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Player of the Year Power Rankings: Frank Mason III makes up ground on Josh Hart

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1. Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart had his worst game of the season at Butler on Wednesday, as he finished with 13 points on 3-for-11 shooting as he battled foul trouble and the Wildcats dropped their first game since last March. His response? 19 points and seven assists in a win over Marquette at home.

2. Frank Mason III, Kansas
: I’m going to keep on beating this drum, but it’s ridiculous how under-appreciated Mason is this season. Here are his numbers: 19.9 points, 5.7 assists, 4.5 boards and just 2.4 turnovers while shooting 53 percent from the floor and 52.3 percent from three on more than four threes a night. Here is Kansas’ record since a season-opening, overtime loss to Indiana in which Mason had 30 points and nine assists: 14-0.

3. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: After playing a fairly poor game at Oregon to open Pac-12 play, Ball has bounced back in his last three games by averaging 19.3 points, 7.3 assists, 5.7 boards, 2.3 steals and 1.7 blocks while shooting 52.8 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three. I think he bounced back from his “slump”.

4. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Caleb Swanigan now has 13 double-doubles and eight in his last eight games, a stretch that has also seen him notch three 20-20 games, two of which he eclipsed 28 points. He’s averaging 18.3 points and 12.9 boards on the season, and if Big Ten play, he’s posting 20.8 points and 14.0 boards. Oh, and should I mention Purdue is coming off of a statement win over Wisconsin on Sunday?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 17:  Caleb Swanigan #50 of the Purdue Boilermakers dunks the ball during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 17, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Caleb Swanigan (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

5. Luke Kennard, Duke: In the last two games, I think we’ve started to get a glimpse of what Kennard’s role is going to be moving forward. He scored 25 combined points against Georgia Tech and Boston College on just 13 total shots. That’s what happens with Grayson Allen back, Jayson Tatum hitting his stride and Harry Giles III moving into the starting lineup. What a luxury it would be to have a guy as good as Kennard taking six shots a night.

6. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: For my money, Fox is the best player on Kentucky. He’s the point-man of their defense, he’s the engine of their fast break and he’s the guy that creates shots for the players on the roster that can’t do it for themselves. As good as Malik Monk is and as lethal as he can be as a scorer, he can’t affect a game is as many different ways as Fox.

7. Mo Watson, Creighton: Like Fox, Watson is the engine of one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses. The nation’s leader in assists, Watson is the guy that leads the break and he’s the guy who, in the half court, can get into the lane and find the myriad of shooters that populate the Creighton lineup.

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8. Dwayne Bacon, Florida State: Bacon has developed into one of the best and most efficient wing scorers in college hoops this season. How? His turnovers are way down and his shooting numbers are up across the board, specifically from beyond the arc, where he’s hitting 37.1 percent from deep. He also has a signature performance already, when he scored 26 second half points and hit the game-winner at Virginia. He’s very much in the race for all-american.

9. Malik Monk, Kentucky: Monk’s last five games:

  • 47 points, 18-28 FGs, 8-12 3PTs
  • 16 points, 6-17 FGs, 1-9 3PTs
  • 34 points, 11-16 FGs, 5-7 3PTs
  • 26 points, 8-11 FGs, 5-7 3PTs
  • 12 points, 4-10 FGs, 0-5 3PTs

That’s the streakiness reputation that Monk has developed in action. The good news for Kentucky is that A) it only has cost them once this season, a road game against a top 10 team, and B) when Monk is hot, he’s been far better than anyone could have predicted.

10. Johnathan Motley, Baylor: Baylor is undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country, but the only player from that team that sniffs this list slid a spot to No. 10? That’s just how this team is built. Motley is their leading scorer, but is he their best player? Is Manu Lecomte? Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated made the argument last week that a guy that is averaging 5.5 points is actually their most valuable player. The Bears are good, but star power isn’t the only way to win college basketball games.

JUST MISSED THE CUT

Joel Berry II, North Carolina
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Markelle Fultz, Washington
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
Kelan Martin, Butler
Yante Maten, Georgia
Alec Peters, Valparaiso
Melo Trimble, Maryland

Kentucky fans flood Facebook page of official John Higgins’ company with negative reviews

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Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.

The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.

Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.

When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.

Report: North Carolina to miss out on NCAA events through 2022 if HB2 not addressed by Thursday

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North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.

Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.

Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.

Baylor’s Freeman to graduate and transfer

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Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.

Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.

“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”

Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.

As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.

Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner declares for NBA Draft

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Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.

“First let me start by saying these three years at Xavier have been the best of my life,” Sumner said in a statement. “I have certainly been presented with some ups and downs but they have only served to make me a stronger person. This decision was very hard for me because of the love I have for X. After weighing my options with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I want to thank Coach Mack and the rest of the staff for believing in me and giving me a chance when no one did! I’ll always be grateful for that. Xavier Nation I will always love you!”

Sumner, a 6-foot-6 point guard with dynamic athleticism and first round potential that averaged 15.0 points, but he is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in January. He’s likely to be a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

This is a big loss for the Musketeers, but it’s one that they planned for. After his eruption last season, most expected him to put his name in the draft this season.

Duke freshman Harry Giles III declares for NBA Draft

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Harry Giles III has declared for the NBA Draft after playing just one season at Duke.

“Playing in the NBA has been my goal for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to take the next step in that journey,” Giles said. “My time at Duke has been a dream come true. I’ve built so many strong relationships here and I have so many people to thank, from my teammates and coaches to our medical staff and strength coach. I can’t understate how proud I am to be part of the Duke Basketball program forever.”

Giles played in 26 games for the Blue Devils. He started six games and averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Giles. At one point considered to be the best player in the loaded Class of 2016, Giles has dealt with a pair of devastating knee injuries already. He underwent a third surgery right before the start of the season and never seemed like he was fully able to get back to being the player he was when he was in high school.

This is the right decision for Giles to make, as there is still some uncertainty regarding the health of his knees. Were his struggles due to the fact that he was tossed right into the middle of a college basketball season after having sat out for 14 straight months, or was this simply a result of knees that no longer allow him to be the player that he used to be?

He might still end up being a first round pick this year. At the very least, he’s make some guaranteed money if he can get into a camp. Maybe returning to school could have helped vault him into the lottery in 2018, but another year like this year would’ve firebombed his draft stock.

“With his uplifting personality and love for the game, Harry Giles has been a joy to coach,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is only beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be on the basketball court. Harry has an exciting NBA future ahead of him and we are here to fully support him as a member of our brotherhood.”

I know I’m not alone when I say I hope that Giles gets healthy and succeeds in the NBA.