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Player Of The Year Power Rankings: Let’s talk about that last first-team all-american spot

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Last week, I walked you through, step-by-step, how Trae Young managed to lose his stranglehold on the National Player of the Year race.

He’s still in front, but another pair of losses last week didn’t firm up the ground that he’s standing on. Not at all, although the three guys right behind him — Jalen Brunson, Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton — all did their best to avoid making up ground as all three lost a game at home.

That said, I still believe that those four are in a league of their own when it comes to the race to be named a first-team all-american, so today, I figured we should take a look at the race for that final spot on the first team. Here are the six guys I think have the best chance of playing their way onto that list:

THE FIRST-TEAMERS

1. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma
2. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova
3. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke
4. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona

FIVE FAVORITES FOR THE FINAL SPOT

5. KEITA BATES-DIOP, Ohio State: If the season ended today, I think that Bates-Diop would be the guy that I would pick to be the fifth first-team all-american. He’s the go-to guy and star player for an Ohio State team that has shocked just about everyone and played their way into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. He’s had big moments, too — he led the comeback from 14 points down at Purdue and made the game-winning shot.

6. KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans is putting up 18.4 points and 3.5 assists for an offensively-deficient teams while also playing stellar defense and taking games over at the drop of a hat. He had 38 points and hit the game-winning shot in overtime against Texas. He had 31 points in a come-from-behind win at South Carolina. He was the best player for the Red Raiders in their win at Kansas earlier this year, and it’s that win that has Chris Beard’s club in the driver’s seat to win the outright Big 12 title.

7. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: If the NCAA tournament started today, Xavier would not only be a No. 1 seed, they’d have a pretty strong grip on the third No. 1 seed with a shot at overtaking Villanova for that second overall spot. Bluiett has been the biggest reason why, making countless big shots and averaging 18.9 points on the season. Like Evans, Bluiett has a chance to upend a dynasty, taking Villanova off of the top spot in the Big East.

8. JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s: The Gaels were smoked at home by Gonzaga on Saturday night. Landale had four shots and didn’t get to the free throw in 37 minutes. He’s been phenomenal this season, but it’s hard to ignore that he had zero impact on what is arguably the biggest game of the year for that team.

9. GARY CLARK, Cincinnati: Clark’s numbers are never going to impress. He’s averaging 12.8 points, 8.8. boards, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. He’s also anchoring a defense that is second nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric and seems like a virtual lock to set a record in the KenPom era — since 2002 — for the fewest points-per-possession allowed in a season.

And just because, here’s the other Gary Clark shredding:

THREE MORE NAMES TO WATCH

10a. DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas: On the one hand, Graham is having a terrific season carrying the load for a team where he has to play 40 minutes a night as the primary ball-handler and best perimeter defender. He’s averaging 17.7 points, 7.3 assists and shooting 42.5 percent from three while playing on the ball this year. On the other hand, he might be the fourth Big 12 point guard in line for honors.

10a. LUKE MAYE, North Carolina: Who would have thought, back in October, that Luke freakin’ Maye would be anywhere near the conversation for an all-american team? No one. That’s who. Not even Luke freakin’ Maye. But here we are in mid-February and Maye is averaging 18.3 points, 10.4 boards and 2.4 assists for a UNC team that suddenly looks like they might end up as a top three seed come Selection Sunday.

10c. CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: I’m having a tough time picking someone on Purdue for this list. Edwards is the guy that I would put on this list, but that’s not exactly a consensus. If Michigan State has shown us anything, Isaac Haas is going to be Purdue’s most important player down the stretch of the season as teams focus their energy on taking away the three ball. And if you talk to coaches in the league — or Tom Crean — they’ll tell you that it’s actually Dakota Mathias who is the engine that makes that team run.

