Player of the Week: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart entered the season with the reputation for being a winner and one of the best all-around players in the country, and nothing about his first four games at the collegiate level has proven different. Smart led Oklahoma State to a title in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off by averaging 17.7 points, 4.3 assists, 8.3 boards, 1.7 blocks and 3.3 blocks in three games. Most impressive? Smart had 20 points, seven assists, seven boards, four steals and four blocks — that’s an unbelievable line — in a 20 point win over No. 6 NC State in the title game.
The season didn’t start off all that well for the Pokes. They struggled to beat UC Davis in the opener and got taken to overtime by Akron in the opener of the tournament. But after rolling over a depleted Tennessee team, Travis Ford’s team made a statement against NC State, and Smart was the biggest reason why. That’s quite impressive for a team dealing with the loss of two key players to season-ending injuries.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:
- G: Keith Appling and Gary Harris, Michigan State: Appling was simply unbelievable down the stretch against Kansas, scoring 16 points in the second half and five points in the final minute to ensure that the Spartans would leave Atlanta with a win. Harris had 18 in that win — included a pair of big buckets of his own down the stretch — while chipping in with 19 points in a win over Texas Southern.
- G: Trevor Releford, Alabama: Releford may come off the bench for the Crimson Tide, but he’s already their most important player. He’s their best creator off the dribble, and, quite frankly, he’s the only true point guard that sees minutes. In leading the Tide to the title in the 2K Sports Classic, Releford averaged 19.5 points and 3.0 assists, shot 70% from the floor and committed just a single turnover in wins over Villanova and Oregon State.
- F: Tony Snell, New Mexico: For the Lobos to be contenders in the MWC this season, Tony Snell needs to be an aggressive scorer. He had 25 points against Davidson during Marathon Madness, helping spark a comeback from 14 points down, before dropping 27 points on George Mason, including the game-winning three at the buzzer. UNM hasn’t exactly been impressive through three games, but they are 3-0 in large part due to the play of Snell.
- F: Deshuan Thomas, Ohio State: Thomas looked every bit a preseason all-american as the Buckeyes won the Hall of Fame Tip-Off this weekend. In wins over Rhode Island and Washington, Thomas averaged 28.0 points and 9.0 boards while shooting 55.3% from the field and 46.2% from three.
- C: Mason Plumlee, Duke: Plumlee eventually fouled out against Kentucky, but he set the tone early against the Wildcats, scoring 14 of his 18 points in the first half and outplaying UK’s twin towers. He followed that up with a 28-point, nine-rebound performance against Florida-Gulf Coast.
- Bench: Askia Booker, Colorado; Devon Collier, Oregon State; Jud Dillard, Tennessee Tech; Mike Muscala, Bucknell; Ronald Roberts, St. Joseph’s; Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
John Calipari gave a press conference on Thursday morning and, for the first time since his arrest in June, the Kentucky head coach spoke about Derek Willis.
Willis, if you’ve forgotten, was found passed out in the street outside the open driver’s side door of his car at 4:30 a.m. You can see video of the arrest here. Willis is very lucky he wasn’t killed, and that he didn’t kill anyone else trying to drive in that condition.
Cal said that Willis will not be suspended for any games, but “Derek knows he’s under a different eye now than he was.” He did not elaborate on what kind of punishment Willis will receive beyond that, saying that “I don’t throw people under the bus.”
To be honest, I’m a little surprised that Willis won’t be forced to miss any games, but if we’re being frank, sitting out an exhibition and Kentucky’s opener sounds much more appealing than the kind of, ahem, ‘conditioning drills’ that Willis has likely spent the summer doing.
In today’s podcast, I’m joined by Travis Hines to discuss stuff that has been in the news over the course of the last two weeks, specifically Jim Boeheim’s comments about Carmelo Anthony and why it is a total non-controversy.
We also dive into why Boeheim’s comments are forced to be taken out of context as well as Monte’ Morris, ‘Pancake’ Thomas and which college basketball coaches we would least like to fight.
As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.
Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.
KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.
“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”
Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.
“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”
Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.
BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.
Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.
“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”
Lee chose BYU over offers from Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.
His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.
Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.
Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.
“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.
With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.
Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.