Victor Oladipo

Dougie McBuckets is new straw poll Player of the Year, but where’s Victor Oladipo?

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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.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 22 Cincinnati’s loss to No. 16 Butler shines light on AAC’s struggles

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts against the Butler Bulldogs in the first half of the game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on December 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Kelan Martin scored 20 points and Andrew Chrabascz added 12 points, four boards and five assists as No. 16 Butler bounced back from a tough loss at Indiana State to beat No. 22 Cincinnati, 75-65.

The Bulldogs had been undefeated on the season prior to the loss to the Sycamores, but their ranking was built on the fact that they had beaten Arizona, who was No. 8 at the time, as well as a trio of high-major programs that look destined for the NIT.

Cincinnati probably isn’t destined for the NIT. Their top 25 ranking is justified, which is what makes this win valuable. Quality non-conference wins matter, and this is just one of a handful of good wins for what has proven to be one of the most top-heavy conferences in the country. Villanova, Creighton, Xavier and Butler all look capable of reaching the Sweet 16 this season.

The opposite is true for Cincinnati, who look like the flag-bearer in a conference that isn’t really all that good. They’re the best team in the AAC this season, but that’s a conference that has consistently disappointed this year. SMU, Temple and UConn have all struggled more than we expected them to. Tulsa and Memphis are in rebuilding mode. Houston was supposed to be good this season but they’ve yet to live up to the preseason hype.

Think about it like this: The only team in the AAC without multiple losses on the season is now UCF. That’s … not ideal, and it’s going to be interesting to see just how many bids the league is able to generate.

Think about it. Temple has beaten West Virginia and Florida State while losing to New Hampshire and UMass. SMU’s best win is either Pitt or TCU, both of whom are borderline tournament teams. UConn beat Syracuse but has some atrocious losses on their resume. Houston beat Rhode Island but lost to Arkansas and LSU. Memphis beat Iowa, but Iowa’s not all that good. UCF’s best win is … Mississippi State?

Cincinnati’s lone quality win is at Iowa State, who is about to drop out of the top 25.

POSTERIZED: Wichita State’s Daishon Smith dunks on Oklahoma big man

WICHITA, KS - NOVEMBER 13:  Guard Daishon Smith of the Wichita State Shockers drives up court past forward Roschon Prince #23 of the Long Beach State 49ers during the first half on November 13, 2016 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
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Daishon Smith is 6-foot-1.

Kristian Doolittle is 6-foot-7.

The lil guy won this battle:

Here’s another angle of the dunk, which sent Wichita State’s bench into hysterics:

POSTERIZED: Duke’s Grayson Allen with a Dunk of the Year candidate (VIDEO)

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It looks like Grayson Allen’s toe is healthy. I’d say his explosivness is back:

Whoa.

Yeah.

POSTERIZED: Five-star Class of 2017 guard Trevon Duval dunks on 6’8″ defender

CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 9: Trevon Duval during the 2015  Under Armour All-America Basketball Camp on July 9, 2015 at Queens College in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
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Class of 2017 point guard Trevon Duval put down a huge poster dunk on a 6’8″ defender on Saturday as the five-star prospect showed why many consider him the top lead guard in high school basketball.

The 6-foot-2 Duval is considered the No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.

Nigel Hayes shines against as No. 17 Wisconsin beats Marquette

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 10:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers is fouled by Luke Fischer #40 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half of a game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 10, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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What a difference a year makes.

Last season at this time, Wisconsin dropped a home game to a Marquette team that was headed to the NIT.

This year?

The Badgers put six players in double-figures as they went into Milwaukee and knocked off Marquette, 93-84.

Bronson Koenig continued his hot shooting, finishing with 18 points and six assists while shooting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Vitto Brown chipped in with 15 points, Khalil Iverson had 16 and Ethan Happ chipped in with 11 despite battling foul trouble all afternoon.

But the really story here – hell, the story of Wisconsin’s season to date – has been the change in the way that Nigel Hayes plays.

Hayes was terrific again on Saturday. He had 17 points, nine boards, four assists and three steals. He shot 6-for-10 from the floor and attempted just a pair of threes, making one of them. He had the ball in his hands when Wisconsin was trying to kill off the game, and, more importantly, head coach Greg Gard has seem to start to take advantage of just how good Hayes can be as a facilitator.

There are a couple of points that need to be made here:

  1. When Hayes plays like this, he deserves to be in the all-american discussion. He’s averaging 18.0 points, 7.3 boards and 6.7 assists in the three games Wisconsin has played against high-major competition since the change, and the Badgers have won five straight games while playing easily their best basketball of the season.
  2. And it’s not just because of the numbers he puts up. When Hayes operates as Wisconsin’s de-facto point guard, it makes everyone else on the roster better. For starters, it allows Koenig to play off the ball, where he seems to be more effective. He’s at his best when he’s hunting shots and trying to create off the bounce, but his aggressiveness can be detrimental when he’s the only one touching the ball. It also means offense runs through Happ more often since Koenig isn’t dominating possession, and it lets guys like Brown space the floor because they’re actually able to get rhythm threes.

As of today, Wisconsin is the favorite to win the Big Ten, even if Indiana is far more likely to end up being a No. 1 seed in March.