Arguably no recruit in the nation is getting more press attention right now than Renardo Sidney. Scout.com is reporting that Sidney is very likely going to leave USC and head home to Mississippi State. Sidney is one of the top 10 or 15 high school players in the nation, yet numerous sources are saying that it's actually USC that backed off of Sidney because of off-the-court problems. If you're not familiar with the background on Sidney's personal problems, you can read this very long profile from the New York Times. The article was a bit sickening in some ways, especially Sonny Vaccaro's disgusting use of the race card to try to bash those who call out Vaccaro for his shady practices. But in many ways the piece reminded me of the famous New York Times article on Tim Floyd's "recruitment" of OJ Mayo that got a ton of national attention a couple of years back.
Now, there are a couple of ways to look at this. I know that a lot of people on the internet are taking the fact that USC backed away from Sidney's off-court troubles as proof that Sidney is a total personal disaster. USC, after all, is a school that has had tons of problem kids - both on their basketball and football team. I mean, they could deal with the Mayo situation, but Sidney is too much? This seems to be the common consensus I'm seeing around the internet. But I'd argue that there's another possibility.
I would argue that USC is really worried because of the scrutiny they're under right now by the NCAA. There are investigations going on. I don't think they want to touch any kid who might remotely be a problem right now. And maybe it will do Sidney a lot of good to be closer to home and around his family. He would have been much more likely to get in trouble across the country in Los Angeles. Besides, OJ Mayo turned out okay, didn't he? He might not have been the superduperstar people thought he was going to be (I know he's had a lot of success, but he was supposedly the best high school player since Lebron James), but he didn't get arrested or suspended or anything else.
Assuming Sidney comes to Mississippi State and is able to stay out of trouble, there are going to be very, very high hopes for the Bulldogs next season. Andy Katz is suggesting that if Jarvis Varnado returns they can be a Top 15 team next season. That's overstating things a bit, but they should be very good. A few weeks ago I rated them, assuming Varnado stays out of the Draft, as the favorites in the SEC West. I gave them a 10 seed in the Tournament. If Varnado returns and Sidney does indeed come to town then I see them in the range of a 7-8 seed. They will be a borderline Top 25 team, but I think the Top 15 is a bit of a push. If Sidney comes and Varnado stays in the Draft then I still think they will be favored to make the Tournament. As I said in my SEC preview, even if Varndo is gone (and, implicitely, there is no Renardo Sidney) I still view Mississippi State as a Bubble team. They have a lot of talent returning and should be better no matter what.
But I'm going to give Renardo Sidney a chance to succeed. If he's the next OJ Mayo, well... Mississippi State will take that.