UCLA v Arizona State

Top 25 Countdown: Others Receiving Votes

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Listed alphabetically.

Arizona State:

  • Last Season: 22-13, 9-9 Pac-12 (t-6th); Lost in NIT 2nd round
  • Key Losses: Carrick Felix, Evan Gordon, Chris Colvin
  • Key Returnees: Jahii Carson (18.5 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.7 rpg), Jordan Bachynski (9.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.4 bpg), Jonathan Gilling (9.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.8 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Jermaine Marshall, Egor Koulechov, Chance Murray, Shaquielle McKissic, Sai Tummala
  • Outlook: The big news for Herb Sendek’s club this offseason: Jahii Carson returned to school. Arguably the most exciting player in the country, Carson is the engine that makes the Sun Devils go. He’s an all-american candidate. Adding Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall should help offset some of the perimeter punch that was lost with Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon departing, and Jordan Bachynski’s return provides a defensive menace around the rim. Missing the NCAA tournament (again) would be a major disappointment.

Baylor:

  • Last Season: 23-14, 9-9 Big 12 (6th); Won the NIT
  • Key Losses: Pierre Jackson, AJ Walton, Deuce Bello, LJ Rose
  • Key Returnees: Isaiah Austin (13.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Cory Jefferson (13.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg), Brady Heslip (8.6 ppg, 38.6% 3PT)
  • Key Newcomers: Kenny Chery, Ishmail Wainwright, Allerik Freeman, Johnathan Motley, Royce O’Neale*
  • Outlook: The good news is that the Bears have one of the best front lines in the country, as Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson are as long and athletic as any duo in the country. They averaged a combined 26.3 points, 16.3 boards and 3.6 blocks last season. The issue, however, is that a lot of that scoring came off the creativity of now-graduate Pierre Jackson. Can JuCo transfer Kenny Chery fill that role? Scoring guard Allerik Freeman and versatile wing Ishmael Wainwright can contribute as well. One interesting storyline will be Denver transfer Royce O’Neale’s pending eligibility.

Boise State:

  • Last Season: 21-11, 9-7 MWC (t-4th); Lost in the NCAA First Four
  • Key Losses: Kenny Buckner
  • Key Returnees: Anthony Drmic (17.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 39.2% 3PT), Derrick Marks (16.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 42.3% 3PT), Jeff Elorriaga (10.3 ppg, 44.7% 3PT), Ryan Watkins (8.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Darnell Taylor, Dezmyn Trent, James Webb
  • Outlook: The Broncos were supposed to be “a year away” last season, and yet they managed to put together a campaign strong enough to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament. This year, Leon Rice’s club will have one of the best perimeter attacks out west. Derrick Marks is one of the most explosive scorers in the country, and he’s the team’s second-leading returning scorer, trailing Anthony Drmic. Jeff Elorriaga is almost automatic from three when he gets his feet set, and Mikey Thompson and Igor Hadziomerovic provide a nice pop off the bench. The key? Finding some help for Ryan Watkins in the paint.

Cal:

  • Last Season: 21-12, 12-6 Pac-12 (t-2nd); Lost in the NCAA Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Allen Crabbe
  • Key Returnees: Justin Cobbs (15.1 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.5 rpg), Ty Wallace (7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Richard Solomon (8.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Jabari Bird, Jordan Matthews, Kameron Rooks, Sam Singer, Roger Moute a Bidas
  • Outlook: Cal loses a lot with Allen Crabbe headed to the pros, but Justin Cobbs should anchor a perimeter attack that will rival any in the Pac-12. Ty Wallace is in line for a breakout sophomore season, Ricky Kreklow is finally healthy and Jabari Bird and Jordan Matthews anchor a solid incoming class. The key will be in the front court. Can Richard Solomon find a way to maximize his talent? Can David Kravish make the jump to the next level? Cal is a tournament team that is a sleeper to make a run at the Pac-12 title.
source:
Getty Images

Creighton:

