St. Johns v Creighton

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

N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. fully recovered, ready to go

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Dennis Smith Jr. sure looks ready.

North Carolina State’s prized freshman point guard is pushing through a workout in the practice gym on a hot July afternoon, and there’s no sign of the knee injury that defined his past year.

He’s sprinting along the baseline to bury a catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer. He’s dribbling between chairs and stutter-stepping his way to a pull-up jumper. He’s launching himself at the rim for a dunk off the dribble.

“I don’t expect to be rusty at all,” Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I was feeling kind of nervous at one point, but I went in and did a workout and then I was thinking, `I’m putting in all this work so all the nervousness should be out of my mind.’ I had no reason to be timid.

“I just have to go out there and perform, no excuses.”

A lot has happened for Smith in 12 months. The Fayetteville native suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in a game during the Adidas Nations event featuring top prospects. He had surgery, picked N.C. State, graduated from high school early and enrolled in college in January to rehab and learn the Wolfpack’s system before his debut later this year.

Tuesday marks one year since the injury for the 6-foot-3 Smith, ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 point guard when he signed last fall.

“We’ve tried to be real conservative with him as far as not letting him do too much too fast,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “At his age, he can’t wait. He’s dying to play every day.”

Smith started earning his leadership role as soon as he arrived in Raleigh, pointing out instructions to teammates or calling them to the gym for extra work even though he couldn’t play. He figures that time observing from the sideline has prepared him to replace high-scoring floor leader Anthony “Cat” Barber.

“I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, definitely,” Smith said. “I see the game totally different now. I read pick-and-roll easier. I feel like I’ve gotten more sound on defense because I understand angles better.”

The physical work to get back has been tougher.

Roughly a year ago, Smith was lying in a bed after surgery trying to stay positive. He asked trainer Ja-Rell Bailey to bring him some free weights for upper-body exercises even if he couldn’t do much else, an example of why Bailey described Smith as “a man determined.”

Smith’s father said the rehab emphasized building leg strength to protect and stabilize the injured knee, something his son said he will keep doing in both legs for years to come. Smith’s work has helped him go from 180 pounds to a college-ready 192-pound frame.

“He’s got his bounce back, so he can dunk and everything,” Dennis Smith Sr. said. “But what Junior has got, God gave it to him. . A lot of times you run into kids who are built off of hype because they do a fancy move or have a good game. Junior ain’t hype. He’s the real deal.”

Regardless, Gottfried expects Smith to have “a learning curve.”

“For me,” he said, “I think what you see in November is going to be much different than what you see in January.”

The Wolfpack will look much different, too, after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. N.C. State welcomes Scout.com’s No. 6-ranked recruiting class that includes five-star Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven. Senior guard Terry Henderson returns from an ankle injury that sidelined him 7 minutes into last season. Charlotte transfer and former Conference USA freshman of the year Torin Dorn Jr. will play after sitting out last year.

Still, Smith is the guy stirring the most buzz for Wolfpack fans – something he has no trouble embracing.

“I really don’t feel that pressure though,” Smith said. “I feel like if you come in and you expect to play well, then you should have those expectations of people talking. It’s just playing basketball to me. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Washington lands commitment from Mamoudou Diarra

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For the second time this summer, Washington has landed a commitment from a forward in the Class of 2017.

On Friday, it was Mamoudou Diarra that pledged his future to Lorenzo Romar. Diarra is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward that is currently unranked by Rivals but was targeted by a number high major program.

Washington landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. earlier this summer, and given Porter’s standing as the potential No. 1 player in the class, the Huskies will be in the mix for the best crop of freshmen in the country in 2017-18. Romar has also landed commitments from four-star guard Jaylen Nowell and three-star guard Blake Harris.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Diarra played his high school basketball in St. Louis.

Xavier lands second top 100 commitment in 2017

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Xavier landed a key commitment on Friday morning in Naji Marshall, one of the Musketeers’ top targets in the Class of 2017.

Marshall is a la 6-foot-5 wing from Washington D.C. that is currently ranked 62nd in the 2017 class by Rivals. He’s a scorer that has shown off a versatile offensive game, averaging better than three assists on the Under Armour Association circuit.

This is the third commitment from head coach Chris Mack in the class and the second top 100 player to pledge to the Musketeers. Marshall picked Xavier over Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia Tech, among other.

Four-star 2018 guard Coby White commits to North Carolina

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, center, reacts with his team behind him after a play during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. North Carolina won 88-71. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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With guards Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek having committed in their 2017 recruiting class, North Carolina received a commitment from one of the better guards in the Class of 2018 Thursday night. Four-star guard Coby White, who’s ranked 61st in his class by Rivals.com, made his pledge to Roy Williams’ program. News of White’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com.

The 6-foot-4 White is a native of Wilson, North Carolina, where he attends Greenfield HS, and he played his grassroots basketball for the CP3 16U basketball program this summer. His commitment to UNC comes just a couple days after the ACC school offered him a scholarship.

White took an unofficial visit to UNC in June, and his play in July ultimately led to the program making the aforementioned scholarship offer. By the time White enrolls in Chapel Hill, current veterans such as Joel Berry II and Nate Britt will be out of eligibility. Among the perimeter would could potentially be on campus in 2018 are freshmen Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson, and sophomore Kenny Williams.

White is the second commit in the 2018 class for the Tar Heels, with 6-foot-7 guard Rechon Black being the first.

Point guard Small to transfer from Oregon

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18:  Kendall Small #21 of the Oregon Ducks shoots over Derek Mountain #40 of the Holy Cross Crusaders in the second half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After navigating a lack of depth at the point to win the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles and earn the program’s first-ever one seed in the NCAA tournament, Oregon will have no such issues in 2016-17. Dylan Ennis, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, is back for another season as is returning starter Casey Benson. Add in freshman Payton Pritchard, whose shooting ability can help a team that struggled from three a season ago, and Dana Altman has multiple players to call upon at that spot.

That left Kendall Small, who played just under eight minutes per game as a freshman, in a spot where it would have been tough to earn more playing time as a sophomore. As a result he’s decided to transfer, with the news first being reported by Scout.com.

In addition to the three guards mentioned above, sophomore Tyler Dorsey also has the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. Small will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at whichever school he chooses to transfer to, and he’ll have to sit out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules.

A 6-foot guard from Anaheim, Small’s best outing came in Oregon’s 77-59 win over Savannah State on November 23. In that game Small accounted for nine points, four assists and three rebounds in 23 minutes of action. But he played double-digit minutes in just four games after the Ducks began Pac-12 play in early January, the last of which being Oregon’s win over Holy Cross in the first round of the NCAA tournament.