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July Live Period Week Two Superlatives

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The second July Live Period came to an end on Sunday. Scott Phillips and I were in Georgia for the Under Armour Finals and the Nike Peach Jam. Here are our awards from the week:

MORE: Week one superlatives

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

  • Ben Simmons: With his performance at Peach Jam, Simmons proved he’s the No. 1 player in the 2015 class. He passes well with both hands, attacks the rim with either hand and has great handles. He also defends laterally pretty well and rebounds and pushes tempo. If his perimeter jumper improves, look out. (SP)
  • Isaiah Briscoe: Simmons is the best prospect in the Class of 2015, but Briscoe was the best player this week. He averaged 22.4 points — second best at Peach Jam only to Allonzo Trier — and 3.8 assists while leading the Playaz to a title. (RD)

BEST PROSPECT:

  • Jayson Tatum: This is currently a tough category to fill, since I saw so many elite 2015 and 2016 prospects this week, but with Tatum’s skill level and size, it’s easy to see why some have him at No. 1 in 2016. While Josh Jackson and Malik Monk were up-and-down this week and Harry Giles is still recovering from his knee injury, Tatum kept on chugging along and putting up great numbers. (SP)
  • Ben Simmons: I think I actually agree with Scott here, but in the interest of differing opinions I’ll go with Simmons. The 6-foot-8 forward certified himself as the best player in the class in North Augusta. (RD)

MOREQuotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

MOST UNDERRATED RECRUIT:

  • Quinndary Weatherspoon: A borderline top 100 recruit, the 6-foot-5 Weatherspoon put on a pair of scoring displays at Peach Jam. He can be a bit inconsistent, but any high-major program that needs perimeter firepower should be tracking this kid.
  • Levan Alston: The 2015 guard from Team Final is tough on both ends of the floor and a fiery competitor. Coming in just outside of Rivals top 100, I’ve seen a lot of guards ranked ahead of him that I wouldn’t take over him.

NON-TOP 150 SLEEPER:

  • Braxton Beverly: A 2016 point guard from Hazard, Ky., Beverly was terrific at Peach Jam. He finished third in the tournament in assists while protecting the ball and showing he could his a three-pointer with time and space. He’s tough, too. I saw him fight through a sprained ankle to beat Mac Irvin Fire with three driving buckets in the final five minutes. (RD)
  • Jalen Poyser: The CIA Bounce 6-foot-4 Class of 2015 guard surpassed his EYBL high scoring mark twice at Peach Jam and had multiple productive outings in the event. Multiple college coaches were intrigued by Poyser’s ability to attack and he has a natural smoothness about him. (SP)

RELATED: Peach Jam takeaways: ScottRob | UAA Finals takeaways

LEFT ME WANTING MORE:

  • Josh Jackson: It’s not that I wanted more out of Jackson’s talent, of which he has plenty, but I wanted to see the elite 2016 wing take better shots and use his passing more to set up teammates. The 6-foot-6 Jackson was benched during one game at the UAA Finals with five minutes left in a one-point game and that should never happen to an elite player. (SP)
  • DeAndre Ayton: Ayton is believed by some to be the best prospect is all of high school basketball, but the 6-foot-11 big man from the Class of 2017 is nothing more than a prospect at this point. He’s got terrific physical tools but the rest of his game still needs polishing. The good news? He’s got plenty of time. (RD)

BEST LEAD GUARD:

  • Jawun Evans: Since I already went with Briscoe as the Player of the Week, I’m going to mix it up at the lead guard spot, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that follows this site that I am picking Evans as the best lead guard from this week. The 5-foot-11 Texas native is, for my money, the best pure point guard in the Class of 2015, and he played that was in Atlanta for the UAA Finals. (RD)
  • Donovan Mitchell: There are better point guard prospects in the 2015 class, but nobody had a better week than Donovan Mitchell. Whether it was the elementary school day campers at Suwanee Sports Academy or national championship-winning head coaches, they all went nuts over Mitchell’s play this week. (SP)