ALSO CONSIDERED: MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State; JEVON CARTER, West Virginia; CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State; CALEB MARTIN, Nevada

Bubble Banter: Big 12 doesn’t get any clearer

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Sunday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNER

BAYLOR (RPI: 53, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: First four out): Baylor picked up a massive win on Monday night at Texas, their fourth Quadrant 1 win of the year and their sixth win against the top two Quadrants. The Bears have now won four straight games with a schedule that finishes like this: Texas Tech, West Virginia, at TCU, Oklahoma, at Kansas State. That is a brutal run-in. I think 3-2 will get it done.

LOSERS

TCU (RPI: 27, KenPom: 25, NBC seed: 9): The Horned Frogs went into Morgantown on Monday night and did what teams normally do in Morgantown: They lost. It’s not a killer. TCU is now 3-8 against Quadrant 1 and 3-1 against Quadrant 2, their worst loss coming at Vanderbilt (125). The biggest issue for TCU at this point is that they only have one more Quadrant 1 game on their schedule, but that could be a good thing. If they win their next four games (Oklahoma State, at Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State) they probably will be in whether or not they beat Texas Tech on the road in the finale.

TEXAS (RPI: 55, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 10): The Longhorns lost in double-overtime at home against Baylor on Saturday, their fourth Quadrant 2 loss of the season. I still think the Longhorns are in a good spot because of the number of good wins that they have to their name. Texas, as of today, is 5-7 against Quadrant 1 and 7-11 against the top two Quadrants.

Andy Kennedy and Ole Miss expected to part ways

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Andy Kennedy is expected to announce that he is resigning as the head coach of Ole Miss at a presser conference on Monday afternoon, a source confirmed to NBC Sports.

He will coach the remainder of the season.

The news was first reported by Ole Miss Rivals’ site.

“In the final analysis, Coach Kennedy feels he needs a new platform and I believe that our program needs a new voice, a leader who can build upon the foundation that is in place thanks to Andy’s leadership,” athletic director Ross Bjork said.

Kennedy has been the head coach at Ole Miss for the past 12 seasons, becoming the all-time winningest coach in program history in the process. But in that timeframe, he’s been to just two NCAA tournaments and is on track to miss out on the postseason entirely for the second time in three seasons. They are currently 11-14 overall and just 4-8 in the SEC.

“I’ve been truly blessed to have the opportunity to be the head coach at the Southeastern Conference in my home state for 12 years. That is a true blessing. This I know,” Kennedy said, according to the Oxford Eagle. “I also know it’s time for a new voice and new vision for this program moving forward. “I have too much respect for this university. I have too much respect for being a head coach in the SEC to allow any speculation about my job status to create a divisive distraction for this program and the people who support it. I’m at complete peace with this decision.”

This is a tricky decision for the Rebels. I understand the desire to get new blood into a program, but new blood is not always better blood. Ask Pitt fans. They’ll tell you. I’m not sure how many people are going to be able to do what Kennedy did in Oxford. Since he was hired in 2006, the only SEC programs that have amassed more wins have been Kentucky and Florida.

It’s a hard job. It’s a football school in a football conference tucked away in a corner of a state that isn’t exactly known for producing prodigious amounts of basketball talent.

Kennedy has been the head coach for 29 percent of the program’s trips to the NCAA tournament. He won one of their two SEC tournament titles. He got a $96.5 million arena built for the basketball programs. And, as one former staffer told me, he made people at Ole Miss care about basketball.

That, quite frankly, may be what success looks like at that school.

Some names that could replace Kennedy at that program: Middle Tennessee State’s Kermit Davis, East Tennessee State’s Steve Forbes, Georgia State’s Ron Hunter.

 

Virginia climbs atop AP Top 25 for first time since 1982

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Virginia has climbed to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the first time in more than 35 years.

The Cavaliers earned 30 of 65 first-place votes in Monday’s latest poll to outdistance No. 2 Michigan State. Virginia had suffered an overtime home loss Saturday to Virginia Tech, part of an upset-filled week that saw the top three teams lose.

But Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers rose above the turmoil at the top, climbing a slot to No. 1 for the first time since December 1982 — the senior season of 7-foot-4 great Ralph Sampson.

The Spartans climbed two slots after their win against Purdue, while last week’s No. 1 Villanova fell to third after a home loss to St. John’s.

Xavier and Cincinnati rounded out the top five.

Here is the rest of the top 25:

1. Virginia (30 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (21)
3. Villanova (9)
4. Xavier (5)
5. Cincinnati
6. Purdue
7. Texas Tech
8. Ohio State
9. Gonzaga
10. Auburn
11. Clemson
12. Duke
13. Kansas
14. North Carolina
15. Saint Mary’s
16. Rhode Island
17. Arizona
18. Tennessee
19. Wichita State
20. West Virginia
21. Texas A&M
22. Michigan
23. Oklahoma
24. Nevada
25. Arizona State

Texas A&M’s Caldwell dismissed, Chandler suspended indefinitely

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M basketball player J.J. Caldwell has been dismissed from the team and Jay Jay Chandler has been suspended indefinitely after the two were arrested Sunday for possession of marijuana.

The school announced the punishments for the freshmen Sunday, saying they violated Texas A&M policy.

Brazos County Jail records indicate that both players were arrested by Texas A&M police on Sunday for marijuana possession. They each posted $2,000 bond and were released.

This isn’t the first time Caldwell has been in trouble after the guard was suspended for the first five games of the season for violating school policy. The school did not elaborate on the reason for his suspension at the time, but Brazos County court records indicated that he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated in May. That case was dismissed Sept. 20.

Caldwell has appeared in 16 games this season with five starts and was averaging 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds. Chandler has appeared in 24 games with four starts and was averaging four points and one rebound a game.

Another Aggie guard, Duane Wilson, has been playing through a partially torn ACL and appeared to aggravate the injury on Saturday night in a win over No. 24 Kentucky.

Georgia Tech’s Jose Alvarado to miss remainder of season

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ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech point guard Jose Alvarado will miss the remainder of the season after fracturing his left elbow.

Coach Josh Pastner said Monday X-rays showed the fracture. The injury, suffered when Alvarado fell on his arm in Sunday’s 80-69 loss to No. 9 Duke, initially was described as a dislocated elbow.

Pastner said the fracture will require a recovery period of six to eight weeks, meaning Alvarado also is ruled out for the postseason.

“He’s done,” Pastner said. “Even if we went on a run and went to the Final Four he wouldn’t play the remainder of the year.”

Alvarado is second on the team with his average of 12.1 points per game and had been a durable mainstay in Georgia Tech’s lineup. The freshman played every minute in eight games, including the Yellow Jackets’ previous four contests.

Alvarado and center Ben Lammers are Georgia Tech’s only players to start every game this season. Pastner said Lammers is playing “on a bum ankle, so it’s been a tough year for injuries.”

The loss of Alvarado comes as Georgia Tech (11-14, 4-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) has lost three straight and seven of eight.

Pastner said he hasn’t selected a replacement at point guard for Wednesday night’s game at Wake Forest.

Freshmen Moses Wright and Evan Cole likely will move into more prominent roles. The two combined for 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists against Duke, helping the Yellow Jackets cut into the Blue Devils’ lead.

Wright and Cole made an impression on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“Both played really well,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean big-time plays. In this game, Josh probably found something. He found two kids that want to play.”

Pastner said the two freshmen “were very good” after giving them “extra lifting, extra individual skill work, literally treating them as redshirt guys even though they weren’t redshirts. I think that extra work paid off and it showed last night and they’ll get more time moving forward.”

Top scorer Josh Okogie and Brandon Alston likely will be given more ball-handling duties, but Pastner said the loss of Alvarado will be difficult to overcome.

“We’re just going to have to compete and fight and scrap and kick and claw our way back to give ourselves a chance,” Pastner said. “We’re undermanned but we’re going to have to find a way. We’re going to have to compete and find a way to give us the best chance.”