The latest Player of the Year straw poll is out, and not surprisingly, it’s topped by the three players that most believe are competing for the award: Doug McDermott (who shall henceforth be referred to only as Dougie McBuckets), Trey Burke and Mason Plumlee.
McDermott had 26 of the 54 first place votes while Burke managed to grab 17 of them and Plumlee notched 10. The remaining first-place vote went to Zeller, an issue I’m going to get to in a minute.
First, the Plumlee discussion. Everyone saw Duke get pulverized by Miami last night, which came after a less-than-inspiring win over Georgia Tech and a loss to NC State prior to that. Plumlee has been a different player in those last three games than he was over the course of the first 15, but that stretch has happened to coincide with the injury to Ryan Kelly. Without Kelly on the floor to draw opposing bigs out of the paint — he shoots over 52% from three — there is less room for Plumlee to operate on the block and less space for Quinn Cook to penetrate, which helps create layups and offensive rebounding lanes for Plumlee.
In short, Plumlee’s not as effective without his front court mate on the floor. We knew this prior to Kelly’s injury, and we’ve had that reinforced since he’s been out. So why should we punish Plumlee, who was absolutely dominant during Duke’s early-season success, because his teammate has a bad foot? If Kelly continues to miss time and Plumlee continues to struggle, than by all means he will drop in these rankings.
But as of right now, none of the other players on this list — including Cody Zeller — deserve to be ranked over him.
Which brings me back to the Indiana center.
Somehow, he managed to finish fourth in the straw poll and earn a first-place, which is ironic since he’s not even the most deserving player on his team. That would be Victor Oladipo. In addition to being the best perimeter defender in the Big Ten this side of Aaron Craft, Oladipo has become one of the most efficient scorers in the country. He’s shooting 55.2% from three — up from 20.8% last year — and while that’s been on limited attempts (16-29), the improvement can be seen in his shooting from inside the arc, where the junior two-guard is shooting 68.7%. Oladipo is also just as good of an offensive rebounder as Zeller.
Zeller’s been very good this year, and perhaps the biggest reason that he’s been seen as a bit of a disappointment this season is that a) he had such high expectations coming into the season and b) the supporting cast he has on this Indiana roster means that he doesn’t need to be the only piece offensively.
But the biggest reason that the Hoosiers a national title favorite this season is the improvement in their defense, and that starts with Oladipo. Throw in his immense development on the offensive end of the floor — Oladipo was a liability last year — and there you have it.
Simply put, there is a reason that Oladipo was a starter on the Dream Team that we put together last week and that Zeller didn’t make the team.
RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) Authorities say an Eastern Kentucky basketball player has been arrested on a rape charge.
Records at Kentucky’s Madison County Detention Center show 23-year-old Jaylen Babb-Harrison was arrested Sunday in Richmond and charged with first-degree rape.
A statement from Eastern Kentucky says Babb-Harrison, a redshirt senior guard, has been suspended from the team. It says the school is cooperating with police.
Local media organizations cited an arrest citation in reporting that police were called to a Richmond hospital when a female reported she was at Babb-Harrison’s home and that he had sex with her against her will.
WKYT-TV reports Babb-Harrison declined to be interviewed at a jail. His first court appearance is set for Wednesday.
Online jail records didn’t list an attorney for the player.
Judge dismisses sex charges against ex-Michigan State star
FLINT, Mich. (AP) A judge has dismissed all charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a charity golf event.
Judge Cathy Dowd in Flint, Michigan, said Monday there wasn’t enough evidence to send Cleaves to trial. Prosecutors can appeal.
A woman said she twice tried to get away from Cleaves but was pulled back into a motel room and sexually assaulted in September 2015. A witness confirmed that she saw the woman try to escape a room at the Knights Inn near Flint.
But a police officer said the woman never indicated that she was assaulted. Cleaves pleaded not guilty.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually assaulted. Cleaves led Michigan State to the 2000 national championship.
Villanova has overtaken Kentucky as the new No. 1 in the Coaches Poll on Monday.
The defending champions also took No. 1 in the new AP poll thanks to an 8-0 start while UCLA beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena this weekend. The Bruins finished at No. 2 while Kansas and Duke are right behind them.
Villanova is atop the latest Associated Press top 25 poll this week as the 8-0 Wildcats are off to a hot start. With Kentucky’s loss to UCLA and North Carolina’s loss at Indiana there were some major shakeups in the polls this week.
Villanova (57 first-place votes)
Five things we learned last week: UCLA, Kentucky, the Big 12 and Lagerald Vick
1. There’s a lot more to this UCLA team than just Lonzo Ball: Entering this weekend, that’s the name that everyone knew on UCLA. Ball is the team’s superstar freshman point guard, a player that has been compared favorably to Jason Kidd and whose ability to spray passes all over the floor is the biggest reason that the Bruins offense is a juggernaut.
