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Player of the Year Power Rankings: Mason, Hart still have an edge over Happ, Swanigan

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1. Frank Mason III, Kansas: Mason churned out one of his best performances of the season on Saturday, pouring in 32 points and dishing out six assists to help the Jayhawks get to overtime against an Iowa State team that hit roughly 100 – or 18 – threes in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. That came three days after he had 19 points and six assists in a win over Baylor and two days before he had 21 points in a win at Kansas State.

The game at Kansas State was the one that really stood out. Mason did not play well at all, at least not to his standards, and still managed to make a handful of critical shots and one of the best plays you’ll see this season all way looking like Michael Jordan during the flu game after playing 117 minutes in the last six days.

2. Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart closed the gap on Mason a little bit this week, going for 17 points in a win at Providence and backing that up with 26 points, nine boards and five assists as the Wildcats knocked off St. John’s. I think the biggest thing standing in Hart’s way at this point is that he is playing in a conference where the other three contenders have all run into a wall. Butler seemingly lost their ability to play basketball well while Creighton and Xavier both lost star point guards. How many big, statement games is he going to have the rest of the season? How many chances will he have to put up 30 points in the biggest game of the day, the game that everyone is watching?

Hart had his Player of the Year moments early on this season. I wonder how many more he’ll have this year.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 28: Ethan Happ #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates their 61-54 overtime win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in an NCAA college basketball game at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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3. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
4. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Happ vs. Swanigan remains the most interesting subplot in the Player of the Year race. Swanigan was unbelievable this week, averaging 25 points and 13 boards as Purdue beat two of the teams ahead of them in the Big Ten standings, Northwestern and Maryland. Happ averaged 17 points and 10 boards, but also added five steals and three blocks in wins over Indiana and Illinois.

To be frank, I don’t think there is a wrong answer here. Personally, I think Happ has the edge because of the player that he is on the defensive end of the floor. Swanigan is a better shooter, yes, and Happ’s struggles from the free throw line are an issue, but I think that the way Wisconsin plays nullifies some of Happ’s shooting woes and his ability to defend is much more important for a team that plays a fewer number of possessions.

That said, Swanigan was just so, so, so good this week. If you lean his way, I don’t really have an argument to make against it.

5. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: The Bruins snapped a two-game losing streak this week, going to the Washington schools and sweeping them without breaking much of a sweat. On Saturday, in a 41-point win at Washington, Ball outplayed the likely No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Markelle Fultz.

6. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: Williams-Goss has become the go-to guy for Gonzaga. I explained his importance to that team here.

7. Luke Kennard, Duke: The Blue Devils look like they’re starting to put the pieces together this season, as their offense is now running through Kennard and Grayson Allen. We’ve been saying all along that as more players get involved in Duke’s attack, Kennard’s spot on this list is probably going to start to slide, but given just how important he’s been this season to the Blue Devils, he absolutely deserves to be in the mix for first-team all-american.

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8. Lauri Markannen, Arizona: It was not a good week for Markkanen, who had just 12 points in two games as Arizona struggled to get past Oregon State and then got humiliated by Oregon on Saturday.

9. Johnathan Motley, Baylor: Motley and the Bears did not have the best week last week, going 0-2 with an understandable loss at Phog Allen Fieldhouse and a headscratching loss at home against Kansas State. The one thing that was abundantly clear in both of those games, however, is that the Bears, who are a legitimate national title contender, are at their best when they are running everything through Motley.

10. Josh Jackson, Kansas: Kansas just went through one of the toughest five-game stretches you’ll see anyone play this season – at West Virginia, at Kentucky, Baylor at home, Iowa State at home, at Kansas State, all in the span of 13 days. Jackson in those five games: 19.8 points, 7.4 boards and 1.6 steals while shooting 11-for-19 from three. He’s the best player on Kansas, and that includes Mason.

JUST MISSED THE CUT

De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Joel Berry II, North Carolina
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Malik Monk, Kentucky
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
Markelle Fultz, Washington
Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s
Alec Peters, Valparaiso

Alabama loses Nick King, Brandon Austin to transfer

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Alabama is losing a pair to transfer as junior Nick King and sophomore Brandon Austin are planning to transfer, according to a release.

The 6-foot-7 King is expected to graduate and be eligible to play anywhere right away as a graduate transfer while the 6-foot-5 Austin will likely have to sit out a season before playing.

