I’ll be with you in a second. Now that Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor have been suspended for two games, both exhibitions against Division II opponents, I must consult my sports-opinions handbook to see what I’m supposed to write to sound smart, mature and virtuous.
OK, here it is: Express outrage. Loudly. Moralize. Passionately. Drone on and on about how there’s no way these two guys can be counted on to lead a young basketball team in March if they can’t even stay out of trouble in the summer. Use words such as unbelievable, unforgivable, unconscionable, unacceptable, unsportsmanlike, unsavory.
OK, now that the proper indignation has been expressed, can we tell the truth?
The timing on whatever it was they did to draw what they both have drawn in the past — a two-game suspension — couldn’t have been better. Both games they’ll miss are exhibitions, which don’t count in the standings, on the stat sheets or anywhere else but in the scrapbooks of the visiting players should they happen to pull off an upset. Not that it would be such a gigantic upset if Pittsburg State should happen to win Tuesday night’s exhibition against a mix of walk-ons and scholarship players wearing Kansas uniforms in Allen Fieldhouse.
Thomas Robinson might still be out because of a hyperextended knee. No Robinson. No Taylor. No Johnson. No sure thing.
Sure, everybody wishes Johnson and Taylor didn’t do whatever they did to earn the suspensions, but the silver lining here, beyond such public penalties tending to make players behave and perform better, involves Tuesday’s game itself.
Exhibition games can be tough to watch without yawning because they don’t count, but that’s only half the reason. Knowing the outcome going in accounts for the rest of the boredom.
Tuesday’s game against the Gorillas, especially if Robinson isn’t able to play many minutes, could be a tightly contested one. It means a great deal to Pitt State, and any time a game means more to an opponent, it makes that a dangerous team.
For KU, most of the perimeter minutes probably will go to Travis Releford, Conner Teahan, Naadir Tharpe and Jordan Juenemann. Merv Lindsay’s another option, although a not-ready-for-prime-time one.
If Robinson plays, he’ll be joined up front by Jeff Withey, Justin Wesley and Kevin Young.
Pitt State second-year coach Kevin Muff, who spent 12 seasons at Cloud County Community College in Concordia, has loaded up his roster with talented jucos. MIAA coaches picked the Gorillas to tie for fifth place. Fort Hays State was picked by the coaches to finish third in the same conference.
If KU loses one or both of the exhibitions, Taylor and Johnson will feel as if they owe teammates. It’s not a stretch to believe that both guards have put their suspensions behind them for this season, which is Taylor’s last.
If they’re embarrassed, they’ll be more likely to follow team rules. If they’re motivated to make up for bringing negative attention and commit to listening to their coaches, not many backcourts in the country can hang with KU’s.