Marcus Smart

College Basketball Talk’s Player of the Year Power Rankings

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The 2013-2014 season is sure to be a thrilling Player of the Year race, so to keep track of it, we will be posting weekly Player of the Year Power Rankings for your reading goodness.

Who’d we miss? Who’s ranked too high? We love to overlook your team’s best player and overrate your rival’s superstar.

1) Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State): Smart followed up his dominant performance against Memphis with 23 first half points in a win over South Florida. He’s averaging 21.0 points, 3.6 assists, 4.0 boards, 4.2 steals and shooting 35.5% from three.

2) Jahii Carson (Arizona State): Arizona State has now notched wins over UNLV (on the road) and Marquette (at home). Carson is averaging 31.5 points and 6.0 assists in those two games.

3) Shabazz Napier (UConn): Napier made every big play down the stretch against Indiana, finishing with 27 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the floor.

4) Marcus Paige (North Carolina): Three times this season, Paige has set a career-high for himself. The latest came on Sunday, when he went for 32 points in a win over Louisville.

5) Jabari Parker (Duke): Parker has scored at least 20 in his first six games as a collegian, shooting 68.8% from three in that time. He’s been great, but I’m waiting for him to be great in a huge win for the Blue Devils. It’ll come soon enough.

6) Doug McDermott (Creighton): His numbers — 27.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 55.1% FG, 50.0% 3PT — are awesome. The competition hasn’t been. Creighton gets Arizona State on Thursday.

7) Julius Randle (Kentucky): Six straight double-doubles, and 19.8 points and 13.7 boards. The turnovers need to come down, but Randle’s numbers will keep going up.

8) Perry Ellis (Kansas): Even with all those talented freshmen on the roster, the best player for the Jayhawks through the first three weeks? Perry Ellis.

9) Keith Appling (Michigan State): Appling has been terrific this season, and put on a show late against Oklahoma, when he finished with 27 points and made every big shot down the stretch.

10) Tyler Haws (BYU): Haws is averaging 26.0 points for the Cougars, but struggled a bit in their loss to Iowa State at home.

Others: Aaron Craft, Aaron Gordon, Rodney Hood, Nick Johnson, Roberto Nelson, Russ Smith, Andrew Wiggins, Joseph Young

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.