King started his career at Memphis but transferred to Alabama. A former starter at small forward, King played the first seven games of the season until a lung infection shut down his season. He averaged 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game before shutting it down.

A former top-50 recruit from the Class of 2013, King will look to jumpstart his career elsewhere during his final season of college basketball.

Austin only appeared in six games and played a total of 44 minutes this season as he also dealt with injuries like an early bone bruise.

The Crimson Tide are bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country next season as their freshmen could see a lot of playing time. So it comes as no surprise that players like King and Austin would transfer to assure more playing time.

Candidates Georgetown could target for head coach

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Georgetown moved on from head coach John Thompson III after 13 years at the helm on Thursday as the move sent shockwaves throughout college basketball.

The Thompson family has been a major institution for Georgetown basketball, dating back to the ’70s when John Thompson Jr. was head coach. So this new hire for the Hoyas will be a fascinating process.

Here’s a list of some early names that could be involved with Georgetown.

Tommy Amaker, Harvard — With a successful tenure at Harvard that at one point included four NCAA tournament bids in a row, Amaker has won at his latest job while coaching at an elite academic institution.

Put together with previous stops at Seton Hall and Michigan and Amaker has run a big-time program while also winning at an Ivy League school. Leaving Harvard might be tough though when Amaker is beginning to recruit at a national level at the program.

Jamion Christian, Mount St. Mary’s — Five years at Mount St. Mary’s has produced two NCAA tournament appearances for Christian as the 34-year-old would represent a bold, young hire for Georgetown.

Also an assistant coach for a season at VCU under Shaka Smart, Christian has recruited in that area before and he’s regarded by many as one of the bright, young head coaches in a low-major league. Coming from Smart at VCU, it should come as no surprise that Christian plays an uptempo system and presses on defense.

It would be a bit risky for Georgetown to hire someone as young as Christian but he also has the kind of enthusiasm to lead the tough rebuild that the Hoyas potentially face.

Nathan Davis, Bucknell — After leading Bucknell to the NCAA tournament in only his second season as a Division I head coach, Davis is someone to keep an eye on for the future.

The Washington D.C. native has quickly established himself as a potential young star in the coaching ranks but he also might be too inexperienced to take one of the Big East’s prestige positions. As a Division I head coach for only two seasons, Davis hasn’t faced the pressure of the high-major level at any of his previous coaching stops. Davis certainly deserves credit for his Division III coaching success and Final Four appearance with Randolph-Macon (Bo Ryan was pretty good in DIII before moving to Division I) but that’s a long way from the Big East.

Davis would have to prove that he’s capable as a coach and recruiter at the Big East level and he would be a risk if hired by the Hoyas.

Patrick Ewing Sr., Charlotte Hornets assistant  — The Hall of Fame center and Georgetown alum would be an intriguing name. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that the Hoyas are considering Ewing as a potential head coach.

This wouldn’t just be a Chris Mullin at St. John’s type of scenario where Mullin had no coaching experience before taking the job. Ewing has been grinding as an NBA assistant coach for the past 15 years in the hopes of getting an NBA head coaching job. Georgetown represents an unique opportunity for Ewing to rebuild his former program and his son, Patrick Ewing Jr., would potentially work for him.

Recruiting would obviously be a major question mark but Ewing has the playing and coaching pedigree to be a wild card in this.

Dan Hurley, Rhode Island — The Rams finally broke through and made the NCAA Tournament in Hurley’s fifth year as head coach this season as Rhode Island made the second round before falling to Oregon in a close game.

Of the coaches on this list, the Rams have recruited a lot of top-100 prospects and futures pros like E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin, so we know that Hurley knows how to navigate elite recruiting.

As the son of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley and younger brother of Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley, Dan Hurley comes from a long line of basketball coaches. He’s made Rhode Island one of the premier programs in the Atlantic 10. Although he’s only made one NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons as a head coach, Hurley has things trending in the right direction.

Shaka Smart, Texas — This isn’t likely going to happen but Georgetown is at least going to call. Since Smart was so successful at nearby VCU before taking the Texas job, the Hoyas are going to see if he’d be interested in returning to the area after this season’s disappointing last-place Big 12 finish.

