Marcus Smart

Properly evaluating Marcus Smart

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If you missed it, there interwebs has played host to an entertaining discussion about Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart over the last day or two.

It started when John Gasaway ranked the freshmen and slotted Smart at 14th, which, according to Mike DeCourcy, is borderline certifiable, as he wrote, “People, Marcus Smart has been the best college player in the nation to this point”. Gasaway fired back, saying, essentially, that he had Smart that low for two reasons: 1) he’s not shooting the ball well for a player whose role is that important, and 2) he can and will play better before the season is out.

Frankly, I don’t think either of them are right as of right now.

I understand Gasaway’s point, but calling Smart the 14th best freshman in the country right now is ludicrous. I’d have Smart somewhere in the top three, along with Anthony Bennett of UNLV and Jordan Adams of UCLA. If you want to slide him down to sixth — behind Nik Stauskas, Ben McLemore and Semaj Christon — because you hate the fact that he’s shooting 45.3% from two and 20.6% from beyond the arc while shooting 23.9% of the possessions that he’s on the floor — or because he’s averaging 3.4 turnovers — than I’ll disagree with you, but at least I’ll understand where you’re coming from.

But you can’t have Smart as the 14th best freshmen in the country, just like you can’t call Smart the best college basketball player in the country to this point in the season.

Because that award belongs to Mason Plumlee, and it’s really not close.

Plumlee has finally turned all of his potential into production, averaging 19.2 points, 11.4 boards and 1.7 blocks while shooting 61.1% from the floor and 73.1% from the free throw line. He’s become Duke’s anchor on both ends of the floor, turning them into a team that lost to a No. 15 seed in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA tournament into one of the two best teams in the country. And Plumlee has posted these numbers while Duke has beaten Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, Louisville, Ohio State and Temple.

Smart has changed the culture of that Oklahoma State team. He’s taken over a leadership role and gotten the Pokes through a pair of season-ending injuries. It’s not a coincidence that Le’Bryan Nash is starting to play up to his potential this season or that Oklahoma State is tougher on the defensive end of the floor. But Smart has led Oklahoma State to wins over Akron, Tennessee, NC State and South Florida and a loss at Virginia Tech.

Speaking of Virginia Tech, I also think I would rank Erick Green — the point guard that went for 28 points in the Hokie’s win over Smart’s squad — over him. Green is averaging 24.8 points and 5.0 assists while turning the ball over just 1.8 times per game while leading Tech to an 8-1 start that, quite literally, no one saw coming. Michael Carter-Williams, Doug McDermott, Jeff Withey and Trey Burke are all guys that deserve heavy consideration for the title “best player in college basketball this season”.

Smart’s been great.

No one is saying otherwise.

He’s an all-american as of now.

But I don’t think he’s the Player of the Year after the first month of the season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell suspended

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drives to the basket defended by Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange in the second half during the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell has been suspended indefinitely due to a violation of athletic department policy, the school announced on Sunday.

Thornwell is averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 boards and 4.1 assists for the Gamecocks, who are undefeated and sitting at No. 20 nationally. Thornwell is the reigning SEC Player of the Week.

South Carolina plays FIU in Columbia at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Melo Trimble’s heroics get him a shout-out from Wale in a song

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Melo Trimble #2 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates after hitting the game winning shot as they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 69-68 during the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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For the fourth time in the first three weeks of the college basketball season, Melo Trimble won a game for Maryland.

His two free throws in the final ten seconds gave the Terps a come-from-behind, 71-70 win over Oklahoma State in College Park, and the win not only was the sixth time this season that the Terps have won a game decided by six points or less, it improved Trimble’s record in those games to 26-5.

26-5!

That’s an insane statistic, one that should allow Maryland fans to truly appreciate just how valuable their junior point guard is.

