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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

John Calipari helping to raise money for Louisiana flood victims

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It’s easy to be critical of John Calipari.

You don’t have to be a Louisville fan to know all the jokes by now. He cheated at UMass. He cheated at Memphis. He’s had two Final Fours vacated. Teflon John. Yada yada yada.

I get it. Negativity comes with success, particularly for someone who is as brash about his success as Coach Cal is.

But even Cal’s harshest critics cannot begrudge the work he does — can get his players to do — for charity and how well he can harness the power of Big Blue Nation to make a tangible difference. Remember the ‘Hoops for Haiti’ telethon that raised more than $1 million to help earthquake victims back in 2010? Or the hundreds of thousands of dollars he raised for Hurricane Sandy relief? Or when his fantasy camps generated more than $1 million in charitable donations?

And should I mention the amount of times that stories of Kentucky players befriending sick kids or visiting children’s hospitals?

The cynic in me could say that all of this is for branding, helping ensure his players are image-conscious and aware of the sponsorship opportunities that come with being a likable, relatable and humble athlete. There’s probably some truth to that.

But do you think the kids that get visits from their Big Blue heroes care? Do you think it matters to the charities that get seven-figure checks to help with disaster relief?

I say all that to say this: During a press conference on Thursday morning, Cal had this to say, via SEC Country:

Calipari said former UK star Anthony Davis (currently of the New Orleans Pelicans) told Calipari, “Coach, you gotta do something” for Baton Rouge flood victims. Davis is out of the country but will try to get back for Sunday’s softball game to help. His 2012 title teammates, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, were not previously on the celeb list for Sunday but will be there.

Calipari has decided to donate all proceeds from Sunday’s alumni/celebrity softball game will go to the Baton Rouge flood-relief fund, through Red Cross. “So what I’m asking you to do is buy these tickets.” They’re $5 apiece. The previously raised funds will still go to the other designated charities, like each year.

For those so inclined, you can donate to the flooding fund by texting “GIVE” to 859-955-8173.

Vermont women cancels game in North Carolina over HB2

DURHAM, NC - MAY 10:  A unisex sign and the "We Are Not This" slogan are outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use.  (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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The University of Vermont is the latest in a ever-growing line of organizations canceling events in North Carolina due to the controversial HB2 law.

The Catamounts will not be traveling to play the Tar Heels on Dec. 28th as previously scheduled.

“We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued,” the school wrote in a statement. “It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

“This decision was made in consultation with our coaches, the women’s basketball team, and key university officials. We fully understand and sympathize with the impact that this decision may have on the North Carolina women’s basketball schedule. However, we believe this decision is consistent with our values and the conversations with our coaches and student team members. These were the most important considerations.”

Known as the “bathroom bill”, HB2 is the law that requires transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex that they were born not the sex they identify with.

Earlier this year, Albany was forced to cancel a trip to Duke due to legislation in New York regarding visits to North Carolina. The NBA has taken the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, and the NCAA is heavily considering pulling NCAA tournament games from the state.

Interestingly, ACC commissioner John Swofford was very non-committal on the subject when asked yesterday.

Derek Willis won’t be suspended for offseason citiation

Kentucky's Derek Willis (35) hits an uncontested three point shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 80-70. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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John Calipari gave a press conference on Thursday morning and, for the first time since his arrest in June, the Kentucky head coach spoke about Derek Willis.

Willis, if you’ve forgotten, was found passed out in the street outside the open driver’s side door of his car at 4:30 a.m. You can see video of the arrest here. Willis is very lucky he wasn’t killed, and that he didn’t kill anyone else trying to drive in that condition.

Cal said that Willis will not be suspended for any games, but “Derek knows he’s under a different eye now than he was.” He did not elaborate on what kind of punishment Willis will receive beyond that, saying that “I don’t throw people under the bus.”

To be honest, I’m a little surprised that Willis won’t be forced to miss any games, but if we’re being frank, sitting out an exhibition and Kentucky’s opener sounds much more appealing than the kind of, ahem, ‘conditioning drills’ that Willis has likely spent the summer doing.

PODCAST: Boeheim’s non-controversy and the coaches we don’t want to fight

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In today’s podcast, I’m joined by Travis Hines to discuss stuff that has been in the news over the course of the last two weeks, specifically Jim Boeheim’s comments about Carmelo Anthony and why it is a total non-controversy.

We also dive into why Boeheim’s comments are forced to be taken out of context as well as Monte’ Morris, ‘Pancake’ Thomas and which college basketball coaches we would least like to fight.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.