Schools is Back, How About the Players?
Classes are back in session and supervised workouts (small groups only) have been running for nearly a month. There are a number of new injuries and transcript issues to note as the teams prepare for Midnight Madness...
Cincinnati -- Rashad Bishop was officially re-instated on the squad and his scholarship was restored according to Cincinnati.com blogger and sportswriter Bill Koch. The senior forward played with the squad during their Labor Day Weekend Tour of Canada.
DePaul -- The Blue Demon roster lists power forward Cleveland Melvin, Coach Purnell's first signee last May.  Cleveland did not spend the summer in Chicago and get a jump on classes as a number of incoming freshmen tend to do, and could not be added to the roster until he registered for courses, thus explaining his earlier absence from the public roster. Still missing is Ryan Siggins, a 6-1 walk-on guard who scored 39 points in 140 minutes of play last season. Siggins, who appeared in 10 games, had his best outing in a 31 minute run at Villanova. Siggins was one of four walk-ons added to the squad last October. Two other walk-ons, Jimmy Drew and Joe Belcaster, are listed, while the third walk-on, Nate Rogers, transferred after last season.
Louisville -- Coach Rick Pitino lost another incoming player when 6-0 guard Russ Smith broke a bone in his right foot which will sideline him for an estimated six-to-eight weeks. That puts a return out to early-mid December at the earliest. The coach also announced at the Annual Louisville Tipoff Luncheon that freshman Gorgui Dieng from Senegal was ruled ineligible after being told (by the Dieng's prep school principal) that "...the NCAA approved his courses". Louisville, who according to the report will appeal the decision, though the Clearinghouse has not indicated whether Dieng's Senegal or his Huntington, WVA coursework was in question. Coach Pitino also announced that junior forward Jared Swopshire will not be available until the opening game versus Butler, due to a "sports hernia-type injury", reducing the squad to 11 healthy (qualified) bodies. Associate Coach Ralph Willard also stepped aside to be Director of Basketball Operations, allowing Mark Lieberman, hired in June, to move into a full-time Assistant Coach position.
Seton Hall -- In what might be considered the Final Act in the Bobby Gonzalez drama, Athletic Director Joe Quinlan announced he would resign October 8, his replacement would be chosen after a nationwide search. Quinlan, who held the job for five years, was an early opponent of the Gonzalez hire, and after a power struggle, was superseded by Law School Dean Patrick Hobbs during the summer of 2009, but survived the basketball coach who was fired in March of 2010.
Villanova -- With a redshirt becoming the most likely outcome for freshman James Bell, Villanova welcomed graduate student and former walk-on Russell Wooten back for one last season. Economics being the mother of circumstance, Wooten graduated last May, found no work in his native Southern California, and decided to tuck himself into a graduate school and earn an advanced degree while the economy works itself out. The Villanova School of Business was happy to take Wooten, and the post graduate will use his last year of eligibility with the Wildcats.
Assessing the Impact
Bishop's return is good news for the point-starved Bearcats. If the senior was a bit mercurial, hopefully the suspension and the regemine he had to follow to be re-instated will give him pause to think going forward.
Coach Purnell needs players, Melvin's presence can only help.
The news for Louisville is just all bad right now. This is shaping up to be the thinnest squad since the Cardinals' 2006 team. And given the resurrection of the Kentucky program, the timing for a dip in the program could not come at a worse time. Swopshire's injury was described as something similar to the one suffered by Tarquan Dean. That injury severely reduced Dean's effectiveness, even after the guard returned to active play. With 11 members, the staff may have (barely) enough bodies for squad-wide scrimmages, but they will have to be careful to keep everyone healthy. Dieng's appeal may be approved (not entirely plausible, but who knows?), but he will not be able to practice with the squad until it is official. The worst case for Dieng and Louisville is that as someone who took courses in the school prior to being disqualified, Dieng, should his appeal be denied, would be barred from ever playing for Louisville.
Though the Athletic Directorship is an administrative job (and therefore should have no direct effect on what happens on the floor), Seton Hall's athletic has drawn negative conference office comments recently for cutting back on several programs, most notable the track programs. While DePaul and St. John's opened their wallets to attract top-level veterans to fill their head coaching openings, Seton Hall opted to go the below the "Red Line" route when hiring a replacement for Bobby Gonzalez. A similar decision when selecting the next Athletic Director may be interpreted in the conference front office that the country's oldest diocesan university is insufficiently committed to funding and supporting a full slate of (male and female) athletic programs. Word that the search process may take an entire academic year cannot be welcomed by the Powers That Be in the Big East Offices.
Wooten, a walk-on forward will enjoy the very unusual experience of being honored twice on Senior Night, but may see very few minutes during the season.