Jabari Brown

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Missouri guard Jabari Brown to enter 2014 NBA Draft

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Days after it was reported that guard Jordan Clarkson would enter the 2014 NBA Draft, Missouri announced on Wednesday that junior guard Jabari Brown has decided to do the same.

A first-team All-SEC performer Brown averaged 19.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game for the Tigers, leading the SEC in scoring while shooting 46.7% from the field and 41.0% from beyond the arc. Brown ranked seventh in the SEC in field goal percentage, with Alabama’s Trevor Releford (5th) and Ole Miss’ Jarvis Summers (6th) being the only guards ahead of him in that statistical category.

“This was a step I needed to take in order to make the most educated decision possible with regards to my NBA opportunities,” Brown said in a statement released by Missouri. “My time here at Mizzou has been incredible. This is a special place and a second home for me. However, I must approach this looking at the bigger picture. This is a decision that impacts my family as well and that is most important to me.”

Brown’s best individual performance this season came in an 84-79 loss to Kentucky on February 1, as he scored 33 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the field. Brown reached double figures in every game with the exception of one, as he scored eight points in the Tigers’ SEC tournament loss to Tennessee.

In 25 games as a sophomore after transferring in from Oregon, Brown averaged 13.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game with 24 starts. He, Clarkson and Earnest Ross combined to score 51.4 points per game this season, with Missouri averaging 72.9 points per game as a team.

DraftExpress.com rates Brown as the 11th best junior and lists him as a second round pick in this summer’s NBA Draft.

College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: What else can be said about McDermott’s season — and his career — at this point? He had 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting in a win at Butler in which he just so happened to hit the game-winning three with 47.8 seconds left. He followed that up by scoring 39 points on 13-for-17 shooting from the floor in another blowout win over No. 6 Villanova. Here’s what Jay Wright had to say about him after the game:

“I think I have a unique perspective in that I was with the USA team last summer when he played with the developmental team against the pros, and he played very well. Sometimes you watch a guy in college and you think about how that’s going to transfer to the NBA. But I saw it, and everything he does here in college he did this summer with those guys. I think he’s as complete a player with size as I’ve ever seen. 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9, there’s nothing he can’t do. He can take you off the dribble, he guards, he’s tough as hell, he defends, he rebounds, he moves without the ball, he seals. He’s the best post player that we’ve played against and he’s the best perimeter player, and he may be one of the best passers. And he’s 6-foot-9. He’s as good of a basketball player as I’ve seen.”

McDermott set a Big East record by earning Player of the Week honors for the seventh time this season. According to Rob Anderson, Creighton’s SID, McDermott has now won Player of the Week or Newcomer of the Week in 27 of the 63 weeks he’s played college basketball.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker was making up a bit of ground on McDermott before that 39-point outburst, as the freshman’s slump is nothing but a distant memory. We’ve been over this: when Parker is attacking the basket instead of settling for jumpers, he’s as dangerous as any scorer in the country. During this eight-game resurgence, he’s taken 75 free throws and just 21 three-pointers. In the five games before that, his slump, he took 21 threes and just 14 free throws.

Here’s Exhibit A of what I mean: instead of settling for a jumper, Parker went to the rim and managed to land himself the game-winning dunk against Maryland:

3. Shabazz Napier, UConn: Ho-hum, just another 34-point, five-rebound, four-assist performance from Napier in an overtime win over Memphis. He’s been so good this season that numbers like that are hardly even surprising anymore.

4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Luke Winn came up with the nickname “Ennions” for Ennis, a play on Bill Raftery’s favorite saying. Personally, I like Captain Clutch. Syracuse is still undefeated after a pair of last-second wins, and Ennis had a major hand in both of them. He hit the running 35-footer to give the Orange the win at Pitt on Wednesday and had the game-winning assist to C.J. Fair on Saturday to beat N.C. State.

On the season, in final five minutes and overtime of one-possession games, Ennis is now 8-for-10 from the floor and 14-for-14 from the line with seven assists and just a single turnover.

5. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: Kilpatrick played one game last week, scoring 28 points and handing out six assists in a win over Houston. The Bearcats are built entirely around their defense. Kilpatrick is, for the most part, the only guy on the roster that can score. Let’s put it into context: Cincinnati is 108th in the country in offensive efficiency, while Kilpatrick is third in the nation in offensive efficiency for players that use more than 28% of their team’s possessions. In other words, Kilpatrick is putting up McDermott-esque numbers in an offense that’s no where near as good.

