PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Bryce Cotton, Providence
Bryce Cotton has been a really good player for the Friars for a long time, but since Providence has spent the entirety of his tenure on campus mired in national irrelevance, he hasn’t gotten near the amount of attention that he deserves. This week that changed. Cotton averaged 21.5 points and 6.5 assists while playing all 80 minutes and committing no turnovers in wins over Xavier and Butler. Providence has now won five straight games, moving them into a tie for the second-best record in the Big East and right back into NCAA tournament contention.
But looking at Cotton’s season as a whole, it’s tough not to wonder whether he should be getting quite a bit more all-american hype. His numbers are impressive: 20.5 points, 5.9 assists, 2.0 turnovers and countless big shots in big moments. He’s doing all that despite playing a ridiculous number of minutes as the primary ball-handler in a season where he was expected to see more time off the ball. But with Kris Dunn out and Brandon Austin gone, this is what Cotton is forced to do:
- In his last 12 games, he’s averaging 41.8 minutes.
- On the season, he’s played 94.9% of the available minutes. In Big East play, the number jumps to 99.3%.
- The only time he’s sat out in Big East play was the final two minutes of a 30 point blowout at Villanova. He’s played all 50 minutes in a pair of overtime games.
- His efficiency numbers haven’t taken too big of a hit in the process, as his offensive rating is “down” to 119.3.
They were good, too:
- Nik Stauskas, Michigan: Stauskas has been awesome all season long, but in the last nine games, he’s played his way into the National Player of the Year discussion. This week, he averaged 22.5 points, 5.0 boards and 4.5 assists in wins over Iowa and at Michigan State.
- Ethan Wragge, Creighton: Wragge averaged 19.5 points this week in wins at Villanova and over Georgetown. 21 of those points came when he hit his first seven threes in six minutes against Villanova.
- Alex Poythress, Kentucky: Poythress is finally starting to turn a corner, it seems. He averaged 13.5 points and 5.0 boards in a pair of wins this week.
- Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State: Nash kept Oklahoma State afloat on Marcus Smart’s off-night as he went for 29 points on 10-for-13 shooting and nine boards in a win over West Virginia on Saturday.
- Billy Baron, Canisius: Baron might be the Mid-Major Player of the Year right now. He averaged 34.5 points in a pair of wins this week.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Texas Longhorns
Believe it or not, Texas is currently sitting tied with Oklahoma for second place in the Big 12. They’ve won five straight games, the last three of which came against ranked teams. This week, they beat Kansas State at home and knocked off Baylor in Waco. Safe to say, at this point in the season, there isn’t a more surprising team in the country than the Longhorns.
Is it sustainable?
Well, it appears to be. The Longhorns have a vastly underrated front court in Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes and Prince Ibeh. Their back court is young, but there are enough pieces there that they have survived some youthful inconsistency. Isaiah Taylor had 27 points against Baylor, making up for Javan Felix’s off-night. Felix, on the other hand, had been terrific in Big 12 play prior to Saturday. Demarcus Holland has struggled of late, but he’s been known to pop off for 20 points and is one of the better back court rebounders in the country.
I still think Texas is closer to fourth or fifth in the Big 12 than they are second, but the fact that we’re having that conversation is a testament to how well Rick Barnes has done this year.
They were good, too:
- Michigan: They beat Iowa and won at Michigan State. That about says it all.
- UCLA: It is now UCLA’s turn to be considered the second-best team in the Pac-12 after they beat both Stanford and Cal at home this week.
- VCU: The Rams bounced back from a loss at VCU by winning at Dayton and La Salle this week.
- American: The Eagles blew out Boston University at home and then whipped up on Army on the road this week. Those teams are sitting in second and third behind American in the Patriot League.
- Richmond: The Spiders closed out a key three-game homestand with wins over UMass and St. Joe’s this week.
Nebraska’s second-leading scorer from last season will return for his senior season as Andrew White III announced Wednesday he will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft.
“I felt good about the pre-draft process, White said in a statement released by Nebraska. “It was encouraging, and I gained as much ground as anyone throughout the process. I wanted one more year to fine tune my game and put myself in better position for the NBA next summer.
