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College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: For the first 72 minutes that Doug McDermott played St. John’s this season, he lit the Johnnies up for 64 points, with 39 — and the game-winner — coming in the first matchup in Omaha and 25 coming in the first 32 minutes of the rematch in New York. 

But down the stretch, Steve Lavin changed how his team defended McDermott. At first, he tried to just go one-on-one against the Player of the Year, putting JaKarr Sampson or Orlando Sanchez on an island and taking away every other Bluejay option. But down the stretch on Sunday, St. John’s changed their strategy and began running two guys at McDermott on his touches. 

Sometimes even before he got a touch.

Here are two examples. In the first game, McDermott runs off of an in-screen and gets an isolation in the post:

On Sunday, here’s that same in-screen. This time, both St. John’s defenders run with him, leaving Austin Chatman wide-open for a three from the top of the key:

That was one of four open threes that Creighton missed down the stretch of that game. 

2. Jabari Parker, Duke: Remember when Jabari was in a slump? Yeah, me neither. Since the Virginia game — which caused me to write this — he’s been on a tear, averaging 20.0 points and 11.4 boards in the last seven games. Duke is 6-1 in that stretch, the lone loss being the overtime thriller at Syracuse. Parker’s struggles stemmed from the fact he was settling for jumpers. The last seven games, he has taken just 15 threes, getting to the line at least seven times in every game except for the foul-plagued 26 minutes he played against the Orange. Even then, he wasn’t settling. He just got his shot blocked at the rim.

3. Shabazz Napier, UConn: The way I see it, there is a clear favorite to win Player of the Year and there is a two-player battle for second-place between Jabari and Shabazz. Napier got dropped a spot this week after an uninspiring performance against Cincinnati where his poor shot selection helped contribute to UConn blowing a double-digit lead on the road against the No. 7 team in the country. 

4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: 11.8 points, 5.7 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.4 turnovers. Those aren’t exactly numbers that will get you put onto Player of the Year lists, but just watch Ennis for an entire game and you’ll realize why he’s here. It’s by far the most valuable player on a team that’s undefeated on February 11th.

5. Xavier Thames, San Diego State: Thames is averaging 18.2 points as the only real offensive weapon for a team that hasn’t lost in three months. He’s not just scoring a lot of points, either. He’s making big plays on a nightly basis. The latest example? Taking over down the stretch as SDSU came back from 13 down at Boise State last Thursday. 

6. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: In that game against UConn I talked about earlier, Sean Kilpatrick was awesome, finishing with 26 points, 12 boards and six assists. He’s been awesome all year, really. It’s time we took notice.

7. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Johnson is in a bit of a shooting slump, hitting just 10-for-40 from the field the last three games and shooting 0-for-12 from three during that stretch. But he’s still playing great defense and, in Arizona’s two-point win over Oregon, he had 18 points, five assists and no turnovers. 

8. Russ Smith, Louisville: The Russdiculous fad has seemingly passed, but that has more to do with the fact that Smith is actually making better decisions this season. He was KenPom’s Player of the Year last season, and his efficiency numbers are up this year. His raw numbers? How does 18.3 points, 4.7 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 39.7% from three suit you?

9. C.J. Fair, Syracuse: The leading scorer and second-leading rebounder on the No. 1 team in the country that just so happens to remain undefeated in mid-February? Yeah, that deserves a mention on this list even if he’s not the best player on his team.

10. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico: Bairstow is averaging 20.7 points this season and starring for a New Mexico team on which he was supposed to be an afterthought. He’s one of the rare guys that figures it all out his senior season. Shame on New Mexico fans for not turning him into Cameron BEAR-stow.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Bryce Cotton, Sam Dekker, Cleanthony Early, Joel Embiid, Marcus Foster, Aaron Gordon, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Deandre Kane, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Jayvaughn Pinkston, Casey Prather, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Juwan Staten, Nik Stauskas, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Chaz Williams

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.