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.
After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.
2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.
Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.
Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.
Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.
With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.
Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.
Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.
The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.
After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.
Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.
The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.
Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.
With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.
As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.
At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.
Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.
University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.
Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.
In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”
Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.