Fractured left wrist to sideline Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele six weeks

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While the first season of the Rick Ray era at Mississippi State was expected to be a tough one given the players who decided to leave the program at the end of last year, it’s difficult to think that anyone envisioned this kind of start for the Bulldogs.

First there were the season-ending knee injuries to freshman guards Jacoby Davis and Andre Applewhite, robbing a team already thin in the backcourt of two newcomers Ray hoped would be able to contribute.

And Tuesday’s 78-58 victory over Florida Atlantic became one of the Pyrrhic variety as junior Jalen Steele was lost for six weeks with a fractured left wrist suffered just before the midway point of the first half on a layup attempt.

The left side of Steele’s head hit the court after Dragan Sekelja palmed Steele’s layup try on the backboard with 10:40 left in the first half. Trainers spent roughly five minutes observing Steele before the woozy junior waved off a stretcher and walked to the locker room with the help of the trainers. He was taken to a local hospital for further observation after a trainer sealed a cut on the left side of his head with eight stitches, an MSU spokesman said.

Steele, who started 16 of the Bulldogs’ 33 games last season, was Mississippi State’s most experienced returnee entering the season and scored 16 points in their season-opening loss at Troy.

Luckily for the Bulldogs the injury won’t require surgery, and estimates project his return to the lineup to come just before the start of SEC play.

“I feel for Jalen because he put in a great deal of work in the offseason so that he could take advantage of the opportunity that was present for him this season,” MSU coach Rick Ray said in a statement released by the school. “I know with Jalen’s work ethic that he will attack his rehab and be ready to come back and help this team when that time comes.”

But that wasn’t the only bad news the program announced on Wednesday, as 6-8 junior forward Colin Borchert was suspended for a violation of team rules.

The East Mississippi CC transfer started both games this season for the 1-1 Bulldogs, averaging 5.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.

Steele’s injury and the suspension of Borchert drops Mississippi State down to six healthy scholarship players ahead of their trip to the Maui Invitational next week, where their first opponent is No. 11 North Carolina.

Just about anything that could go wrong for Ray in his first Division I head coaching stint has gone wrong, setting the Bulldogs up for what could be a rough three days in Maui.

Photo credit: Mississippi State University

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

Gonzaga’s Mark Few named AP Coach of the Year

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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.

Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.

This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.

Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.

Frank Mason is named AP Player of the Year

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Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.

Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

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For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”