<span class="vcard">Rob Dauster</span>

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Where do we slot Buddy Hield now?

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The Player of the Year race has slowed down a bit in the last two weeks or so, but it’s mainly a result of two things: Finals always turns college basketball into a bit of an afterthought, and the two leading candidates for the award have been sitting out with injuries and illnesses.

On Tuesday, we counted down our top ten favorites to win the award at this point in the season and, while the top two hasn’t changed just yet, the guy currently sitting there in third place is making it really difficult to avoid changing that trend.

[2015 REVIEW: Best Dunks | Best Games]

Anyway, we do this every Tuesday over on the CBT FaceBook page. You should go give it a like … right here!

[CONFERENCE RESETS: ACC | Big Ten | American | Big East]

Down Goes Sparty: No. 1 Michigan State loses to Iowa

Iowa guard Mike Gesell celebrates with fans after an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan State, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Iowa City, Iowa. Gesell scored 25 points as Iowa won 83-70. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Down goes Sparty!

No. 1 and previously undefeated Michigan State went into Iowa City and got themselves court-stormed, losing to the Hawkeyes 83-70 in a game that Fran McCaffery’s club controlled from the beginning.

Before we get into the meat of this post, the disclaimer: the Spartans were without Denzel Valentine, the current favorite for National Player of the Year, as he continues to recover from an arthroscopic surgery on his knee, and if this loss tells us anything, it’s that Valentine arguably the most valuable player in the country. With him, Michigan State is undefeated and ranked No. 1. Without him, they struggle to knock off Oakland and get worked over pretty good by an Iowa team that doesn’t even get votes for the top 25.

The one real issue for Michigan State this year is their point guard play. I love Tum Tum Nairn, but he’s a guy that thrives in transition, not a pure point guard whose strength is facilitating half court offense or breaking down a set defense. When Valentine is healthy, he’s the guy the offense runs through, the one getting ball-screens and making plays for his teammates off the bounce while also doubling as the guy they run off of down-screens and call quick-hitters for.

Without him on the floor, their offense can get pretty ugly.

The good news? He’ll be back.

Which is great news for Iowa.

Because come Selection Sunday, there isn’t going to be an asterisk next to this win. The Selection Committee accounts for injuries when a team loses a game. They don’t account for the injuries of an opponent in a game that team wins. Michigan State is going to be a top five or ten team all season long. They might be the Big Ten champions. This is a marquee win for their résumé, the kind of thing that can be the difference between the NIT and avoiding the First Four.

The better news is that Iowa won this game despite the fact that Jarrod Uthoff, their star forward, did not play well. He finished with just 10 points, playing only six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Mike Gesell stepped up (25 points), as did Peter Jok (18 points), as the Hawkeyes landed the kind of confidence-boosting win that can help them forget the fact that they blew a 20 point lead at Iowa State.

Here’s the other part of it: this also means that Iowa can avoid a potentially devastating start to the Big Ten season. Four of their next seven games come against the top three teams in the Big Ten, with three of those games coming on the road. They likely won’t have the luxury of playing the Spartans without Valentine next time around, either.

In other words, if they had lost this game, a 3-5 start in the Big Ten was very possible. Given Iowa’s penchant for collapsing, that kind of start could have ended up being a season-killer.

So good for Iowa.

They took advantage of an opportunity provided them.

Now let’s see what they can do in West Lafayette on Saturday.

LSU loses to Wake Forest, but don’t call it an upset just yet

Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning looks on in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in the first round of the Maui Invitational, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Wake Forest won 82-78. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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Another day, another monster Ben Simmons box score, as the projected No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft finished with 21 points, 12 boards, two assists and two blocks against Wake Forest on Tuesday night.

The problem?

It was another loss for LSU, this one perhaps the most worrying of them all.

The Tigers fell 77-71 in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, which is not exactly surprising considering that this is a team that has already lost to Charleston, Houston, Marquette and Arizona State this season. Johnny Jones’ club has been anything but impressive through the season’s first month and a half.

But things were supposed to change now that Craig Victor is eligible and Keith Hornsby is healthy. Victor was supposed to be the mobile, tough and physical presence alongside Simmons. Hornsby was supposed to be the consistent shooting presence on the wing, the veteran leader that wasn’t going to let his teammates get away with slumbering through a road trip.

And yet, here we are. Victor played 37 minutes and had 19 points. Hornsby played 39 minutes and had 13 points and three assists. LSU still lost.

But there may be something to that: Wake Forest is actually pretty good.

(I tried to give you all a heads up about this, by the way. There’s a reason I have them in the NCAA tournament in my ACC Reset. You’re welcome.)

Bryant Crawford, arguably the nation’s most underrated freshman, played one of his best games as a collegian while Devin Thomas and Konstantinos Mitoglou combined for 29 points despite being limited to a combined 44 minutes due to foul trouble. That trio has already led Wake to wins over Indiana and UCLA, both of which came out in Maui, and they still haven’t gotten Codi Miller-McIntyre back to full strength. When healthy, he’s may actually be their best player.

The issue for Wake this season has been turnovers. They come often and they come in bunches. Miller-McIntyre returning should help limit that, but Wake still coughed the ball up 18 times against an LSU team that really isn’t all that good defensively. That’s an issue that will need to be addressed.

But the bottom-line is this: Wake Forest is talented enough that LSU and Simmons losing to them at home is not a bad loss. It may not even be an upset.