Cupboard not bare for Memphis in C-USA

June, 30, 2009
Memphis didn't make my Top 25 after the NBA draft's early-entry withdrawal deadline.

I had Tulsa representing Conference USA at No. 21.

Should Memphis now be in the mix?

It's a worthy debate. But it's hard to know until a decision is reached on whether Duke transfer guard Elliot Williams will be granted a hardship waiver because he is going home to be with his ill mother, allowing him to play for the Tigers immediately without sitting out a season.

Williams was instrumental in Duke's turnaround during ACC play last season. The move of Jon Scheyer to the point was a catalyst for Scheyer and the Blue Devils. But it didn't hurt that Williams got more run, either. He went from consecutive DNPs to playing 31 minutes and scoring 11 points in a win at St. John's. He played over 30 minutes in each of the next six games -- all of them wins save the regular-season finale at North Carolina.

Since Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski started using Williams more on the perimeter, the Blue Devils went 10-2 to close the season. That's one reason why Duke will move down a few pegs in a fall preseason Top 25 from the No. 10 I had it at in June. Losing Williams means Duke won't have its two most athletic wings (Gerald Henderson left a year early for the NBA).

If Williams is eligible for Memphis then the Tigers would have Williams, Willie Kemp, Roburt Sallie and Doneal Mack on the perimeter, four scoring-minded guards who can also beat their defender off the dribble (much more so for Williams and Kemp than Sallie and Mack).

The question will be scoring in the post. New Memphis coach Josh Pastner said returnees Pierre Henderson-Niles and Angel Garcia are more than capable in the post as is 6-9 power forward Will Coleman from Miami Dade Junior College (Fla.). If 6-8 Latavious Williams (Christian Life Center Academy, Texas) gets through the NCAA eligibility center then the Tigers will have not just one but two legit options in the post arriving in the fall (the jury is still out on Niles' and Garcia's ability to produce).

With or without Williams (who will begin the appeal process with the NCAA with the help of Memphis), the Tigers have the personnel to challenge Jerome Jordan, Ben Uzoh and newcomer point Donte Medder of Tulsa for the Conference USA title (UTEP coach Tony Barbee wants to make sure you don't dismiss the Miners, either, with a front line of Arnett Moultrie and Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter as well as returning guards Randy Culpepper and Julyan Stone).

But one thing is certain: While the Tigers won't win 33 games next season or go 16-0 in the league, they will be in contention for the league title and a Top 25 appearance either in the preseason or in possible cameos throughout the season.

• The U.S. team's head coach at the World University Games, Bo Ryan (Wisconsin), shook up his starting lineup for his third exhibition game after splitting the first two with Canada (win) and Serbia (loss). Against Russia, Ryan moved Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado and Ohio State's Evan Turner into the starting lineup, replacing Marquette's Lazar Hayward and Clemson's Trevor Booker. Varnado was 2-of-4 from the field, grabbing six boards and scoring seven points. The nation's top shot-blocker had just one block.

Turner, the team's best 3-point threat, missed all six shots he attempted and didn't take a 3-pointer. The U.S. won 67-63 and still struggled on 3s, making just 4 of 14. Villanova's Corey Fisher remains the most consistent player. He scored 15 points, had three steals and made two of the four 3s he attempted. Fisher's play should continue to give Cats fans hope that the Wildcats will be the Big East favorite. Fisher will team up with Scottie Reynolds to form the best backcourt in the Big East. The WUG tournament in Serbia begins Thursday.

• The decision by the NCAA to uphold Kelvin Sampson's show-cause penalties shouldn't come as a surprise. The committee on infractions is rarely supportive of a repeat offender, especially when it is similar rules that have been broken. Sampson lucked out when he was hired by Scott Skiles and the Milwaukee Bucks. He doesn't have to worry about any kind of college opportunity anyway.

• Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was named the chair of the NCAA tournament men's basketball selection committee for the 2011 tournament. The 2010 tournament will be chaired by UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero. The selection committee continues to look at ways of improving the tournament. But expanding the field still hasn't had traction. The idea I wish could gain legs would be if there were four opening-round games between bubble teams for the four No. 12 seeds. Those No. 12s are usually teams that are the last ones in the field from either high- or mid-major conferences. You could have two of those games on Tuesday with the games feeding into Thursday's 12-5 matchups and then two on Wednesday to feed into Friday's 12-5 games.

To make it work, you would have to organize the pairings so as not to upset the bracketing principles (i.e., same conference teams meeting before the Elite Eight) as well as take into account logistical concerns. You can't have play-in games with bubble teams with the 16-seeds because the top seeds still need to be protected in the first round with a game against a 16-seed.

• In other news pertaining to the selection committee, the NCAA has decided to eliminate from the at-large discussion the results of a team's last 12 games. Starting in the 2009-10 season, the selection committee will no longer take into consideration the results of the last 12 games a team has played when awarding one of the 34 at-large berths.

Considering a team's record over its final 12 games was seen as a way to gauge how strongly a team finished the season, but was not meant to carry more weight than other portions of a team's schedule.

This decision makes sense. Due to imbalanced schedules within most of the power six conferences and the inability of mid-major schools to schedule high-quality games that late in the season, it was difficult to measure and compare the results of a team's final 12 games.

• Cincinnati should know within the next two days if it will land highly touted Brooklyn Lincoln High guard Lance Stephenson, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. The Bearcats' ability to get a commitment from Stephenson does not hinge on Stephenson's ongoing sexual assault case, according to sources. But any commitment from Stephenson wouldn't be binding since the national letter of intent spring signing period ended in May. Cincinnati does have one scholarship open.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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