“I want to thank the teams who invited me their in-house workouts, and Nebraska for supporting me during this process. It has been very helpful in gathering information in preparation for my future Thank you to everyone who has been following my progress throughout the spring and being understanding and supportive, as I evaluated whether to turn pro or return for my senior year.”
White, a Kansas transfer, tallied 16.6 points per game last season while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. He also pulled down 5.9 rebounds per game.
“We are excited to have Andrew remain with our program,” coach Tim Miles said. “This has been a valuable time for him, as he has tested his skills against some of the best competition and received very important insight from key NBA personnel.
“We look forward to continuing to help Andrew’s development to improve his NBA profile even more than he already has done through this process. I believe next year could be our most complete team with a great opportunity for success in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament, I’m happy Andrew will be with us to go out and prove it.”
The news is certainly welcome for the Cornhuskers and Miles, who will be under pressure to show improvement after back-to-back disappointing seasons following an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014. Shavon Shields, last year’s leading scorer, has exhausted his eligibility and the Huskers will need White to help fill the void.
Melo Trimble is returning to Maryland.
The Terrapin guard will be back to for his junior season in College Park, according to multiple reports.
Trimble went from freshman first-rounder to question mark after a rough end to his sophomore season for Maryland in which his points per game, shooting percentage (both overall and from 3-point range) and rebounding dipped from his first season. Only his assists per game showed any sort of improvement. He waited until the last possible day to announce his intentions to return to school, but really his options were limited after seeing his production drop.
His decision to come back to school gives him a shot to restore his draft stock while Maryland gets its floor general back to help ease the transition from last year’s Sweet 16 squad that lost Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman. The Terps might not be a sure-fire top-25 team with Trimble back, but their NCAA tournament chances are now significantly higher.
Eric Musselman keeps adding reinforcements to his roster. For the 2017-18 season.
Musselman and Nevada received commitments from N.C. State transfers and twin brothers Caleb and Cody Martin, according to multiple reports.
That brings Nevada’s sit-out transfer count for this upcoming season to four with Hallice Cooke (Iowa State) and Kendall Stephens (Purdue) already in the fold. Under NCAA transfer rules, the quartet will have to sit out the upcoming season before being eligible in 2017-18.
Caleb averaged 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 36 percent from deep while Cody put up 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists, shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc.
The timing of having four sit-out transfers works well for the Wolf Pack given that two of the team’s three leading scorers from last year, D.J. Fenner (a senior) and Cameron Oliver (a sophomore), return while senior transfers Marcus Marshall (Missouri State) becomes eligible. Having those four experienced transfers begin playing in 2017-18 while all but two players from this upcoming team slated to return makes Nevada an interesting team, a year from now.
After a day of mixed messages, Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku finally made it official.
He’s staying in the NBA Draft.
“After talking to my family and going through the NBA process,” Onuaku wrote in an Instagram post, “me and my family have decided that it would be best for me to keep my name in the draft.”
The day started out with Cardinals coach Rick Pitino telling multiple media outlets that the 6-foot-10 sophomore would remain in the draft after he declared last month without an agent and attended the draft combine. Onuaku, though, appeared to at least mildly refute that with an Instagram post that said his decision wouldn’t come until later Wednesday evening. Which it did, confirming Pitino’s words.
The confusion may have been frustrating for observers, but Onuaku’s social media presence no doubt has benefited from the bizarre day.
Onuaku averaged 9.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.6 assists in 24.6 minutes per game last season, making his per-40 numbers, a metric NBA teams like to take into consideration, nothing short of fantastic. He also shot a not-so-shabby 62.0 percent from the floor. His size, athleticism and ability to score around the basket (he’s taken one 3-pointer in two seasons) make him a potential first-round selection in next month’s draft.
The 19-year-old Onuaku underwent a procedure on his heart last week due to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. It has been described as a minor procedure that will not affect his ability to play long-term or work out with teams leading up to the draft.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, should be able to absorb Onuaku’s loss seemlessly as they return the bulk of last year’s team that went 23-8 and was ranked 10th in KenPom, but was banned from the postseason as a result of the Katina Powell bombshell. Newcomers Tony Hicks (Penn transfer) and V.J. King (consensus top-30 recruit) will also make for solid additions.
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.