15 freshmen to love, this year and next

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Don’t go falling in love with freshmen like Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Baylor’s Perry Jones. They head the list of this season’s one-and-done players.

Also included: Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Kansas’ Josh Selby, N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie, Memphis’ Will Barton, Syracuse’s Fab Melo and Kentucky’s trio of Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones, among others.

If any of those guys return for their sophomore seasons, consider it a pleasant surprise for hoopheads.

Robin Scholz / AP

Who’s that leave? Fifteen talented guys you can watch this season and next.

Vander Blue, Marquette
The 6-3 guard was the Wisconsin player of the year and backed out of playing for Bo Ryan so he could suit up for Buzz Williams. Jimmy Butler will be the Eagles’ go-to guy, which means Blue can focus on doing what he does best – attacking the basket and playing multiple guard spots. You’ll spot Blue by the ink on his arms.

Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Think Wayne Ellington, only taller. The 6-6 guard could start for the Heels, who need someone to stretch defenses with a reliable outside shot. The rest of his game needs work, which will be the only thing keeping him in school past his freshman season.

Joe Jackson, Memphis
Forget one or two seasons. Tigers fans are hoping the Memphis native sticks around four years. The 5-11 point guard is lightning quick, savvy and bound to make life easier for his young, talented teammates. Or he’ll just do it himself. There’s a little bit of Allen Iverson in Jackson.

Tobias Harris, Tennessee
This may be a stretch, but I can hope, right? The 6-8 forward is adept in the pain or on the perimeter and rarely slacks off. That’s perfect for Bruce Pearl’s Vols, who thrive with versatile, athletic players. Harris will overmatch nearly every defender he faces, which means he’s not long for the college game. But two seasons? That’s possible.

Ray McCallum, Detroit and Trey Ziegler, Central Michigan
What are a five-star prospect and a four-star prospect doing playing at mid-majors schools? They’re playing for their dads. If that’s not worth cheering, I don’t know what is. McCallum’s heady point guard, while Ziegler’s a shooting guard who could lead the MAC in scoring.

Ian Miller, Florida State
The latest in a series of top-flight talent in Tallahassee, Miller should vie for ACC freshman of the year honors. The 6-3 guard is a solid finisher and aggressive getting to the rim, a godsend for a ‘Noles team that struggles getting the ball in the basket.

Tyler Lamb, UCLA
The 6-4 Lamb is just what the Bruins were missing last season – an athletic guard who can hit from outside or get to the rim. He’ll play, too. UCLA coach Ben Howland’s been impressed by Lamb’s defensive effort.

Adreian Payne, Michigan State
A 6-10 center who thrives on defense, can block shots and rebound? Sounds like a Tom Izzo player to me. Payne figures to spell Spartans post players Delvon Roe and Derrick Nix this season, then step into a more prominent role the next few seasons as his offense develops.  

Phil Pressey, Missouri
The Tigers’ system is built around guards who can push the pace and pressure defenders. That’s perfect for Pressey, a 5-10 blur who also isn’t afraid of challenging taller foes at the rim. He and his brother, Matt, could be Missouri’s backcourt for years to come.

Jereme Richmond and Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Richmond, a 6-7 wing, and Leonard, a 6-10 center, are the gems of Illinois’ 2010 class and could step into prominent roles once Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale graduate this spring. If the freshmen pair can match the consistency and productivity of Davis and Tisdale, the Illini are set.

Terrence Ross, Washington
The early favorite for Pac-10 freshman of the year. The 6-5 guard should thrive thanks to Huskies point guard Isaiah Thomas, who excels at driving the lane and dishing to open teammates around the arc. That’s perfect for Ross, whose best asset is his sweet stroke.

J.T. Terrell, Wake Forest
Here’s all you need to know about the 6-4 guard, courtesy of Dave Telep: “Somebody told me he was shooting it from one step past half court off a ball screen,” Wake assistant Jeff Battle said. “Who would shoot that? They said he makes them, too. I don’t know if coach will let him shoot 50-footers, but he can do it.”

Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Someone’s going to have to pick up the scoring slack with Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins gone. That falls to Kris Joseph and Waiters, a tremendous talent who can step into Rautins’ role as the perimeter threat. Added bonus: Unlike Rautins, Waiters can get to the rim.

