Cade Cunningham deserves a fair chance for the NCAA Tournament


In this job, you don’t root. It does not pull equipment. It is part of the basic rules of the press box, even in virtual times.

But I am willing to make an exception. I am supporting Oklahoma State to enter the NCAA Tournament. I’m asking Cade Cunningham to go dancing. I hope the NCAA infraction appeals committee does not make a decision on the Cowboys appeal before March Madness begins. That would allow them to be included.

Cunningham, the potential number one in the NBA draft, deserves to play in the tournament. The state of Oklahoma does too. The sport would be better for him, in a year in which several elite prospects, notably Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, chose to take the lucrative new G-League Ignite route.

The state of Oklahoma handled everything well with its scandal, as one of the schools involved in the FBI investigation of corruption in college basketball. He fired assistant coach Lamont Evans, who pleaded guilty to taking bribes, immediately. He collaborated with the NCAA. Evans, it should be noted, was in school for only one year. He worked only a few months with head coach Mike Boynton, although the two were assistant coaches together for a season.

This is not Arizona, Kansas, or LSU, where head coaches Sean Miller, Bill Self, and Will Wade continue to skid from denial after denial, throwing other people under the bus, and being lucky that those same people are loyal and don’t do. the same. the same for them. Oklahoma State did not try to use the self-imposed trick of the postseason ban in a season in which it was expected to fall, like Arizona and Auburn.

The punishment of a postseason ban fell long after Cunningham chose Oklahoma State over North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky and Washington. He could have gotten away from that commitment. The ultra-skilled point guard could have taken the money and joined Green and Kuminga in the G-League. You could have transferred to a blue blood program and be eligible.

But Cunningham stayed. The 6-foot-8-inch Texan was loyal, in part due to the presence of his older brother Cannen, an assistant coach at the school. He has elevated the program to a tie in the loss column for third place in the Big 12. The Cowboys are advancing at the right time, with four straight wins and five wins in six games. Cunningham, averaging 19.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks, does a bit of everything. He is shooting a team-high 43.2 percent from 3-point range and is coming off his best college performance, a 40-point, 11-rebound masterpiece in an upset for his state rival Oklahoma.

In recent years, the single route has lost its luster. The G-League offers a lot of money to high school players. The university has been dominated by experienced teams. Duke and Kentucky are having bad seasons for them.

Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton Jr. talks with Cade Cunningham.
AP

Cunningham has been different. It has been exceptional in every way possible. He’s proven to be an elite freshman, the right one, who can turn a meandering program around, in ways top prospects Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and Anthony Edwards couldn’t in recent years. When he chose to stay with Oklahoma State, Cunningham said part of the reason was the opportunity to play on such a big stage in the Big 12.

“I want the average basketball fan to know who Cade Cunningham is,” he said last summer.

Hopefully, Cunningham has a chance to really show himself for the next several weeks. The state of Oklahoma could have a great run. I could pull a Danny Manning.

The player and the school deserve the opportunity. It would only add to what should be a great tournament. More importantly, it would be fair.

Canyon bottom

The Big Ten is a very good league. In the worst case, the second best in the country after the 12 majors. However, it is not historically good, as some experts predicted in November. The upper half of the conference is great. The bottom half was hugely overrated.

I can see several Final Four teams coming out of the Big Ten. Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State, and Iowa are all capable. With the right draw, Rutgers, Purdue, Wisconsin and Maryland are potential Sweet 16 teams. The rest of the league doesn’t belong to the dance.

Indiana and Minnesota have proven to be pillow-soft teams that don’t even qualify for selection Sunday. Michigan State’s loss to Maryland on Sunday hurts the Spartans’ momentum and makes Michigan’s loss this week almost essential. A team with three games under .500 in conference games doesn’t deserve an offer. Penn State, Northwestern and Nebraska have simply fattened the records of the teams ahead.

Game of the week

No. 13 Creighton at No. 8 Villanova, Wednesday, 8:30 pm

Big East’s regular season title will be on the line in Philadelphia as the league’s best teams look to bounce back from disappointing losses: Creighton at Xavier and Villanova at Butler. A Creighton win, followed by a win next Saturday over Butler, and the Bluejays will claim the conference title for the first time. Since the formation of the new Big East in 2013, Villanova has had a share of the title six out of seven years.

Villanova
Brandon Slater and Justin Moore from Villanova.
AP

Seeds:

  1. Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Ohio State
  2. Illinois, Alabama, West Virginia, Houston
  3. Villanova, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa
  4. Arkansas, Florida State, Texas Tech, Texas

Stock watch

James Bouknight – Top

Brooklyn’s native and projected lottery selection changes everything for UConn. It’s more than just your score. It’s your presence, attention, and focus that you get. When he’s playing second-year guard – he missed five weeks with an elbow injury – the Huskies are 8-2, with the only losses to Villanova and Creighton. When he doesn’t, UConn is 4-4, offensively challenged and mediocre. Bouknight doesn’t just make the Big East program an NCAA tournament team. It makes them a contender for the second weekend.

Isaac Brown – Top

In November, the state of Wichita was in disarray. Gregg Marshall resigned amid allegations of physical and verbal abuse. The exhausted Shockers were selected in seventh place in the AAC. Fast forward to the last week of the regular season, and they’re on top of the conference. Brown, 51, in his first year as a college head coach, has done more with less, and the former interim coach was rewarded with a five-year contract. You deserve every penny you get.

NET – Down

The small sample size excuse doesn’t work at this time of year. There is absolutely no reason for Colgate, yes, Colgate! – must be in tenth place. That Loyola Chicago should be 16th. And San Diego State should be 18th. Together, they have a Quad 1 win, five times. Colgate’s season has been games against the Army, Boston University and Holy Cross. That’s it. San Diego State’s best win is over UCLA, which is ranked 37th, at home. Loyola Chicago won at No. 41 Drake. NET relies heavily on offensive and defensive efficiency. Values ​​quality performance. You also have to take into account who a team beats. The evaluation tool needs adjustments.

Drake-Down

The Bulldogs will need to win their conference tournament to go dancing. They now have more Quad 3 losses (two) than Quad 1 wins (one) after an ugly setback to Bradley below .500 on Saturday. Your NET of 41 is good enough, but the body of work is not. It’s a shame Drake lost stars ShanQuan Hemphill and Roman Penn to major injuries. This team seemed capable of doing damage in March.

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