  • Last Season: 28-8, 13-5 MVC (1st); Lost in the NCAA Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Gregory Echenique
  • Key Returnees: Doug McDermott (23.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 49.0% 3PT), Grant Gibbs (8.5 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.1 rpg), Ethan Wragge (7.7 ppg, 44.6% 3PT)
  • Key Newcomers: Zach Hanson, Darian Harris, Toby Hegner, James Milliken, Devin Brooks
  • Outlook: The big news for Creighton is that they got their two-time first-team All-American, Doug McDermott, back for their inaugural season in the Big East. The better news was that playmaker Grant Gibbs was granted a sixth season of eligibility, anchoring a back court that has played together for a couple of years. Losing Gregory Echenique will hurt, however, as he had the kind of size and strength to battle with anyone in the post. The Bluejays need an interior presence. Who steps up?

Harvard:

  • Last Season: 20-10, 11-3 Ivy (1st); Lost in the NCAA Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Christian Webster
  • Key Returnees: Wesley Saunders (16.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg), Siyani Chambers (12.4 ppg, 5.7 apg), Laurent Rivard (10.4 ppg), Kyle Casey (11.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg in ’11-’12), Brandyn Curry (7.9 ppg, 4.9 apg in ’11-’12)
  • Key Newcomers: Zena Edosomwan, Hunter Myers, Matt Fraschilla
  • Outlook: The Crimson will be as talented as any Ivy League team in the history of the conference. They lose one player from a team that won the conference outright and knocked off New Mexico in the Round of 64 while adding a top 100 big man in Zena Edosomwan. and bringing back two all-Ivy caliber seniors in Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. Siyani Chambers was one of the most under-appreciated point guards in the country, and Wesley Saunders is a stud. Keep an eye on this group.

Iowa:

  • Last Season: 25-13, 9-9 Big Ten (5th); Lost in the NIT title game
  • Key Losses: Eric May
  • Key Returnees: Roy Devyn Marble (15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg), Aaron White (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Mike Gesell (8.7 ppg, 2.6 apg),
  • Key Newcomers: Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok
  • Outlook: This is the year for Fran McCaffery’s club. The Big Ten is a bit down compared to where it was a season ago, and the Hawkeyes have a nice blend of talent, youth and experience. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White provide a solid core while sophomores Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury should take the next step this season. Keep an eye on Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff, who has sat out the last two seasons as a redshirt and a transfer. Expect Iowa to pull off a couple big wins at home and to get into the NCAA tournament.

La Salle:

  • Last Season: 24-10, 11-5 Atlantic 10 (t-3rd); Lost in the Sweet 16
  • Key Losses: Ramon Galloway
  • Key Returnees: Tyreek Duren (14.2 ppg, 3.3 apg), Tyrone Garland (13.1 ppg, 2.0 apg), Jerell Wright (10.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Tony Washington, Amar Stukes, Khalid Lewis
  • Outlook: Losing Ramon Galloway hurts, here’s no way around that fact, but Dr. John Giannini still has enough talent that a return to the NCAA tournament isn’t out of the question. Tyreek Duren has spent his career being underappreciated, while Tyrone “Southwest Philly Floater” Garland should see a bump in production with more shots and minutes available. Sam Mills and Jerell Wright also return, and keep an eye on Delaware transfer Khalid Lewis in the back court.

LSU:

  • Last Season: 19-12, 9-9 SEC (t-8th)
  • Key Losses: Charles Carmouche
  • Key Returnees: Johnny O’Bryant III (13.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Anthony Hickey (11.2 ppg, 3.8 apg, 2.9 spg), Shavon Coleman (10.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Andre Stringer (10.4 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey, Tim Quarterman, John Odo, Brian Bridgewater, Darcy Malone
  • Outlook: Is this the year that the Tigers finally make that return trip to the NCAA tournament? They lose one player off of a team that won 19 games while bringing in a loaded recruiting class. Johnny O’Bryant should anchor a young-but-talented front line, while Anthony Hickey is once again back to terrorize opposing point guards. Quality depth — are freshman Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Tim Quarterman ready to contribute immediately? — could determine the Tiger’s tournament chances.

