College hoops mailbag: Here and there

Jason King
Mason Plumlee is back for Duke, but he needs to give the Devils better production

Along with the Frank Haith mess at Missouri, the situation with Texas A&M and the Big 12 and the NCAA’s actions against Bruce Pearl, the buzz in college basketball the past few weeks has been about the various schools that have gone on foreign tours to play exhibition games.

Duke was the most-high profile squad to take such a trip. The Blue Devils went 4-0 in China, which prompted a few emails from avid Blue Devils fans. Those letters lead this week’s mailbag.

Eye on Mason Plumlee

Nice article about underachievers. Hopefully you considered adding Mason Plumlee to the list. He was a projected lottery pick who was awful last year, especially considering the ability he supposedly has. Having watched him in the China games the past few days, he doesn’t seem to have improved very much. I’m a Duke fan and I think the key this year will be having a big year from Mason. Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly looked great in China, but they need a third big man to combat the hated Tar Heel turkeys. Keep up the good work. I read your columns regularly.

John Woods
Raleigh, N.C.

Mason Plumlee was indeed disappointing last year, but he did average 8.4 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game, which is certainly nothing to scoff at. It was probably hard to score a bunch of points on a team that features Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and, at times, Kyrie Irving. Still, I agree, he could’ve been better and shown a little more offensively when he did have the chance. If he has another mediocre season, then, well … at least there’s Ryan Kelly.

Good news from China

What is really strange is that I am in China and heard nothing here about the Duke tour, but I heard about the Georgetown tour even before it went sour. Maybe it had to do with Joe Biden being here at the same time and going to the game before the brawl game.

Michael Beauchot
Zhuhai, China

What? Ryan Kelly wasn’t the talk of China this week? I’m shocked! Seriously, though, I am a little surprised you didn’t hear about the Blue Devils’ visit, especially since the coaching staff dined with Yao Ming before a game. The trip also marked the debut of freshman guard Austin Rivers, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the Class of 2011. Rivers lit up the scoring column but finished the four-game tour with more turnovers (15) than assists (nine). Another side story was that Duke spent between an estimated $1.1 million to $1.3 million on a chartered jet that shuttled Duke’s traveling party between Durham, Beijing, Shanghai and Dubai.

East Coast bias?

Just for your information, basketball is actually played west of the Mississippi River. No teams from the Mountain West in your preseason Top 25? UNLV will crack the Top 25. UTEP will put up solid numbers and climb into the mix. What about Washington from the Pac-12? No Gonzaga? They’re loaded and should be considered for the Top 15. My surprise team is the New Mexico Lobos. They’ve had two good recruiting classes and some solid transfers. I think the break-out players for the year will be Drew Gordon and Kendall Williams.

O’Fallon, Ill.

No poll is perfect. There is always a school that feels shafted, often deservedly so. The teams you mentioned could very well creep into top 25 – I just don’t think they should start there. I like your take on New Mexico, although I don’t think Gordon and Williams will be surprising anyone if they play well. They combined to average 24.6 points last season – and Gordon averaged 10.5 rebounds.

Gonzaga worthy of mention

How could you not include Gonzaga in your preseason Top 25 when they’re included well inside the Top 20 on every other list? Wow! Maybe you just know the Zags always do better as underdogs.

Mick Bondi
Casper, Wyo.

Exactly, Mick. Just trying to light a fire under those guys.

More on Morgan

You said that J’mison Morgan will struggle to get minutes at Baylor. I don’t agree. Quincy Miller and Perry Jones aren’t centers. I think Morgan will be the backup center. Why do you think he’ll struggle to get minutes.

No location given

Morgan averaged 3.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 12 minutes a game last season for a team that didn’t make the NCAA tournament. Those numbers aren’t very impressive – especially for a guy in his third year of college. This year Baylor has all of its big men back, and the Bears are adding forward Quincy Miller, who is projected as a top 10 pick in next summer’s NBA draft. If Morgan wants to play, he’ll need to get a lot better – fast. Being left at home for what was termed a “coaches decision” was not a good start for a player whose nickname is “Bobo.”

Injuries hamper Roe

It wasn’t fair for you to put Delvon Roe on your list of underachievers. The guy had microfracture surgery, which I know you mentioned, but that is completely the problem. Roe is a warrior.

DeWitt, Mich.

I love it when passionate fans stand up and defend their favorite players. And I agree with you. Roe has shown a lot of fight in a tough situation. I never questioned his heart.

Vote for Illini

Just a comment on your preseason Top 25: Watch out for Illinois. I think they may be really tough this year.

Malcolm Henry
Kansas City

Seems like I’ve heard that before.

Sleeping on Weems

So, you included Doug McDermott on your list of the best players in the mid-majors but neglected to include Kyle Weems, who is by far the superior player? I’m quite confused and rather curious as to if you actually watch basketball games not involving major conference teams.

Daniel Bogle
Springfield, Mo.

I watch plenty of games, but admittedly, I don’t get to see a ton of Creighton and Missouri State. The Bluejays and Bears aren’t exactly fixtures on national television. Weems could’ve easily been on that list and probably deserved to be. But I’m not sure including McDermott ahead of him is all that outlandish. The guy averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds as a freshman last season.

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