Former No. 1 recruit and potential No. 1 NBA draft pick James Wiseman announced his departure from the University of Memphis on Thursday, ending a six-week saga that began when Wiseman was ruled ineligible by the NCAA on Nov. 8. Now, issues remain both on and off the floor for the Memphis program.
Here are the key issues:
Does Wiseman's departure mean Memphis is free from NCAA scrutiny?
Wiseman's decision to withdraw from school does not end the potential NCAA drama ahead for Memphis. The Tigers, per the NCAA's statement last month, were informed that Wiseman was "likely ineligible" prior to announcing his 12-game suspension after his mother accepted an $11,500 payment from Penny Hardaway in 2017 for moving expenses while the prospect was in high school. Hardaway had been deemed a booster after a $1 million payment he'd made to the school in 2008, which made his assistance to Wiseman's family a violation of NCAA rules, although he offered the money before accepting the Memphis job.
While the particulars of Wiseman's suspension had been settled, the fate of a Memphis program that, per the NCAA, used an ineligible player this season remains unknown. More importantly, a coach admitting a payment to the family of a prospect he later coached at the collegiate level could lead to a major infractions case from an NCAA that's targeted coaches at some of America's most powerful programs in the wake of the FBI's investigation into college basketball. -- Myron Medcalf
Assuming Memphis is eligible for the NCAA tournament, what are the bracket implications for the Tigers?
Memphis remains an NCAA tournament team without James Wiseman. We'd put the Tigers' odds of making the field in the 75 percent range, down only 10 percent from his projected return to the lineup.
The real bracket impact could be felt elsewhere in the American Athletic Conference. Suddenly there is room at the top of the league and multiple challengers hoping to take advantage of Memphis' misfortune.
Keep an eye on Wichita State, in particular, which appears to be an NCAA team again. Add likely bubble teams UConn, Houston and Temple, and the race in the American has just gotten even more interesting. -- Joe Lunardi
What does Memphis look like without Wiseman? How far could they advance in the NCAA tournament?
We've now seen the Tigers play seven games without Wiseman, and included in that stretch, of course, was a highly impressive 51-47 win at Tennessee. Penny Hardaway's team has shown it can win without its brightest star and, more specifically, play excellent defense without him (and, for that matter, without Lester Quinones, who has missed the last four games with a broken hand). This current shorthanded Memphis rotation is still the best team the Tigers have put on the floor in years.
Nevertheless, losing Wiseman does lower this team's ceiling. A front line anchored by the 7-foot-1 freshman and also including Precious Achiuwa and D.J. Jeffries was going to be one daunting prospect for the rest of the American this season. You can still make a case that Memphis is the favorite to win the regular-season title in the league, but the Tigers' potential for a deep run in the NCAA tournament is now less than what we thought it was before Wiseman's decision. -- John Gasaway