College Basketball Nation: Sylven Landesburg
Key players are dropping at an alarming rate at the most important time of the season.
At least four of them have been suspended and/or benched in the last few days by their coaches/teams/schools for apparent off-court reasons. Whether players are losing focus or coaches are losing patience and trying to make a point before the NCAAs, it’s been a surprising trend at this time of year.
The perp list:
Taylor King, Villanova: Wildcats coach Jay Wright said Tuesday that King may not play in the Big East tournament while dealing with “personal stuff” that the coach did not disclose. King, who is the team’s No. 5 scorer and No. 2 rebounder, did not play in Nova’s season-ending loss to West Virginia. Wright said at the time that he was making a “teaching point” to King but did not elaborate.
Impact: Villanova will miss King in New York, but could miss him more beyond that in the NCAA tournament if he does not return. King gives the vertically challenged Wildcats rebounding and defensive help inside and has been known to hit some timely 3-point shots. If Nova wants to approximate its Final Four run of 2009, it needs all hands on deck.
Chris Allen, Michigan State: Spartans coach Tom Izzo announced that his most productive and accurate 3-point shooter is suspended indefinitely for not meeting obligations to his teammates. Allen is a starter averaging 9.1 points, but has scored just seven points in MSU’s last three games, making just 2 of 10 shots. He did not attempt a shot in the Spartans’ final regular-season game, a rout of Michigan.
Impact: The Big Ten co-champions have big goals and will need Allen, whose shooting has been a key ingredient for three seasons. If he isn’t back, the Spartans’ offense is hindered.
Sylven Landesberg, Virginia: The Cavaliers’ leading scorer at 17 points per game was benched for the rest of the season by the school for academic reasons. Landesberg already had missed two of the last three games as Virginia’s season has gone south. The Cavs (14-15, 5-11) have lost nine straight heading into their first-round Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game against Boston College Thursday at noon ET.
Impact: Just solidifies the inevitable. This UVa team wasn’t going to the NCAA tournament unless it won the ACC title, and that long shot is now all but impossible.
Rashad Bishop, Cincinnati: The Bearcats sat down Bishop Tuesday night for violating an unspecified team rule. The Newark, N.J., product’s role had been unchanged in recent games, so whatever happened must have occurred between Cincy’s final regular-season game Saturday afternoon and tipoff against the Scarlet Knights Tuesday night.
Impact: Bishop is third on the team in minutes per game and rebounds, and fourth in scoring. For a team that’s been offensively inept much of the season, that was an unwelcome development.
As Robbi Pickeral notes in the Charlotte Observer, the Tar Heels aren't stopping anyone right now.
Cavs sophomore Sylven Landesberg joined what it quickly becoming an "I-lit-up-Carolina" club, scoring 29 points on 11-for-18 shooting. He joins five other perimeter starters in the league who have scored at least 19 against UNC this season: Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney (26 points), Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert (30), Clemson's Demontez Stitt (20), Wake Forest's Ishmael Smith (20) and N.C. State's Javi Gonzalez (19).
- As the last unbeaten team in the nation, today Kentucky officially ascends to the No. 1 spot atop both the AP and Coaches Polls. This has inspired several questions, not least of which is, "Is Kentucky actually this good?" and "When will Kentucky lose, if ever?" The first question is being pondered by the Cats fans over at A Sea Of Blue, which reasonably concludes that Syracuse, Texas, Kansas and Duke are all teams Kentucky would rightfully be an underdog to, while there are 10-to-15 teams capable of upsetting the talented Cats. Probably all true. Given that Kentucky's Pomeroy, Sagarin and Basketball State rankings all have Kentucky as either the No. 6 or No. 9 team in the country is reason enough for this distinction. Meanwhile the second question -- When will Kentucky lose? -- gets a treatment at The Dagger, where Matt Norlander outlines Kentucky's next major challenges on the road to its possible SEC title and NCAA tournament run.
- Wondering where Jim Calhoun was during Saturday's UConn win? Where else: Calhoun was at home watching the game. Calhoun thought about taking a mental break in Hilton Head, S.C., but instead decided to stay in Connecticut and rest at his house. I wonder how much resting went on after UConn beat the the No. 1 team in the country at home. Probably not very much. Meanwhile, Calhoun's return is still up in the air, a phrase I will never again be able to use without thinking of George Clooney talking to the mustachioed cowboy from The Big Lebowski on an airplane.
- Adam Zagoria zooms in on Villanova frosh Dominic Cheek, who is emerging during conference play as the McDonald's All-American star most recruiters thought he'd be.
- Bruce Weber is refusing to let his Illini players talk to the media. "Until they start talking and taking leadership, they're not talking to anyone else," Weber said. "I don't know when it will end. I hope it ends soon. Somebody's got to take this team and go with it, but right now, it's not happening." Losing by five at Northwestern wouldn't seem worthy of this sort of response -- that's not the worst loss ever, you know -- but Weber has been unhappy with his team's leadership for weeks, and he doesn't appear to have changed his mind.
- Former Fab Fiver Jimmy King says he can relate to Manny Harris' issues at Michigan, where Harris was suspended before UM's loss to Purdue on Saturday. King's quote on the matter: "In those situations, player to coach, you got to understand that the coach is the man and ultimately you’re the player so you can’t go against the coach regardless if you feel you’re right," he said. Vague? Yes. Disconcerting? Slightly. Meanwhile, UM Hoops says that Harris has played well in the wake of disciplinary action before.
- This is good news: Samford coach Jimmy Tillette, who suffered a seizure and a collapse during his team's 70-67 win over North Carolina-Greensboro on Saturday, is in stable condition.
- Last week, Luke Winn caught up with Virginia's Sylven Landesburg, who, much like his team, has been quietly succeeding under the tutelage of first-year coach Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers are 3-1 in the ACC after a loss at Wake Forest on Saturday.
- Finally, be sure to check out today's Weekly Watch, which wraps up this weekend's action with awards for UConn and Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin.