College Basketball Talk’s Player of the Year Power Rankings

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source: Getty Images

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. Jabari Parker, Duke: On Saturday, Parker scored seven points on 2-for-10 shooting and got himself benched for the final 3:35 in a loss to Notre Dame in South Bend that dropped the Blue Devils from the top 10 to No. 16 in the AP poll. So what? If we were doing a college hoops draft, Parker is still the first pick. There’s only one guy in the country that would be in the conversation with him …

2. Doug McDermott, Creighton: … and that’s Dougie McBuckets. I hope everyone that gets a chance to watching Doug play this season truly appreciates what they’re watching. He’s unquestionably one of the best college basketball players that we’ve seen at any time in recent memory. You wanna know how good he is? The kid put of 30 points, 10 boards and five assists in a road win at Seton Hall and you heard nothing about it on Saturday. Not a peep. That’s because a night like that is not uncommon for McDermott, who is on the verge of becoming the first three-time first-team all-american since Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale.

Here is a stat, sent out by Creighton’s SID, for you to chew on before I move on: McDermott is averaging 24.7 points and 7.5 boards and shooting 42.7% from three. Since 1998, the only other college player to post those numbers? Kevin Durant. Enjoy it while it lasts.

3. Deandre Kane, Iowa State: I’m not sure there is a more under-appreciated player in the country that Deandre Kane, who transferred to Iowa State after getting dismissed from the team at Marshall. He’s been the biggest reason the Cyclones are still undefeated.

Here’s a breakdown of Kane’s numbers compared to the other four point guards on this list:


4. Julius Randle, Kentucky: Randle’s numbers — 18.1 points and 10.6 boards — could look even more impressive if he didn’t bow out of the game against Louisville with cramps. You saw what he did, right? 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting in the first half.

source: Getty Images5. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: A lot of people would pick C.J. Fair as the best player on Syracuse, but I think Ennis is easily the most valuable player and the biggest reason the Orange entered ACC play undefeated. He’s the only point guard on the roster, he’s a freshman, he doesn’t turn the ball over and he’s got a tremendous sense of timing. He seems to remain deferential until the exact moment the Orange need him to take over.

6. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: If you include the loss to Memphis, Marcus Smart has been rather human in the last seven games. His numbers: 12.3 points, 4.4 assists, 4.3 boards, 2.9 t/o’s and shooting numbers of 43.9/22.6/72.4.

7. Shabazz Napier, UConn: UConn had an awful, o-2 swing through Texas last week and outside of a 25-point second half against Houston, Napier was 2-for-14 from the floor with just 14 points. Not good enough.

8. Casey Prather, Florida: Prather’s last two games have been rather quiet, averaging just 11.0 points in wins over Richmond and Savannah State, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been the best player on Florida this season.

9. Nick Johnson, Arizona: The best perimeter defender, the best perimeter shoot and the leading scorer on the best team in the country deserves a spot on this list.

10. Keith Appling, Michigan State: It’s hard to pick just one guy off of the Michigan State team, but for my money, Appling’s play down the stretch in close games early in the season and the fact that he’s been the facilitator for this loaded offense sets him apart.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Ron Baker, Cameron Bairstow, Jahii Carson, Jordan Clarkson, Aaron Craft, Joel Embiid, C.J. Fair, Aaron Gordon, Rodney Hood, Marcus Paige, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Russ Smith, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Chaz Williams, Joseph Young

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.