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Five for Friday: With core back, Commodores will be even better

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I like what Vanderbilt was and love what Vanderbilt will be.

I'll explain below.

Here's my weekly Five for Friday column.

1. You're really putting Vanderbilt in the top five of the preseason Top 25 (and one)?

The return of Jeff Taylor and John Jenkins will make Vandy a factor. (US Presswire)  
The return of Jeff Taylor and John Jenkins will make Vandy a factor. (US Presswire)  
That's the plan, absolutely. Others would be wise to follow my lead because this team will be really, really good. The return of Jeff Taylor, Festus Ezeli and John Jenkins means the Commodores are returning every relevant player from a team that was ranked in the top 20 for part of the season and did enough to earn a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Yes, Vandy lost in the Round of 64 to a lower-seeded school. I know. But Notre Dame lost in the Round of 32 to a lower-seeded school, and Ohio State and Duke lost in the Sweet 16 to lower-seeded schools, and none of that changes that for four months they were all among the nation's best teams. Same goes for Vandy. And now everybody's returning. And when I say everybody, I don't just mean (allow me to stereotype for a moment) unathletic smart guys with high basketball IQs. Taylor, Ezeli and Jenkins could all be first-round picks next year; DraftExpress.com currently has them going 22nd, 27th and 33rd. So these Commodores will be experienced and super-talented, and very much worthy of the top-five ranking I'll give them.

2. Are you surprised Tristan Thompson is leaving Texas even though he said he wouldn't?

I'm never surprised when a prospect projected to be picked in the top 20 enters the NBA Draft, and that's why I never bother listening when a prospect projected to be picked in the top 20 claims late in the season that he's returning to college, which is what Thompson did. Sometimes it's sincere (Jared Sullinger comes to mind). But more times than not, players are merely saying what they think they need to say to make the questions stop, and I hate it. My dream is to one day hear a reporter ask a star freshman if he's leaving, and for the star freshman to respond, "Yes, I'll probably enter the draft because I'm a lottery pick and that makes me worth a lot of money. But I couldn't say for sure just yet. So I'll have to address it further after the season."

When a kid does that he'll immediately become my favorite player of all-time.

3.Why didn't Miami hire Kansas State's Frank Martin?

Because Miami is clueless.

4. And why would George Mason's Jim Larranaga take the Miami job?

The most obvious reason is money -- though I'm told Larranaga's ego clashed with athletic director Tom O'Connor's ego at the end, and that their lack of a strong relationship pushed this over the edge. Still, it's a strange move. Larranaga was under no pressure at George Mason. He has made a Final Four. He won 27 games last season. He would've been in the Top 25 next season. So there's little to run from (except a rocky relationship with an athletic director) and little to run to (except a larger paycheck). On that note, do you think Larranaga liked looking up and realizing he was making a fraction of what VCU's Shaka Smart now makes? Somehow, I doubt it. So here we are.

5. Did you really call Bob Knight dumb?

Anybody who has ever had a conversation with Knight or observed him having a conversation with somebody else knows he's not dumb. In fact, he's brilliant, and, for my money, the best pure basketball coach who ever lived. So I would never call him dumb, and I didn't. What I wrote is that he's out of touch, that he has a history of making dumb comments, and that his comment about the Kentucky players never going to class was dumb, and I'm not sure anybody could argue otherwise. What Knight said last weekend was false and wrong and ... dumb. But the reaction was just as dumb, and that was the premise of my column.

Apologize.

Don't apologize.

I never really cared.

Which is why I never understood why Kentucky fans -- not all, but some -- were so hell bent on getting an apology from Knight as if he had committed a horrible act against humanity and somehow sullied DeMarcus Cousins' otherwise terrific reputation. The whole episode was little more than one polarizing figure making an uninformed comment about another polarizing figure's program, and it was a comment 99 percent of college basketball fans never would've heard had UK fans not made a big deal about it. I don't know whether the offense taken is legitimate or just the latest sign of a persecution complex gone wild, but otherwise reasonable adults loudly and repeatedly insisting that an out-of-touch coach apologize for an off-the-cuff comment that didn't hurt anybody in any real way is, in my opinion, a little bananas.

Again, what Knight said was wrong.

But who cares?

Either way, the bottom line is this: Kentucky hired a controversial coach and now it has a controversial program that'll be a target as long as the controversial coach is in place. Some people will take legitimate shots while others take lazy uninformed ones, but the shots will always come. It's the bad part of employing John Calipari, but it's outweighed by the good part of employing him, which is that you get to have an awesome basketball team pretty much every year. In a perfect world, UK fans would focus on the latter and worry less about the former. But in a perfect world, one-and-done prospects would be honest about their intentions whenever asked, and Miami would've had the you-know-whats to hire the Kansas State coach.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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