But that offense isn’t going to be the difference-maker for the Bruins this season, because the Bruins were able to score last year, too.
No, the reason that UCLA has a chance to win a national title this season is that they can actually defend. They’re not Virginia. They’re not going to hold good teams to 50 points. They’re not going to be forcing 20 turnovers a night. They don’t have to. All they need to do is to be ‘good enough’ on that end of the floor. Limit penetration, protect the rim, clean the defensive glass.
If we learned anything on Saturday, it’s that the Bruins are going to be able to do the latter two things on that list. T.J. Leaf injected a shot of athleticism into the front court while Ike Anigbogu provides a physicality and a toughness they haven’t had in the paint under Alford. Throw in Thomas Welsh, who more than held his own against the Wildcats, and this is a pretty good front line that UCLA is working with.
And given what we already know about this team’s guards, that’s a scary proposition.
2. Kentucky is going to be just fine: Saturday’s loss was a humbling one for the Wildcats. After steam-rolling through literally everyone they’ve played this season – Kentucky entered the game having won by at least 21 points in every game – the Wildcats got outplayed by UCLA pretty thoroughly. That’s going to happen with young teams, regardless of how well they play against inferior competition, and it may happen again before SEC play starts; Kentucky still have to play North Carolina and Louisville before Christmas.
The Wildcats are an elite defensive team, and they are even better at scoring in transition. Where they struggle, however, is with half court offense. They simply don’t have enough shooters to be able to consistently create high-percentage looks against a set defense, and the way to force them into half court offense is, simply, to score on them. UCLA is one of just a handful of teams that has the guard play and the offensive weapons to be able to do that consistently for 40 minutes, and even then, it took the Bruins a while to grow into the game.
In other words, there aren’t very many teams that can do what UCLA did to Kentucky’s defense.
Thus, there aren’t very many teams that can actually beat Kentucky.
So don’t be worried about the ‘Cats.
They’ll be just fine.
3. Turns out, the Big 12 is really good: The narrative on the Big 12 entering the season was that the league was down outside of Kansas. The Jayhawks were the favorite to win the league just like they always are, but once you got past Bill Self’s club, there really wasn’t much of substance in the league.
That looks to be a dumb narrative.
It starts with Baylor, who has been awesome this season. The Bears picked up yet another excellent non-conference win on Saturday, coming from behind at halftime to beat No. 7 Xavier by 15 points in Waco. It turns out that Baylor actually has the supporting cast around Johnathan Motley to be relevant, and if the tournament was to start today, Baylor would very likely be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Then there’s West Virginia, who went into Charlottesville and picked up a road win over No. 6 Virginia the same week that they forced 40 turnovers in a 40 minute game. Iowa State is probably still top 25 good, even with that home loss to Cincinnati last week, and we’d be remiss not to mention the play of both Texas Tech and TCU, the latter of whom is one of just two teams in the league and 11 teams in the country that are still undefeated.
Here’s the kicker: As of today, the No. 1 conference in college basketball, according to KenPom.com, is … the Big 12.
4. Is LaGerald Vick the most surprising player in the league?: Baylor’s Manu Lecomte has been better than expected, as has his teammate, Jo Lual-Acuil. Jawun Evans has been a star for Oklahoma State, but we all knew that he was going to be good. Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson is leading TCU in points, assists and steals, but he was a good player for the Aggies before he left. We knew he would do good things in Fort Worth.
I’m not sure anyone expected Vick to develop into a starter for Kansas just weeks into the season, but here we are. He’s averaging double-figures on the season. He’s made 9-of-11 threes in the last three games, a stretch where he’s averaging 15.3 points. He’s been terrific defensively, and his presence has allowed Kansas to put plus-defenders on the floor at every position while playing small-ball lineups.
Who saw that coming?
5. So maybe the North Carolina hype train got a bit out of control: Yes, North Carolina played well early on this season. Yes, they were impressive in their wins against Chattanooga and in the Maui Invitational. Yes, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson have both gotten better.
But the fact that the narrative last week somehow turned into North Carolina being the most impressive team in college basketball seemed a little bit weird, a fact that was confirmed by UNC’s loss at Assembly Hall on Wednesday night.
Now let me be clear: There’s no shame in losing in Assembly Hall, not when IU was playing the way they were playing. But UNC dug themselves a 26-9 hole early in the first half that they were never really able to dig out of. They were rattled by the atmosphere. They did not play well at all, and I just don’t think that if this was truly the best team in college basketball, that doesn’t happen that way.
UNC is good, and probably better than many thought entering the season, but before we go anointing them the champs can we take a second to remember these are basically the same dudes we’ve been unimpressed by for a couple of years now?