Rob Dauster

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 19:  Darreon Reddick #14 of the Tennessee State Tigers watches as Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the basket during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 19, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

VIDEO: It was only a matter of time before Grayson Allen had another viral moment

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Back in September, when we announced that Grayson Allen would be the NBC Sports Preseason National Player of the Year, I wrote a story on Allen and how a pair of tripping incidents last season turned him into college basketball’s villain.

In it, I discussed how Allen’s inability to control his anger in those two moments changed the public perception of him for the rest of his career. Specifically, I wrote this:

Any little flashpoint involving Allen is going to become ‘a thing’ very quickly, and it’s fair to wonder if a fear of another incident — either consciously or subconsciously — will affect the way he plays this season.

There’s nothing he can say that will change this, either. This isn’t something that he’ll be able to fix during what is, in all likelihood, his final year on campus. He can’t un-light that fuse. That’s what happens when you’re caught on camera taking a pair of cheap-shots. Ask Draymond Green how the court of public opinion reacts.

We saw an example of that last night.

Here’s what happened: Allen drew a foul on a play where there was minimal contact. A Tennessee State defender clipped one of Allen’s feet on a layup. Allen went sprawling after missing what appeared to be a wide-open layup, and that was enough for the official staring at the play to blow his whistle.

Take a look:

There is pretty clearly contact on the play, but it’s also reasonable to assume that contact like that would not be enough to send Allen flying. It’s a pretty bad call based on the angles that were showed on replay, but it’s also the kind of call that a Duke star is going to get in Cameron. Frankly, it’s the kind of call most stars are going to get on their home floor, particularly given the angle the trailing official had on the play and the fact that Allen, ahem, ‘exaggerated’ the contact.

But to me, that’s besides the point.

This play went viral because Grayson Allen is Grayson Allen, because he’s the college star that everyone loves to hate. I googled ‘Grayson Allen’ on Tuesday. This is what came up:

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He was trending on twitter last night. He’s still trending on FaceBook today.

Allen has developed a reputation for being a flopper, a trait that is despised by the average American sports fan, and it only adds to the derision that he receives for being Duke’s white superstar. Throw in the two tripping incidents, and you’d have a tough time convincing me that anyone outside of Christian Laettner and J.J. Redick has been more universally disliked by the public at-large.

Given the rise of social media, I don’t know that anyone has had it tougher, either. This happened in a game against Tennessee State on a Monday night that was played as the same time as a game that featured Josh Norman playing his former NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, on national television.

No one would have seen a play like this if Redick did it. Every one with even a passing interest in college basketball will see this.

This isn’t going to change, not when Duke is going to be contending for ACC and national titles.

Allen needs to be ready for it, and he needs to be OK with the fact that, in large part, he brought it on himself.

 

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Malik Monk climbs as top five is intact

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 17:  Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats looks on as Malik Monk #5 celebrates after hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer late in the team's 103-100 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels during the CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena on December 17, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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1. Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart is now averaging 20.1 points on the season after a 26-point outburst in Villanova’s win over Temple. The Wildcats likely won’t be challenged again until a New Year’s Eve trip to Omaha to take on Creighton, followed by a visit to Indianapolis for Butler four days later. That that means is that, barring a catastrophic injury, Hart is going to enter league play as the favorite to win National Player of the Year.

2. Frank Mason III, Kansas: Mason’s numbers this season are ridiculous: he’s averaging 20.3 points, 5.6 assists and 4.6 boards while shooting, as a point guard, 56 percent from the floor and 52.3 percent from three. His two best games came in the two biggest games of the year for the Jayhawks. But what I think is the most remarkable about Mason’s season has been his consistency. He’s scored 18 points or handed out at least eight assists in every game this season. He’s finished with fewer than 18 points just once and fewer than five assists just twice. Only twice has he turned the ball over more than three times. After starting the season 2-for-10 from three, he’s shot 60.5 percent from beyond the arc in the last eight games.

In a year with arguably the best crop of point guards we’ve ever seen in college hoops, Mason has been the best of the bunch. Considering some of the other names on this list, that should tell you something.

3. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: Ball was just OK, by his standards, in two UCLA wins last week. He had 13 points, 10 boards and seven assists in a 40-point win over UCSB and eight points, nine boards and nine assists in a 13-point win over Ohio State. Imagine being so good that averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 boards and 8.0 assists in two games is considered “just OK”.