Patric Young, Florida
The solution to the Gators’ frontcourt issues. The 6-8 Young grabs rebounds, blocks shots and intimates foes with his imposing build. He’s not polished offensively, but that’s the main reason he’ll be in Gainesville more than one year. Guys with his athleticism are usually NBA bound ASAP.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

No. 1 Kansas rallies to beat Oklahoma 73-63 on Senior Night

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) celebrates a 3-point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Harvard in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Frank Mason III scored 23 points in his final game at Allen Fieldhouse, Devonte Graham hit a series of crucial 3-pointers in the second half and top-ranked Kansas rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Oklahoma 73-63 on Monday night.

Graham finished with 16 points and Josh Jackson had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Big 12 champion Jayhawks (27-3, 15-2), who trailed 54-42 before finishing the game on a 31-11 run.

The Sooners (10-19, 4-13) were poised to spring a big upset on the day the Jayhawks ascended to No. 1 for the first time this season. But after they took their biggest lead with just over 10 minutes to go, Mason got the comeback started with a nifty basket inside.

He added a steal moments later to set up Lagerald Vick’s 3-pointer, and Jackson scored before Graham hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc. And when Mason added another basket moments later, the Jayhawks had put together a 17-2 charge that gave them a 64-58 lead with about 5 minutes left.

Kansas slowly drew away to make senior night memorable for Mason, big man Landen Lucas and reserve guard Tyler Self, whose father – Kansas coach Bill Self – called him “my favorite Jayhawk of all time.”

VIDEO: Kansas’ Carlton Bragg misses breakaway dunk

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There are few things more exciting in sports than a player dunking on a fast break.

There are few things funnier than a player flubbing that dunk.

Kansas’ Carlton Bragg proved that second point Monday in the second half of the No. 1 Jayhawks’ game at Allen Fieldhouse against Oklahoma.

There’s a strange beauty in that, isn’t there?

Motley plays big in No. 11 Baylor’s win over No. 10 West Virginia

Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) reacts to a play against Texas in first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 74-64. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP)
Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP
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Even as Baylor has floundered some down the stretch, the Bears have been able to count on Johnathan Motley being a monster. The 6-foot-10 forward has been putting up numbers and shooting up draft boards.

Against No. 10 West Virginia, he showed off all his skills – and it resulted in a win, as the 11th-ranked Bears topped the Mountaineers, 71-62, in Waco on Monday in a much-needed victory.

Motley was superb once again, going for 23 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 35 minutes. He shot it well from the field, going 6 of 12, but was a perfect 11 of 11 from the free-throw line. It was a big-time performance, especially with point guard Manu Lecomte out with an ankle injury.

Monday was nothing particularly special in terms of performance from Motley as he’s been consistently great during Big 12 play. He had 27 and 11 against Iowa State and 21 and 16 against Oklahoma just last week alone. He’s been overshadowed some by Baylor’s early season success – the story was the Bears and coach Scott Drew, not Motley – and that Frank Mason is not only the no-doubt Big 12 player of the year, but maybe the frontrunner for the national award as well.

He’s been really, really good.

Motley is averaging just short of a double-double with 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds along with 1.0 blocks per game. He’s not the double-double machine of Caleb Swanigan, but he’s got nine during Big 12 play. He also put up 32 points and 20 rebounds against Texas. There aren’t many better performances than that around the country.

Against the Mountaineers, Motley struggled some early, going 1 of 5 from the field with just four points in the first half. He made five of his next seven shots, though, and made nine second-half free throws to score 19 after the break to get Baylor in the win column after a three-losses-in-four-games stretch.

Jo Lual-Acuil rightfully gets a ton of credit for being the anchor of Baylor’s defense, but pairing the 7-footer with Motley is what makes the Bears’ defense so stout. Teams have an effective field goal percentage of just 44.8 against the Bears and are making just 43.8 percent of their shots inside the arc. The length of Lual-Acuil and Motley is a huge reason why.

The game was somewhat rare for West Virginia as the Mountaineers forced 18 turnovers, which was at a rate of 26.5 percent (better than their Big 12 average), and still lost. Some of it certainly can be attributed to the absence of forward Esa Ahmad, who was out with a back injury, but 3 of 15 shooting from 3-point range was a killer overall.

