Connecticut v Memphis

College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: At this point in the season, I probably don’t need to do much more than simply write McDermott’s name here. Everyone else is battling for second-place. It doesn’t matter how you break it down: McDermott is the second-leading scorer in the country; he’s the highest-usage weapon in the nation’s most efficient offense; he’s a two-time first-team all-american playing on a top 25 team that just upset the No. 4 team in the country. Whether you’re a casual fan, a numbers geek or an old-school, eye-test type, McDermott is the easy vote for Player of the Year. How often does that happen?

2. Shabazz Napier, UConn: Considering the lack of depth UConn has in their front court and the fact that their second and third options offensively (Deandre Daniels and Ryan Boatright) are brutally inconsistency, the Huskies should probably be an NIT team. But they’re not. They have a win over Indiana in the Garden, a win over Florida at home and a win over Memphis in Memphis. Shabazz is the guy to thank for that. As a result, I’ve adjusted my thinking on where he should sit in this rankings.

3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Smart can dominate a game in so many different ways, but what I’ve been most impressed with has been his ability to rebound the ball now that Michael Cobbins is out. In the five games since then, Smart is averaging 9.6 rebounds. If only he could learn to shoot the ball consistently.

4. Deandre Kane, Iowa State: Some of the hype surrounding Deandre Kane has dissipated in the last week as the Cyclone’s star guard has dealt with a sprained ankle and the Cyclones have suffered through three straight losses. The biggest concern? 22 turnovers the last four games.

5. Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker looks like he’s worked his way through the five-game slump he was in, popping off for 23 points in a 35-point win over N.C. State. I’ve dropped him to fifth, however, because after watching a ton of film on Jabari, I’ve become horrified at how bad he can be defensively.

6. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Johnson continues to fly under the radar as “just” the nation’s No. 1 team’s leading scorer, best defender, best perimeter shooter and best playmaker in crunch time. Ho-hum.

7. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: I’m still shocked that I see Player of the Year lists with C.J. Fair listed above Tyler Ennis. He’s the only point guard on the Syracuse roster, he doesn’t turn the ball over, he forces a ton of turnovers and he’s the go-to guy in the clutch for the nation’s No. 2 team. I think I have him too low.

8. Julius Randle, Kentucky: Randle is still putting up monster numbers, but he’s become less of the focal point for Kentucky offensively as teams have started to collapse on him more and more. Doesn’t help that he got lit up by Jarnell Stokes on Saturday.

9. Casey Prather, Florida: He missed two games because of a knee injury, coming back to score 21 points in a far-too-close win at Auburn. He’s the leading scorer for a team that goes through too many inexplicable scoring droughts.

10. Joel Embiid, Kansas: This is a little bit of forward projecting. Embiid has not earned this spot yet. But if he continues to play the way that he has played in the last few weeks, and Kansas keeps on looking like a top five team, Embiid is going to have to be in this conversation eventually. Might as well toss him in there now.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Keith Appling, Cameron Bairstow, Sam Dekker, C.J. Fair, Aaron Gordon, Rodney Hood, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Jayvaughn Pinkston, Russ Smith, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Chaz Williams

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.