Player of the Year Power Rankings: It’s time for Frank Kaminsky to get his due

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1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: I went in-depth on this topic last week, but Frank Kaminsky is statistically having one of the greatest seasons in recent history. Wisconsin is on pace to finish the season as the most efficient offense in the KenPom era, which dates back to 2002. And Kaminsky is the biggest factor in that offense, notching an obscene 126.7 player rating while using 27.8 percent of Wisconsin’s possessions. The only player to have a rating that high while using that many possessions since 2004 was Utah State’s Spencer Nelson back in 2005. That same season, Travis Diener posted a 126.6 offensive rating while using 30.5 percent of Marquette’s possessions. For comparison’s sake, in 2008, Kevin Love finished the season with an offensive rating of 126.6 while using 27.7 percent of UCLA’s possessions.

That’s a lot of numbers to throw at you, but where Okafor was a clear front-runner for the Player of the Year award for much of the first three months of the season, at this point, I think Kaminsky has overtaken him at this point. That’s less of a knock on Okafor than it is recognition for the season that Kaminsky is having.

So while you chew on that, let’s watch Frank Kaminsky pass out when he hears that he’s the No. 2 pick in Gameday’s college basketball draft:

2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: Okafor’s limitations on the defensive end of the floor were on full display on Monday night, as the seven-footer was on the receiving end of a brutal Mozgoving at the hands of Florida State’s Phil Cofer. Despite his size and his wingspan, Okafor couldn’t get up high enough to do anything other than foul Cofer on his way to the rim.

That said, I’ve watched a lot of tape on Duke defensively over the last two days, and I actually think Okafor is getting better on that end of the floor. He’s never going to be a defensive menace the likes of Anthony Davis or, say, Tyson Chandler, but I think that his issues this season have had just as much to do with, A) Inexperience when it comes to his ability to defend outside of the paint, specifically in ball-screen actions, and B) An effort by the Duke coaching to keep him out of foul trouble and on the floor. He’s been much better on that end in the wins over Notre Dame and Florida State, but he also missed extended minutes in both first halves with two fouls.

Anyway, Okafor had some funny words about the poster last night:

If you’ve never been dunked on, you’ve never played basketball at a high level.

3. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State: I’m running out of things to say about Russell this season, so instead of be bombarding you with stats and number proving how good he is, why don’t you just watch every highlight from his 23-point, 11-assist, 11-rebound triple double against Rutgers. The passes he throws are on another level:

4. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: Jerian Grant struggled mightily in Notre Dame’s ugly loss at Duke on Saturday, finishing with just seven points and four assists. It wasn’t the kind of sterling performance we’ve come to expect from the All-American, but credit needs to be given to Quinn Cook, who face-guarded Grant from the tip and forced Notre Dame to essentially play four-on-four.

5. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Karl Towns has been Kentucky’s best player over the course of the last week, but after watching the Wildcats move past both Georgia and Florida this week, I was reminded why Cauley-Stein ranked so high on this list earlier in the season. He’s arguably the most important piece in Kentucky’s historically good defense. He doesn’t log as many blocked shots as Towns, but that’s because Cauley-Stein is typically guarding the more perimeter-oriented big man, the just most likely to be used in ball-screen actions. And it’s his ability to switch onto ball-handlers that has made the Wildcats so good in that area. According to Synergy, Kentucky allows just 0.652 points-per-possession against pick-and-rolls, which is second nationally to Rhode Island. Oh, and this:

6. Kris Dunn, Providence: Dunn doesn’t get the hype that guys like D’Angelo Russell and Delon Wright do, but he’s having just as good of a season running the show for a Providence team that may very well be the second-best in the Big East. He’s averaging 15.1 points, 7.5 assists, 6.0 boards and 2.6 steals, and while the knock on him his entire career has been his ability to shoot from the perimeter, but he’s 10-for-20 from three in the last six games. He’d be higher on this list if it wasn’t for the 4.3 turnovers he averages.

