Uh-oh, Sully: Detroit it is

Monday, March 12, 2012

Remember column subject Sully, the guy with a Jayhawk tattooed on each shoulder? He was the guy who thought Turner Gill should start Christian Matthews in the final Border War football game and was proven right when Kansas moved the football better when Matthews was under center. Then Matthews inexplicably was removed from the game, at which point everything stalled.

Well, just the other day Sully rolled down the window of his car pretty much wall-to-wall decorated with Jayhawk stickers, and, his blood pressure soaring toward the clouds, randomly blurted out, “If there’s one team I don’t want any part of, it’s Detroit. Those guys are awesome.” Then he drove off as I wondered if he ever would calm down and enjoy life, you know, play a round of golf or something. I didn’t give it another thought until the NCAA pairings were released Sunday night.


The University of Detroit Mercy sounds like a church-league team in much the same manner Kevin Love sounds like a soft name for a basketball player.

By now everybody knows that Detroit has one more McDonald’s All-American (one, Ray McCallum Jr.) than Kansas (zero, even though No. 0 is a lock for first-team All-America honors.) What many don’t know is that Eli’s comin’, so don’t hide your heart medicine. He’s a scary guy. Campus police on more than one college campus are on a first-name basis with Eli Holman.

Holman, the Albert Belle of college basketball, stands 6-foot-10, weighs 260 pounds and throws a mean fastball. Not with a baseball. With a potted plant.

Back when Kelvin Sampson was in the throes of a calling-recruits-on-his-cell-phone addiction and was fired for it, Holman was a Hoosier. Players were leaving at such a rapid rate new coach Tom Crean must have been fantasizing about what life would have been like with the ball in Tyshawn Taylor’s hands had the coach not left Marquette. Crean tried to convince Holman to stay. Eli told the coach he needed to transfer to a school closer to his home in Richmond, Calif. Holman lost it and reportedly hurled a potted plant. A coach phoned campus police because, Crean later said, he viewed him as “a danger to himself.”

Crean has the Hoosiers back in the same tournament in which Taylor, Holman and Marquette are partaking.

Eli transferred to Detroit, putting him a mere 2,400 miles from home, 140 miles farther than when he was a Hoosier. Holman averaged 11.8 points and 8.9 rebounds for Detroit as a sophomore and had similar statistics as a junior (11.8, 9.6) and was a big reason Detroit was expected to win the Horizon League until news broke in September that he had gone on an indefinite absence to attend to personal matters. The school newspaper, The Varsity News, then broke a story in which a frat boy said Holman broke his nose in two places and chipped two of his teeth at a fraternity party. Those zany, zany frat parties.

Without Holman, Detroit started the season 4-6. The Titans head into the tournament on a 10-1 run. Holman plays so much football when he plays basketball that he tends toward foul trouble. That explains why he averages just 23 minutes a game, time enough to average 10.8 points and 6.9 rebounds.

Oh well, at least nobody has to worry about how motivated Thomas Robinson will be for the tourney opener. Holman took care of that Sunday night.

“Robinson?” Holman said to the Detroit News. “I can handle Robinson. He has to handle me.”

So much trash will spill out of the players’ mouths in this one extra ballboys will be needed to sweep the floor during every timeout.

Nobody scares Thomas Robinson. That’s not the point here. The point is, Detroit’s not your average No. 15 seed. The Titans are playing so well now they crushed Horizon League regular-season champ and postseason tourney host Valparaiso by 20 points, the same team they lost to twice with Holman in the lineup. And that would be the same Horizon League that Butler represented twice in the NCAA Tournament title game the past two seasons.