2. Oregon is getting creative with its schedule for a team that should be, like Colorado, in the upper half of the Pac-12 in 2014. Oregon coach Dana Altman said the Ducks have signed up with a new home-and-home series with Ole Miss, starting in Oxford. That game should have some sensational guards with Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson and the Ducks' backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. Oregon is also playing Illinois in the Rose Garden in Portland with a return game the following season at the United Center in Chicago. BYU is also coming to Eugene. This schedule gives the Ducks bubble teams to start the season. The Ducks' willingness to go to Oxford should be applauded since few teams look to play the Rebels at home. This is a win-win for both schools.

3. An attorney who specializes in NCAA cases said late Monday night that it would be impossible for any school to influence and/or police the behavior of an extended family or coach of a student athlete. The school is supposed to promote compliance to the player and his immediate family. But the Ben McLemore case is an example of how hard it would be to check on whether a third-party is profiting to steer a client to an agent without the player coming forward that he was on the take, too. But having the NCAA investigate is still never a good sign because they can find information relative to the case that can spur other issues. "You never want the enforcement staff to look at you,'' said the attorney. "But this isn't a case of a recruiting violation. It's hard to say in this case that Kansas should be expected to police and monitor the actors in this case.''
1. The ACC's commitment should hold off any major expansion or alignment issues, assuming the Big Ten doesn't see the need to raid a lesser conference. This doesn't mean the ACC won't decide independently to go to 16 schools and potentially add Connecticut and Cincinnati. This is still more than plausible since 16 is a more manageable number than 15. Neither makes sense for the Big Ten since that league already has the Cincinnati market with Ohio State and doesn't need Hartford-Storrs. So, if UConn and Cincinnati have to stay in the newly named American Conference they shouldn't be sentenced to purgatory. Having each other, Louisville for a year, and perennial NCAA teams Memphis and Temple will give the two former Big East programs at least three top 50 games every season. If these teams schedule right outside the league -- and they likely will -- then making the NCAA tournament shouldn't be an issue. For those who squabble about the lack of quality opponents in the conference season then remember this: All that matters is tournament access. And UConn and Cincinnati will have a legitimate shot every season to make the field.

2. Providence coach Ed Cooley said it was worthwhile to have Ricky Ledo practice with the team for a season, even though Ledo will never play for the Friars after being declared academically ineligible and he decided to declare for the NBA draft. "The year off helped him see the game differently," said Cooley. "I told him to come to practice with a purpose and within the purpose what is his plan. He definitely improved defensively. We would have loved to have had him. Had he played for us he would have been one of the leading scorers in the country next season. But our guys got to play against him and got better. Our scout team was unbelievable.''

3. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said Marshall Henderson is staying in Oxford this summer, taking classes and working on his game. The high-volume shooter is working on his ballhandling and strength, according to Kennedy. Henderson has to diversify his game if he wants to play in the NBA. He returns for his senior season as one of the storylines and with plenty of hype to lead the Rebels back to the NCAA tournament.
If there was a common meme underlying Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson's various antics his regular-season Auburn-bro-taunting jersey-popping, his Internet photos with alcoholic beverages, his brief postseason flirtation with something like mainstream sports fame, his be-middle-fingered departure from the NCAA tournament's first weekend besides "this dude's crazy!" and "I wonder if I can be the first one to make a GIF of that, for then I shall bathe in a sea of retweets!" it was the one where everyone realized maybe part of the reason Henderson was allowed to do whatever he wanted was because Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy's job was very much on the line.

[+] EnlargeAndy Kennedy
Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY SportsA late-season run, including an NCAA tourney win, helped coach Andy Kennedy earn a new contract at Ole Miss.
Before we go any further, these are not the words of a scold. A lot of the things that rubbed people the wrong way about Henderson were sort of thrilling to me. You can't bemoan modern players' lack of personality and then blanche when the kid wants to have an adult beverage after a first-round tournament win. There are lines, obviously, and the line is probably short of "flipping off the entire crowd after you lose because they said something mean to you." But still. Get over it.