7. Delon Wright, Utah: Wright has been terrific this season, but it’s hard not to notice just how much he as struggled in Utah’s losses to Arizona and UCLA. Against the Wildcats, he started hot but finished with just 10 points. Against UCLA, his final stat line was decent enough — 15 points, six boards, two assists on 6-for-9 shooting — but the Bruins took him away from 36 minutes in a game that Utah trailed by a large margin for the entire second half.

9. Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson went down with a broken finger on his left (shooting) hand that will require surgery and keep him out until the postseason. Anderson wasn’t necessarily a go-to guy for Virginia, but he is their best perimeter defender and was shooting just under 50.0 percent from three.

9. Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: I’m going to give the man they call Rak some love here because it seems like it’s the only place where anyone will give him the respect that he’s due. Christmas is one of the greatest stories in college basketball this season, going from a three-year bit player for the Orange to a center averaging 18.5 points, 9.6 boards and 2.3 blocks, the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal Syracuse season. Christmas won’t be playing in the postseason this year thanks to the utterly shameful, self-imposed ban that the university put into place, but that shouldn’t take any of the luster off of what has been a phenomenal year for him.

10. T.J. McConnell, Arizona: Stanley Johnson may actually be a more deserving Player of the Year candidate, but McConnell deserves some love as well. Outside of Delon Wright, there may not be a more important player in the Pac-12 this year. McConnell is the quintessential point guard for Sean Miller, a guy who has no issue distributing the ball but has proven he can take over a game when his team needs him to.

OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Ron Baker (Wichita State), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Kyle Collinsworth (BYU), Tyler Haws (BYU), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Jarell Martin (LSU), Jordan Mickey (LSU), Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Bobby Portis (Arkansas), Juwan Staten (West Virginia), Melo Trimble (Maryland), Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa), Brad Waldow (St. Mary’s), Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga), Joseph Young (Oregon)

Louisville’s Deng Adel and Ray Spalding to test draft process

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A season that began with the firing of Rick Pitino in mid-October came to an end Tuesday night, as Louisville lost to Mississippi State 79-56 in a Postseason NIT regional final. There are a lot of questions to be answered, most notably who will lead the program moving forward after interim head coach David Padgett led the Cardinals to 22 wins.

As for the players, two announced following the loss that they will be going through the NBA Draft process. Junior wing Deng Adel and junior forward Ray Spalding both confirmed that they will be entering the NBA Draft but not hiring agents, so as to preserve their collegiate eligibility should they decide to return to school.

This will be the second time that Adel has entered the NBA Draft, doing so last spring before making the decision to return to school.

Playing just over 33 minutes per game, the 6-foot-8 Adel averaged 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest, shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from three. Moving into the starting lineup after serving as a reserve in each of his first two seasons at Louisville, the 6-foot-10 Spalding averaged 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 27.4 minutes per game.

Mississippi State advances to NIT semifinals at MSG

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Mississippi State advanced to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York with a 79-56 victory over Louisville on Tuesday night.

Mississippi State (25-11) will face Penn State (24-13) on March 27.

Lamar Peters opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and Mississippi State led by at least nine points the rest of the way. Weatherspoon scored eight points during a 12-3 run to start the third for a 51-31 advantage and MSU cruised.

Aric Holman added 16 points and eight rebounds for Mississippi State, which has won its most games since the 2009-10 season. Xavian Stapleton and Nick Weatherspoon each chipped in with 12 points. Abdul Ado had three blocks to tie Jarvis Varnado for the most blocks by a MSU freshman with 67.

Ray Spalding paced Louisville (22-14) with 13 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. The Cardinals shot 35 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 42-32.

Gregg Marshall does right by Alex Lomax with NLI release

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Memphis introduced Penny Hardaway as its new head coach Tuesday morning, with the former Tiger great and Memphis native making his triumphant return to campus.

And it didn’t take long for Hardaway’s hiring to have an impact on the recruiting trail either, as the point guard who led Hardaway’s Memphis East squad to its third straight TSSAA AAA state title is expected to play for his longtime mentor.

