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.
Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.
Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.
“The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”
Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.
The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.
“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”
Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.
Nikola Jovanovic’s college career has come to a close.
The USC center will not withdraw his name from NBA Draft consideration by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m., a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Jovanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian, averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 boards as a junior with the Trojans.
Jovanovic is not expected to be drafted, which means that Andy Enfield’s club will be losing two players to the professional ranks with eligibility to spare that likely won’t end up on an NBA roster next season. Julian Jacobs, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 boards, signed with an agent back in April.
The Trojans were a top 25 team last season despite many considering them to still be “a year away”. But with two starters departing, the Trojans will be a borderline preseason top 25 team as opposed to a top 15 team.
For the second time this season and just the sixth time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are losing a player to transfer.
Marcus Lee announced on Wednesday that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but the 6-foot-9 forward will not be returning to Kentucky. He will be transferring out of the program to a new school.
“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”
Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 boards this season, seeing his first major minutes as a member of the Wildcats. But he seemed destined for a bench role if he had opted to return to Kentucky this season as John Calipari has landed a recruiting class that includes five-star freshmen Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.
The tough part?
It does not appear that Lee will be able to finish his degree and be eligible to play immediately next season. He’ll have to sit a year at whatever school he opts to transfer to.
“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”
Lee joins Charles Matthews as members of last year’s Wildcats that are transferring out of the program. Darnell Dodson (Southern Miss), Stacey Poole (Georgia Tech) , Ryan Harrow (Georgia State) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) are the other four players that have transferred.
Isaiah Briscoe announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season.
The 6-foot-3 guard had one of the more difficult decisions to make for players in this year’s draft class. On the one hand, there was a very real chance that he would go through this draft without getting picked. He was a role-playing guard on last year’s team that isn’t a point guard, isn’t big enough to be a two-guard and was a total liability shooting the ball.
But he’s returning to a team that is as loaded as the group that won their first 38 games two years ago, particularly in the back court. He’ll be playing behind De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who both play essentially the same role that Briscoe does: playmaking guards that thrive with the ball in their hands. And since Briscoe can’t shoot, he may not be the best option at the three, where Derek Willis will likely see minutes.
In other words, Briscoe returning to school is essentially a two-year decision.
Kentucky now awaits an announcement from Marcus Lee on whether or not he will be returning to school.
James Blackmon Jr. will be returning to Indiana for his junior season, the school announced on Wednesday morning.
Blackmon missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season following surgery on his knee in December. As a freshman, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and shot 46 percent from beyond the arc.
Indiana now awaits word on the decision that will be made by Troy Williams. A junior swingman, Williams has a shot to be an early second round pick if he opts to stay in the draft. There is a report from the Indy Star that he will keep his name in the draft, but the program has yet to confirm that news.
Losing Williams would hurt, but it’s a loss that Indiana can overcome. The emergence of O.G. Anunoby as a versatile defender means that the Hoosiers have a guy that can be a defensive stopper and can allow them to play small and fast. Anunoby also has not proven to be prone to bouts of poor decision-making, which arguably may make him a better fit.