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

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.