Maryland:

  • Last Season: 25-13, 8-10 ACC (t-3rd); Lost in the NIT semifinals
  • Key Losses: Alex Len, Logan Aronhalt, Pe’Shon Howard
  • Key Returnees: Dez Wells (13.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.0 apg), Nick Faust (9.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Seth Allen (7.8 ppg, 2.3 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Damonte Dodd, Roddy Peters, Evan Smotrycz
  • Outlook: Losing Alex Len to the NBA took Maryland out of any real contention for a run at an ACC title in their final season in the league, but there are enough pieces here for Mark Turgeon to get his group into the NCAA tournament. The Terps will have plenty of perimeter options with Dez Wells, Nick Faust and Seth Allen returning, and with Roddy Peters joining the mix, Maryland might actually have a real point guard on the roster. Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman will spread the floor with Shaq Cleare and Charles Mitchell taking up space inside.

Missouri:

  • Last Season: 23-11, 11-7 SEC (t-5th); Lost in the NCAA Round of 64
  • Key Losses: Laurence Bowers, Phil Pressey, Alex Oriakhi, Keion Bell
  • Key Returnees: Jabari Brown (13.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Earnest Ross (10.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Jordan Clarkson, Wes Clark, Johnathan Williams III, Shane Rector, Torren Jones, Keanau Post
  • Outlook: The Tigers lose quite a bit off of last year’s team, but there is reason to be hopeful in Columbia. Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross both return, and Frank Haith landed a talented recruiting class, headlined by Johnathan Williams III and Wes Clark. But the guy to watch will be Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson. The Tigers think he is the real deal, a talent that could make the all-SEC first team. Youth at the point and in the paint is a tough thing to overcome, but that trio on the wing could be enough to earn a tournament berth in a weak SEC.
source:
AP/Getty Images

Oregon:

  • Last Season: 28-9, 12-6 Pac-12 (t-2nd); Lost in the Sweet 16
  • Key Losses: EJ Singler, Tony Woods, Arsalan Kazemi, Carlos Emory
  • Key Returnees: Dominic Artis (8.5 ppg, 3.2 apg), Damyean Dotson (11.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Ben Carter (2.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Mike Moser, Jordan Bell, Jason Calliste, Elgin Cook, AJ Lapray, Richard Amardi, Joseph Young*
  • Outlook: Dana Altman has become a master of the transfer market, this year landing Mike Moser and Jason Calliste as graduate transfers eligible immediately to bolster his roster. If Houston transfer Joseph Young gets a waiver from the NCAA as well, the Ducks will have one potent perimeter attack, as Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson return as well. But who steps up in the front court to replace Arsalan Kazemi and Carlos Emory? Waverly Austin, Ben Carter and Richard Amardi should all get a shot at major minutes.

Saint Louis:

  • Last Season: 28-7, 13-3 Atlantic 10 (1st); Lost in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Kwamain Mitchell, Cody Ellis, Cody Remekun
  • Key Returnees: Dwayne Evans (14.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg), Mike McCall Jr (9.3 ppg, 40.2% 3PT), Jordair Jett (9.0 ppg, 3.2 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Tanner Lancona, Mike Crawford, Reggie Agbeko
  • Outlook: The Billikens will be an interesting group to watch in the Atlantic 10 next season. They lost some talent with Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis graduating, but Dwayne Evans could end up winning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Jordair Jett is one of the league’s more underrated players and the Billikens run a system where parts can be replaceable. They may not be getting a top four seed this year, but a trip to the tournament should be expected.

San Diego State:

  • Last Season: 23-11, 9-7 MWC (t-4th); Lost in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, James Rahon
  • Key Returnees: Xavier Thames (9.5 ppg, 2.4 apg), JJ O’Brien (7.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Winston Shepard (5.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Josh Davis, Dakarai Allen, D’Erryl Williams
  • Outlook: The Aztecs are in for a bit of a rebuilding season, as they lost their most talented player (Jamaal Franklin) and their most important player (Chase Tapley). Bringing in Josh Davis from Tulane should help them sustain the blow, but it will be the development of Winston Shepard as a sophomore and the impact of Dakarai Allen as a freshman that will determine if SDSU can be more than just a “tournament team”.

