After playing about as poorly as he possibly could for 30 minutes on Saturday night, Marcus Smart turned in as dominating of a performance as you will see to close out Oklahoma State’s season-changing win over No. 5 Kansas. Smart scored 12 of his 21 points in those final 10 minutes, hitting all four of his field goals, making the only three he shot and handing out three assists without a turnover. That’s before you factor in the plays he made that won’t show up in the stat-sheet, including drawing an offensive foul on Perry Ellis and grabbing an offensive rebound between two Jayhawks as he was flying out of bounds, saving the ball to a teammate.
Therein lies the key to success for both Smart and Oklahoma State. He’s still doing all of the little things that made him so special, but in those final 10 minutes, Smart finally — finally! — played like a guy that accepted the fact that he hurts his team when he fires away from three and makes headlong drives into the paint.
If he plays the way he did in those final ten minutes — distributing, picking his spots to attack, strictly shooting open, rhythm jumpers — the Pokes are going to be a nightmare for whichever No. 1 or No. 2 seed draws them in the Round of 32.
They were good, too:
Will Sheehey, Indiana: Sheehey averaged 24.5 points in Indiana’s wins over Iowa and Ohio State this week. All of a sudden, Indiana is back in the bubble conversation. Beat Nebraska and Michigan next week, and things get real.
Delon Wright, Utah: Wright won you your college hoops fantasy league this season. In wins over Colorado and Arizona State, Wright is averaging 21.5 points, 7.0 boards, 5.0 assists, 3.0 blocks and 2.5 steals while shooting 14-for-16 from the floor.
Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 boards in two wins last week, shooting 11-for-21 from the floor and 7-for-14 from three. When he’s hitting threes, Florida becomes a different team.
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan: Robinson had 17 points and the game-winning bucket in overtime at Purdue, following that up with 12 points in a win over Minnesota. He’s averaging 14.7 points and 5.7 boards in his last three games.
Marcus Paige, North Carolina: Paige scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half and overtime of UNC’s win at N.C. State. He’s been the best player in the ACC the last month and a half.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Arizona Wildcats
Arizona blew out Cal by 28 points. Then they took a 25 point second half lead on Stanford. This came after beating Colorado by 27 points in Boulder. Arizona’s back, baby.
What’s changed is that Sean Miller has opened up the floor. The Wildcats are running more. They are taking advantage of the myriad of athletes Sean Miller has at his disposal — Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon — and allowing them to make plays on both ends of the floor instead of playing grind-it-out half court games where his group struggles to find any kind of consistency on the offensive end in the half court.
Is Arizona the favorite to win the national title right now? That’s hard to say. What isn’t hard to say, however, is that Arizona is playing better than anyone else in the country right now.
They were good, too:
Oregon: The Ducks swept their LA road trip, beating UCLA in Pauley Pavilion in double-overtime. Mike Moser led the way, averaging 16.0 points, 16.0 boards and 4.5 assists in the two wins.
UConn: After slogging their way through a win at South Florida, UConn knocked off Cincinnati at home. They’re still a game out of all-important third place in the American.
VCU: The Rams bounced back from three losses in four games, picking off Fordham on the road and following that up with a win over Saint Louis in Richmond. Shaka Smart’s crew is still two games out of first place in the Atlantic 10.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils cemented a spot in the NCAA tournament by sweeping Cal and Stanford at home. Win at Oregon and Oregon State next week, and Herb Sendek will have steered his team into third-place in the Pac-12.
Five-star point guard Trevon Duval is the most electrifying lead guard in the Class of 2017. The native of Delaware dominated the Under Armour circuit this spring and is currently regarded by many as a top-five player in the class by most recruiting services.
Now he’s down to 10 schools as his recruiting is starting to become more of a focus. The 6-foot-2 Duval is down to Arizona, Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, St. John’s, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC and Villanova.
Things are still early in the process for Duval and it will be interesting to see if he schedules any official visits soon.
Ohio State has lost quite a few transfers and hasn’t had a lot go their way with regards to recent recruiting, but things could be changing after a good weekend.
The Class of 2018 is starting to look really good for the Buckeyes as they landed commitments from wings Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens this weekend. The two in-state products are grassroots teammates together on King James and they give Ohio State three commitments in that class.
Bazley is considered a four-star prospect on Rivals while Ahrens checks in as a three-star. They join another Ohio native, guard Dane Goodwin, in the class as this could be the group that helps bring Ohio State back in regular Big Ten contention.
Butler picked up an important commitment on Monday as four-star forward Kyle Young committed to the Bulldogs.
A Class of 2017 stretch forward who can hit jumpers and has an improving skill set, the 6-foot-7 Young comes from Massillon, Ohio and he’s regarded as the No. 109 overall prospect.
Young was impressive in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer with King James as he averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game as he shot 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.
This is a nice grab for Butler as Young is the type of versatile perimeter shooter that they like to utilize and he should be able to help a bit on the glass as well.
Young joins a class that includes guards Cooper Neese and Jerald Butler.
Earlier this summer, we told you the story of Collin Sexton, how the 6-foot-2 Georgia native went from being a mid-major recruit to a five-star prospect being courted by the likes of Kansas, Arizona, North Carolina and Villanova.
He averaged 31 points in the Nike EYBL circuit, nine points better than Michael Porter, who finished second in the league in scoring. No one puts points on the board like he does, so it’s only fitting that he was the guy that made a shot from the balcony during ‘The Trip’, Nike’s effort to keep kids associated with their brand from Elite 24:
UCLA capped their three-game trip to Australia on Sunday night with a 94-91 win over the Brisbane Bullets, a game in which sophomore point guard Aaron Holiday finished with a team-high 17 points. Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton both added 16 points and freshman Ike Anigbogu finished with 13 points and 10 boards.
This win came just two days after the Bruins lost to Melbourne United, 89-84, when Hamilton — 18 points and five assists — and Holiday — 16 points — were both once again impressive. Alford also added 18 points in Friday’s loss.
It’s not surprising that the Bruins had some up and down performances abroad. Everyone does. It’s what happens when a team of college kids, with three freshmen playing key roles, heads to the other side of the world to square off against teams made up of professionals. Don’t go hanging the ‘Fire Steve Alford’ banners on anymore airplanes just yet.
There are, however, two interesting things to consider from this trip:
– Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s star freshman, was, at best, their fourth-best perimeter player. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford and sophomore Aaron Holiday all played well and posted impressive numbers on the three-game trip. Ball? He didn’t shoot well. At all. In UCLA’s 47-point opening win, he was 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-3 from three, putting together was was by far his best shooting performance of the trip. In the three games, he shot a total of 25 percent (9-36) from the field and 19 percent (4-21) from three. He did average 5.0 assists and, in one game, notched 13 boards, but Ball’s ability to shoot will be something to keep an eye on.