BEST OFF-GUARD:

  • Malik Monk: The 40-point performance at Peach Jam was epic and once Monk gets more strength, he’ll be able to put up performances like this with more consistency. Sometimes Monk hunts highlights too often, and while the 2016 class is talented, I don’t see how Monk isn’t a top-5 player at this current juncture. (SP)
  • Allonzo Trier: Trier was the leading scorer at Peach Jam, averaging more than 30 points in the give games that he played, including the 42 that he put up while handing Briscoe and the Playaz their only loss of the event. Trier’s had a great spring and summer while shooting up the national rankings. (RD)

BEST WING FORWARD:

  • Jayson Tatum: The game just comes easy to Tatum. Although the 6-foot-8 wing was a man among boys playing in the 16U ranks at Peach Jam, you can still see he has all the necessary tools to be a star. (SP)
  • Ben Simmons: I see Simmons playing a role similar to that of Royce White at the collegiate level, which would make him more of a point forward than a wing forward. (RD)

BEST SHOOTER:

  • D.J. Hogg: There aren’t many great shooters in this class but Hogg can fill it up when he gets hot and he has a shooter’s mentality with good size at 6-foot-7. Once he gets in better shape, Hogg’s shot will be more consistent because right now. (SP)
  • Camron Justice: Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was front and center while tracking his his commitment. The No. 136 recruit in the Class of 2015 shot very well throughout Peach Jam. (RD)

BEST LOW POST BIG:

  • Tyler Davis: Again, not the best prospect I saw as a low post player, but Davis was the most productive big man I saw last week. The 6-foot-10 Davis is impossible to move off the block, owns a good set of hands and has improving footwork and counter moves in the post. He’s right on the cusp of elite status. (SP)
  • Diamond Stone: Davis was easily the best low-post big man at Peach Jam, and Stone was just as impressive at the UAA Finals. He’s getting into a habit where he is settling too much for perimeter shots, but some of that is a result of Stone trying to prove that he has expanded his game. He’s known for his ability to score on the block already. (RD)

BEST DEFENDER:

  • KeVaughn Allen: Allen was one of the biggest stock-risers in Georgia this week, averaging 19.0 points in eight Peach Jam games. The Florida-commit showed off an improved three-point stroke, but where he was most impressive was on the defensive side of the ball. He will thrive in Gainesville. (RD)
  • Chris Clarke: I would take Chris Clarke on my team in any game. The Class of 2015 wing plays hard, defends on the perimeter, hustles after every loose ball and generally lifts the energy of the teammates on the floor with him. He’s just the kind of player that makes winning plays. (SP)

ONE MORE GUY DESERVING OF ATTENTION:

  • Franklin Howard: Franklin Howard is already ranked and committed to Syracuse, but I was impressed by his recovery from a major knee injury that forced him to miss the high school season. Howard doubled his minutes during the Peach Jam from the EYBL and looked pretty good despite shooting the ball poorly. (SP)
  • Alterique Gilbert: A 5-foot-9 PG, Gilbert is No. 92 in the Class of 2016 on Rivals. He’s a quick, shifty point guard that can get to the rim and finish in traffic. He also doesn’t appear to get rattled by big moments or big plays. He averaged 18.2 points in the event. (RD)

Eastern Kentucky basketball player charged with rape

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RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) Authorities say an Eastern Kentucky basketball player has been arrested on a rape charge.

Records at Kentucky’s Madison County Detention Center show 23-year-old Jaylen Babb-Harrison was arrested Sunday in Richmond and charged with first-degree rape.

A statement from Eastern Kentucky says Babb-Harrison, a redshirt senior guard, has been suspended from the team. It says the school is cooperating with police.

Local media organizations cited an arrest citation in reporting that police were called to a Richmond hospital when a female reported she was at Babb-Harrison’s home and that he had sex with her against her will.

WKYT-TV reports Babb-Harrison declined to be interviewed at a jail. His first court appearance is set for Wednesday.

Online jail records didn’t list an attorney for the player.

