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. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.