St. John’s:

  • Last Season: 17-16, 8-10 Big East (11th); Lost in the NIT’s 2nd Round
  • Key Losses: Amir Garrett
  • Key Returnees: D’Angelo Harrison (17.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Phil Greene (10.1 ppg, 2.7 apg), JaKarr Sampson (14.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Chris Obekpa (6.2 rpg, 4.0 bpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Rysheed Jordan, Orlando Sanchez, Max Hooper
  • Outlook: The Johnnies will be the most intriguing team in the Big East next season. They are deep, they are talented, they have athletes up and down their roster. JaKarr Sampson might end up being a lottery pick. D’Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan will be one of the most dynamic back courts in the country. Chris Obepka defends the rim like he’s got skis for arms. Will they put all the pieces together? Can Steve Lavin coach a winning team? He’ll have every chance this season.

Stanford:

  • Last Season: 19-15, 9-9 Pac-12 (t-6th); Lost in the NIT’s 2nd Round
  • Key Losses: Andy Brown
  • Key Returnees: Dwight Powell (14.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Chasson Randle (13.6 ppg, 2.6 apg), Josh Huestis (10.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Aaron Bright (9.3 ppg, 3.4 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Malcolm Allen, Marcus Allen, Schuyler Rimmer
  • Outlook: This may be a make-or-break season for Johnny Dawkins. For the third straight season, he’ll have his core of Dwight Powell, Chasson Randle, Josh Huestis and Aaron Bright intact, but does that mean that he’ll end up playing in the NIT for the third straight season?

UNLV:

  • Last Season: 25-10, 10-6 Mountain West (3rd); Lost in the Round of 64
  • Key Losses: Anthony Bennett, Anthony Marshall, Katin Reinhardt, Mike Moser, Justin Hawkins, Quintrell Thomas
  • Key Returnees: Bryce Dejean-Jones (10.3 ppg, 2.3 apg), Khem Birch (7.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Roscoe Smith, Jelan Kendrick, Deville Smith, Jamal Aytes, Christian Wood, Kendall Smith, Kevin Olekaibe
  • Outlook: The Runnin’ Rebels will undergo a major roster overhaul this season. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Khem Birch are the only returnees, but Dave Rice replaces the six rotation players he lost with a loaded class of recruits and transfers. How they come together, however, will be interesting to watch. Roscoe Smith was a top 30 recruit but left UConn. Jelan Kendrick is a McDonald’s all-american that flamed out of two schools in a year and a half. Deville Smith transferred from Mississippi State after one season. Rice has been able to amass talent out in Vegas. Can he finally get them to come together?

Virginia:

  • Last Season: 23-12, 11-7 ACC (t-4th); Lost in the NIT quarterfinals
  • Key Losses: Jontel Evans, Paul Jesperson
  • Key Returnees: Joe Harris (16.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Akil Mitchell (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Mike Tobey (6.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Justin Anderson (7.6 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: London Perrantes, Devon Hall
  • Outlook: A couple of ugly losses early in the season cost the Cavs a chance at the NCAA tournament, but Tony Bennett brings the majority of his roster back from a team that was better than their postseason tournament would indicate. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell might be the best 1-2 punch in the country you’ve never heard of. Mike Tobey is a trendy pick as a breakout star. Justin Anderson is the perfect wing for Bennett’s system. Replacing Jontel Evans’ leadership won’t be easy, but the Cavs are a sleeper ACC title pick.

Previewing Championship Week: What to expect from mid-major conference tournaments

WICHITA, KS - NOVEMBER 13:  Guard Landry Shamet #11 of the Wichita State Shockers dribbles the ball up court against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers during the first half on November 13, 2015 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
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Championship Week kicks off in earnest tonight. Here are the six story lines to follow over the course of the next 12 days. 

