Usually, by the time mid-September rolls around, college basketball lineups are set. Sure, there are a few eligibility concerns to be dealt with here and there (apparently, someone named Enes Kanter is still trying to get eligible; have you guys heard about that?). But for the most part, it's rare to get this close to Midnight Madness and still see roster situations in flux.
Which is why Baylor's enthusiastic Monday morning news announcement comes as a major surprise. That announcement? UCLA transfer J'Mison Morgan was granted his waiver transfer request by the NCAA and will be eligible to play for the Bears in 2010-11, pending his completion of the necessary NCAA paperwork. Usually, transfers sit out for a year and return to their new teams the season after their transfer, but not this time. Morgan will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Baylor fans have to be awfully happy about that, but the real boon is for the coming year. Baylor lost forward Ekpe Udoh, its best interior player from 2009-10's Elite Eight team, to the NBA draft lottery in June. Morgan isn't a must-have for Baylor -- with the return of center Quincy Acy and the introduction of uber-recruit Perry Jones, Baylor's frontcourt was already going to remain formidable. But the 6-foot-10 Morgan is undeniably talented (he was the No. 4-rated forward in the class of 2008) and does have some college basketball experience, despite his limited production under coach Ben Howland at UCLA. If anything, he's an insurance policy, the type of player that can fill in for Jones if the highly rated freshman needs time to figure out the college game.
Of course, Morgan himself is a risk. He was dismissed by Howland in March after another disappointing, injury-riddled season. Among other presumed slights, Morgan was suspended early in the year for missing a team meeting, and he also didn't play in the Pac-10 tournament. In his two-year career, he's averaged 2.1 points and 1.1 rebounds. Needless to say, he has not been productive.
Still, the Bears don't need Morgan to be brilliant. They already have some very good frontcourt players, and plenty of scoring at the guard position in player of the year candidate LaceDarius Dunn. They just need Morgan to show up. Thanks to the NCAA's waiver, he'll do that even sooner than expected.
The Bears were already looking like an Elite Eight team. With Morgan on board, they assume more risk -- but if things work out, the payoff will be well worth it.