Player of the Year debate: Jimmer or Nolan?

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It’s one of those years where the tired cliché applies: There are so many guys worthy of Player of the Year, it’s a shame there’ll only be one.

So we figured, why not have more than one?

Ken Davis already argued the candidacy of Connecticut superhero Kemba Walker, while Rob Dauster proclaimed Duke’s Nolan Smith his top player. Me? I go with the no-brainer in Jimmer Fredette. But what fun would it be if we merely proclaimed our winners? Why not argue about it?

Mike: I love me some Nolan Smith. He’s probably the best all-around player this season, but how can you go against Jimmer Fredette? BYU’s senior guard not only leads the nation in scoring, but jaw-dropping shots, plays and expectations. The guy’s a force of nature. And if there’s anything I learned this winter, it’s that you can’t fight nature. It always wins.

Rob: Jimmer has been incredible. I’m not arguing that. There isn’t a more exciting player in the country to watch. Ankle breaking cross-overs into 30 foot pull up threes? Yes, please.

The issue I have with Jimmer is that he not only doesn’t play any defense, he doesn’t even try. The next time BYU plays, watch him on the defensive end of the floor. He’ll stand in the same spot for entire possessions.

Mike: He stands in the same spot because every team has some chump he usually doesn’t have to pay that much attention to. And it’s not like he’s a chump. He averages more steals a game (1.4 to 1.3) than Smith. Plus, the Cougars often throw a zone to there to give Jimmer some breathing room. And now that Brandon Davies won’t be playing anymore, expect BYU to use even more zone, thus minimizing Jimmer’s biggest deficiency.

And besides, Jimmer’s doing even more on offense lately. Nine assists vs. SDSU? Seven vs. UNLV? Guy is unstoppable even when he’s not shooting. Smith can’t control a game like that.

Rob: I disagree. I think Smith absolutely can control a game like that, and he does. He just doesn’t need too put up the numbers Jimmer does with the weapons that he has on the floor with him. That’s not to say he doesn’t put up numbers — he’s 0.1 rpg away from joining Tu Holloway and Norris Cole as the only players that average 20 ppg, 5 rpg, and 5 apg.

When Duke is at their best, Nolan Smith is the guy making all of the plays. And down the stretch, he’s just about the only guy on the Duke roster that touches the ball. What I think is the most impressive about Smith is that he is having this much success playing a role that he wasn’t supposed to coming into the season.

Mike: But it’s a roll he’s played before. It’s impressive to see how far Smith’s come as a creator. As a sophomore, he was the starting point guard, then got demoted. During the NCAA tournament run last year, Smith was the one creating with the ball.

But I think it’s far easier to create when you’ve got guys like Kyle Singler, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins to pass to. Jackson Emery and Charles Abouo are nice players, but they rely on Fredette creating their open looks at the basket. If the Cougars make the Final Four, it’ll be because of Fredette. If Duke makes it, it’s not all on Smith.  

Rob: If BYU is all Fredette, then they aren’t going to make the Final Four. The Cougars went into Viejas Arena and beat SDSU by 13, and while Jimmer had 25 points and 9 assists, they won because the other guys, namely Charles Abouo, played very well. I also don’t think it is fair to detract from a player based on how good his teammates are.

The best player in the country isn’t necessarily the most valuable or the most important player. If that were the case, then shouldn’t we also include Charles Jenkins or Tu Holloway or Norris Cole in the conversation?

Mike: The best player is all of those things. He’s the most important, most valuable and the best player on the court. That’s Fredette. I mean, the guy is a phenomenon college hoops is lucky enough to see every few years.

The biggest test might not even be how the Cougars play without Davies. It’ll be if Fredette has enough juice left in his legs. The guy’s been playing at such a high level all season, I worry he’s gassed just when most of the country will be watching. And that’s a shame.

Rob: I agree with everything in that last paragraph. He is the single most exciting player in the country to watch. Its an event when he plays. He’s a show man with a flair for the dramatic, usually in the form of contested 30 foot leaners off the dribble. But entertainment value does not make you the player of the year.

Is Blake Griffin now the NBA MVP? Smith is a better defender. He’s a better leader. Since Kyrie Irving went down, he’s boosted his average to 23.5 ppg. Let’s see what Jimmer does without Davies.

Mike: If one game’s any indication, he’ll have to do more than ever. BYU got manhandled by New Mexico Wednesday night for just their third loss of the season (and second against the Lobos). Fredette’s shot wasn’t falling early, but his teammates were worse. Consider BYU’s next few games the ultimate test of his Player of the Year worthiness. If Fredette can’t get them at least two NCAA tournament wins, maybe he’s not worthy of this.

But I’ll take my chances. You don’t bet against the Jimmer.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Miami picks up Florida Gulf Coast transfer

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The transfer train continues to run to Miami this spring.

The U picked up their third commitment from a transfer Thursday when Zach Johnson, formerly of Florida Gulf Coast, pledged to coach Jim Larranaga and the ‘Canes.

“I would like to thank my FGCU family for everything during my time there. The relationships I have built will never be forgotten,” Johnson wrote on social media. “With that being said I am proud and happy to announce that I will be attending the University of Miami for my grad year.”

Johnson joins Kameron McGusty (Oklahoma) and Anthony Mack (Wyoming) as players from other programs joining Miami. Unlike the other two, who will sit out under NCAA transfer rules, Johnson will be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 16.1 points on 46.9 percent shooting overall and 39.2 percent from distance. He averaged career highs in scoring, rebounds, 3-point percentage and steals during his junior campaign with the Eagles.