West Virginia and Baylor are jockeying with Iowa State for second place in the Big 12, but if everyone holds serve, it’ll be a three-way tie in the country’s toughest conference. If the Cyclones can win in Morgantown on Friday, though, Steve Prohm’s group will claim the spot outright. If West Virginia wins, the most likely scenario (assuming Baylor beats Texas) puts the Mountaineers second, Baylor third and Iowa State fourth for the tournament in Kansas City next week.

No. 23 Virginia holds No. 5 North Carolina to 43 points in statement win

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 27: Kyle Guy #5 of the Virginia Cavaliers shoots the ball during Virginia's game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at John Paul Jones Arena on February 27, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
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What a difference a week makes.

Just eight days ago, down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina handed Virginia the kind of whooping that changes the narrative of a season. The final score was 65-41, but that really doesn’t do it justice. At one point late in the second half, the Wahoos were trailing 63-36.

The story was totally different on Monday night.

Despite digging themselves a 7-0 hole in the first two minutes of the game, No. 23 Virginia knocked off No. 5 North Carolina, 53-43, in a revenge game. The Tar Heels haven’t been held to 43 points or less in a game since Feb. 24th, 1979, and that game came before the shot clock was introduced to college basketball. Dean Smith’s Tar Heels stalled for the entire first half, taking just two shots and heading into half time down 7-0.

They would eventually lose 47-40:

The previous low for points scored by a Roy Williams-coached UNC team was 45 points when they lost 57-45 at Syracuse on Jan. 11th, 2014.

That should give you an idea of just how impressive Virginia’s defense was on Monday night before you factor in that the Tar Heels are one of the nation’s top five offensive teams, according to KenPom. But they just never could get into any kind of a rhythm. Tony Bennett had them scouted to perfection, eliminating Kennedy Meeks from the game with his patented post-doubles and using London Perrantes to harass Justin Jackson for 40 minutes. Jackson never once looked comfortable, not for one possession.

With the loss, the Tar Heels now need to beat Duke in the season finale at the Dean Dome to win the outright ACC regular season title.

And while the attention for this win is going to be on UNC and their struggles, the real story here is Virginia.

UVA’s loss to UNC last Saturday was their third loss in a four-game losing streak. They snapped that streak against N.C. State over the weekend, and seemed to find their groove again on Monday. Their issue has never been on the defensive side of the ball; it’s their ability to score, and they may have found their cure: Kyle Guy. The kid with the top-knot that is incorrectly referred to as a man-bun by everyone. (Trust me on that.)

Guy had played just two minutes in the overtime loss to Miami earlier in the week and was just 1-for-10 from the floor in the previous three games, a stretch where UVA scored just 144 points in 125 minutes of basketball. He had 19 points in the win over N.C. State and 17 points on Monday night, hitting five threes and providing UVA with a go-to option offensively. He’s uniquely suited to playing the role that Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris have played because he’s a lights-out shooter with quick feet, a quick release and an ability to read defenses as a runs off of screens. His presence opens up their offense.

As long as he’s good enough defensively, he’ll be able to see the floor.

And if he’s good enough defensively, UVA can be good enough offensively to win games like this.

Prosecutors detail allegations against Creighton’s Watson

OMAHA, NE - JANUARY 21: Maurice Watson Jr. #10 of the Creighton Bluejays receives and ovation before their game against the Marquette Golden Eagles at CenturyLink Center on January 21, 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Former Creighton star Maurice Watson appeared in front of a Douglas County judge Monday after turning himself into authorities Sunday following the issuance of a warrant for his arrest Thursday on the charge of first-degree sexual assault.

Watson’s bail was set at $750,000, which he would have to produce 10 percent of to be released from jail.

Prosecutors also detailed some of the allegations against Watson from the night of Feb. 3, when a 19-year-old woman alleges he raped her. Graphic details of the prosecution’s allegations can found here.

Watson’s attorneys said he denies the allegations.

Creighton said Sunday that Watson is barred from campus and not enrolled as a student, according to the Omaha World-Herald.  The Bluejays announced last week that Watson, who has been sidelined since tearing his ACL last month, had been suspended.