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

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.

 

N.C. State lands second transfer of day with Utah’s Devon Daniels

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A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.

N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.

 

UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce follows Kevin Keatts to N.C. State

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N.C. State landed an impact transfer on Saturday as UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce will be following former head coach Kevin Keatts to the Wolfpack, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com

The 6-foot-5 Bryce averaged 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season as he helped the Seahawks to an NCAA tournament appearance. Bryce will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations, but he’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out one season.

With N.C. State getting center Omer Yurtseven back for next season, and with the addition of Bryce, it means that Keatts has retained, or added, some talented players for the next few seasons. The Wolfpack still have to fill a lot of roster spots from last season’s team, but Keatts seems to be having a really good week.

Seven identified after threats made against referee John Higgins following Kentucky Elite Eight loss

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College basketball referee John Higgins received threats to his home and business in late March after some controversial calls in North Carolina’s win over Kentucky in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

Seven people have now been identified for making threats against Higgins, according to an Associated Press report. The FBI’s Omaha, Nebraska field office said that information on the seven people will be referred to authorities in their jurisdictions.

An investigation over the last few months helped find the culprits, as the Omaha-based Higgins received emails, phone calls and voicemails to his personal home and roofing company following Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament departure. Wildcat head coach John Calipari might have ignited some of the anger in Kentucky fans by criticizing the officiating following the North Carolina loss.

“Based on the investigation’s findings, our office has determined that no local charges will be filed and that pursuit of any criminal charges would be best served by deferring to authorities in the appropriate jurisdictions,” Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The length of the investigation was drawn out due in part to the large volume of potential evidence requiring analysis, and the multi-jurisdictional issues arising from the multiple states in which the communications originated.”

Polikov also said that at least two media outlets were exposing and promoting Higgins’ contact information.

“This information has been referred to the Federal Communications Commission for further investigation of the potential violations related to applicable federal communications regulations,” Polikov said.

Higgins received about 3,000 phone calls at his office in the two days following the game. Sheriff’s investigator Matt Barrall told the AP that an estimated 75 percent of the calls were from Kentucky area codes.

The roofing business that Higgins owns was also flooded with bad online reviews and negative star ratings, causing his Google rating to fall while also forcing Higgins to take down the Facebook page for his business.

Beilein still upbeat after Michigan loses another to NBA

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — For a major program, Michigan is a somewhat unlikely candidate for this kind of NBA-induced attrition.

The Wolverines have fielded some very good teams under John Beilein, but they haven’t been relying on prospects expected to jump to the pros as soon as they can.

“We’re not depending all our success on one-and-dones,” Beilein said. “Given that, our numbers right now are extraordinary.”

Beilein was referring to the number of players Michigan has sent to the NBA, particularly as early entrees. The Wolverines lost D.J. Wilson to the draft this offseason with two years of eligibility remaining, and now they’ll go through the familiar process of trying to replace a key player who turned pro.

The most significant early exodus occurred in 2013 and 2014, when Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary all went pro before their eligibility was up. Michigan won a lot of games with those players, reaching the Final Four and Elite Eight those two years, but their development made them attractive to NBA teams and shortened their college careers.

Wilson’s rise followed a similar pattern. He averaged only 2.7 points per game in 2015-16, and then increased to 11.0 this past season and became Michigan’s leading rebounder. His efforts helped Michigan win the Big Ten Tournament and reach the Sweet 16, and now he’s off to the NBA draft. The entire sequence of events would have seemed highly improbable a year ago.

The Wolverines won’t receive much sympathy from their Big Ten opponents, especially since Michigan will still have big man Moe Wagner, who tested the NBA waters but ultimately decided to stay in school. The 6-foot-11 Wagner averaged 12.1 points last season and shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range, showing huge improvement in much the same way Wilson did.

After losing senior point guard Derrick Walton, it will be interesting to see how Michigan’s offense operates if Wagner becomes even more of a focal point. When Beilein was at West Virginia, the Mountaineers achieved success behind center Kevin Pittsnogle, whose skill set and 3-point shooting ability was at least somewhat similar to Wagner’s.

“We’re not going to put him in that category yet,” Beilein said. “Let’s just say, having a big man who can shoot the ball like that changes a lot of things.”

Michigan was also able to add a new point guard recently in Jaaron Simmons, a graduate transfer from Ohio. Simmons is eligible immediately in 2017-18 and will move up from the Mid-American Conference to the Big Ten.

“A lot of the mid-majors are having this happen to them, and I don’t like it at all, but the fact is if Jaaron doesn’t come here, he ends up probably somewhere else in the Big Ten,” Beilein said. “He’s just fundamentally so sound. He’ll be here this summer. Just as a person, I just wanted to coach the kid after spending an hour with him — just the leadership, the desire to win.”

Simmons could help the Wolverines withstand the loss of Walton, and Beilein indicated he could serve as a bit of a mentor to players like point guard Xavier Simpson, who is entering his sophomore season.

“We went all-in with (Simmons), knowing we had that scholarship,” Beilein said. “We felt that was a huge need for us, is to just have a little bit more experience in the backcourt next year.”

Follow Noah Trister on Twitter @noahtrister