On April 10, 2017, Markel Crawford announced he was leaving Tubby Smith’s Memphis basketball program.
Less than 2-weeks later, Crawford decided to to join the Ole Miss Rebels.
Rather than help re-establish the Memphis program as a Senior leader under Smith, Crawford instead chose to spend his final year of eligibility chasing an NCAA tournament bid for the neighboring SEC school.
As a college graduate who earned the opportunity to transfer, it’s hard to fault a player in this circumstance, especially considering that Crawford’s original college coach – Josh Pastner – was no longer at Memphis.
To Smith’s Memphis program, it was a painful moment.
Combined with the decision of Dedric and KJ Lawson to leave Memphis for Kansas, Crawford’s transfer was a gut punch to the fledgling program. It meant that year 2 for Smith would be played with almost a brand new roster.
The transfers also ended any semblance of a honeymoon period for Smith as the Tiger Basketball head man.
Almost a year later, Crawford’s move doesn’t appear to have worked out for anyone involved.
As could be expected, Memphis has taken a step back. Without Crawford on the perimeter – Memphis is one of the worst teams in the country at both defending and making 3-pt shots. The Tigers are currently 14-10 (5-6) and are on track to miss the postseason entirely for the 4th consecutive season.
Crawford and Ole Miss aren’t faring any better.
Saturday, Crawford picked up a technical foul as the Rebels lost their 5th consecutive game, by 16 to LSU. Crawford was held without a field goal.
The Rebels fell to 11-14 (4-8).
This represents a significant step back for Ole Miss, which finished the 2016-17 season with 22 wins and a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals.
Of course, it’s not fair to blame Crawford for Ole Miss’ struggles. It is fair, however, to note that Crawford’s production has slipped.
In his lone season under Tubby Smith, Crawford averaged career highs in points (12.8), rebounds (4.4), 3pt % (33.3) and minutes (32.4).
As a Rebel, Crawford’s production has regressed in each category.
Tiger fans, but more importantly Crawford himself has to be wondering how he might have progressed in a 2nd year under Tubby Smith.
Would his progress have mirrored that of Jeremiah Martin, who is leading the AAC in scoring?
Would Martin and Crawford playing together have resulted in more victories for the Tigers?
Of course, the popular narrative is that it’s Tubby Smith’s fault for not doing more to convince Crawford to stay.
That’s fair – but it’s also fair to question those that advised Crawford to make the change – whomever they are. Because in retrospect this was a bad decision, one that hasn’t worked out for anyone involved.