Without LaceDarius Dunn, we all lose

There's no doubt that guilty or not, Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn committed some kind of physical act that we should all frown upon. Despite what the girlfriend and her father tell authorities and the media, Scott Drew and the Baylor Athletic Department have to reprimand their All-American guard, meaning a significant suspension or permanent expulsion from the team is threatening to dampen the upcoming season just a bit. A stern reprimand is appears necessary, but it's really going to stink once it happens.

In a sport that loses many of its top players just before the casual fan can identify and assimilate themselves to what they offer on the court, the effect is a small amount of top-flight talent capable of highlight reel plays that drum up small talk around the water cooler. Even more (or less in this case), few must-see television players elect to develop and fine-tune their game for three or four college seasons. What's great about LaceDarius Dunn is that he's one of those gems. I remember first learning about him when I discovered he had a penchant for scoring, but was allergic to sharing. Then, last season, he was the go-to guy on an Elite Eight squad we all tagged as the sexy Final Four pick. For the 2010-2011 campaign, we look at Dunn as one of the country's top players.

He is a first-team pre-season All-American caliber player, the leading returning scorer in the Big 12, and 91-three pointers and 518 points away from becoming the conference's all-time leader in both categories. He also needs just 451 points to become the leading scorer in Baylor Bears history. Those three landmarks alone make him one of the most intriguing players in the game, and there's a good chance none of them will get challenged following this unfortunate revelation of a potentially felonious aggravated assault.

Sure the season will be spectacular with or without him (Dunn is just one of roughly 4200 Division I college basketball players), he's not unequivocally irreplaceable. But the margin of error is oh-so-small for college basketball to resonate with sports fans from the beginning of the season to One Shining Moment. Without Baylor's star, we would lose interest in the Bears until I predict they sit squarely on the bubble during the first week of March.

Given the turmoil this program went through before Coach Drew came to town, the community of Waco needs their stud guard. And given the lack of star power in today's college game, I think we all would like to have him around too.

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