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College Basketball 2020: The Naughty and Nice

On this joyous occasion, we take a look at who’s getting gifts on Christmas morning, and who deserves a fat lump of coal.

Photo courtesy of OhioStateHoops Instagram

To those who celebrate, Merry Christmas! Santa is without a doubt busy prepping his reindeer for his worldwide voyage and double checking his list, but if I had to guess, he probably didn’t have much time to watch college hoops this season. To help him finish his list, we’re going to send Santa a cheat sheet on who’s been naughty and who’s been nice in the college basketball world. While not an exhaustive list, it should help Santa decide who’s earned those new sneakers — and who deserves to be left on the bench during this holiday season.

So Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and by all means comment you own thoughts on who’s been naughty and nice in 2020!


Naughty

John Calipari

NCAA Basketball: Bluegrass Showcase-Richmond at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

On Dec. 21, Kentucky head coach John Calipari tweeted out that freshman forward Cam’Ron Fletcher would be stepping away from the team to “get his priorities in order” after an emotional outburst on the bench during Kentucky’s 75-63 loss to North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic. The loss dropped Kentucky to 1-5, which is their worst start since the 1926-1927 season. Fletcher played just two minutes, committing one foul and recording a steal, but did not score.

Fletcher was apparently unhappy with his playing time (or lack thereof), and let Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff hear about it. He was then seen crying on the bench in the closing minutes of the game. Two days later, Calipari tweeted that he had asked Fletcher to step away, but the way he did it was.....not cool at all.

A one or two-sentence statement that he was stepping away would have sufficed, but instead Calipari went to great lengths to rip apart an 18-year old kid who is making huge sacrifices to play basketball during a pandemic, and then isn’t even really playing at all. Was Fletcher’s outburst acceptable? No. But Calipari’s response — and to put it online for millions to see — was irresponsible and crappy.

Nate Oats

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

After Duke got ran off their own court on Dec. 8 by Illinois, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski voiced his opinion that perhaps college basketball should not happen right now, with COVID still raging across the country. Now, nothing Coach K said was incorrect, playing college sports and putting amateur athletes — who are not getting paid — at risk is probably not the best idea. But if it’s happening, obviously we’re going to watch, right?

Coach K announced that Duke would cancel its next game, which was supposed to be a home game against Charleston Southern, before returning to play Notre Dame on Dec. 16. What was peculiar about Krzyzewski’s comments was the timing. Why did he wait to say this until after a loss? Why not say it after one of their two victories?

Well, Alabama head coach Nate Oats was asked about it, and he said out loud what we were all thinking in our heads:

Oats apologized and said he spoke to Coach K about his comments, but there was no taking it back, and we all know he meant it. We’ll throw Oats in the naughty pile because he probably shouldn’t have said that, but we were definitely all thinking it too.

Myles Johnson

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Ohio State
Myles Johnson clearly fouling Ohio State’s Zed Key. Johnson would later tweet about the “trash zebras” after Ohio State went on to win the game
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Following Ohio State’s miraculous 80-68 win over Rutgers on Wednesday evening, Rutgers junior forward Myles Johnson took to Twitter to share his disdain for the officiating during the game. Rutgers — who led by as much as 16 during the second half — was dealing with injuries to starting center Cliff Omoruyi (knee) and starting point guard Jacob Young (back).

Already shorthanded, Johnson did not help matters by fouling out of the game with over eight minutes to go and the Scarlet Knights beginning to unravel. Ohio State responded to Johnson’s absence by ruthlessly pounding the paint, out-rebounding Rutgers 45-25 by the end of the night.

Johnson finished with just two points in 15 minutes, and fired off two tweets after the game, which have both been deleted. Luckily, screenshots last forever:

Tweets courtesy of @Mylesthemonster Twitter

Rutgers was called for 22 fouls during the game, compared to Ohio State’s 20. Ohio State is one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country, and are especially good at drawing fouls to get to the line. Johnson may think the fouls called on him were unfair (see above image of said foul), but overall the officiating was not swayed in one direction during the game.

Myles, stop being such a scrooge.


Nice

Seth Towns

After rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee for over 1,000 days, Seth Towns finally made his Ohio State debut — and return to college basketball — during Ohio State’s 77-70 win over UCLA on Dec. 19. He played just two minutes and did not score, but his stat line was not important compared to the bigger picture. The long, hard road Towns took to return to basketball was complete.

In time, Towns will see more minutes and will gradually become more instrumental to Ohio State as they inch closer to the NCAA Tournament. He played six minutes during the Buckeyes’ 80-68 victory over Rutgers, scoring four points and snagging four rebounds — which constituted his first points and rebounds since exiting the Ivy League title game in March 2018.

Towns seems comfortable with the spot he’s in. He will not promise Ohio State’s fans, coaches, or even his teammates that he’s going to be the same player he was before the knee injury. But he has guaranteed that he’ll play as much as his body allows him to, and when he’s out there he’s going to give 100%.

Keyontae Johnson

AP Photo- Matt Stamey

Johnson, the preseason SEC Player of the Year and undoubtedly the leader of Florida’s team, collapsed on the court during UF’s game against Florida State on Dec. 12. He was unconscious and rushed to a local Tallahassee hospital, where he was placed into a medically-induced coma. Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton reportedly offered to cancel the game after incident, but Florida chose to finish the game. Florida State went on to win, 83-71. The University of Florida chose to postpone their next three games.

After a week in the hospital, it was announced that Johnson was awake, speaking to family and doctors, and was even able to facetime his teammates from his hospital bed. On Dec. 22 Florida announced that Johnson was being released from the hospital, and would be able to spend Christmas with his family.

The very next day, it was reported that Johnson had been diagnosed with myocarditis, a heart condition that is linked to COVID-19, which he tested positive for during the summer. Johnson’s long-term future in basketball is unclear, but speaking on behalf of all college basketball fans, we’re so happy to see that Keyontae is doing well and is now able to celebrate Christmas with is family.

Cuonzo Martin

Photo courtesy of the Chattanooga Times Free Press

There are few coaches in America having a better Christmas than Martin, whose Missouri Tigers have started the season 6-0, including wins over No. 21 Oregon, No. 6 Illinois, and Wichita State.

Missouri was unranked heading into the season and picked to finish 11th in the SEC according to Sports Illustrated, but have soared all the way to No. 14 in the most recent AP Poll. The Tigers return tons of experience from last year’s team and look to be one of the biggest surprise teams this season. Pair that with the struggles of SEC powerhouse Kentucky, and Missouri may have a chance to make a run from preseason unranked to SEC Champions.

Merry Christmas, Coach Martin!