Tuesday's basketball bits
Sorry you're weekly Punt, Pass and Kick got shelved Sunday, just got too busy with World Series stuff followed by that god-awful Michigan State-Indiana football game, then the Big Ten basketball media day.
But we're back and we'll stay on schedule the rest of the year (or, with no bowl game to go to, at least until some of that vacation time kicks in). Tuesday's are basketbal-friendly, so let's stick to the format with some random thoughts from Big Ten basketball media day:
Greg Oden was named preseason all-Big Ten. Oden is the first freshman to secure that honor since records were kept in 1994. Everyone who's seen him play says he's a phenomenal athlete for a 7-footer, with great feet and a good left hand. (His right'll be fine, too, once he's recovered from wrist surgery.) I just believe it'll take Oden some time to find a comfort level in Ohio State's offense (and his teammates to learn exactly how much and when to lean on him), and it'll take him a while to get adjusted to the style of play in the Big Ten. Going against quicker, smaller players, it's not hard for me to see him getting in foul trouble often early. And if he doesn't come back until Jan. 1 as expected, he'll be feeling his way around the start of the conference schedule.
Wisconsin to me remains the favorite in the league. They return four starters, including preseason player of the year Alando Tucker, and, not that you can tell from seeing him in business clothes, but Brian Butch looks like he might be able to contribute 12 and 7 this year. If that happens, the Badgers should be a 1 or 2 seed and play their opening-weekend NCAA games in Chicago.
I don't know exactly what can be done, but this process of hiring friends, family members, former AAU coaches, is a plague to college basketball. Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson scored the most recent coup when he hired Travis Steele as his new video coordinator. Steele's association with high school star Eric Gordon helped sway Gordon into a Hoosiers' uniform. Steele coached an Indianapolis AAU team while he was a graduate assistant at Ohio State, a practice now banned by the NCAA. At one time or another, Gordon and top OSU recruits Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook all played for the team.
You hate to see any coach fired, but the one on the biggest hot seat in the Big Ten is Minnesota's Dan Monson, who needs a good season but has one of the worst teams in the league. I continue to believe that, for the sake of the program, coaches in Monson's position should always be offered some sort of contract extension with a university-friendly buyout that at least makes for appearances, i.e., if a coach has two years left at $1 mil per on his contract after this hot-seat season, give him a two-year extension at $1.2 mil, plus a $2-million buyout. The university makes out if things succeed, the coach gets a bit of a reprieve in the public and recruiting eye, and both parties pay/receive exactly what they originally agreed upon if things don't work out.