6. Russ Smith, Louisville: Smith has been better this season than he was last season. The problem? Louisville only has two notable wins this season: SMU and at UConn. In their last five games, however, the Cards play at Cincinnati, at Memphis, at SMU and at home against UConn. Big performances in those games will get Smith more attention nationally.

7. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Johnson was terrific earlier this season, but with Brandon Ashley, more offensive responsibility has fallen into Johnson’s lap. In the four games since Ashley went out, Johnson is averaging 11.5 points while shooting 25.0% (15-60) from the floor and 1-for-18 from three, or 5.6%. That’s … not good.

8. Xavier Thames, San Diego State: Thames is in the same boat as Kilpatrick, a talented scorer on a team that doesn’t have many of them. In two games last week, Thames was 6-for-26 from the floor and 2-for-13 from three. SDSU lost at Wyoming and struggled against Air Force.

9. Kyle Anderson, UCLA: The Bruins swept Utah and Colorado this week while Slo-Mo averaged 19.0 points, 8.5 assists and 8.0 boards. He’s averaging 15.4 points, 8.7 boards and 6.8 assists on the season.

10. Jabari Brown, Missouri: Brown needs some love. His numbers this season are ridiculous: 20.5 points, 4.6 boards, 45.7% 3PT, 126.4 oRTG. In SEC play, they get even better: 22.8 points and 50.0% 3PT.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Cameron Bairstow, Bryce Cotton, Sam Dekker, Cleanthony Early, Joel Embiid, C.J. Fair, Marcus Foster, Aaron Gordon, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Deandre Kane, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Juwan Staten, Nik Stauskas, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Scottie Wilbekin, Chaz Williams

Missouri clips Arkansas in key matchup of SEC bubble teams

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It’s a question that has been asked many times over the last month, and it’s a question that will continue to be asked until Selection Sunday: who from the SEC, besides Florida and Kentucky, deserve a bid to the NCAA tournament? On Thursday night two teams in need of wins, Arkansas and Missouri, met in Columbia with the winner picking up a result that it sorely needed.

Jabari Brown would be the difference-maker as his driving basket with 10.2 seconds remaining gave the Tigers the 86-85 win, moving their record to 5-6 in SEC play. Brown didn’t have a particularly good night from the field, making just five of his 15 shot attempts, but he took full advantage of the foul line and the same can be said for his teammates.

Brown shot 14-for-15 from the charity stripe and as a team Missouri made 34 of its 38 attempts, outscoring Arkansas by five points in that area. Jordan Clarkson scored a game-high 27 points and Earnest Ross added 15 to go along with 11 rebounds, and Missouri’s three best players once again led the way.

The combination of points from the foul line and a 15-8 edge in fast break points proved to be pivotal for Missouri, which shot 4-for-17 from beyond the arc. Arkansas wasn’t much better from deep, making four of its 16 attempts, and they nearly left Columbia with a valuable road victory.

Ultimately the Razorbacks would once again fall short, leaving Mike Anderson’s team with just one conference road victory (Vanderbilt) to its credit. If they’re to have any chance of making the NCAA tournament Arkansas has to string together some wins. The problem for them, and for Missouri as well even with the Tigers being better-positioned for a tournament bid, is the lack of available quality wins in the SEC.

Of the remaining seven games on their schedule Arkansas has just one game against a team that will make the NCAA tournament, and that’s their game at Kentucky on February 27. As for Missouri, the Tigers won’t play either Florida or Kentucky again (unless they meet in the SEC tournament). Frank Haith’s team gets two shots at Tennessee, but the best that both the Tigers and Razorbacks can do schedule-wise is win their match-ups with other bubble teams.

And with this being the case, games like the one played in Columbia on Thursday night become even more important for the SEC teams looking to fight their way into the Field of 68. Thanks to Jabari Brown, Missouri was able to pick up a win that they needed to get.

Missouri basketball players support Michael Sam

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The University of Missouri community has rallied behind senior Michael Sam, which includes support from the men’s basketball team as well.

On Sunday, Sam, the 2013 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, announced that he was gay, and could potentially be the NFL’s first openly gay player with the 2014 NFL Draft scheduled in three months.

Steve Walentik of the Columbia Daily Tribune, asked several members of the basketball team their thoughts on the news, with plenty of positive reactions.

“Happy for him coming out,” Jordan Clarkson told Walentik. “Love is love — it shouldn’t change the person, what he is. He’s a football player. That’s what he does on the field, and it shouldn’t matter what he does off the field.”

