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Gary’s Blog: The Leaving Game

By Gary Dickman.

A lot has changed in the last 12 months, but I guess there are some things that never change. I’m talking brackets. I’m actually talking busted brackets. My brackets. Busted again.

My brackets are so bad, I’m not even gonna look at them again. How does this happen every year? On one hand, I’m glad there are brackets and an NCAA tournament, but I can’t believe the upsets so far. I saw that with ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, there were no perfect brackets left after the first round. It’s part of what makes the NCAA  Tournament so great. It’s so unpredictable. I always pick upsets, and I had a few right, but not enough.

What I never understand is that all the experts at ESPN usually pick all number 1 or 2 seeds to advance to the Final Four. It never works out that way. Even that Jay Bilas guy, the ex-Dukie. He picked three No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four: Gonzaga, Baylor and Illinois. Well, I had Illinois winning it all, and they’re gone in the second round. I had Illinois beating Texas, they lost in the first round, to some unknown named Abilene Christian. Come on, I didn’t even know what state they played in. I do now. And Oral Roberts, a 15 seed, beat Ohio State. Who saw that coming? The Big 10 was considered the best conference in the country, with nine teams making the tournament. As of today, only one school remains, and that’s Michigan. I wish there were two, but my Maryland Terps got beaten badly by Alabama.

I’m never in a good mood when Maryland gets eliminated in March. It used to be devastating, and it still hurts a lot. It was always real tough when I went to wherever Maryland played in March. I went to Orlando, Minneapolis, Washington DC, Boise, Nashville, Atlanta and Denver. It was great seeing these cities, but only once did the Terps win it all. April 1, 2002 in Atlanta. Still today, the happiest day of my life. Don’t laugh at me. Seriously, it was that great. But being around players and coaches after a tournament loss, well, it showed me how much this means to them. As I wrote last week, March Madness turns into March Sadness. But as of today, I have a new bracket, for my championship game. I have Gonzaga over Baylor. I really went out on a limb here. And remember, I’m rarely wrong.

Okay, I know this is a topic every UH fan is interested in. Last week, I wrote about Justin Webster entering the transfer portal. Since then, three more players have entered the portal. James Jean-Marie, Kameron Ng and Justin Hemsley. Fans are not happy. A lot of fans think there are major problems within the program. I do wonder if there’s something going on. I just wish fans would keep an open mind and understand the entire college basketball culture these days. Especially this year, with any player getting this year back without losing a year of eligibility, more and more players are transferring. As of Monday, 720 players have entered the portal. It’s much more than last year. It’s happening all over, and not just to mid-majors, but to many Power 5 schools, too. You don’t have to like it, but it’s the reality of the sport. Players transfer frequently.

But I know UH is what we’re most concerned here. I’ll go over the players one by one, and hopefully this will help to understand that it’s not as bad as it might seem. The first player to transfer, Manel Ayol, left in January. He never played a minute, and apparently realized he wasn’t going to play much, if at all. Just like  Kameron Ng, a great high school player who couldn’t crack the rotation this year. He played in only four games and entered the portal. Players that don’t play much, or at all, transfer all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that. They’re trying to get in a better situation and play. But fans blame the coach, in this case Eran Ganot, for the amount of transfers. To me, that’s not on the coach at all.

Let’s continue. Justin Webster wants to play at a Power 5 school, and hopefully play pro somewhere. It doesn’t seem he’s leaving on bad terms. He wants a better opportunity. James Jean-Marie said he’s gonna transfer or turn pro, he’s not sure which yet. Apparently, when Jean-Marie committed last year, he said it’d be for only one year. Acknowledging that, it’s okay that he’s leaving, and again, not on our head coach. Justin Hemsley was the latest to announce he’s transferring. He’s graduating in May and wants a new experience. None of these players appear to be leaving because of Eran Ganot. Now, you might not believe these reasons. There could be more going on that no one is aware of. I do understand that. I don’t think Eran Ganot is the problem. Fans seem to always blame the  coach in these situations. I have been and will continue to be a believer in Eran. He’s a good man, and a good coach. I don’t blame him at all for these players leaving. I know fans will continue to blame Coach Ganot, that’s what fans do. But when this team goes back to the NCAA Tournament soon, remember what I said. And as you can tell by my brackets this year, I’m hardly ever wrong. That was a joke, by the way.