At least one Maryland fan does. Rapper Wale, who hails from Maryland, just outside DC, made sure to name-drop his favorite Terp in a verse in a song he released on Saturday night:

And you better believe that Trimble is aware of it:

"My therapist terrible , I'm uh Terp Melo Trimbling" @wale

A photo posted by Melo Trimble (@olem__) on

Rick Pitino on Grand Canyon: ‘The toughest crowd I’ve ever faced’

Rick Pitino
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Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said after his No. 14 Cardinals struggled to put away a tough Grand Canyon team on the road had some kind – and hyperbolic – words to say about the atmosphere.

“This, in college basketball in my 40 plus year, was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” he said.

Umm, but Rick, you’ve coached in the Big East and the ACC! This was tougher than any of those crowds?

“Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as tough as that crowd tonight,” he said.

Well, now.

That seems like a bit much, but to be fair, the atmosphere there was, shall we say, lit:

POSTERIZED: Charlotte’s Najee Garvin nearly jumpers over defender

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This is what you don’t try to take charges.

Providence beats No. 21 Rhode Island 63-60

RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 19:  Head coach Ed Cooley of the Providence Friars  reacts in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 19, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley knew the Rams were in for a tough one against Providence, which had won the matchup of cross-state rivals six straight times.

He didn’t see this coming, though.

Kyron Cartwright, who had made four 3-pointers all season, hit four of five from beyond the arc in the first half. The Providence point guard finished with 19 points and eight assists to lead the Friars to a 63-60 victory over No. 21 Rhode Island on Saturday.

“That’s sports, and that’s the type of thing that makes coaches go gray and lose their hair,” Hurley said after his team lost for the third time in four games. “Four 3-pointers in seven games and he made four today – all in the first half.”

Rodney Bullock scored 17 points for the Friars (6-2). Cartwright had 15 in the first half and Jalen Lindsey scored nine of his 13 points in the second, five during a 7-0 run that erased a seven-point deficit.

“My teammates were telling me, `You need to take those shots to open up the defense,”‘ Cartwright said. “(And) we don’t shoot the ball to not make it.”

Hassan Martin had 14 points and 17 rebounds for Rhode Island (5-3), which lost at unranked Valparaiso and Providence a week after falling to No. 1 Duke. E.C. Matthews scored nine points and went 1 for 8 from 3-point range, airballing a 3 with 2 seconds left with a chance for the Rams to tie it.

“Games like this might help us down the stretch,” Martin said. `’So you just tell everybody to keep their head up.”

The Rams led 47-40 with 12:15 left when Cartwright’s arm appeared to catch Christion Thompson in the left eye. Thompson went to the court, flailing his arms in the air looking for a call, but the teams played on until Lindsey hit a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game at 11:00.

Lindsey’s free throws brought the Friars within two points, and Ryan Fazekas scored on a fast-break goaltending call to tie it. From there, there were three more ties and kept the game within one possession until Lindsey hit a fallaway jumper with 43 seconds left to give Providence a 59-55 lead.

“We beat a tournament team today,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said.

POLL IMPLICATONS

It will be difficult for Rhode Island to stay in The Associated Press Top 25 after its stumbles.

Hurley said he isn’t concerned.

The goal at the beginning of the season was to win the Atlantic 10 and play in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s all still in play.

“We expect to have a long and great season. Nothing’s changed for us,” he said. “We lost two tough road games in a long season.”

BULLOCK’S BOUNCE-BACK

Bullock scored a career-high 36 points against New Hampshire on Wednesday, but he missed all three shots from the field in the first half and had only three points on six free throws at the break.

Cooley told him not to worry about the shooting and to try to make something happen with rebounding or defense.

“Somebody coming of a great scoring game like he did there’s going to be a lot of attention on him,” Cooley said. “I thought he showed some definite grit in the second half.”

TIP-INS

Rhode Island: Martin hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half. … Martin surpassed the 1,000-point milestone against Valparaiso on Tuesday. … The Rams have lost nine straight to Big East teams.

Providence: The Friars lead the all-time series 73-56, including a buzzer-beating victory last year in Kingston. … They are 1-1 against ranked teams this season, having lost to then-No. 7 Virginia on Nov. 26.

UP NEXT

Rhode Island: Hosts Old Dominion on Tuesday.

Providence: Hosts Brown on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.