Well, at least we finally have some closure to this whole suspension saga, for better or worse. Per a statement released by the Athletic Department this afternoon:
Senior forward JaMychal Green has been reinstated to return to practice with the University of Alabama men’s basketball team, head coach Anthony Grant announced Monday afternoon. Grant also announced that junior Tony Mitchell will remain suspended for the remainder of the 2011-12 season.
Tony Mitchell's season is done it seems. The only outstanding question now regarding him is, will he return for his senior season next year? That is entirely unclear at this point, but it is certainly not out of the question. Note that the statement says Mitchell is "suspended for the remainder of the 2011-2012 season" and not that he has been dismissed from the team. Also worth noting is that just days ago Mitchell himself tweeted that "I will be back" and "to all my fans [I'm] going nowhere. Bama til I die."
Mitchell could very well get things straightened out with Grant and come back next season, or this could easily be the end of his road at Alabama. Regardless, we may not know anything definitive for a while, and in any case, his status for next season will have no bearing on the remainder of this season, which appears to be going down to the wire as the Tide chases a bid to March Madness.
What will almost certainly have a big impact on the remainder of this season is the return of JaMychal Green. The senior has been "reinstated to return to practice" immediately. It is unclear if he will be allowed to play or even dress for Thursday's game at Arkansas. On the one hand, you would think that being reinstated to practice for a full week before the game might lend itself to game availability, but on the other hand, Grant was dismissive of his chances of playing in a teleconference earlier in the day.
For the sake of Alabama's NCAA Tournament chances, let's hope Green returns on Thursday. For all his faults, Green is Alabama's best offensive weapon and biggest playmaker in halfcourt sets, an area where the Tide has struggled greatly at times. He is also Alabama's most athletic and experienced post player, and without him, Bama has been woefully overmatched against even mediocre competition.
A lot of fans have taken the reasonable position that these suspensions, no matter how bad they hurt in the short term, are worth it in the long term because of the lessons for the players and the foundation being laid for the program. To the extent that's true, however, you have to think any lesson there is to be learned by Green has been learned by now, if it's going to be learned at all. After all, Green just has four regular season games remaining in his career, and he's already had to sit out Bama's last three games.
Whatever Green has done, Alabama is a better team with him, and the Tide's chances of getting the wins it needs to sneak in the Dance will greatly improve the moment he returns to the lineup. Bama needs to win games these last three weeks of the season to earn a bid. Green's career will be judged in large part by how well he and the team respond over these last few weeks. Will the Tide get the needed wins to close out the regular season and SEC Tournament? And if so, what damage if any can Bama do in the Dance? How JaMychal Green responds to his reinstatement, both on and off the court, will probably be the biggest determining factor in answering these questions.