He should provide the Wildcats with something they’ve lacked during their 6-3 start that includes a 26-point loss to Indiana last Saturday: a consistent offensive presence in the low post.
Morris averaged 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game during a freshman season that, considering the hyperbole that surrounded his recruitment by Tubby Smith and his staff, had to be considered at least mildly disappointing.
Through maturation and exposure to coaching (he’s been working out with the Wildcats while awaiting the NCAA’s ultimate decision about his playing status after his unsuccessful foray into the NBA Draft last June), we should assumed he’s improved enough to average, say, somewhere in the 12 to 14-points and eight to 10 rebounds per game range.
And that much more than Smith has been getting from any of his other post players, which have been led by JC transfer Rekalin Sims (8.0 ppg and 4.7 rpg on the season but averages of only 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds over the past three games).
But no one should assume that now that the NCAA has turned a thumbs-up on Morris’ return this season after initially banning him for all of 2005-06, the Wildcats have been elevated to Duke- or Connecticut-like status as seemingly locks to be playing in the Final Four.
If Morris were that caliber of player, he’d be an NBA rookie right now and he’d have shaken hands with David Stern on Draft Night last June 28.
Along with the boost inside that Morris will provide, the Wildcats are going to need more production from their other post players, and much more consistency from their backcourt – something they haven’t gotten, other than from sophomore Rajon Rondo.
No one has come close to providing the kind of offense that Kelenna Azubuike (14.7 ppg) provided from a wing for the Wildcats last season.
BOUNCING AROUND THE COUNTRY:
*Along with seeing how much progress Kentucky has made in practice since the Wildcats’ shellacking by Indiana in Indianapolis last week, Saturday’s game in Lexington will also give us a better notion of just how good Rick Pitino’s Louisville team is right now.
The Cardinals are 6-0 and No. 3 in the Scout.com Top 25 but each of those games was played in Freedom Hall. And easily the toughest – and most impressive – of those half-dozen wins came against a Richmond team (53-45) that is 4-4 and suffered its other three losses by an average margin of 14.7 points.
So why is Louisville third in the Scout.com Top 25? Because the Cardinals started the season at No. 9 and all but Duke and Connecticut from among the original eight in front of them have lost at least once.
Pretty simple stuff, eh?
Their Saturday game in Ann Arbor should offer a clue.
Watch the matchup at point guard. Daniel Horton (15.1 points and 5.1 assists per game, and .514 shooting) is having a marvelous senior season for the Wolverines and sophomore Jordan Farmar (16.5 ppg and 6.5 apg) of the Bruins appears nearly recovered from a sprained ankle for the Bruins. It’s widely believed that Farmar will test the NBA Draft “waters” in the spring.
The Wolverines are one of the teams that have made the Big Ten the best conference in the country this season.
But the Bruins’ Pacific 10, as a whole, has been as disappointing as any major conference.
*Texas gets an opportunity to atone for its nationally televised stinker of a performance against Duke last week when it plays host to unbeaten Tennessee, which is 5-0 but has played a Louisville-like (or Pittsburgh-like or . . . take your pick) schedule, not venturing outside of Knoxville.
But Coach Bruce Pearl has a pair of guards in senior C.J. Watson (17.0 ppg and 5.6 apg) and sophomore Chris Lofton (17.2 ppg) that will flourish against the Longhorns if Rick Barnes’ team isn’t guarding any better than it did during is 31-point spanking by the Blue Devils.
*If you haven’t taken a big bite out of your holiday shopping yet, Sunday might be a nice day to get it done.
Staying home to watch Duke (vs. Valparaiso), Connecticut (vs. New Hampshire), Boston College (vs. Texas Southern), Florida (vs. Jacksonville), Illinois (vs. Coppin State) and Michigan State (vs. Florida International) on television shouldn’t be a high priority, unless you’ve a major rooting interest in any of the aforementioned teams.
An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com’s National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Burlison’s pieces at www.FrankHoops.com.