College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: Last week, I wrote that McDermott was the runaway favorite to for National Player of the Year. I think everyone pretty much agreed with me at the time. He’s played one game since then, against St. John’s, scoring 39 of Creighton’s 63 points and burying the game-winning three at the buzzer. Yeah, I think McDermott is still the favorite.

2. Shabazz Napier, UConn: I’m not sure there is a player in the country that is more influential in regards to his team’s success than Napier. He’s averaging 17.9 points, 6.0 boards, 5.7 assists and 1.9 steals while shooting 43.5% from a team that doesn’t have a single low-post scoring presence and has a talented-but-inconsistent supporting cast. UConn is 17-4 this season with a win over Florida and a win at Memphis. Outside of a disastrous New Years trip to Texas — the first the Huskies took to that part of the country as a member of the American — Kevin Ollie’s team has been better than most anticipated.

3. Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker’s offensive numbers have dipped since the start of the season, when he was playing like the consensus National Player of the Year. Part of that is regression to the mean (he wasn’t always going to shoot 60% from three), part of it is a slump he went through in December and part of it is that defenses are being built around slowing him down. Duke’s had a bit of a resurgence in the last month, and the biggest reason why is their defense has gotten better.

Parker’s contribution? Cleaning the glass. He’s averaging 11.2 rebounds over the last five games.

4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: The Orange have played three games since the last Player of the Year Power Rankings went up, and, obviously, they won all three. Against Wake Forest, Ennis scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half. Against Duke, he had 14 points and nine assists. Against Notre Dame, he chipped in with six points and eight assists. All told, in the three games, he had 38 points, 21 assists and just six turnovers.

source: Getty ImagesNow, the hero against Duke was C.J. Fair, but Fair struggled against Notre Dame. The hero against the Irish was Trevor Cooney, but he didn’t do much in the other two games. That kind of sums up what Ennis does for this Syracuse team. He gets the talent around him involved … until he can’t afford to do it anymore. Then he takes over. His reputation for being one of the most clutch players in the country is well-earned.

5. Nick Johnson, Arizona: I don’t think Johnson is going to want people talking about his 1-for-14 performance in Saturday’s loss to Cal. To be fair, he was clearly favoring his right hand, and with Brandon Ashley out of the game, he didn’t have an option but to fire away. And he did spur the team’s come-from-behind win over Stanford earlier in the week.

Here’s the key for Johnson going forward: with Ashley out, the Wildcats are going to have to rely on him even more on the offensive end of the floor. Can he carry this team?

6. Nik Stauskas, Michigan: It is going to be interesting to see where Stauskas goes from here. He was the best player in the Big Ten for the first month of league play, but he was completely shut down by Yogi Ferrell in Michigan’s loss at Assembly Hall. Was that just the by-product of a bad matchup, or did Tom Crean just give every coach in the country a blueprint on how to get into Stauskas’ head?

7. Xavier Thames, San Diego State: SDSU is good because their defense is stifling. They win games because a team that can really struggle offensively has a closer like Thames. He makes a lot of big shots and big plays.

8. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: It’s past time to give Kilpatrick some love on this list. Like Thames, he’s the best (only?) offensive weapon on a very, very good defensive team, but I could make a strong argument that teammate Justin Jackson is more deserving of this ranking. That’s a good sign for the Bearcats.

9. Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Kansas: They’re arguably the two most talented players in the country. But we’re never quite sure which Wiggins and which Embiid will show up. They’re on this list because both can put together the kind of stretch run that would allow them to catch McDermott.

10. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico: The Lobos are winning with Alex Kirk hurt. They were winning before Alex Kirk got hurt. The biggest reason why? Bairstow transformed himself from just another plodding MWC big man to the Australian Hulk who just so happens to have a nasty post-game. He may not be an all-american, but between the struggles of Lamar Patterson, Marcus Smart and Julius Randle in the last week, we’ll give him the bump to the 10th spot.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Keith Appling, Bryce Cotton, Sam Dekker, C.J. Fair, Aaron Gordon, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Deandre Kane, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Jayvaughn Pinkston, Casey Prather, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Russ Smith, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Chaz Williams

Kentucky fans flood Facebook page of official John Higgins’ company with negative reviews

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Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.

The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.

Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.

When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.

Report: North Carolina to miss out on NCAA events through 2022 if HB2 not addressed by Thursday

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North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.

Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.

Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.

Baylor’s Freeman to graduate and transfer

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Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.

Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.

“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”

Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.

As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.

Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner declares for NBA Draft

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Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.

“First let me start by saying these three years at Xavier have been the best of my life,” Sumner said in a statement. “I have certainly been presented with some ups and downs but they have only served to make me a stronger person. This decision was very hard for me because of the love I have for X. After weighing my options with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I want to thank Coach Mack and the rest of the staff for believing in me and giving me a chance when no one did! I’ll always be grateful for that. Xavier Nation I will always love you!”

Sumner, a 6-foot-6 point guard with dynamic athleticism and first round potential that averaged 15.0 points, but he is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in January. He’s likely to be a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

This is a big loss for the Musketeers, but it’s one that they planned for. After his eruption last season, most expected him to put his name in the draft this season.

Duke freshman Harry Giles III declares for NBA Draft

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Harry Giles III has declared for the NBA Draft after playing just one season at Duke.

“Playing in the NBA has been my goal for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to take the next step in that journey,” Giles said. “My time at Duke has been a dream come true. I’ve built so many strong relationships here and I have so many people to thank, from my teammates and coaches to our medical staff and strength coach. I can’t understate how proud I am to be part of the Duke Basketball program forever.”

Giles played in 26 games for the Blue Devils. He started six games and averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Giles. At one point considered to be the best player in the loaded Class of 2016, Giles has dealt with a pair of devastating knee injuries already. He underwent a third surgery right before the start of the season and never seemed like he was fully able to get back to being the player he was when he was in high school.

This is the right decision for Giles to make, as there is still some uncertainty regarding the health of his knees. Were his struggles due to the fact that he was tossed right into the middle of a college basketball season after having sat out for 14 straight months, or was this simply a result of knees that no longer allow him to be the player that he used to be?

He might still end up being a first round pick this year. At the very least, he’s make some guaranteed money if he can get into a camp. Maybe returning to school could have helped vault him into the lottery in 2018, but another year like this year would’ve firebombed his draft stock.

“With his uplifting personality and love for the game, Harry Giles has been a joy to coach,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is only beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be on the basketball court. Harry has an exciting NBA future ahead of him and we are here to fully support him as a member of our brotherhood.”

I know I’m not alone when I say I hope that Giles gets healthy and succeeds in the NBA.