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 17: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins brings the ball up the court against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena on December 17, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UCLA won 86-73. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Lonzo Ball (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

4. Luke Kennard, Duke: He did it again on Monday night. With the Blue Devils caught totally out of rhythm against Tennessee State, a game in which they trailed 36-34 midway through the second half, Kennard was the savior. He finished with a team-high 24 points. At one point in the second half, Kennard had 22 points on 7-for-9 shooting while his teammates, combined, had 23 points on 6-for-29 shooting.

5. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
6. Malik Monk, Kentucky: What can be said about the 47 point outburst that Malik Monk had over the weekend that hasn’t been said yet? For me, the most important part of that performance was that head coach John Calipari showed a willingness to run set plays specifically designed to get Monk shots, and Monk showed the ability to score when those plays were run for him. This is big because, as we’ve said many times before, the way to attack Kentucky is to try and force them to play a half court game. Monk looks like he could be the antidote to that ailment.

But while Monk is getting all the accolades after the outburst that he had in Kentucky’s win over North Carolina, but I would make the argument that De’Aaron Fox has been the better player this season. He’s averaging 15.9 points, 7.2 assists and 1.7 steals as the guy that ignites that Kentucky transition game and the point man for their defense that, with the exception of games against UCLA and UNC, has been overwhelming. Put another way, I think Kentucky would be able to survive Monk getting in foul trouble or spraining an ankle better than they would if Fox was dealing with the same injury.

That said, I think it’s clear that those two work in tandem and have quite clearly become the most dangerous 1-2 punch in college hoops. Think about this: Kentucky scored 103 points in that win over North Carolina. Monk and Fox, who finished with 71 points and 12 assists combined, were responsible for (at least*) 87 of those points.

*(That does not include free throws where Monk and Fox ‘assisted’ in creating the foul.)

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7. Mo Watson, Creighton: Creighton flirted with disaster over the weekend, nearly losing to an Oral Roberts team that entered the game at 2-9 on the season and rated 274th on KenPom. I’m going to chalk that one up to the Bluejays overlooking an opponent during finals week. Moving on.

8. Joel Berry II, North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost a thriller to Kentucky on Saturday, a game that literally came down to the final possession. If it wasn’t for that eruption from Malik Monk – truthfully, if it wasn’t for a three he hit with 15 seconds left – we would have spent the last 72 hours talking about how we need to consider North Carolina as a potential ACC and national title contender.

Now think about that performance and what happened against Tennessee last Sunday. The difference in those two games? The presence of Joel Berry II on the floor for the Tar Heels. That should tell you all you need to know about how good he has been this season.

9. Amile Jefferson, Duke: Jefferson dropped a spot this week because there was no justification for keeping Malik Monk out of the top six. But if Monday’s debut from Harry Giles III showed us anything, it’s that the freshman that hasn’t played basketball in 14 months is going to need some time to get up to speed. Jefferson’s job anchoring that Duke front line isn’t over yet.

10. Markelle Fultz, Washington: Fultz is still doing ridiculous things on basketball courts. He came within two assists of posting Washington’s first-ever triple-double over the weekend and is now averaging 23.2 points, 7.0 boards and 6.5 assists this season while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three. The raw numbers that Fultz is putting up are one thing – whoever the lead guard is in Lorenzo Romar’s system is always going to put up numbers – but what is more impressive is the efficiency with which Fultz is doing it.

Fultz is top 40 nationally in usage rate playing on a team that is top 15 in pace while playing 34 minutes a night for a program that is talent-deficient around him. And yet, he’s shooting 50 percent on twos and 50 percent on threes with a better-than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and an offensive rating of 121.2, an insanely good number given the circumstances.

It’s so disappointing that Fultz is doing this on a team where his relevancy didn’t even last until Christmas.

JUST MISSED THE CUT

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
Alec Peters, Valparaiso
Marcus Foster, Creighton
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
T.J. Leaf, UCLA
Yante Maten, Georgia
Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s

CBT Podcast: All things Kentucky-North Carolina, plus Aaron Holiday and Indiana teams

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 13: Malik Monk #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball against Kiefer Douse #4 of the Canisius Golden Griffins at Rupp Arena Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated Canisius 93-69. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Sam Vecenie of the Sporting News joined me on the pod this week to talk all things Kentucky-North Carolina as well as Aaron Holiday’s value to UCLA. We also power rank the four big schools in Indiana.

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Coaches Poll: Villanova remains No. 1 once again

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 10: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats takes a shot against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half of a college basketball game at Prudential Center on December 10, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Villanova defeated Notre Dame 74-66. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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Villanova is once again No. 1 in the Coaches Poll, receiving 28 of a possible 32 first-place votes.

