Mercy, Yes, They Deserve To Play.

Two college basketball players, at the opposite end of their potential playing career spectrums, are dominating headlines on the cusp of March.

One with a prominent present and a potentially lucrative future.who has become the focus of national debate.  The other who more than likely will never be this successful or famous ever again, only now being acknowledged for talents he has exhibited for five seasons in near-obscurity.

One a top talent and potential NBA draft choice who has given a prominent football school fresh off what they’d consider to be an off season (no Final Four) a legitimate shot at their first-ever basketball Final Four.  The other about to begin his final post-season in a 9-8 conference tournament elimination game between two sub-.500 teams in the Horizon League.

Brandon Miller and Antoine Davis are making headlines.  For entirely different reasons.

You’re probably more familiar with Miller, who has been the star of an Alabama Crimson Tide team currently leading the SEC and ranked number two in the nation.  Let the New York Post’s Zach Braziller catch you up:

Last Tuesday, it was revealed through police testimony in court that the uber-talented, 6-foot-9 Miller was connected to the murder of Jamea Harris, who was visiting her boyfriend and cousin at the University of Alabama. Allegedly, Miller transported former teammate Darius Miles’ gun that police say was used in the killing and is a cooperating witness in the case. Miles had left the weapon in his car. 

Then, coach Nate Oats put his foot in his mouth by saying “[we] can’t control everything everybody does outside of practice,” and Miller was “just in the wrong spot at the wrong time.” Oats later apologized for his “unfortunate remarks,” insisting he wasn’t trying to downplay the loss of a woman’s life. Miles, who was immediately kicked off the team, and Michael Lynn Davis have been charged with capital murder. Davis is alleged to have pulled the trigger. 

Second-ranked Alabama played Miller the next night, and he exploded for 41 points and six 3-pointers in a come-from-behind win at South Carolina. Saturday, before an impressive victory at home over Arkansas, a walk-on mockingly patted Miller down in warm-ups, making light of a woman’s death. Classless behavior, even if it is something Alabama has done before its games all season. Oats told reporters it wouldn’t happen again, and he was unaware of it because he’s diagramming plays at that time. So, to summarize: The coach can’t control what his players do when they’re not on the court or be aware of what they do seconds before a game starts. 

A feel-good story?  Hardly.  Oats, who at a school where his colleague is named Nick Saban, is clearly way over his head when it comes to accountability, and were it not for the talents of Miller, he might not be recognized by everyone in Tuscaloosa, let alone the rest of the sports world.  For Miller to allow a teammate to make him the face of such tone-deaf, TikTok-view-obsessed shenanigans–even if was merely the one being “patted down”–shows remarkable immaturity, even for a 19-year-old, especially one potentially  on the cusp of becoming a millionaire.

But, as Tuscaloosa police patiently remind anyone willing to listen, Miller has not been charged with a crime.  He has only been connected to the murder as someone who drove a car that he did not necessarily know contained a weapon that ultimately was used by someone else to commit the crime.  And in a state where these kind of things often require extraordinarily talented lawyers to litigate, with a potential national title at stake it will take a lot more than that for Miller to be run out of town on a rail.

So, sorry, he’ll be playing tomorrow night and deeper into March. And I sure hope Davis will be too.

Thanks to both the three-point shot, which he has already hit more of than any player in Division I college basketball history, and the NCAA’s lenience on giving those denied the chance at a Big Dance in spring 2020, Davis now sits on the cusp of making the same kind of history as Lebron James did a couple of weeks back.  The all-time leading scorer in history.

As Andrew Kahn of MLive explained:

Antoine Davis’ pursuit of college basketball’s scoring record is going down to the wire. The Detroit Mercy guard kept up his torrid scoring pace over the past two games, putting himself in position to make a postseason push to No. 1 all time.

Davis poured in 34 points on Saturday against Wright State after scoring 27 against Northern Kentucky on Thursday.

He has 3,604 career points, 63 behind Pete Maravich for the mDavis scored 32 in Detroit Mercy’s 85-52 home win over Purdue Fort Wayne on Feb. 4. He posted 22 in a win at Purdue Fort Wayne on Dec. 4. He’s averaging 28.1 points per game this season, the most in the country.ost ever.  The Titans host 9 seed Purdue Fort Wayne in the first round on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+). 

His career high is 48 points, so he will almost certainly need at least two games to have a chance at the record. The Horizon reseeds its tournament before each round. With a win on Tuesday, Detroit Mercy would face one of three opponents; if the better seeds win each of the three first-round games on Tuesday, that opponent would be top seed Youngstown State.

Over Davis’ previous four seasons with the Titans, they’ve never won more than one game in the conference tournament. (They were ineligible for the 2020 event.) Detroit Mercy is 13-18 this season. While an NCAA Tournament bid would require a stunning championship run in the league tournament, there’s the possibility of appearing in a lesser-known postseason tournament. Last season, Detroit Mercy played in The Basketball Classic. There’s also the College Basketball Invitational.

Now there’s a feel-good story.  Oh, did we mention HIS coach is his dad, a disciple of the Bob Knight-led Indiana Hoosiers.  Ironically enough, a man named Mike Davis.  Whose other son, Mike, Jr., is one of the Titans’ assistant coaches.

Purists are defending Maravich’s record because he played in an era where no three-point shot existed and when freshmen were not eligible to play in varsity games.  Maravich scored his 3667 in 83 games.  And, yes, he played in the same top-tier conference that Miller now plays in.

But Davis has done his scoring with an inferior team, where he is far and away the Titans’ only legitimate scoring threat, and is an undersized 6’1″, 165 pounds.  And he is a student of basketball, having patterned his game after that of Maravich, who died ten years before Davis was born.

And if you think it’s easy to be a winner in Detroit basketball these days, keep this in mind.  This season, yhe Titans have only two fewer wins–and 29 fewer losses--than do the Pistons as of this writing.

The basketball world would be stunned if Davis and the Titans could rattle off four consecutive wins and qualify for the Big Dance themselves.  But these kinds of things have happened before, especially in conferences as wide open and lacking a dominant force as this year’s Horizon League is.  Youngstown State is 21-8 and has a NET rating of 114.  We’re not talking top tier here either.

So I know who’s my definition of a hero, and who others’ definition of a villain is, in college basketball this week.  Both deserve to play.  And I’m rooting that both go farther than they are today.


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