Johnson will help ease the transition for the Hurricanes with Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker gone to the pros, Dewan Huell testing the waters and Ja’Quan Newton gone to graduation.

Big Ten releases matchups for new 20-game league slate

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The Big Ten’s 14-team structure has made for some unwieldy scheduling with unbalanced schedules and long-time rivalries relegated to a single matchup in some seasons.

The conference’s move to a 20-game league schedule is being made in part to alleviate those issues. Teams will play seven opponents home-and-away and the remaining six in one-off meetings – half on the road and half at home.

“The new schedules ensure that all three of the Big Ten’s in-state rivals – Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue, and Michigan/Michigan State-will play twice on an annual basis,” Big Ten assistant commissioner Kerry Kenny said in a statement. “Additionally, there will be regional rotations in both the east and in the west. Rather than protecting a single opponent on a yearly basis for the remaining eight teams, annual rotations involving the four eastern teams (Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers) and the four western teams (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin) have been strategically developed to optimize travel, academic and recovery impacts while encouraging increased competition among institutions that are near each other geographically.

“Increasing the frequency of conference competition allows the Big Ten to compete across a larger footprint, while respecting history and balancing the needs of our students, coaches and fans.”

The Big Ten released the scheduling matrix Thursday (see below) while the full schedule will be released at a later date.

 

2018-19 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Opponents

ILLINOIS

Home: Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers

Away: Iowa, Maryland, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin

INDIANA

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

IOWA

Home: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan

Away: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

MARYLAND

Home: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern

Away: Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers

Home/Away: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue

Away: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN STATE

Home: Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern

Away: Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers

MINNESOTA

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Penn State

Away: Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

NEBRASKA

Home: Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Rutgers

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

NORTHWESTERN

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Away: Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

OHIO STATE

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

PENN STATE

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State

Away: Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

PURDUE

Home: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Away: Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State

RUTGERS

Home: Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska

Away: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State

WISCONSIN

Home: Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers

Away: Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State

New Mexico’s Chris McNeal transferring

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Chris McNeal is heading to his fourth school in four years.

The New Mexico guard has asked for and received his release from the school to transfer, the Lobos announced Thursday.

“Chris has truly been a great person to have in our program,” head coach Paul Weir said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best in his future.”

McNeal began his career in 2015 at Western Kentucky, where he played one season and set the freshman assist record, before heading to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Ia., becoming a junior-college All-American on his way to New Mexico.

In his one season with the Lobos, McNeal started 19 games and averaged 9.5 points per game.He shot 37.2 percent from the floor and 31.5 percent from 3-point range. He had three games of at least 20 points, including 29 against Tennessee Tech in which he connected on 7 of 11 3-pointers.

New Mexico went 19-15 and finished third in the Mountain West.

McNeal will have one year remaining of eligibility and also has a redshirt year still available to him after his stop at Indian Hills.

Syracuse transfer Matthew Moyer headed to Vanderbilt

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Bryce Drew’s already sterling group of 2018 newcomers got even better Thursday.

Matthew Moyer, a former top-100 recruit, committed to transfer from Syracuse to Vanderbilt to add to an impressive haul of talent Drew has brought to Nashville.

“I am so blessed to announce that the next step in my academic and athletic journey is to Vanderbilt to play for Coach Drew!!” Moyer wrote on social media.

Moyer was a four-star recruit in 2016 and redshirted his first season with the Orange. Last year, his first on the court, he played just 16.8 minutes per game, averaging 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8 Ohio native chose Vanderbilt over the likes of Texas and Xavier.

While Moyer will be expected to sit out the upcoming season under transfer rules, he’ll still be part of a major transfer infusion for the Commodores. Drew already has two five-star recruits in top-15 prospects Simisola Shittu and Darius Garland, plus four-star recruit Aaron Nesmith, a top-60 prospect. They’re also still in the running for Romeo Langford, a top-10 player in 2018.

Vanderbilt took a significant dip last year in Drew’s second season after an NCAA tournament appearance in Year 1, but their work on the recruiting trail looks to be ensuring that’ll be a momentary drop in performance. Vanderbilt moved on from Kevin Stallings to Drew in large part because of languishing results, but Drew looks to be reinvigorating the program in the best way possible – with serious success on the recruiting trail that seems likely to be followed by wins on the floor.

Report: Pilot involved in last year’s Michigan crash went against protocol, saved lives doing so

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The pilot of the plane that was scheduled to carry the Michigan basketball team from Detroit to Washington D.C. for the 2017 Big Ten tournament broke protocol by aborting takeoff and, in the process, potentially saved the lives of everyone on board the plane.

Here’s what happened, according to a transcript of the cockpit recorder that was obtained by The Detroit News: The mechanism that an airplane uses to take-off is called an elevator, and one of the two elevators on the plane that the Michigan team was on was stuck in a position that would not have allowed the plane to get into the air the way it needed to.

By the time the pilot of the plane realized this, the plane was already past the speed that would have allowed them to abort the takeoff without damaging the plane. Generally speaking, when that happens, the protocol is to get into the air and then find a way to land safely. The pilot on this flight slammed on the brakes, reverse-thrusted the engines and hoped for the best.

What eventually happened was that the plane skidded to a stop off of the back-end of the runway, leaving the people on board with bumps, bruises, scratches and, in the case of Derrick Walton Jr., stitches in his leg.

The alternative?

Well, we don’t have to think about that.

Because the pilot of that plane, Mark Radloff, went against what he was taught to do.

I’d suggest you read the entire story here. It’s wild and frightening.