The Top 68 players in the NCAA tournament

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With the NCAA tournament hitting full throttle Thursday afternoon (60 first-round byes = nonsense), we at College Basketball Talk thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the top 68 players in this season’s event. Creighton’s Doug McDermott leads the way on this list, and there are a number of talented players who didn’t land on this list. So without further ado, here are the 68 best players in the 2014 NCAA tournament. 

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton
The man given the nickname “Dougie McBuckets” by former CBT contributor Troy Machir will clean up on the postseason awards circuit and with good reason. McDermott averages 26.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, and he’s been efficient in doing so with shooting percentages of 52.5% from the field, 45.4% from three and 86.6% from the foul line.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker (19.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg) hit a bit of a lull back in January, with his relying too much on perimeter shots being a key reason why. When the freshman is committed to attacking the opposition, which has been the case over the last month, he’s one of the toughest covers in the country.

3. Russ Smith, Louisville
The four-year transformation of Smith has been incredible to watch, as his decision-making has improved a great deal during his time playing for Rick Pitino. Those maddening moments that led the Pitino nicknaming his guard “Russdiculous” don’t happen very often these days, and in addition to scoring 18.3 points and 4.7 assists per game the senior is shooting 47.5% from the field and 40.5% from three.

4. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Wiggins has been under the microscope for much of this season, and while some have been underwhelmed with his play at times the fact of the matter is that he’s put together a very good season. Averaging 17.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, Wiggins enters the tournament averaging 31.0 points in Kansas’ last three games.

5. Shabazz Napier, UConn
In a season loaded with high-level lead guards Napier takes a back seat to no one, leading the way for a UConn team back in the NCAA tournament after having to miss out on all the fun a season ago. He’s unafraid of big moments and has the ability to both score (17.4 ppg) and distribute (4.9 apg) while also leading the Huskies in rebounding (5.9 rpg).

6. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Remember when most referred to Stauskas as a shooter and nothing else? After working hard during the offseason Stauskas won Big Ten Player of the Year honors, averaging 17.5 points per game in helping lead Michigan to the Big Ten regular season title. And after attempting just 87 free throws as a freshman, the more aggressive Stauskas has attempted 183 this season.

7. DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Amongst transfers in college basketball this season Kane’s been one of the most successful, teaming up with Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang to lead the Cyclones to their first Big 12 tournament title since 2000. Kane’s averaging 17.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game this season, and his percentages from the field (49.1%) and from three (39.8%) are the best of his career.

8. Gary Harris, Michigan State
On a team that has dealt with injuries throughout the season Harris has been the most consistent option, scoring 17.2 points per game for the Big Ten tournament champions. Harris has failed to reach double figures just once this season, and his ability to score from anywhere on the floor makes the sophomore someone opponents have to account for when preparing for the Spartans.

9. Nick Johnson, Arizona
Johnson won Pac-12 Player of the Year because of his skill level on both ends of the floor and his impact on the Wildcats’ success. Johnson’s improved his offensive repertoire in each of his three seasons in Tucson, and in addition to being Arizona’s best offensive option he also get the assignment of defending the opposition’s best perimeter player on most nights.

10. Joel Embiid, Kansas*
Embiid is the “wild card” in all of this, hence the asterisk. The freshman isn’t expected to play this week, but there’s no denying the impact Embiid has on the Jayhawks defensively. He’s one of the best rim protectors in the country, thus allowing Kansas’ perimeter players to be a bit more aggressive defensively. Embiid averages 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game, and in three of the five games he’s missed the opposition has shot at least 47% from the field.

MORELead Guards | Off Guards | Wing Forwards | Big Men

11. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
12. T.J. Warren, N.C. State
13. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
14. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
15. Adreian Payne, Michigna State
16. Julius Randle, Kentucky
17. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
18. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
19. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
20. Bryce Cotton, Providence
21. Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
22. Xavier Thames, San Diego State
23. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
24. Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State
25. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
26. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
27. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
28. Jordan Adams, UCLA
29. Caris LeVert, Michigan
30. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
31. Perry Ellis, Kansas
32. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
33. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
34. Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa
35. Rodney Hood, Duke
36. Kendall Williams, New Mexico
37. Keith Appling, Michigan State
38. Justin Jackson, Cincinnati
39. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
40. Jordan McRae, Tennessee
41. Georges Niang, Iowa State
42. Jahii Carson, Arizona State
43. Aaron Craft, Ohio State
44. James Bell, Villanova
45. Lamar Patterson, Pitt
46. Chasson Randle, Stanford
47. Joseph Young, Oregon
48. Ron Baker, Wichita State
49. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
50. Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
51. Marcus Foster, Kansas State
52. Sam Dower, Gonzaga
53. Semaj Christon, Xavier
54. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
55. Cory Jefferson, Baylor
56. Chaz Williams, UMass
57. Terran Pettaway, Nebraska
58. Luke Hancock, Louisville
59. Alex Kirk, New Mexico
60. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
61. Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
62. Casey Prather (Florida)
63. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
64. Jordair Jett, Saint Louis
65. Langston Hall, Mercer
66. Kenny Chery, Baylor
67. Joe Harris, Virginia
68. LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State