UCLA, Kansas, Duke and Kentucky round out the top five.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBCSports Top 25

1. Villanova (28 first-place votes)
2. UCLA (2)
3. Kansas (1)
4. Duke (1)
5. Kentucky
6. Baylor
7. Gonzaga
8. North Carolina
9. Creighton
10. Virginia
11. Louisville
12. West Virginia
13. Butler
14. Wisconsin
15. Purdue
16. Indiana
17. Xavier
18. Arizona
19. Saint Mary’s
20. South Carolina
21. Oregon
22. Florida State
23. Cincinnati
24. Notre Dame
25. USC

Harry Giles III expected to make his debut for Duke this week

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The last time we saw Duke play, at the Jimmy V Classic in New York City, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said that he was expecting his star center Harry Giles III to return to the court “before Christmas.”

Duke plays two games before Christmas. One of them is tonight, against 8-2 Tennessee State, and the expectation is that this will be the first time we see the player many believed to be the best prospect is a loaded 2017 draft class to take the floor.

Giles’ story has been told over and over again. A 6-foot-11 center blessed with the kind of athleticism scouts can only dream about, Giles has dealt with a myriad of knee injuries. He tore the ACL, the MCL and the meniscus in one knee the summer before his sophomore season in high school. After missing an entire season, he returned to dominance as a junior before tearing the ACL in his other knee on the opening night of his senior season in high school.

He looked to be on track to return for the start of this season before he underwent an arthroscopic procedure on the knee he injured as a sophomore right before practice started.

One of the biggest talking points of this young season has been whether or not it would be smart for Giles to return to play in college. There are only so many miles left on those knees, and it doesn’t make financial sense to risk another injury by playing for a team that isn’t going to be paying him to play. From a business perspective, it would seem silly to put himself at risk.

The other side of it, however, is that Giles is going to be at risk of injury whether he’s playing in games or working out on his own. Assuming that he is back to being fully healthy – I can’t imagine Giles being allowed to return to the floor if he wasn’t – is there really that much of a difference between playing for the Blue Devils and going through workouts and practices with the team?

At the end of the day, an NBA team is going to pick Giles based on what their doctors say about the future of his knees. If he returns and looks dominant, that is only going to help his cause.

You also have to consider that Giles is from North Carolina. He committed to Duke in part because he wanted to play with Jayson Tatum for a year and because he’s a kid from the state that wanted the experience of playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium. He’s a competitor. He wants to win a national title. He doesn’t want to spend the final four months that he’ll be on a college campus like he has the last two or three games: warming up with the team, wearing his uniform on the bench and watching his guys go out and win.

There is no easy answer.

But it seems like the decision has been made, and Giles will be playing.

What kind of impact will he have on this Duke team?

For starters, it will give the Blue Devils a big, athletic presence in the lane. As good as Amile Jefferson has been, he doesn’t have the same kind of presence in the paint that Giles does. As talented as Marques Bolden is, he doesn’t have the same ability that Giles does. This gives a Duke team that has finally rounded into form another weapon. It also gives them more lineup versatility; right now, their best lineup is when Tatum plays at the four alongside Jefferson. With a healthy Giles, they can play two bigs on the floor together without losing much in the way of effectiveness.

At some point this week, we should get a chance to see the Duke team everyone had as the preseason No. 1 team in the country.

AP Poll: Villanova remains in the No. 1 spot

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts after making a basket against the Temple Owls in the second half at The Pavilion on December 13, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 78-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova remains the No. 1 team in the AP Poll for the third straight week, receiving 56 of a possible 65 first place votes.

North Carolina fell from 7th to 8th after losing to Kentucky in Las Vegas, which really doesn’t make much sense to me. Seeing them come within a Malik Monk 47-point outburst and game-winning three in the final 20 seconds of a win over Kentucky made you think that team was worse than before the game? That’s a head-scratcher.

And once again, the team in this poll that most media members believe is the best in the country – Duke – comes in fifth without a first-place vote. That will never make sense to me.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBCSports Top 25

1. Villanova (56 first-place votes)
2. UCLA (3)
3. Kansas
4. Baylor (6)
5. Duke
6. Kentucky
7. Gonzaga
8. North Carolina
9. Creighton
10. Louisville
11. West Virginia
12. Virginia
13. butler
14. Wisconsin
15. Purdue
16. Indiana
17. Xavier
18. Arizona
19. Saint Mary’s
20. Oregon
21. Florida State
22. South Carolina
23. USC
24. Cincinnati
25. Notre Dame

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Takeaways

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