College Basketball Talk’s Player of the Year Power Rankings: Shabazz tops the list again

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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. Shabazz Napier, UConn: Napier’s already made countless big shots in big moments this season, shining in UConn’s wins over Florida, Indiana and Boston College. His numbers on the season are good — 15.3 points, 7.0 boards, 5.9 assists and shooting 57.1% from three — but in those three wins, Napier’s averaged 24.3 points with a usage rate that was at least 30%. He’s taken over when UConn needs him to take over, opting to distribute and get his teammates involved at other times.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker scored 21 points against Gardner-Webb on Monday night, the first time he’s gone for 20 in a game since the day before Thanksgiving. The most versatile offensive weapon in college basketball, Parker’s still at his best with his back to the basket. Per Synergy, 19.9% of his offensive possessions have come on post-ups, and he’s scoring 1.205 PPP.

Rush The Court via

3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Has Marcus Smart actually changed his game and improved his perimeter stroke? He’s missed 16 of his last 19 threes. Take a look at his shot chart (right) from the last four games.

More concerning? During that stretch, Smart has 17 assists and 16 turnovers. Keep in mind this is a small sample size, and that in the three games prior he shot 10-for-21 from three and averaged 31.3 points, scoring at least 23 points in the first half of all three games.

On the season, Smart is shooting 32.1% from three, up from 29.0% last season.

4. Chaz Williams, UMass: Williams has been the best player on one of the nation’s most impressive and exciting teams to date. The Minutemen love to get out and run the floor, sitting 11th in the country in tempo, per KenPom. 29.1% of the possessions that Williams has used have come in transition, and UMass is scoring 1.318 PPP on those possessions.

5. Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott had seven points on 2-for-12 shooting in Creighton’s loss to George Washington. The last time he scored seven or fewer points? November 14th, 2012, when he had five points on six shots in a 17 point win over UAB. The only time he’s shot worse than 2-for-12 from the floor was an 0-for-5 performance in a win against St. Joseph’s … as a freshman.

6. Julius Randle, Kentucky: Kentucky went away from pounding the ball inside to Randle in their loss to North Carolina over the weekend. He finished with just 11 points and five boards as the Harrison twins spent the entire second half going one-on-one. UK’s bread-and-butter needs to be post touches for Randle.

7. Russ Smith, Louisville: With Peyton Siva gone, Smith has been making a concerted effort to play more as a point guard. Rick Pitino has been using his in pick-and-roll actions more often. Here are the Synergy breakdowns of Smith’s 2012-2013 pick-and-rolls:


and his 2013-2014 pick-and-rolls:


8. Nick Johnson, Arizona: For my money, Johnson is still the most valuable Arizona Wildcat. With Gabe York struggling, he’s really the only player on Arizona that can create his own shot on the perimeter in the half court, and he just so happens to be a tenacious on-ball defender.

9. Keith Appling, Michigan State: At this point, it’s difficult to judge Appling based on the last two weeks of basketball. Not only is he dealing with a wrist injury stemming from an ugly fall in Michigan State’s loss to North Carolina, but four of Michigan State’s starters have missed practice and/or game time with injuries and illnesses. Don’t let one injury-impaired game blind you to how good Applng has been.

10. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: Wiggins gets an awful lot of criticism for a guy averaging 15.9 points and 5.9 boards that just so happens to be the nation’s best perimeter defender. Consistency of assertiveness is the name of the game for Wiggins.

Others: Kyle Anderson, Ron Baker, Cameron Bairstow, Jahii Carson, Jordan Clarkson, Aaron Craft, C.J. Fair, Rodney Hood, Roberto Nelson, Marcus Paige, Lamar Patterson, Elfrid Payton, Casey Prather, Juwan Staten, T.J. Warren, Joseph Young

Reports: Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley mulling UConn, Pitt options

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Even before Rhode Island’s NCAA tournament came to an end Saturday in the Round of 32 against Duke, speculation was running wild about the future of Rams coach Dan Hurley.

Stay or go. If it’s go, where to?

There was no clarity, but maybe some progress Monday.

Both Connecticut and Pittsburgh, the prime candidates to pry Hurley away from Rhode Island, spoke with the coach, but no decision had yet been reached, according to multiple reports.

Hurley was set to meet with Rams athletic director Thorr Bjorn on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Heart Connecticut Media’s Jeff Jacobs reported that UConn was “closing in on an agreement” with Hurley but that Pitt was continuing its pursuit.

Hurley has led the Rams to the NCAA tournament the last two years and signed a seven-year contract with Rhode Island worth approximately $1 million per year last off-season. UConn was paying Kevin Ollie, who led the team to the 2014 NCAA title before being fired after this season, an average of $3 million per season while Kevin Stallings reportedly was due a buyout of nearly $10 million when he was fired by Pitt this season.

What Hurley will have to weigh beyond the financial circumstances will be his ability to win at either UConn or Pitt, should he decide to move on from Rhode Island.

Ollie – well, really Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright – showed you can win a national title out of the AAC at UConn. The league adding Wichita State only strengthens that point. Pitt, meanwhile, may be a tougher job now than it was when Jamie Dixon had it rolling since their move from the Big East to the ACC.

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.

On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.

By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:


He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.


Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.


Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:


I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:


Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.

I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.

ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.

The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.

What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.

Where does Penny fall on this scale?

Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:

Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.

Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.

Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.

Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?

The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.

I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.