Anyway, as all of that was happening back on that glorious first tournament weekend, there was a certain subtext attached: This chicanery is only being allowed because Henderson is going to -- pause for dramatic effect -- save Andy Kennedy's job.

On Friday, Ole Miss announced Kennedy had signed a new four-year contract, the maximum allowed for state employees, worth $1.8 million per year. Previously, Kennedy made $1.4 million. And so the prophecy had been fulfilled: Henderson was worth all the craziness, all the explanations to media and live-TV scoldings, because he had saved his coach's job.

Except that it's not quite that simple. Yes, Henderson's outside shooting gave Ole Miss a weapon it desperately needed on the perimeter these past, what, five years? Pairing him with big men Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner gave the Rebels a new dynamic they hadn't had in a while, and while Henderson was hardly a model of efficiency (he made 138 of his 394 [!] 3s and shot just 45 .8 percent inside the arc, too) he finished the season with a 113.5 offensive rating on 27.9 percent usage and a 31.6 shot percentage. That's a pretty solid year.

Even so, Ole Miss was a bubble team from January on. In the waning days of the season, the Rebels' at-large tournament odds dwindled to the extent that their run through the SEC tournament where Florida became the only "marquee" victory in the field anyway eventually became a necessity. And while the Rebels pulled it off, it wasn't like Henderson played all that well -- he had more turnovers (seven) than made field goals (six).

Which brings us to the whole point of this story: If Kennedy is in any way going to credit Henderson (and his teammates, obviously) for saving his hide, he better be sending something nice to Bo Ryan's office at Wisconsin, too. Because not only did Ole Miss break Kennedy's tenure-long tournament drought, it got its first NCAA tournament victory in 12 years thanks pretty much primarily to the fact that Wisconsin couldn't lob a pebble into Lake Mendota.

Seriously: Wisconsin, a top-30 efficiency offense for most of the season, finished with .74 points per possession in its lone tournament game of 2013. Traeveon Jackson and Jared Berggren combined to shoot 1-of-13 inside the arc; Ben Brust and Sam Dekker went 4-of-19 from beyond it. The Badgers had one worse performance, a dreadful outing at Michigan State, a month or so prior all season. Henderson, meanwhile, missed 16 of his first 17 shots. He made a couple of key 3s in the late going that helped Ole Miss build a lead, but let's be real. Dude finished with 19 points on 21 shots. That's not exactly single-handedly willing your coach to his four-year extension.

I have a feeling this meme will continue, particularly when we get to November and December and get to see the new and slightly less insane Henderson in action. But if you're going to credit Henderson with saving his coach's job, let's give some love to the Wisconsin Badgers, too. They shot Kennedy into a four-year extension. A fruit basket is the least he could do.

Podcast: Is Henderson good for hoops?

March, 25, 2013
3/25/13
5:51
PM ET
Michael Smith and Jemele Hill discuss the NCAA tournament and if Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson is good for college basketball.

Home Court: Sunday wrap

March, 25, 2013
3/25/13
2:56
AM ET
A week ago, I believed I had it all figured out.

Moments after the Selection Sunday pairings were announced, I began to compile my annual "10 bold predictions" column.

So I analyzed the bracket. Consulted the mountains of research that streams from Bristol each day. Scoured KenPom.com. Checked the RPI and the BPI.

I looked at strength of schedule and top-100 wins. Scrutinized the best and worst wins of teams I trusted and those I didn't. And then, I went with my gut.

My projections included a claim that the Pac-12 would go 0-5 in the NCAA tournament and Marshall Henderson would fail to lead Ole Miss past Wisconsin.

Oh, it gets better.

I picked Middle Tennessee to reach the Sweet 16.

Today, my list of predictions belongs in the same fire pit as my bracket, which slotted Georgetown as a Final Four squad and Wisconsin as an Elite Eight team.

It has been only a week. But everything that seemed reasonable and practical and possible has been questioned and reconsidered. By me. By you. By all of us, really.

Read Myron Medcalf’s full story on Home Court by clicking here.

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