Tag: Cameron Bairstow

Cameron Bairstow

Cameron Bairstow, a Mountain West Player of the Year snub?

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There were signs before the start of the 2014 season that Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico’s senior forward, was primed for an all-Mountain West Conference, and possible MWC player of the year, performance. A native of Australia and an atypical graduate of the games Australia Institute of Sport — as he told Sports Illustrated’s Kelli Anderson, “I was fairly small, 6-7 or 6-8, 200 pounds, and I was a pretty terrible athlete to be honest” — Bairstow suited up for two Australian national teams this past summer, and his performance in the World University Games (Australia earned its first ever medal in international play) was a primer to what would eventually be a special season for Bairstow.

The 6-foot-9 Bairstow put on a considerable amount of muscle and has maintained it during the season, and after a considerable boost in percentage of minutes played, Bairstow is having a career year, converting 57 percent of his twos and posting the team’s second-best offensive efficiency rating. As good as Alex Kirk, Bairstow’s frontcourt mate, has been in the post, Bairstow had been better, and has transformed into the focal point of opposing defenses’ gameplan.

However, when the conference announced their player of the year selection earlier today, Bairstow was noticeably absent. The award went to San Diego State’s Xavier Thames, a worthy choice if the honor was handed out a few weeks ago: including the mid-February loss to Wyoming through the end of the Aztecs’ regular season, Thames has made just 37.5 percent of his twos and 20 percent of his threes. The only Aztec with the ability to consistently break his man off the dribble and create his own — and his teammates — offense, Thames has been blanked. Meanwhile, over a similar time span, Bairstow has converted nearly 60 percent of his twos and recorded just double-doubles. Thames had a great season, and he is one of the primary reasons that Steve Fisher’s club has spent most of the season atop the top 25 rankings, but I’m not the only one who believes Bairstow was robbed: according to Wyoming big Larry Nance Jr., “Thames had an incredible year! Congrats to him. But I just thought Bairstow was incredible this season.”

No. 21 New Mexico falls victim to unexpected defensive wrinkle

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An Alex Kirk shot with 12:05 remaining in No. 21 New Mexico’s game at No. 10 San Diego State gave the visiting Lobos a 41-25 lead, and it looked as if the Aztecs were in serious trouble. UNM big men Kirk and Cameron Bairstow were playing well, proving to problematic for the San Diego State front court. But then SDSU head coach Steve Fisher made a strategic move seldom seen since the Aztecs used this wrinkle in their win at Kansas in early January.

He went to an active 1-3-1 zone, and the Lobos were thoroughly confused by the new look. New Mexico (24-6, 15-3) would score just seven points in the final 12:05, losing 51-48 as San Diego State won the Mountain West regular season title.

Bairstow finished the game with 20 points and seven rebounds, with Kirk adding 14 to go along with 11 boards. But with San Diego State (27-3, 16-2) going to the 1-3-1 New Mexico’s two most effective offensive threats did not attempt a single shot in the final 12 minutes, with a Bairstow free throw with 7:27 remaining being the only point either would score during that decisive stretch. To say the least New Mexico was confused by the look, and they had no counter either.

MORE: Just how good is No. 10 San Diego State?

Kendall Williams having to sit out part of that 26-7 finish with four fouls didn’t help but he was ineffective for most of the night, finishing with seven points (3-for-10 FG), four assists and five turnovers. As a team New Mexico committed 11 turnovers in the second half, with San Diego State scoring 16 points off of those mistakes. So not only did the strategic move help the Aztecs neutralize the UNM big men, it also served as a spark for an offense that struggled to get anything going.

Could there be a rubber match of sorts in Las Vegas next Saturday night? Given how well these two teams have performed throughout conference play, that would be the expectation of many. But there are clearly things for New Mexico to work on in advance of the Mountain West tournament, particularly their zone offense. New Mexico was hit with a punch it didn’t see coming Saturday night, and they fell short of their goal as a result.

College Basketball Talk’s Player of the Year Power Rankings

Doug McDermott , Isaiah Philmore
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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: Remember when people were worried whether or not McDermott would be able to succeed outside the Missouri Valley? Well, he’s averaging 26.0 points and 7.2 boards while shooting 52.0% from the field, 44.1% from three and 88.7% from the line on a top ten team that still has a chance to win the Big East title. I think he’s done alright. With this being the last edition of the Player of the Year Power Rankings, I think that it’s safe to say that McDermott has got this in the bag.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke: The biggest internal struggle that I have with putting Parker this high in the Player of the Year rankings is that he’s a terrible defender. But he can score, and he’s the player that allows Duke to be such a matchup nightmare with his ability to defend in the post and score on the perimeter. If he wasn’t cleaning the defensive glass as effectively as he has been, this may be a different conversation.

3. Russ Smith, Louisville: Every time I watch Louisville play, I am more impressed with the development of Russ Smith. He’s a playmaker on both ends of the floor, a guy that simply fits perfectly in what Rick Pitino wants his team to be able to do. Add in the fact that his leadership and ability to handle the point has improved dramatically, and what you get is the No. 3 player in our Player of the Year rankings.

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4. Shabazz Napier, UConn: Shabazz has struggled with his shot a bit of late, but that doesn’t hurt his standing. Where would UConn be this season without him? He’s a facilitator, he’s their best scorer, their best playmaker, an excellent defender, their leading rebounder (at 6-foot-1!!), and the guy that takes and makes the big shots.

5. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Johnson has been going through a bit of a shooting slump lately, but Arizona’s offense has taken off with Sean Miller’s new uptempo approach. Johnson’s athleticism in transition and ability on the defensive end should allow him to thrive.

6. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: The Bearcats have lost three of their last five games, but that doesn’t change the fact that Kilpatrick is by far the best offensive weapon on a top 15 team that struggles to score.

7. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Ennis is still the same player that he has been all season despite his team’s struggles. It’s not his fault that Jerami Grant’s back is acting up and that Trevor Cooney, when you factor out the 9-for-12 that he shot against Notre Dame, is just a 28% long range shooter in ACC play. Ennis is a facilitator at the point. If the Orange need him to take over scoring the ball, they are going to be in some trouble.

8. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico: The Lobos are back in the top 25 and are playing as well as anyone west of the Mississippi not named Arizona. So while Kendall Williams is having a better season than he did when he won Mountain West Player of the Year and Alex Kirk has been terrific, the reason why New Mexico is this good is because Cameron Bairstow has turned into one of the best low-post players in the country.

9. Kyle Anderson, UCLA: Anderson is still putting up just massive numbers on what is probably still the Pac-12’s second-best team. That said, he’s going to want to go ahead and make sure that he isn’t suspended for anymore games. If he plays against Oregon at home, the Bruins probably beat the Ducks in double overtime.

10. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: It’s been too long that I’ve kept Wiggins off of this list. He’s the leading scorer, third leading rebounder and best perimeter defender on a top five team that is currently up three games in what many believe to be the toughest conference in the country. And he’s a disappointment? We’ve got some high standards.

Others: Jordan Adams, Billy Baron, Malcolm Brogdon, Jabari Brown, Bryce Cotton, Cleanthony Early, Joel Embiid, C.J. Fair, Marcus Foster, Aaron Gordon, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Frank Kaminsky, Deandre Kane, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Marcus Smart, Juwan Staten, Nik Stauskas, Xavier Thames, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Scottie Wilbekin, Chaz Williams