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel and athletic director Mike Alden issued a statement of support shortly after the news broke while some fans spelled Sam’s name in the snow at Faurot Field.

“I think the Mizzou community has really done a good job of supporting him,” Sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg added. “Everywhere I go, I just hear good things about him, how everyone is so proud that he came from Mizzou and he’s really being true to himself.”

Leading scorer Jabari Brown wasn’t surprised by the reception from the rest of Mizzou, rather intrigued he announced this before May’s draft where Sam is projected to go as high as the third round.

No. 11 Kentucky bounces back, surviving on the road against Missouri

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Julius Randle finished with 18 points, nine boards, three assists and three steals and Kentucky’s three perimeter players — the Harrison twins and James Young — combined for 55 points, seven assists and just three turnovers as No. 11 Kentucky picked up a huge win on Saturday, knocking off Missouri on the road, 84-79.

The first half was precisely the kind of performance that Kentucky fans wanted to see out of the Wildcats. They played hard, they played together, they defended, they made the extra pass, they pounded the ball into Randle. When Dominique Hawkins hit the floor in the first half, the entire team sprinted over to help him up.

Tuesday’s loss at LSU looked like Kentucky was going through a walk-through at a shootaround. Saturday’s performance brought a completely different level of energy. And that, in the end, may be the key to Kentucky’s season.

There is simply no questioning the talent level on this roster, even if you are in the camp that believes that Aaron and Andrew Harrison are overrated and even if Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress continue to put together an up-and-down career. On paper, the Wildcats can compete with anyone in the country. On the court, that’s not necessarily the case, and the cause often boils down to effort and intensity.

This Kentucky team, at times, can has a distinct lack of toughness, both mentally and physically. That wasn’t the case on Saturday.

I’ll give you an example: at one point in the second half, the Wildcats were up 49-33. But Jabari Brown and Jordan Clark both got into a rhythm in the second half, routinely dissecting the Kentucky defense off the dribble. Brown finished with 33 points. Clarkson had 28. They put on a show, one that will once again raise serious question marks about Kentucky’s perimeter defense.

With two minutes left, Brown hit a 26-foot three and drew a foul on a questionable call. The ensuing free throw cut the Kentucky lead to 78-75. The Wildcats were on the verge of an epic collapse in a incredibly important game on the road. For a team that has yet to prove capable of thriving in situations like that, this was concerning.

But Kentucky executed in the final three possession, getting a bucket each time they had the ball, and much of the credit should be given to Andrew Harrison. He made the plays that a point guard is supposed to make, finishing with 14 points, four assists and just a single turnover. He made the right decisions and got the ball to the right people.

Kentucky played as well as they can play for the first 25 minutes on Saturday. They survived blowing a lead against a good team on the road.

No matter how you slice it, this was a promising performance from Kentucky.

Missouri wins at Arkansas heading into biggest week of their season

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Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown both finished with 24 points and Jordan Clarkson chipped in with 11 points and six assists  as Missouri went into Bud Walton Arena and pulled off one of the most surprising wins of the SEC season, beating Arkansas 75-71.

This was a huge win for Missouri as they try to put together a resume strong enough to deserve an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers didn’t do much in non-conference play, with nothing notable but a win over UCLA to show for their troubles. Generally speaking, that wouldn’t be an issue. I think Pittsburgh has proven that fact.

The problem is that the Tigers went out and lost some games to some bad teams. Illinois beat them and has since gone on a six-game losing streak. They lost at home to Georgia. They lost at Vanderbilt. The loss at LSU wouldn’t look so bad if the Tigers actually played up to their potential every night.

Now, Arkansas isn’t exactly Kentucky and they aren’t quite Florida. Beating them, even on the road, isn’t the kind of win that will define a resume.

But since Missouri has entered the SEC, they are 3-9 on the road. During that same time frame, Arkansas is 11-1. This win, as much as anything, is a confidence booster. It’s a statement, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Missouri’s next two games: Kentucky at home and at Florida. Those two games are going to make or break their season. Lose them both, and the Tigers may not play another NCAA tournament team the rest of the season.

Seriously.

They get Ole Miss on the road, Arkansas at home and two games against Tennessee. None of those three teams are close to being a lock at this point.

The good news?

Those big games are coming at the right time. Jabari Brown is playing the best basketball of his career over the course of the last five games, averaging 24.4 points while shooting 20-for-29 from three during that stretch. Earnest Ross and Jonathan Williams III are coming off of their best games of the year. And, quite frankly, winning at Arkansas may be a more difficult task than beating Kentucky at home.