Five-star 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons could test NBA Draft process

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Five-star Class of 2018 guard Anfernee Simons is interested in potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to a report from Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the former Louisville commit will likely be eligible to jump to the NBA straight out of high school since he graduated high school last year while turning 19 next June. The 6-foot-4 Simons, considered the No. 16 overall prospect in the Rivals’ Class of 2018 national rankings, is playing a post-grad season at IMG Academy for 2017-18 after reclassifying as a sophomore.

If Simons opts to go pro than college basketball loses a potential star as he’s been shooting up the national rankings over the past year. Simons was committed to the Cardinals since the beginning of his junior year but he opened things up once former head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in a fallout from the FBI investigation on college basketball.

Simons started his season at the National Prep Showcase this weekend as six NBA teams sent people to watch him play, according to Givony’s report.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in this situation as Simons hasn’t done much with the recruiting process over the last several months. Now that NBA teams are already watching him play, Simons could follow in Thon Maker’s footsteps and turn pro right away.

LaVar Ball on Trump’s involvement in bringing son home: ‘Who?’

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The war of words none of us wanted is now upon us.

LaVar Ball downplayed the impact that Donald Trump had in ensuring that his son, LiAngelo, along with two other UCLA players were released from custody and returned to the United States following a shoplifting incident on the team’s trip to China.

“Who?” the eldest Ball told ESPN on Friday night when asked about Trump’s involvement. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

When the players arrived back in Los Angeles, and before they had a chance to speak publicly, Trump had already taken to twitter to complain about the fact that the trio had not yet thanked him. Trump happened to be in China at the same time and, in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he reportedly asked for his counterpart’s help in assuring an expedited legal process.

Trump got the thank you that he so desperately needed when UCLA held a press conference announcing that the three players would be suspended indefinitely, but LaVar was not going to let the President have the last word. And you can bet that Trump is not going to let this be the end of it, either, which means that two men that have risen to prominence through their willingness to say the audacious whenever the spotlight is on them will have the floor.

And unless someone has managed to change the passcode on Trump’s cellphone, you can rest assured that this will not be the end of it.

Bridges perfect from 3, No. 5 Villanova blows out Lafayette

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Mikal Bridges set a school record by hitting all six of his 3-point shots and scored a career-high 24 points in No. 5 Villanova’s 104-57 rout of Lafayette on Friday night.

Jalen Brunson added 22 points and hit 4 of 6 3s in another dominant performance by the Wildcats (3-0), who made 16 of 30 from long range.

Three nights after setting a school record with 13 blocked shots in a blowout of Nicholls, the versatile and deep Wildcats showed another strength and overwhelmed the Leopards (0-3).

Led by Bridges’ 4 of 4 long-distance shooting, Villanova hit 11 of its first 14 3s in racing to a 39-16 lead. The Wildcats had a stretch of nine straight baskets being 3s en route to a 56-23 halftime lead.

Matt Klinewski had 16 points and six rebounds for Lafayette, which was 7 of 29 from 3-point range.

Bridges finished 9 of 10 from the field before he sat out the final 10 minutes. The junior bested his previous career-high by one point set Tuesday.

While it was a Villanova home game, it was played about 50 miles from campus at the PPL Center, home of minor league hockey’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It was a 20-mile drive for Lafayette, but the Wildcats sure seemed at home.

Villanova spent much of the second half going inside to score. Omari Spellman had 15 points and nine rebounds and Eric Paschall had 14 points and eight boards.

BIG PICTURE

Lafayette: Try as a Patriot League school squaring off against one of the best teams in the nation and watching the opponent shoot like that, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s alma mater never had a chance.

Villanova: The Wildcats have perimeter shooting, depth inside and play good defense. They’ve been dominant against inferior competition, and will finally get tested next week.

SO MANY 3-POINTERS

Bridges surpassed Doug West in 1988 and John Celestand in 1999, each of whom went 5 of 5 from long range. Villanova finished one shy of the school record of 17 3s set against Lehigh on Nov. 27, 2005.

NO LUCK

Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon fell to 0-6 against his alma mater. O’Hanlon still holds the Villanova record for assists in a game with 16 set against Toledo on Feb. 24, 1970.

Only six Division I coaches have been at their schools longer than O’Hanlon, in his 23rd season.

UP NEXT

Lafayette visits Princeton on Wednesday.