If this Georgetown coaching position had been made available two years ago, before Smart had taken the Texas job, then it would have been intriguing to see where things might stand between the two. But now that Smart has at least four, four-star prospects entering Texas next season, while returning most of the current roster, he has a chance to build from this season’s last-place finish.

VIDEO: Why did the NCAA ban dunking in 1967?

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With UCLA playing in the Sweet 16 tonight, it’s a fitting time to bring up the story of the time that the association banned dunking.

It was in 1967, and it was because there was a kid named Lew Alcindor (who would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) at UCLA who led the Bruins to a 30-0 record and a national title.

And just think, that rule change, which lasted until 1976, kept some of the game’s greatest dunkers from showing what they could really do in college. Imagine David Thompson rattling rims, rather than his assortment of finger-rolls and layups. Dr. J soared at UMass, but never like Dr. J really could. And so on.

So as you’re watching the rest of the NCAA tournament, thank the rule-makers who brought the dunk back. We’re better for it.

Cleveland State hires Dennis Felton as head coach

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Cleveland State has found its next head coach as the school announced the hiring of Dennis Felton.

A veteran head coach with previous stops at Western Kentucky and Georgia, Felton made three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with the Hilltoppers before taking the job with the Bulldogs before the 2003-04 season.

Felton takes over for previous head coach Gary Waters, who retired after 11 seasons at Cleveland State.

“I’m extremely excited to return to the head coaching ranks with this opportunity at Cleveland State University,” Felton said in the release. “I’m grateful to Dr. Berkman and Mike Thomas for the opportunity to lead this program. Cleveland State is an outstanding University that continues to grow in stature on the national landscape. I’m eager to start working with our players to build a championship program and getting out to share my vision of how we plan to partner with the entire community to do special things at Cleveland State.”

Felton made one NCAA Tournament appearance in six seasons with Georgia as he was fired in the middle of the 2008-09 season. Having a tough time overcoming NCAA sanctions lobbied after the Jim Harrick’s time with the school, Felton’s time with the Bulldogs never got rolling as he dealt with scholarship limitations and other obstacles.

After his time coaching in college, Felton spent time as a college scout with the Phoenix Suns before becoming director of pro player personnel for the San Antonio Spurs for a few seasons.

Cleveland State finished 18-45 over the last two seasons as they’ve struggled in the Horizon League. Felton will be tasked with turning the Vikings around as he hopes to find some of the magic that helped make Western Kentucky a consistent winner.

But with NBA connections and a lot of head coaching experience, Cleveland State made a solid hire here.

Frank Kaminsky trolls Arizona after high school teammate Sean O’Mara gets winning basket for Xavier

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No. 11 seed Xavier’s upset win over No. 2 seed Arizona left a lot of people stunned late Thursday night. Naturally, people took to Twitter to share their opinions of the Musketeers advancing to the Elite Eight to face No. 1 seed Gonzaga.

Some of those with comments on Arizona’s loss included members of Wisconsin’s back-to-back Final Four teams in 2014 and 2015. You might recall that the Badgers eliminated the Wildcats in both years in the Elite Eight to make the trips to the Final Four–so there is some history here between the two schools.

The Twitter comments started with former Wisconsin guard Ben Brust questioning Arizona head coach Sean Miller for going away from his big men. Brust’s “should have kept touching the big Serb” comment would indicate that getting touches for Arizona center Dusan Ristic was important–although others were pointing out freshman Lauri Markkanen’s minimal involvement in the Arizona offense during the last 10 minutes.

That’s when former Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky entered the discussion and promptly shut things down.

Wisconsin’s personal history with Arizona hit closer for Kaminsky than a normal game when Xavier junior big man Sean O’Mara scored the game-winning bucket for the Musketeers with just under a minute left.

There’s a major connection here. O’Mara hails from Benet Academy in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, the same high school program that produced Kaminsky.

So Kaminsky made sure to mention that after the loss.

When Kaminsky was a senior and Benet started its season 29-0 and was nationally ranked in the USA Today High School rankings, O’Mara was the freshman big man that Kaminsky was beating up in practice every day.

While Kaminsky has turned into a productive member of the Charlotte Hornets rotation this season, O’Mara is having himself a solid 2017 NCAA Tournament run as he’s averaging 12.3 points a game after putting up 6.1 per game during the regular season.

We definitely know who Kaminsky will be rooting for when it comes to the West Region.