College Basketball Nation: Oversigning

The other day, in the midst of the Tip-Off Marathon madness, my buddy emailed me with a screengrab from this ESPN Media Zone schedule. He pointed to Monday's Legends Classic opener, Indiana vs. Georgia, and the announcing team scheduled to call the game: Dan Shulman, Bob Knight, and Andy Katz. His question: "Is this really happening?"

It is indeed. It was probably only a matter of time before Knight ran into the Hoosiers in the normal course of his media responsibilities, but that doesn't mean IU fans aren't simultaneously thrilled and completely anxious about what will transpire on the sideline Monday night. Will he and Tom Crean speak? Will athletic director Fred Glass get another chance to pitch that whole Hall of Fame thing? Is this the "Mr. Knight, tear down this wall (and also please stop spending so much time with Thad Matta)" moment? Will they all -- gasp -- shake hands?

[+] EnlargeBob Knight
Greg Bartram/US PresswireAll eyes will be on Bob Knight as the former Indiana coach calls the Hoosiers' game against Georgia on Monday in the opener of the Legends Classic.
If this all seems sort of silly, well, I agree. But trust me, IU fans are interested. The Indy Star's Terry Hutchens says his inbox is already blowing up before offering his take on the situation:
Now, for all of you out there that are reading into this that because Knight is doing an IU game that it means he’s ready to ride on his white horse (with a red sweater probably) back to Bloomington and become part of the Indiana family again, I would say this: Relax, take a deep breath, calm yourself and don’t get carried away here. It’s one game, and it’s one game predicated by the fact that Indiana is the No. 1 team in the nation. It was the preseason No. 1 team in the land for the first time since the 1979-80 team that Knight coached for the Hoosiers.

Could it be a first step to repairing relations? Maybe. But if I was someone at IU and hoping that would be the ultimate outcome here, I would have my doubts. It’s one game. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Whatever "interaction" fans are hoping to see, it will probably disappoint. Crean will probably speak with Knight in whatever professional capacity broadcasters and coaches speak before the game (I just work on the Internet, so I don't know), and Knight will call the game in his usually straightforward, knows-more-hoops-than-the-rest-of=us-ever-will style, and the game will end and that will be that.

Knight has steadfastly avoided his former stomping grounds, rebuffing every olive branch the new athletics administration has sent his way, to the point of ignoring his Hall of Fame ceremony. This has left many IU fans with the feels. "Why doesn't he love us anymore?" they say, not unlike spurned teen-agers. And, sure it's easy to ridicule, but I'm being a little bit callous, because you can understand why this whole thing -- a beloved coach many fans grew up seeing as a monolithic embodiment of basketball itself suddenly completely ignoring his former school entirely -- would be difficult to process.

But the first comment on Hutchens's post strikes me as about right. It includes this sentence: "It's like we're at the prom with this great girl and we're all excited about the fact that our ex might be there and -- gasp! -- acknowledge us." Indiana fans have an awesome thing going these days, what with being ranked No. 1 and landing top-five recruiting classes and generally being "back," and Crean doesn't need Knight's approval, tacit or otherwise, to maintain his position as the most popular man in the state (or at least half of it). So whatever happens with Knight, Monday night or down the line, is probably best approached with much more apathy.

Come to think of it: If Indiana fans are looking for something to get worked up over, might I suggest the fact that said vaunted class of 2013 is currently oversigned?

Crean signed six players in 2013. He will have three scholarships available next season, and four if Cody Zeller decides he wants to be a top-five pick (which is not a guarantee). This summer, senior forward Matt Roth had to not-return in somewhat questionable fashion, and Indiana had to get lucky with incoming recruit Ron Patterson's academics, for the team to get under the 13 scholarship threshold. Next season, the Hoosiers will have to a) send recruits to prep school, b) see players transfer, or c) some combination of the two to get back to 13 scholarships.

What are the chances every current and incoming player will end up feeling like they got a fair deal? Slimmer than the chances IU fans pay more attention to oversigning than Bob Knight, I'd guess.

Indiana's Matt Roth is odd man out

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
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It is no surprise to learn that former Indiana guard Matt Roth won't be returning to the Hoosiers for his fifth year of eligibility this fall. There are many reasons for such a statement. Roth already has a bachelor's degree and a masters. He isn't enrolled in school in the fall. Indiana already has 13 scholarship players, which is the limit. Until recruit Ron Patterson's tough summer of academics cost him his spot at IU, the Hoosiers had 14 scholarship players. Roth participated at IU's senior night this spring. And so on.

[+] EnlargeMatt Roth
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesGuard Matt Roth won't be playing for the Hoosiers this season.
Still, Roth -- per his conversation with the Bloomington Herald-Times' Dustin Dopirak Sunday evening -- remained a tad bit confused. It's not that he didn't get it. He did. It's just that, according to his account, he never actually received official word on his status. He kind of had to figure it out for himself.

That includes waiting to hear for much of the summer, having been told to keep his options open for the coming fall. It also includes an appearance at IU coach Tom Crean's basketball camp Saturday, during which the two "briefly spoke" but never directly discussed Roth's status. And yet, of course, it was obvious. From Dustin:
Roth said he and Crean spoke briefly at camp, but he didn’t want to pull Crean away from coaching the young players at the camp. Roth said even though Crean didn’t directly address his status, he did tell Roth to use him as a reference for any job applications. He said he appreciated that, but it also allowed him to read between the lines.

“You kind of put one and one together there,” Roth said.

For one, Roth could be spending another year at IU, but isn't because his services are no longer needed. But he seems OK with that. It's not the nicest thing about college basketball, but it is a thing about college basketball, at least until student-athletes don't face a wild imbalance of scholarship power. Also, Roth could have transferred; he could have been eligible to play somewhere else right away, per the graduate student transfer exception. The demand-supply thing doesn't always cut both ways in situations like these, but it seems to here.

What feels a little bit ickier is that Roth was told to keep his options open, and so -- instead of finding a job in athletic administration, his chosen field -- he did exactly that. He kept his options open. He didn't go out and find a gig. He didn't transfer. And ... now he's kind of stuck. Why? Because Indiana, thanks to both awkward timing and Crean's own aggressive acquisition of talent, simply has more players than it needs. From Dustin again:
“It’s going to be tough to find something,” [Roth] said. “But I’m being optimistic. I might have to take a job that isn’t in my field and make it work for a couple of years, or maybe I find something that I’ve never thought about that hits home as something I’d want to do.”

He added that what people will eventually remember about his career is that "I gave it everything I had for four years here," and he's right. Indiana fans are likely to remember him for that. They'll certainly remember him for being really good at one thing: shooting a basketball. If Roth didn't do a whole lot else during his Indiana career, man, he could shoot the basketball.

Funny thing is, that career began when Indiana needed players more than players needed Indiana. It ended just before what could be one of its best seasons in the past 25 years. And so the transition is complete.

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