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December 13, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Saturday, December 13th

Jayhawk Out: Kansas senior forward Jeff Graves has been suspended indefinitely from the Jayhawk basketball team, head coach Bill Self announced on Friday. Self, who did not disclose the specific infraction, said that Graves was suspended for “lack of respect” for the team and “irresponsibility”, and that his status was in question for the remainder of the season. Graves has averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes in each of the Jayhawks first five games. As you’ll recall, Graves is the player who stepped up last season, replacing an injured Wayne Simien, and notched 16 points and 16 rebounds in the NCAA Finals against Syracuse.

Bynum Eligible: And you thought they were pretty good now. Georgia Tech junior guard Will Bynum will be eligible to play for the Yellow Jackets against Saint Louis in today’s Peach Bowl Classic. Bynum, a streaky shooter who transferred from Arizona last season, has now completed his two semesters required by the NCAA for all transfers. Last season, Bynum scored 19 points off the bench against San Diego State, before announcing his decision to transfer after a victory against Boston University.

Williams Out: Illinois sophomore guard Deron Williams underwent successful surgery yesterday for a broken jaw suffered in a collision against Maryland-Eastern Shore Thursday night. Williams, who fractured his jaw in two places, had been averaging 13 points for the Illini. The earliest Williams is expected back is January 3rd against Illinois State.

Bruins Back?: UCLA freshman forward Trevor Ariza has received medical clearance to play as a reserve for the Bruins tonight against Loyola Marymount. Ariza, who had suffered from a collapsed lung in mid-November, is back a week earlier than expected. He’s not out of the woods just yet, however. Ariza will have additional X-rays taken on Monday, and those results with determine whether Ariza will be allowed to participate in full drills in practice. The Bruins also are waiting on some final exam scores for senior forward T.J. Cummings, who was ruled academically ineligible for fall semester, which ended last week. If Cummings passes his classes, he’ll be eligible to return Wednesday against UC-Santa Barbara.

Dakich Apologizes: Bowling Green head coach Dan Dakich has apologized for negative comments he made Wednesday night against the officiating crew in the Falcons’ 81-75 loss to IPFW. Dakich ripped MAC director of officiating Eric Harmon after the game, stating, “Eric Harmon should be ashamed – actually, he should be fired for putting people on the floor who performed the way they did today.” Dakich has since been admonished by the conference on its official website. In a statement, Dakich said, “I don’t think I represented myself or my institution very well. Commenting on officials is not something a coach should ever do. I’ve already personally apologized to Eric Harmon, who has been a friend of mine and whom I still consider to be a close friend. [He] had nothing to do with that situation.”

Tonight’s Menu:

Only 99 games today, so I guess you might want to rent some movies or finish your holiday shopping.

• Hoopville staffer Alan Rubenstein previews today’s BasketBowl, which will see close to 80,000 fans pack Ford Field to seen the battle between No. 5 Kentucky and No. 20 Michigan State:

The bowl season will start a few days early this year when Kentucky and Michigan State meet in the BasketBowl at Ford Field in Detroit. The meeting will break the record of 75,000 set by the Harlem Globetrotters in 1951 in Berlin, Germany. Kentucky and Michigan State both enter the game searching for their identities.

Kentucky has been able to emerge from their opening four games unblemished. At the Wooden Classic, UCLA and the Wildcats spent the afternoon building Brick City. The teams combined to shoot 30.3 percent in a 52-50 Kentucky win.

This is not one of Kentucky’s deepest teams, but the Wildcats have received great balance from their starting five. Gerald Fitch (19.3 PPG) has taken the reigns from Keith Bogans and has provided big blue with a go to player. Erik Daniels has provided a presence on the wing that has the versatility to go inside. Kelenna Azubuike has been a pleasant surprise for the Cats and gives them another active player who can score and hit the boards. Chuck Hayes is the heart and soul of this year’s Big Blue Nation. He embodies Tubby Smith’s attitude and gives Kentucky a needed toughness. The 6’6 junior is undersized in the center position but still putting up a more than respectable 10/10 double/double per game. Cliff Hawkins runs the Kentucky offense with 10.8 PPG and 7.5 assists per night.

Michigan State has slumped against one of the nation’s most difficult schedules. Michigan State also has a very balanced offense, but has had trouble scoring. They seemed to right the ship against Oklahoma. Six Spartans average between 8.3 and 12.7 points per game. Paul Davis should have a huge advantage inside; he has two inch advantage on any of the Kentucky regulars.

Both of these teams mirror their conferences. Kentucky has not changes the strategy much since the days of Rick Pitino; the Cats like to get up and down the floor. The UCLA game was likely an aberration. Michigan State is more likely to want to grind it out and use their advantage of a more experienced and tougher team. This is likely to be Tom Izzo’s most athletic team. Izzo has more a talent and a bit more depth.

Blue nation will likely travel well to Detroit, but the majority of the crowd will be in green and white in a crowd that had difficulty getting tickets (see Wednesday’s Dish). Michigan State has six players with the ability to be “the man” on any given night, while Kentucky has one or two at best.

• In another match between two ranked squads, No. 3 Missouri heads to the Pacific Northwest to face No. 16 Gonzaga. While Mizzou needs a win to potentially grab the new No. 1 ranking next week, they also need to get a week of scandal behind them, as tapes of former guard Ricky Clemons revealed that there were possible infractions in the Missouri program, including alleged payments to current and former players. Gonzaga is playing well after dropping the season opener to No. 13 St. Joseph’s, and looks to be the spoiler with a quality win.

• No. 8 Arizona will host No. 23 Marquette, three days after downing another Final Four team in No. 9 Texas in the Jimmy V Classic in New York. Meanwhile, Marquette is no slouch, having downed then-ranked Notre Dame, and have remained unbeaten, led by Travis Diener, who averages 16 points and 6 assists per game. The schools have split two previous meetings.

• Soon to be deposed No. 1 Florida hits the road to Louisville, for the second-annual Billy Minardi Classic, honoring Louisville head coach Rick Pitino’s best friend and brother-in-law, killed on September 11th. Pitino will be vying for his 400th college victory, and he’ll be facing his former player, Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who was a guard on Pitino’s 1987 Final Four Providence squad. Louisville has won five of the six all-time meetings between the schools.

• The majority of the Top 25 is seeing action today, with several local matchups. UConn hosts Quinnipiac, Oklahoma hosts Prairie View A&M, Syracuse hosts Binghamton, Pitt hosts Youngstown State, and Wisconsin hosts UW-Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Purdue is on upset alert against Central Michigan, who knocked off Notre Dame last week, Stanford hosts UNLV, and Dayton hosts IUPUI.

• Higher profile games include the Georgia Tech-Saint Louis matchup mentioned above, along with Oregon at Kansas at Kemper Arena, with the Jayhawks looking for revenge from last year’s defeat at Portland, and the same story happens in Champaign-Urbana, as Illinois tries to exact revenge against Memphis for last year’s defeat.

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