PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Doug McDermott, Creighton
McDermott showed the nation why he is very deserving of being the favorite for the National Player of the Year award as of today. He went for 19 points and four assists with a banged up shoulder in a win at DePaul on Wednesday and followed that up with a scintillating 35 points, seven boards and three assists in a win over Xavier in Omaha on Sunday afternoon.
Making his performance all the more impressive, McDermott did it in a week that Creighton found out that they would be without Grant Gibbs for a month after the senior point guard dislocated his kneecap. He’s been the best player in the country this season, and nothing about the way he played this week changes that.
That said, there were a number of terrific performances this week:
They were good, too:
- Wayne Selden, Kansas: Selden had a huge week for the Jayhawks, popping off for 24 points in a win at Oklahoma and followed that up with 22 points in blowout win over Kansas State at the Phog. What makes the performance all the more important for the Jayhawks is that they really, really need a go-to scorer on the perimeter. If Andrew Wiggins doesn’t want to be that guy, I’m sure Bill Self will be happy settling for Selden.
- Markel Brown, Oklahoma State: Brown went for 27 points in a win over Texas and followed that up by hitting the game-winning three as the Pokes avoided an upset at West Virginia. The most important part? Brown had his just three of his last 25 threes prior to the game-winner.
- Justin Cobbs, Cal: The Bears moved to 3-0 in the Pac-12 this week thanks to a road sweep of the Oregon schools. Cobbs was the star of the roadtrip, averaging 20.0 points, 10.0 assists and 5.5 boards in the two wins.
- Billy Baron, Canisius: Baron, who is playing at his third school right now, has been lighting it up in the MAAC this season. In wins over Rider and Monmouth last week, he averaged 32.0 points, 7.5 boards and 6.5 assists while shooting 9-for-19 from three and 61.3% from the floor. Oh, and he hit the game-winner against the Broncs.
- Shaq Goodwin, Memphis: The Tigers got beat-up in the paint by Cincinnati. The Tigers won two games on the road this week, at Louisville and at Temple, and Goodwin was a monster in the paint. He averaged 19.0 points and 9.5 boards, grabbing 10 offensive rebounds in the process.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes picked up a massive win on Sunday afternoon, going into Columbus and knocked off No. 3 Ohio State in fairly convincing fashion. That came three days after the Hawkeyes beat up on Northwestern on a night where their head coach was suspended for an outburst that got him ejected the previous weekend.
At this point, it’s fair to say that Iowa is a legitimate contender for the Big Ten title. Are they better than Michigan State or Wisconsin? At this point, I think I would still say no. But the bottom line is that right now, this team has three losses to teams that, combined, have lost two games. Those losses have come by a combined 12 points. In all three games, Iowa had control at some point in the second half. They won at Ohio State. They almost won at Wisconsin despite their head coach’s best efforts to get tossed.
Iowa is deep. They are versatile. They have two of the nation’s most underrated players in Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White. They’ve proven they can compete, and win, anywhere in the country. This is a dangerous basketball team.
They were good, too:
- Saint Louis: The Billikens improved to 15-2 on the season — 6-0 on the road — with wins at Rhode Island and Dayton. It looks like the Atlantic 10 title will end up running through Saint Louis again this season.
- Georgia: The Bulldogs have struggled for a long time under Mark Fox, but Georgia went 2-0 in the SEC this week, including a road win over then-No. 21 Missouri. Fox’s father passed away last Friday.
- Virginia: There aren’t many teams that were more disappointing in non-conference play than Virginia, but they are now 3-0 in the ACC. Last week, they whipped up on Wake Forest and N.C. State on the road.
- Nevada: Don’t look now, but the Wolf Pack are all alone atop the Mountain West right now at 4-0. They won at UNLV and beat Utah State this week.
- Washington: The Huskies went 2-0 in the Pac-12 this week, beating Utah and Colorado at home. The Colorado win was aided by the injury to Spencer Dinwiddie, but I’m not sure you’ll hear Lorenzo Romar complaining about getting a win.
Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.
Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.
“The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”
Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.
The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.
“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”
Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.
Nikola Jovanovic’s college career has come to a close.
The USC center will not withdraw his name from NBA Draft consideration by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m., a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Jovanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian, averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 boards as a junior with the Trojans.
Jovanovic is not expected to be drafted, which means that Andy Enfield’s club will be losing two players to the professional ranks with eligibility to spare that likely won’t end up on an NBA roster next season. Julian Jacobs, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 boards, signed with an agent back in April.
The Trojans were a top 25 team last season despite many considering them to still be “a year away”. But with two starters departing, the Trojans will be a borderline preseason top 25 team as opposed to a top 15 team.
For the second time this season and just the sixth time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are losing a player to transfer.
Marcus Lee announced on Wednesday that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but the 6-foot-9 forward will not be returning to Kentucky. He will be transferring out of the program to a new school.
“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”
Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 boards this season, seeing his first major minutes as a member of the Wildcats. But he seemed destined for a bench role if he had opted to return to Kentucky this season as John Calipari has landed a recruiting class that includes five-star freshmen Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.
The tough part?
It does not appear that Lee will be able to finish his degree and be eligible to play immediately next season. He’ll have to sit a year at whatever school he opts to transfer to.
“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”
Lee joins Charles Matthews as members of last year’s Wildcats that are transferring out of the program. Darnell Dodson (Southern Miss), Stacey Poole (Georgia Tech) , Ryan Harrow (Georgia State) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) are the other four players that have transferred.
Isaiah Briscoe announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season.
The 6-foot-3 guard had one of the more difficult decisions to make for players in this year’s draft class. On the one hand, there was a very real chance that he would go through this draft without getting picked. He was a role-playing guard on last year’s team that isn’t a point guard, isn’t big enough to be a two-guard and was a total liability shooting the ball.
But he’s returning to a team that is as loaded as the group that won their first 38 games two years ago, particularly in the back court. He’ll be playing behind De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who both play essentially the same role that Briscoe does: playmaking guards that thrive with the ball in their hands. And since Briscoe can’t shoot, he may not be the best option at the three, where Derek Willis will likely see minutes.
In other words, Briscoe returning to school is essentially a two-year decision.
Kentucky now awaits an announcement from Marcus Lee on whether or not he will be returning to school.
James Blackmon Jr. will be returning to Indiana for his junior season, the school announced on Wednesday morning.
Blackmon missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season following surgery on his knee in December. As a freshman, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and shot 46 percent from beyond the arc.
Indiana now awaits word on the decision that will be made by Troy Williams. A junior swingman, Williams has a shot to be an early second round pick if he opts to stay in the draft. There is a report from the Indy Star that he will keep his name in the draft, but the program has yet to confirm that news.
Losing Williams would hurt, but it’s a loss that Indiana can overcome. The emergence of O.G. Anunoby as a versatile defender means that the Hoosiers have a guy that can be a defensive stopper and can allow them to play small and fast. Anunoby also has not proven to be prone to bouts of poor decision-making, which arguably may make him a better fit.