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.
Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.
Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.
Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.
Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.
“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”
Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.
He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.
Huerter is a borderline first round pick.
Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.
“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”
Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.
Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.
De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.
Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.
Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.
And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.
Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.
That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.
Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.
With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.
He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.
Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.
Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.
“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”
“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”
Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.
All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.