MULE': How much could Bass have helped?

How good could LSU have been this basketball season had Brandon Bass returned?

John Brady really needed another guard far more than another power-player on the inside, but the question remains. With another talented player scooping up rebounds and relieving any pressure on Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas, LSU, obviously already hard to handle, might have been unstoppable.

 

There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to making a decision about staying in school or taking NBA millions and seeing what happens at the next level.

 

Bass took the loot as the second-round choice of the New Orleans Hornets. And spent most of the season in a developmental league. He's much richer, and that's good, but chances are he'll never be the pro player he might have become had he benefited from another year or two of seasoning in college.

 

Same with the Tiger twins of 2006, Davis and Thomas. I'd never criticize anyone for grabbing the money, especially someone who's never had much, but, I gotta tell ‘ya, these guys are not ready yet.

 

As good as he is, the 6-foot-8 Davis has to improve defending on the perimeter and in the NBA he'll have to contend with bigger players inside.

 

Thomas, a 6-foot-9 forward, has to refine his outside shot – and add about 30 pounds to his frame for the pounding he'll take from here on out.

 

The dynamic duo had tongues hanging out for their eye-catching performances against Duke and Texas in the NCAA Tournament, with their rebounding, blocks, and shot-changing defense.

 

The problem is this: after those memorable outings that carried LSU to the Final Four, one college coach with an average-at-best offensive team figured out how to neutralize them. UCLA was a warning of what lies ahead in the NBA.

 

Fact is, as exciting as the NCAA Tournament is, what we're really seeing now is more of a junior college game with many talented youngsters going to the pros before they are finished products. The lure of the money has diluted not only the college game, but also the NBA. Neither product is as good as it once was. Look at the Final Four. Florida coach Billy Donovan was able to piece together the most complete team of the bunch and breezed to the title, not to mention beating LSU twice during the season. The Gators were not a great team, just a very good one that has a chance to become a great one – if the key players stay in school for another season or two.

 

There may eventually be a change in the way programs recruit, according to Donovan.  He said schools may have to eventually under-recruit, to go after talented kids but not the  (italics) most (end italics) talented ones. Good ones, but the kind more likely to stay in school four years may become coveted prospects. By the time these types become seniors they'll be better players, the schools will have better teams – and ones who improve enough to draw attention from the NBA will be have a more polished game.

 

  

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Think about this while decompressing after March Madness: The SEC, said to be down after losing many stars to the NBA last season, not only had the NCAA champion in Florida, and not only had two of the Final Four along with LSU, but also had the NIT champion in South Carolina.

 

That gives the league not only the right to brag "We're No. 1,'' but, for the second tier of college basketball teams, the right to yell, "We're No. 66. . . . That said, the SEC could not separate itself from other conferences. The final CNN/USA Today Coaches Poll listed three SEC teams, the Gators, the Tigers, and Tennessee in its Top 25. The Big East put five – fully 20 percent of the poll – schools  (Connecticut, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia and Pittsburgh) on the list; The Big Ten (Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa), the Atlantic Coast (Duke, Boston College, North Carolina), and the Colonial (George Mason, George Washington, Bucknell).

 

Speaking of Donovan, remember the flap a few weeks ago on the SEC's Coach of the Year vote, on who deserved it, LSU's John Brady or Tennessee's Bruce Pearl. Well, obviously, when all was said and done, maybe it should have been Donovan. . . . Here's two reasons why Brady and North Carolina State probably do not have a future together: Duke and North Carolina.

 

It would tough for Brady to have two such close neighbors for easy comparisons to his program. LSU generally has Louisiana to itself, but remember early in his Tiger tenure when Brady would not play Tulane, which had pretty competitive basketball at the time. There would be no ducking the Blue Devils or Tar Heels.             

 

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Marty Mule' can be reached at MJM981@bellsouth.net.


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