Keatts: Memphis still formidable without Wiseman

Brett Friedlander

Like everyone else in the college basketball world, Kevin Keatts is aware of the situation involving Memphis star James Wiseman and the NCAA.

And yet, the on-again, off-again, on-again suspension of the player many believe will be the top overall pick in the NBA draft next summer isn't something the NC State coach has spent much time analyzing -- even though his Wolfpack is scheduled to play the now Wiseman-less Tigers at Brooklyn's Barclay's Center on Thursday.

"I'm like everybody else," Keatts said at a press conference Monday. "I heard the news where he was going to play, where he was ineligible to play and he played, and then now he's not playing, so I haven't had a chance to follow that much."

Wiseman was originally ruled ineligible on Nov. 8 based on the NCAA's findings that his mother had accepted $11,500 in moving expenses from Memphis coach Penny Hardaway prior to Hardaway being mamed to his current position.

Despite the ruling, the 7-foot-1 freshman continued to play after filing suit against the NCAA and receiving a temporary restraining order from a Memphis judge. He eventually dropped the suit and was held out of competition while awaiting a ruling on his status.

On Nov. 21, the NCAA announced that in addition to paying restitution for the $11,500, Wiseman would be suspended for 12 games, making him ineligible for Thursday's game against State.

While his absence from the lineup will have a negative effect on Memphis, Keatts warned that the Tigers are still a formidable team even without Wiseman on the floor.

"They're good," Keatts said. "I know a lot of people say (they're not as) good without James Wiseman, but it doesn't matter. They've got really good players. They've got youth. They remind me a lot of when I first took the job and Duke had Wendell (Carter) and Marvin Bagley. They're a talented group."

Memphis is currently led by two other highly-rated freshmen, 6-9 Precious Achiuwa and 6-7 D.J. Jeffries. However a third freshman starter, guard Lester Quinones, will be on the sidelines with Wiseman after suffering a broken hand.

"We're excited," Keatts said. "It's a great opportunity to see how much we've grown and where we need to move and how much we need to get better."

If there's one one area in which Wiseman's absence will effect Thursday's game, Keatts said it's the way he and his staff are able to prepare for the Tigers.

Because Memphis has played only three games without its star -- wins against common opponents Alcorn State and Little Rock, along with Saturday's 87-86 win against Ole Miss -- the amount of game video available to be scouted is limited.

"I'm going back now starting (Sunday), I watched a little bit of Ole Miss," Keatts said. "So I'm going backwards starting to watch the games. I've very cautious with the Oregon game because I know Wiseman played in it and I want to try to figure out how to watch the games where he doesn't play to see how they play."

According to senior wing C.J. Bryce, it really doesn't matter who is or isn't playing for the Tigers. At this point in the season, he said the Wolfpack's emphasis is more on itself than what they other team does.

"It's an unfortunate situation for (Wiseman) at this point," Bryce said. "But whoever they have, we're looking forward to going against, if they have him or not."