Player of the Week: Ahmad Starks, Oregon State
The Beavers got off to a terrific start in the post-Jared Cunningham era, knocking off Niagara and New Mexico State the season’s opening weekend. There was no bigger star for the Beavers than junior point guard Ahmad Starks. After hitting six threes in the opener, Starks exploded for 33 points, five boards, five assists and four steals against the Aggies.
It will be interesting to see how well Starks is able to continue this level of play. OSU needs a go-to scorer, and Starks — along with Roberto Nelson — was one of the guys expected to make that jump. The irony here is that the five assists that Starks handed out are almost as important as the 33 points he scored. Starks has always been known as a bit of a chucker, and operating as the team’s primary ball-handler this season, it will be important for him to get his teammates involved as well.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:
- G: Pierre Jackson, Baylor: Two games into the season, and Jackson is averaging 19.5 points and 9.5 assists with a total of five steals and just six turnovers. Perhaps more impressive is that Baylor’s three big men — Isaiah Austin, Rico Gathers, Cory Jefferson — are shooting a combined 80% from the floor. Much of the credit for their effectiveness falls on Jackson’s shoulders.
- G: Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova: The Wildcats picked up a huge win on Sunday afternoon as they knocked off Marshall, who was picked by many to be the second best team in Conference USA this season. Arcidiacono was the star, finishing with 25 points — 20 in the first half — while handing out six assists and grabbing four boards.
- F: Isaiah Sykes, Central Florida: Central Florida can’t play in the NCAA tournament this season, but that doesn’t mean that can’t spoil the season for some rivals. UCF went on the road and smacked South Florida, 74-56, and Sykes was the star — 26 points, 11 boards, eight assists.
- F: Dwight Powell, Stanford: Powell, a junior, was an elite recruit in the Class of 2010, but he’s never quite lived up to the potential of being an athletic, 6-foot-9 big man with three-point range. Until Friday: Powell had 27 points and seven boards in a win over San Francisco. Powell’s going to have to continue to grow on the glass, however — Stanford was dominated on the glass by USF and finished with just three offensive rebounds.
- C: Alex Len, Maryland: Len and the Terps lost to Kentucky at the Barclays Center on Friday, but Len made a statement. He completely outplayed the duo of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, finishing with 23 points, 12 boards and four blocks and rocketing himself up NBA Draft boards. Oh, and he’s also now the biggest reason — literally — that the Terps are considered an NCAA tournament team.
- Other notable performances: Ryan Anderson, Boston College (29 points, 17 boards vs. FIU); Dee Davis, Xavier (22 points, 15 assists vs. FDU); Nurideen Lindsay, Rider (26 points, five assists vs. Robert Morris); Michael Lyons, Air Force (33 points, seven threes vs. The Citadel); CJ McCollum, Lehigh (36 points, eight boards vs. Baylor)
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.
The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.
Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.
Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.
When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.
North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.
“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”
“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”
The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.
Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.
Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.
Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.
Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.
“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”
Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.
As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.
Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.
“First let me start by saying these three years at Xavier have been the best of my life,” Sumner said in a statement. “I have certainly been presented with some ups and downs but they have only served to make me a stronger person. This decision was very hard for me because of the love I have for X. After weighing my options with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I want to thank Coach Mack and the rest of the staff for believing in me and giving me a chance when no one did! I’ll always be grateful for that. Xavier Nation I will always love you!”
Sumner, a 6-foot-6 point guard with dynamic athleticism and first round potential that averaged 15.0 points, but he is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in January. He’s likely to be a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
This is a big loss for the Musketeers, but it’s one that they planned for. After his eruption last season, most expected him to put his name in the draft this season.
Harry Giles III has declared for the NBA Draft after playing just one season at Duke.
“Playing in the NBA has been my goal for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to take the next step in that journey,” Giles said. “My time at Duke has been a dream come true. I’ve built so many strong relationships here and I have so many people to thank, from my teammates and coaches to our medical staff and strength coach. I can’t understate how proud I am to be part of the Duke Basketball program forever.”
Giles played in 26 games for the Blue Devils. He started six games and averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Giles. At one point considered to be the best player in the loaded Class of 2016, Giles has dealt with a pair of devastating knee injuries already. He underwent a third surgery right before the start of the season and never seemed like he was fully able to get back to being the player he was when he was in high school.
This is the right decision for Giles to make, as there is still some uncertainty regarding the health of his knees. Were his struggles due to the fact that he was tossed right into the middle of a college basketball season after having sat out for 14 straight months, or was this simply a result of knees that no longer allow him to be the player that he used to be?
He might still end up being a first round pick this year. At the very least, he’s make some guaranteed money if he can get into a camp. Maybe returning to school could have helped vault him into the lottery in 2018, but another year like this year would’ve firebombed his draft stock.
“With his uplifting personality and love for the game, Harry Giles has been a joy to coach,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is only beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be on the basketball court. Harry has an exciting NBA future ahead of him and we are here to fully support him as a member of our brotherhood.”
I know I’m not alone when I say I hope that Giles gets healthy and succeeds in the NBA.