1. Can Gonzaga get to Selection Sunday with just one loss?: Because at this point, that’s probably the only way the Zags can get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Barring something fluky happening over the course of the next 12 days, Kansas, Villanova and North Carolina have pretty much locked up their spots on the top line of the bracket in the Midwest, East and South, respectively.

But the West has yet to be won.

As of today, the Zags are probably the leaders for that spot, but what you have to remember is that the winner of the Pac-12 tournament, if it is Arizona, Oregon or UCLA, could very well add two more top 10 wins to their profile during that run. Let’s say it ends up being UCLA that wins the tournament, and they beat both Oregon and Arizona to cut down those nets. That would give them five top ten wins on the season — only one of which came at home — with wins at Arizona and Kentucky. In total, they would have at least 13 top 100 wins and their only three losses on the season would be at Oregon, at USC and Arizona at home.

I’m all for Gonzaga getting a No. 1 seed. I don’t think I could give Gonzaga a No. 1 seed over that résumé even if they do have a 32-1 record.

2. Will the Missouri Valley be a two-bid league?: This one of our only hopes for an at-large bid coming out of the mid-major ranks, and regardless of who wins the league’s automatic bid — Wichita State or Illinois State — there is going to be some controversy on Selection Sunday.

The Shockers are 27-4 on the season. If they lose in the final of the MVC tournament to Illinois State, they’ll be 29-5 on the year with no sub-50 RPI losses. They rank No. 10 on KenPom, which is largely considered the best site for determining how good teams are, and they have a roster laden with top 100 prospects and coached by one of the best in the business in Gregg Marshall. Logic suggests they should be in the tournament.

The problem, however, is that they have just one RPI top 75 win on the season, and that win came against Illinois State. The Redbirds are in an even worse situation, as they have three sub-100 losses and just one top 85 win which … came against Wichita State. Logic only gets you so far when you don’t have the results to back it up.

One, if not both, of those teams are going to be sweating out Selection Sunday, hoping that they see their names called. And frankly, given the decisions the Selection Committee has made in past seasons and the value they gave big wins during the bracket reveal on Feb. 11th, I’m not sure we’ll see both teams in the tournament this season.

3. First Ivy league tournament: For the first time ever, the Ivy League will be determining their league’s automatic bid by holding a tournament. They were previously the only conference that still awarded their bid to the winner of the league’s regular season title. The tournament will take place on March 11th and 12th at the Palestra in Philly, and it will be a four-team event.

And if you are Princeton, this terrifies you. The Tigers are currently sitting at 12-0 in the conference standings, all alone with a two-game lead with just two regular season games left. But, depending on how things shake out during the final week of the season, there is a good chance that Princeton will have to play a first round Ivy League tournament game against Penn … on Penn’s home floor.

That would be a hell of a way to lose out on an NCAA tournament bid.

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4. Will Middle Tennessee State be back in the dance?: The Blue Raiders orchestrated one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NCAA tournament last season, knocking off the popular pick to win the national title in No. 2 Michigan State in the first round. Kermit Davis brought back a team good enough to make a run against this season, highlighted by the fact that his group has beaten UNC Wilmington on a neutral, Vanderbilt at home and won at Ole Miss and at Belmont. The problem they have is that three of their four losses are considered bad losses, and one of them — at UTEP — only recently climbed inside the RPI top 250. If they don’t win the CUSA tournament title they’ll add another sub-100 loss into that equation.

After what this team did in last year’s tournament, it would be a shame if they missed out on doing it again. But if they don’t get their league’s automatic bid, they may have to watch the likes of TCU or Georgia Tech play in the tournament during their off days in the NIT.