Judge dismisses sex charges against ex-Michigan State star

3 Apr 2000: Mateen Cleaves #12 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates on the floor as he holds up the trophy after winning the NCAA Men''s Finals Four Game against the Florida Gators at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Spartans defeated the Gators 89-76.
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FLINT, Mich. (AP) A judge has dismissed all charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a charity golf event.

Judge Cathy Dowd in Flint, Michigan, said Monday there wasn’t enough evidence to send Cleaves to trial. Prosecutors can appeal.

A woman said she twice tried to get away from Cleaves but was pulled back into a motel room and sexually assaulted in September 2015. A witness confirmed that she saw the woman try to escape a room at the Knights Inn near Flint.

But a police officer said the woman never indicated that she was assaulted. Cleaves pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually assaulted. Cleaves led Michigan State to the 2000 national championship.

Coaches Poll: Villanova takes the top spot

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 03: Kris Jenkins #2 of the Villanova Wildcats yells to his team in the first half against the Saint Joseph's Hawks at The Pavilion on December 3, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 88-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova has overtaken Kentucky as the new No. 1 in the Coaches Poll on Monday.

The defending champions also took No. 1 in the new AP poll thanks to an 8-0 start while UCLA beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena this weekend. The Bruins finished at No. 2 while Kansas and Duke are right behind them.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

  1. Villanova (28)
  2. UCLA (1)
  3. Kansas (1)
  4. Duke (2)
  5. North Carolina
  6. Baylor
  7. Kentucky
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Saint Mary’s
  12. Virginia
  13. Louisville
  14. Xavier
  15. Butler
  16. West Virginia
  17. Wisconsin
  18. South Carolina
  19. Purdue
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Notre Dame
  23. Cincinnati
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State

AP Poll: Defending champion Villanova is the new No. 1

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Josh Hart
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The defending national champs are back at No. 1.

Villanova is atop the latest Associated Press top 25 poll this week as the 8-0 Wildcats are off to a hot start. With Kentucky’s loss to UCLA and North Carolina’s loss at Indiana there were some major shakeups in the polls this week.

  1. Villanova (57 first-place votes)
  2. UCLA (2)
  3. Kansas
  4. Baylor
  5. Duke
  6. Kentucky
  7. North Carolina
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Louisville
  12. Saint Mary’s
  13. Xavier
  14. Virginia
  15. West Virginia
  16. Butler
  17. Purdue
  18. Wisconsin
  19. South Carolina
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Cincinnati
  23. Notre Dame
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State

 

Five things we learned last week: UCLA, Kentucky, the Big 12 and Lagerald Vick

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Isaac Hamilton #10 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Bam Adebayo #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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1. There’s a lot more to this UCLA team than just Lonzo Ball: Entering this weekend, that’s the name that everyone knew on UCLA. Ball is the team’s superstar freshman point guard, a player that has been compared favorably to Jason Kidd and whose ability to spray passes all over the floor is the biggest reason that the Bruins offense is a juggernaut.

But that offense isn’t going to be the difference-maker for the Bruins this season, because the Bruins were able to score last year, too.

No, the reason that UCLA has a chance to win a national title this season is that they can actually defend. They’re not Virginia. They’re not going to hold good teams to 50 points. They’re not going to be forcing 20 turnovers a night. They don’t have to. All they need to do is to be ‘good enough’ on that end of the floor. Limit penetration, protect the rim, clean the defensive glass.

If we learned anything on Saturday, it’s that the Bruins are going to be able to do the latter two things on that list. T.J. Leaf injected a shot of athleticism into the front court while Ike Anigbogu provides a physicality and a toughness they haven’t had in the paint under Alford. Throw in Thomas Welsh, who more than held his own against the Wildcats, and this is a pretty good front line that UCLA is working with.

And given what we already know about this team’s guards, that’s a scary proposition.

