Southeast men's, women's basketball teams both endure interesting times

Sunday, February 19, 2006

It is a wild, chaotic time for Southeast Missouri State basketball these days.

While the depleted men are continuing their free-fall that has coach Gary Garner's job status in question, the surging women are being investigated by the Ohio Valley Conference for potential NCAA violations.

First, for the men. I don't think anybody expected a big season, but I don't think anybody expected such a horrendous campaign that has resulted in the Redhawks missing the OVC tournament for just the second time in Garner's nine years with the program.

After seeing the team all season, it probably would have been difficult for the Redhawks to finish above .500 under any circumstances, but all their injuries and other happenings pretty much prevented them from having even limited success.

With just two games remaining, an announcement on Garner's future in Cape Girardeau should be coming soon, if not this week then pretty quick once the season is over.

I wrote last week that -- based on what I've been hearing -- I think Garner will be back to coach next year's touted group. I still believe that, although you just never know what the administration will ultimately decide.

And there is probably no question that, if the Redhawks don't have a solid season and show big-time improvement in 2006-07, the university will then more than likely be in the market for a new coaching staff.

As for the women, I don't think anybody -- outside of perhaps Southeast's administration -- knows what is going on other than the fact university officials believed the allegations merited serious consideration.

That's not to say coach B.J. Smith and his staff have violated any NCAA regulations, especially any serious ones. I have plenty of respect for Smith and genuinely like him, so I'm hoping there is nothing to this.

But if Southeast had not at least addressed the allegations and something ended up coming out of them, then the university could have been in major trouble with the NCAA for not acting immediately once the allegations were brought to its attention.

That is especially true in light of the men's basketball program being placed on probation less than a decade ago for NCAA violations during former coach Ron Shumate's tenure, the NCAA traditionally comes down particularly hard on schools that have been repeat offenders.

So Southeast really had no choice to come out with this promptly, even though plenty of the program's supporters are bashing the university for not waiting until the season is over.

I go on the theory that we're all innocent until proven guilty. If there is nothing -- or at least very little -- to the allegations, then hopefully Smith will be back in good graces with the university and his contract will be extended, because his fabulous on-the-court success warrants that.

Smith recently said everybody should reserve judgment until all of the facts come out, and that he hopes if he is exonerated -- which he believes will happen -- this won't act as a black cloud over his career.

That's my hope as well.

Fans who attend Southeast baseball games this season better have their scorecard handy. The Redhawks have a host of new players, especially around the field.

Coach Mark Hogan believes many of the rookies will be exciting to watch and could eventually make a major mark with the program.

How about some major kudos to the Meadow Heights boys basketball team, which set a national high school record by making 36 3-point baskets during a recent rout of Marquand.

I know that some people are going to say the Panthers shouldn't have poured it on struggling Marquand that way, but most of the time when major records are broken, it happens in blowouts.

From my perspective, it's difficult to nail 36 3-pointers in a game even if nobody is guarding you.

This is something the Panthers will be able to cherish for the rest of their lives, especially if the record lasts for a long time.

I say more power to the Panthers.

Speaking of high school basketball, the intensity in the area will be increased several notches this week when district play begins.

It appears several local boys squads could challenge for deep playoff runs, led by Bell City in Class 1 and Notre Dame in Class 4. Both teams are state-ranked.

On the girls side, Delta has had a sensational season and should challenge for a final four berth. The Bobcats are ranked No. 1 in Class 1.

Former Poplar Bluff High School basketball star Tyler Hansbrough has had a brilliant freshman season for defending national champion North Carolina.

But Hansbrough outdid even himself Wednesday when he exploded for 40 points, as the Tar Heels rallied from 20 points down to beat Georgia Tech.

Not only did Hansbrough break the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman scoring record, he also set the Smith Center scoring mark.

Hansbrough is a virtual lock to be named ACC freshman of the year, and he probably has a good chance to win the national freshman of the year award.

Although Hansbrough will probably return to school next season, his stock continues to rise in NBA circles and he might end up at least giving some consideration to coming out for this year's draft.

Just a few weeks ago, the Missouri basketball team was on a roll, having won three of its first four Big 12 Conference games, including a stunning upset at Oklahoma.

But times changed quickly for the Tigers, who endured a six-game losing streak to fall near the bottom of the Big 12 standings -- and then coach Quin Snyder stepped down.

While Snyder's resignation might have been surprising for its timing, it was common knowledge that, save for a big season, he would not be back with the Tigers next year.

And even though the Tigers -- who suffered some bad nonconference losses -- might have teased their fans by beginning league play strong, the bottom line is that they simply aren't very good by Big 12 standards.

So it was pretty inevitable that this season would proceed in fairly mediocre fashion. And, after Snyder claimed he was recently told he would definitely not return as Mizzou's coach next year, he decided it would be best for all involved that he resign before the end of the campaign.

Plenty of names have already surfaced as possible candidates to replace Snyder. You can bet there won't be a shortage of coaches who would love to take over a Big 12 program.

While Missouri is floundering, Illinois is still having a solid season, although the Illini have fallen back to the pack a bit with a couple of recent losses.

Overall, the Illini are probably doing as well, if not better, than most people expected after they lost three starters -- including NBA first-round draft picks Deron Williams and Luther Head -- from a team that was ranked No. 1 nationally much of last season and reached the NCAA title game.

There might have been better long-range shooters on the college level over the years than Duke's J.J. Reddick -- but probably not many.

As a college basketball junkie who simply can't get enough of the sport, it sure is a pleasure to watch Reddick put on his seemingly routine displays of expert marksmanship and high-scoring antics.

The thing about Reddick is that it seems like most of the 3-pointers he makes are either from about 28 feet or highly contested -- yet none of that seems to faze him.

It's quite a national player of the year battle that Reddick and Gonzaga's Adam Morrison are waging. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing them split the award.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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