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Blue Ribbon releases 2013-14 first-team All-Americans

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Earlier today, the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook — otherwise known as the “Bible” for college hoops fans — released their first-team All-Americans, and the five names shouldn’t come as a surprise: Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

If there is any conjecture who the folks at Blue Ribbon believe the best player in the nation is, that can probably be put to rest as Andrew Wiggins is featured prominently in the middle of the cover, with the other four players behind him — high expectations for the freshman to live up to.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Travis Ford and the Oklahoma State faithful all collectively breathed a sigh of relief after learning Smart would return to Stillwater for his sophomore year. As a #5 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, losing to Oregon in their opening game was already a difficult pill for Oklahoma State to swallow heading into the offseason, but losing Smart to the NBA may have been equally as difficult. Smart, who averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists last season, was one of the most dynamic players in the country. His return elevates the Cowboys from a borderline Top 25 team to a fringe Top 10 team.

Russ Smith, Louisville

Russdiculous returns for his senior year — whether you’ve grown tired of this nick name or not is inconsequential to Cardinal fans — and will be the focal point of the Louisville backcourt with Peyton Siva graduating. As a junior, Smith averaged 18.7 points, but his erratic play, at times, gave Rick Pitino head aches. Despite that, Smith is one of the most explosive offensive players in the country, and if Louisville is to reach the Final Four for the third straight year, it will largely be because of him.

Adreian Payne, Michigan State

Like Ford at Oklahoma State, Tom Izzo received good news when Adreain Payne decided to put the NBA off for at least one more year and return to Michigan State for his junior season. As a result, the Spartans are a consensus Top 5 team entering the 2013-14 season. Payne developed into an immovable force that anchored Michigan State’s interior offense and defense averaging 10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game.

Doug McDermott, Creighton

All college basketball fans should be pleased to see Doug McDermott returning to Creighton. Playing on a bigger stage for his final year — even a watered down new Big East is a step up from the Missouri Valley — affords McDermott the opportunity to showcase his offensive skills for all to see. There may not be a player in the country that can score in the variety of ways that McDermott is able to. He is an incredibly efficient offensive player; his numbers speak for themselves — 23.2 points per game on 54.8% shooting and 49% 3PT shooting.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas

While hosting Louisiana Monroe is Kansas’ first game of the season and will no doubt draw plenty of eyeballs, the entire college basketball community will be glued to Andrew Wiggins’ first game on a true national stage: Kansas vs. Duke on November 12th at the United Center. Much is expected of Wiggins, who was perhaps the biggest story during the offseason as he committed later in the 2013 recruiting process than many others. The youngster has handled himself with great poise, class, and dignity thus far. Now let’s see how he conducts himself on a national stage with the bright lights on him.

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.