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Takeaways

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: De'Aaron Fox #0 and Isaiah Briscoe #13 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrate in the first half of the game against the UCLA Bruins at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

2. Kentucky is going to be just fine: Saturday’s loss was a humbling one for the Wildcats. After steam-rolling through literally everyone they’ve played this season – Kentucky entered the game having won by at least 21 points in every game – the Wildcats got outplayed by UCLA pretty thoroughly. That’s going to happen with young teams, regardless of how well they play against inferior competition, and it may happen again before SEC play starts; Kentucky still have to play North Carolina and Louisville before Christmas.

The Wildcats are an elite defensive team, and they are even better at scoring in transition. Where they struggle, however, is with half court offense. They simply don’t have enough shooters to be able to consistently create high-percentage looks against a set defense, and the way to force them into half court offense is, simply, to score on them. UCLA is one of just a handful of teams that has the guard play and the offensive weapons to be able to do that consistently for 40 minutes, and even then, it took the Bruins a while to grow into the game.

In other words, there aren’t very many teams that can do what UCLA did to Kentucky’s defense.

Thus, there aren’t very many teams that can actually beat Kentucky.

So don’t be worried about the ‘Cats.

They’ll be just fine.

3. Turns out, the Big 12 is really good: The narrative on the Big 12 entering the season was that the league was down outside of Kansas. The Jayhawks were the favorite to win the league just like they always are, but once you got past Bill Self’s club, there really wasn’t much of substance in the league.

That looks to be a dumb narrative.

It starts with Baylor, who has been awesome this season. The Bears picked up yet another excellent non-conference win on Saturday, coming from behind at halftime to beat No. 7 Xavier by 15 points in Waco. It turns out that Baylor actually has the supporting cast around Johnathan Motley to be relevant, and if the tournament was to start today, Baylor would very likely be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

Then there’s West Virginia, who went into Charlottesville and picked up a road win over No. 6 Virginia the same week that they forced 40 turnovers in a 40 minute game. Iowa State is probably still top 25 good, even with that home loss to Cincinnati last week, and we’d be remiss not to mention the play of both Texas Tech and TCU, the latter of whom is one of just two teams in the league and 11 teams in the country that are still undefeated.

Here’s the kicker: As of today, the No. 1 conference in college basketball, according to KenPom.com, is … the Big 12.

LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 29: Lagerald Vick #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks dunks on a fast break as Javonntie Jackson #35 of the Long Beach State 49ers looks on during the game at Allen Fieldhouse on November 29, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Lagerald Vick (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

4. Is LaGerald Vick the most surprising player in the league?: Baylor’s Manu Lecomte has been better than expected, as has his teammate, Jo Lual-Acuil. Jawun Evans has been a star for Oklahoma State, but we all knew that he was going to be good. Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson is leading TCU in points, assists and steals, but he was a good player for the Aggies before he left. We knew he would do good things in Fort Worth.

But Vick?

I’m not sure anyone expected Vick to develop into a starter for Kansas just weeks into the season, but here we are. He’s averaging double-figures on the season. He’s made 9-of-11 threes in the last three games, a stretch where he’s averaging 15.3 points. He’s been terrific defensively, and his presence has allowed Kansas to put plus-defenders on the floor at every position while playing small-ball lineups.

Who saw that coming?

5. So maybe the North Carolina hype train got a bit out of control: Yes, North Carolina played well early on this season. Yes, they were impressive in their wins against Chattanooga and in the Maui Invitational. Yes, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson have both gotten better.

But the fact that the narrative last week somehow turned into North Carolina being the most impressive team in college basketball seemed a little bit weird, a fact that was confirmed by UNC’s loss at Assembly Hall on Wednesday night.

Now let me be clear: There’s no shame in losing in Assembly Hall, not when IU was playing the way they were playing. But UNC dug themselves a 26-9 hole early in the first half that they were never really able to dig out of. They were rattled by the atmosphere. They did not play well at all, and I just don’t think that if this was truly the best team in college basketball, that doesn’t happen that way.

UNC is good, and probably better than many thought entering the season, but before we go anointing them the champs can we take a second to remember these are basically the same dudes we’ve been unimpressed by for a couple of years now?