5. Which dominant mid-majors lose in league tournament?: Middle Tennessee and Princeton are the two easiest to identify, but they aren’t the only teams that have stormed to a conference regular season title and will not have to play a tournament to prove their league record is worthy of a tournament bid. Vermont went 16-0 in the America East and gets to host every game of the league tournament on their home floor, but that’s hardly a guarantee. UNC Wilmington won the CAA and earned the league’s automatic bid last season, but it won’t be easy to defend their title in that league tournament. UT-Arlington owns, at worst, a share of the Sun Belt title and a win at Saint Mary’s, but they’re anything but a lock for the tournament. Belmont won the OVC by a full five games while Monmouth won the MAAC by four and Bucknell won the Patriot League by three. Akron, at 13-3, is the only team in the MAC with less than six league losses.

My guess is that at least five of the nine teams that I just mentioned will lose in their league tournament, meaning that the NCAA tournament will feature a team that isn’t the best team from at least five mid-major leagues.

Is this really the best way to do things?

6. Which coach earns themselves a bigger job?: The easiest way to move up the ranks of the coaching industry is to get your team to an NCAA tournament and to get a win in that NCAA tournament.

Who are the guys that might be able to parlay postseason success into a bigger job? UNC Wilmington’s Kevin Keatts is a hot name. He’s a former Rick Pitino assistant that coached in the prep school ranks before he made the jump to Division I. He’s turned the Seahawks into the flagship program of the CAA in just three years. MTSU’s Kermit Davis will also likely have some big-name suitors, as the stench of NCAA violations from nearly three decades ago are starting to wear away. Illinois State’s Dan Muller will likely being getting phone calls.

Chattanooga’s Matt McCall and ETSU’s Steve Forbes were hot names entering the season, but Furman’s Niko Medved went out and won himself a share of the SoCon regular season title. Vermont’s John Becker may have a chance to make a move, while Winthrop’s Pat Kelsey, Princeton’s Mitch Henderson, UT-Arlington’s Scott Cross and Monmouth’s King Rice all have their name mentioned with bigger openings.

Two more names to keep an eye on: UNC Asheville’s Nick McDevitt, who has kept that program at the top of the Big South despite losing two star freshmen to transfer to Louisville and Arizona last season, and Mount St. Mary’s Jamion Christian, who led the Mount to a NEC title. Both of those coaches are alums of the program they are currently coaching at.

CBT Podcast: Is Gonzaga still a No. 1 seed? Can Kentucky get to a Final Four? Do we trust Duke?

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Nigel Williams-Goss #5 and Josh Perkins #13 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrate a victory over the Iowa State Cyclones at HP Field House on November 27, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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A nice, long CBT podcast for your morning commute going over everything that happened in a wild weekend of college hoops.

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Takeaways | Top 25

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Player of the Year Power Rankings: It’s Frank Mason III’s award to lose

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 28:  Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks dribbles the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during the game against at Rupp Arena on January 28, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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1. Frank Mason III, Kansas: Mason capped off his career in Phog Allen Fieldhouse in fitting fashion on Monday night, scoring 23 points and handing out six assists as he led the Jayhawks back from a 12-point second half deficit in a win over Oklahoma. At this point, Mason is the clear-cut favorite for National Player of the Year, and barring some insanity in the final week of the season, I just don’t see that changing.

He leads the Big 12 in scoring at 20.3 points while also averaging 4.9 assists and 4.0 boards. He’s still shooting 50 percent from three. He’s the leader, the heart and soul of a team that is going to win the Big 12 regular season title by at least two and probably three full games. The Big 12, if you didn’t know, is rated as the best conference in the country, according to KenPom.

He’s sparked comebacks this season. He’s make game-winning shots. He’s played his best in the biggest games. I just can’t see how you would lean another direction.

2. Josh Hart, Villanova: Villanova is right back in the mix for a national title this season despite losing Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu to graduation, Phil Booth to injury and Omari Spellman to an academic issue. They start Darryl Reynolds at center and might repeat as national champs. Hart is the reason why, and this quote from a Sports Illustrated story on Hart sums up what he means to this team:

“Now that I’m the guy at the top of the scouting report,” Hart said, “the guy every team wants to stop, I have to make sure that I make the right play. It’s not just about scoring. It’s about making sure my teammates are getting the ball. Trying to minimize the tough shots that I take. It’s about who is dialed into the details.”

3. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: Ball is coming off of an 11-point, eight-assist performance on Saturday as UCLA landed their second elite road win of the season, going into the McKale Center and picking off Arizona to keep themselves in the running for a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday. We’ve talked plenty about what Ball has done to change the culture and the dynamic of this UCLA roster, and I think it is also worth noting that he doesn’t chase stats. He’s averaging 14.8 points, 7.6 assists and 6.2 boards on the year, and there are games where it feels like he is happy to simply be a distributor when the Bruins are comfortably ahead.

4. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: As good as Swanigan has been this season, I just cannot pick a player from the Big Ten as the National Player of the Year this season. The league is just not that good, and while Purdue is probably the best team in the league, they’ve been anything-but dominant down the stretch.

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5. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: I’m not ready to drop Williams-Goss out of the range of first-team all-american, but it was concerning about, in Gonzaga’s loss to BYU on Saturday night, he was unable to create against a set BYU defense down the stretch.

6. Justin Jackson, North Carolina: His performance against Virginia aside, Jackson has been the star for the Tar Heels this season, the ACC Player of the Year and one of the biggest reasons they’re a win against Duke away from being the outright ACC regular season champs.

7. Luke Kennard, Duke: With Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson once again battling injuries that might hold them out this week, don’t be surprised Kennard has to start putting up numbers that he did at the start of the season again. Duke closes the regular season with Florida State at home and at North Carolina.

8. Johnathan Motley, Baylor: The Bears have struggled a bit down the stretch of the season, but it’s not Motley’s fault, as he’s been playing some of his best basketball of late. In his last three games, Motley is averaging 23.3 points, 11.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.7 blocks.

9. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State has one of the nation’s top two offenses despite having just one guy with anywhere near the talent to play in the NBA, and that’s Evans. The Pokes lost their first six Big 12 games, but have since reeled off nine wins in their last 10 games and are comfortably in the NCAA tournament in Brad Underwood’s first season.

10. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Happ has struggled late in the year as teams start to focus in on him more. As a team, Wisconsin has now lost four of their last five and look like they will not be winning the Big Ten title.

JUST MISSED THE CUT

Josh Jackson, Kansas
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
Monte’ Morris, Iowa State
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Malik Monk, Kentucky
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
Dillon Brooks, Oregon
Joel Berry II, North Carolina
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s
Alec Peters, Valparaiso

No. 1 Kansas rallies to beat Oklahoma 73-63 on Senior Night

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) celebrates a 3-point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Harvard in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Frank Mason III scored 23 points in his final game at Allen Fieldhouse, Devonte Graham hit a series of crucial 3-pointers in the second half and top-ranked Kansas rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Oklahoma 73-63 on Monday night.

Graham finished with 16 points and Josh Jackson had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Big 12 champion Jayhawks (27-3, 15-2), who trailed 54-42 before finishing the game on a 31-11 run.

The Sooners (10-19, 4-13) were poised to spring a big upset on the day the Jayhawks ascended to No. 1 for the first time this season. But after they took their biggest lead with just over 10 minutes to go, Mason got the comeback started with a nifty basket inside.

He added a steal moments later to set up Lagerald Vick’s 3-pointer, and Jackson scored before Graham hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc. And when Mason added another basket moments later, the Jayhawks had put together a 17-2 charge that gave them a 64-58 lead with about 5 minutes left.

Kansas slowly drew away to make senior night memorable for Mason, big man Landen Lucas and reserve guard Tyler Self, whose father – Kansas coach Bill Self – called him “my favorite Jayhawk of all time.”

VIDEO: Kansas’ Carlton Bragg misses breakaway dunk

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There are few things more exciting in sports than a player dunking on a fast break.

There are few things funnier than a player flubbing that dunk.

Kansas’ Carlton Bragg proved that second point Monday in the second half of the No. 1 Jayhawks’ game at Allen Fieldhouse against Oklahoma.

There’s a strange beauty in that, isn’t there?