Villanova faces Western Kentucky on Wednesday in the first of three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. No. 19 Purdue and No. 3 Arizona are possible opponents the following two days.

Mykhailiuk helps No. 4 Kansas rout South Dakota State, 98-64

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Svi Mykhailiuk scored a career-high 27 points, Lagerald Vick finished with 22 and fourth-ranked Kansas routed Summit League favorite South Dakota State 98-64 on Friday night.

Udoka Azubuike added 17 points and Malik Newman had 13 for the Jayhawks (3-0), who shot 60 percent from the field and didn’t commit a turnover until midway through the second half.

By that point, the Jackrabbits (3-1) were staring at a 30-point deficit.

Mike Daum led South Dakota State with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Tevin King contributed 12 points and David Jenkins Jr. scored 10 off the bench.

Once again without heralded freshman Billy Preston, the Jayhawks were forced to use the same reduced rotation that managed to top seventh-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night. But their perilous lack of depth became crippling in the first half when Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot picked up two fouls each.

That forced coach Bill Self to use walk-on Clay Young in the post.

The 6-foot-5 senior turned out to be a bright spot, too, keeping the ball moving on offense and handling the 6-9 Daum inside. The Jackrabbits’ leading scorer at more than 21 points per game had eight on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half, when Young spent a good chunk of time covering him.

Nobody could cover Mykhailiuk, though.

The senior from the Ukraine hit his first three shots — the Jayhawks made eight of their first nine — while getting into an easy rhythm. Even on the seemingly rare occasion that his jumper didn’t splash the net, it often rattled around the rim and dropped through to a thunderous ovation.

Several of his baskets came on feeds from Devonte Graham, who didn’t hit a field goal until deep in the second half. He finished with eight points but also had 11 assists and five boards.

PRESTON SITS

Preston went through early warmups but remained on the bench as Kansas investigates an on-campus incident that raised questions about the “financial picture” of the car he was driving. Self declined to discuss the situation other than to say “we’re definitely going to hold him out until we get to the bottom of this.” Self did say he expects a resolution soon.

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota State can recover from its thumping in paradise with a trip to the Cayman Islands Classic up next. But their next trip to the Sunflower State figures to be just as tough: They visit No. 6 Wichita State on Dec. 5.

Kansas cruised despite a shortened lineup again, and help is only a month away. Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe becomes eligible for a trip to Nebraska on Dec. 16, and there is a chance five-star prospect Silvio De Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy enrolls at the semester break.

UP NEXT

South Dakota State plays Wyoming on Monday in George Town, Cayman Islands.

Kansas continues a four-game home stand against Texas Southern on Tuesday night.

No. 18 Louisville hangs on over Omaha 87-78

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ray Spalding had a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds, Deng Adel had a game-high 21 points and Anas Mahmoud had eight of his team’s 15 blocked shots as No. 18 Louisville outlasted Omaha 87-78 on Friday night.

Spalding scored 14 points after halftime, and Adel made 7 of 8 shots from both the field and the free-throw line to pace the offense for the Cardinals (2-0), who led by 20 early in the second half but didn’t make a field for the last 4:36 of the game.

Omaha (0-4) was competitive in facing its highest-ranked opponent since becoming an NCAA Division I program in the 2011-12 season. The Mavericks hung around with a 12-0 second-half run and got within 71-64 on KJ Robinson’s 3-pointer with 5:45 left, but Louisville answered with seven straight points to keep the lead large enough to stay unbeaten under interim coach David Padgett.

Louisville’s three primary big men — Spalding (6-foot-10), Mahmoud (7-0) and Malik Williams (6-11) — bothered Omaha with their length around the rim. Mahmoud flirted with a triple-double, posting 10 points and eight rebounds to go with his blocks. Williams, a former five-star recruit who made his first career start in place of Mahmoud, had eight points, four rebounds and three blocks. Spalding blocked three shots, too.

Daniel Norl led five Omaha scorers in double figures with 16 points and eight rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Omaha: The Mavericks averaged 83.9 points in their first three games but dug a hole in the first half when they shot only 24.4 percent to go down 40-25 at halftime. Louisville finished the first half on an 18-7 run, and Omaha made only one of its final nine shots before the break.

Louisville: Adel, who scored 20 points in the season-opening win over George Mason, continues to impress with his slicing drives and up-tempo play and shapes up as one of the top wings in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He made his first seven shots and added eight rebounds.

UP NEXT

Omaha plays at TCU on Monday as part of the Emerald Coast Classic, the fourth of seven straight games away from home to start the season while the Mavericks’ home arena hosts the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials.

Louisville has home games against Southern Illinois on Tuesday and Saint Francis next Friday before traveling to Purdue on Nov. 28 for the Big 10/ACC Challenge.