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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

SMU gets transfer in Georgetown’s Akoy Agau

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SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.

Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.

South Carolina loses big man Sedee Keita to transfer

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South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.

Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.

A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.

Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.

 

N.C. State lands second transfer of day with Utah’s Devon Daniels

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A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.

N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.

 

UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce follows Kevin Keatts to N.C. State

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N.C. State landed an impact transfer on Saturday as UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce will be following former head coach Kevin Keatts to the Wolfpack, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com

The 6-foot-5 Bryce averaged 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season as he helped the Seahawks to an NCAA tournament appearance. Bryce will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations, but he’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out one season.

With N.C. State getting center Omer Yurtseven back for next season, and with the addition of Bryce, it means that Keatts has retained, or added, some talented players for the next few seasons. The Wolfpack still have to fill a lot of roster spots from last season’s team, but Keatts seems to be having a really good week.