Alex Lomax, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Gregg Marshall at Wichita State, requested to be released from his NLI on Tuesday. It didn’t take Marshall long to make his decision, granting Lomax’s request and citing the unique circumstances in his statement as to why.

“Obviously, we take commitments to the Shocker program very seriously, but this is a very unique situation where a young man’s mentor and coach since the 5th grade has become a Division I head coach,” Marshall said. “Allowing him out of his NLI without any penalty is the right thing to do.”

The National Letter of Intent, for those who may not be too familiar with it, is a document that when signed binds the recruit in question to the school they’ve committed to. If the circumstances surrounding the recruitment change, getting released from the NLI can be incredibly difficult. Coaches and universities have no obligation to release a recruit once they sign, and it seems like every year we run into a situation where a coach is refusing to so.

Kansas point guard Devonte’ Graham is only a senior this season because, after signing an NLI with Appalachian State, he was not given a release and forced to go to prep school for a year. That’s not as uncommon as you might think.

That is also perfectly within the bounds of the rules, if not the laws of being a decent human being.

Wichita State and Marshall could have taken this opportunity to make life miserable for Lomax, and there would have been those who rushed to say that since the young man made a commitment he should stick by it no matter what. Lomax was a noteworthy recruiting win for the program during its first season in the American Athletic Conference, as the Wichita State went into Memphis and landed a pledge from a prospect who was likely to be a key part of the program’s plans moving forward.

But the hit that comes with allowing Lomax to leave without fuss is far less severe than what happens if Wichita State and Marshall make things difficult for him.

Faced with the opportunity to do the right thing and help out a young player, Marshall and Wichita State did just that.

The program should, and will, be applauded for it.

Stevens’ 30 points leads Penn State past Marquette in NIT

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Lamar Stevens tied his career high with 30 points, Tony Carr added 25 and Penn State beat Marquette 85-80 on Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

The Nittany Lions (24-13) will face either Mississippi State or Louisville at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27. They advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since winning the 2009 tournament.

Stevens hit three crucial buckets in the final three minutes, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Josh Reaves for an eight-point lead with one minute left. The 6-foot-8 Stevens then maneuvered through a couple Marquette players to secure a rebound off Andrew Rowsey’s missed 3 with 46 seconds left.

Carr went 5 of 8 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to give Marquette another chance. Rowsey hit a 3 and a layup to get the Golden Eagles as close as 83-80 with six seconds left before the Golden Eagles ran out of time.

Rowsey, a senior, scored 29 points for Marquette (21-14).

The Golden Eagles had whittled a 14-point deficit early in the second half to 72-68 with 2:39 left on three foul shots by Rowsey. Penn State went nearly three minutes without a bucket and got sloppy with the ball and the sharpshooting Golden Eagles started hitting 3s to get back in the game.

Report: Joseph Chartouny to transfer from Fordham

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After three seasons at Fordham, guard Joseph Chartouny will be leaving the school to play his final year elsewhere. News of Chartouny’s transfer was reported Tuesday afternoon by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, and the 6-foot-3 guard from Montreal will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.

Chartouny made 28 starts for the Rams this season, averaging 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals in 36.0 minutes per game. Leading the nation in both total steals and steals per game, Chartouny was an Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team selection.

In three seasons at Fordham Chartouny, the 2016 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, averaged 11.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Given his abilities as a defender and a distributor, Chartouny stands to be a popular player amongst programs looking to add an immediately eligible contributor who also has ample experience at the Division I level.

With Chartouny reportedly moving on, Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer has a significant hole to fill in his backcourt rotation for 2018-19.

Transfers Antwon Portley (Saint Peters’s) and Erten Gazi (DePaul) will be eligible next season, with reserve Cavit Havsa set to be a junior next season. Fordham’s also landed three perimeter recruits in its 2018 class, with three-star point guard Nick Honor among that trio.