I know this question is premature at this point (how premature is anybody's guess), but I'm just so excited about UT basketball that I can't help examining what our future may hold. So far, the prevailing opinion is that Williams, Tatum, and Goins will be reinstated to the program sometime this season. I've heard people saying it could happen as early as this week, but it could be another month for all we know. At any rate, it seems likely that it will happen. And when it does, how will CBP handle it? If memory serves, CBP has not had to deal with any in-season suspensions before, so there is no track record suggesting how this will work. With that in mind, I'd like to examine two cases from football season that I thought were handled especially well. Hopefully it will shine some light on the appropriate course of action here.
Case #1: Lane Kiffin's treatment of Janzen Jackson. As we all know, after serving a minor one game suspension, Jackson was involved in an embarassing, frightening, and highly publicized arrest of three UT football players. Like CBP, CLK suspended each player involved until all the facts of the case were brought to light. During that time, the football team played twice, going 1-1 and suffering through arguably their two worst defensive performances of the regular season (this definitely included the worst defensive performance, but we didn't play well against Vandy either). In the end, CLK (and the DA) found no reason to believe that Janzen Jackson was involved in any wrongdoing. He was immediately reinstated and started the next game (a win) against Kentucky.
Case #2: Chip Kelly's treatment of LeGarette Blount. Going into the season, Oregon was ranked in the top 20, and Blount was their best offensive weapon. But he threw a punch after a loss to Boise State and, well, you just can't do that. He was suspended indefinitely and given a list of things that he must accomplish to be reinstated to the football team. As it turns out, he accomplished them, and after eight games, Kelly was ready to bring Blount back into the fold. Unlike the Jackson situation, the team hadn't exactly gone to pot without him. Oregon was 7-1 during the suspension and had scored 30+ in 7 games and 40+ in 5. They had a win over an eventual top 25 team in Utah and a four-score victory over the jillion-time defending Pac-10 Champion Southern California. So how did Kelly handle Blount's reinstatement? He stuck his once-star running back at the end of the depth chart and told him to work his way back. Blount did not play in the first or second game after his suspension ended. In the third game, the de facto Pac-10 championship against Oregon State, he played a key role coming off the bench, carrying 9 times for 51 yards and a touchdown. In the Rose Bowl, he again came off the bench, carrying 5 times for 36 yards.
So, given that I think both of these treatments were excellently handled by the coaches involved, what would I do in CBP's situation? I think UT basketball's situation is much closer to Oregon football than Tennessee football. Unlike what happened with Jackson, I don't see any way that Williams, Goins, and Tatum can be cleared of wrongdoing (at least not if the guns were as obvious as people claim). Williams certaintly can't, because he had some maryjane in his backpack. Also, the team's response in the UT basketball case is much closer to Oregon football. Oregon's offense was actualy demonstrably better with the suspension of their best player; likewise, UT basketball has played their two best games of the season missing four of the top eight players in the rotation. It seems that they've finally come together as a team.
Two things are at play here, and both call for the same decision. First, in the event of real wrongdoing, we don't want to send a message that these players can just waltz back onto the team in the same position as when they left it. Second, UT basketball has finally learned to play as a team without these three guys; we don't want to jeopardize that by messing too much with a working rotation. That said, the current rotation probably doesn't have the depth to last a full season, and it doesn't appear that Tatum, Goins, and Williams have done enough wrong to see them sit for the rest of the year (or so the rumors say). So, as you may expect at this point, I propose that Pearl follow the Kelly model: when these guys come back, they start at the end of the bench.
This is not to say that they won't get minutes. Oregon has more depth at running back than we have at. . . basketball. But Goins starts behind Maze and Bone at PG, Tatum starts behind Hopson, Prince, Woolridge, and McBee in the 2/3 rotation, and Williams starts behind Chism, Woolridge, Hall, and Pearl in the 4/5 rotation. I imagine that this would mean Goins sitting out entirely for his first couple games back until he can unseat Bone (if he can unseat Bone). Tatum and Williams would probably get minutes immediately, albeit not as many as they're accustomed to. Whereas Goins has 2 guys ahead (for 1 position), Tatum and Williams both have 3.5 guys ahead (for 2 positions). Also, they play positions where foul trouble is a greater concern. So if CBP follows this model, I'd expect Tatum and Williams to play 5-10 minutes each and Goins to ride the bench for a couple games. I think this sends the appropriate message to the suspended players, and I think it will allow the current team to maintain the chemistry that they've shown over the last two games. After that, who knows? Tatum has more talent than McBee, maybe he jumps him. Goins has more talent than Bone, maybe he re-wins the #2 spot. I have a hard time seeing Williams outduel Hall at this point, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him take some minutes that currently go to Steven Pearl.
Anyways, that was my long-winded solution. What say y'all?