College Basketball Oscars: Who would bring home the biggest awards?

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Argo took home Best Picture at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, but who is deserving of similar awards in college basketball? CollegeBasketballTalk compiled a list and voted for winners in 12 key categories. Take a look at the list below. Have a differing opinion? Feel free to vote for your own winners in the comments.

Best Picture: No. 13 Butler 64, No. 8 Gonzaga 63

This one had all the elements of a true masterpiece. There are good college basketball games, then there are those like Butler-Gonzaga on Jan. 19. It had all the elements: the “underdog” implications, the national rankings, the late-game drama, the surprise ending. You thought the game was over when Alex Barlow was called for traveling with 3.5 seconds to play? Wrong. Roosevelt Jones’ steal, weave, and floater as time expired gave Butler the win and cemented a place in highlight history for years to come.

Best Player in a Leading Role: Trey Burke, Michigan (18.6 points, 6.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds per game)

When Burke made the decision to return to Michigan for his sophomore season and put off his NBA dreams for another season, he knew that he was walking into a leading role. He knew he would inherit and team with talent and national title aspirations in the nation’s toughest conference and, like Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, he has shouldered the weight of those expectations.

Best Player in a Supporting Role: Victor Oladipo, Indiana (14 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 steals per game, 63.9% FG)

Oladipo has emerged throughout the season and shown that he has the single most important characteristic of a supporting player: versatility. One night, he could carry the Hoosiers offensively. Another night, it is his defense that makes Indiana go. He may even bring everything together into one performance that is truly masterful, like when he had 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals, and three blocks in a win over Michigan State on Jan. 27.

Best Original Dramatic Sequence: Frantz Massenat, Drexel vs. Hofstra

There’s always room for a low-budget film in the College Basketball Oscars. None is more deserving than the moment Frantz Massenat gave us against Hofstra. With seconds remaining in regulation, Massenat heaved a shot from beyond half court between two defenders and nailed it, giving Drexel the 55-52 win. Perfection. We’ve seen similar shots, like Ben Brust’s prayer against Michigan on Feb. 9 that sent that game into overtime, but sheer distance and the fact that it was for the win gives Massenat the nod.

Best Costume Design: UCLA’s blue alternates, adidas

In a year that has seen its share of new uniforms, including the logo-prominent Nike look to adidas’ monochromatic experiment, UCLA’s blue alternate jerseys stand above the rest. The designer takes care to contrast the lighter blue with a sharp navy color for the number, but also makes one key addition. Where the monochromatic jerseys failed, these succeed. A thin bit of gold outlines the numbers and makes them pop. Important.

Best Short Film: Jamaal Franklin’s Off-the-Backboard Dunk vs. Fresno State

Considering the undertaking, for Franklin to even attempt a moment like this is almost unthinkable. To have captured it so perfectly is something else entirely. But that is a mark of a great innovator. He is not afraid to take chances. As a wise man once said, “You miss 100% of the off-the-backboard alley-oops to yourself that you don’t take.” Perhaps I’m paraphrasing, but the message still rings true.

Best Kiss: Jack Cooley, Notre Dame

Very little can be said, other than to let the image speak for itself. The Casablanca kiss pales in comparison.

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Best Director: Jim Larranaga, Miami

With the cloud of an impending NCAA investigation hanging over the program’s head, Larranaga has worked with a group of veterans that he largely inherited to become a force in the ACC and a contender for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. College basketball lacks a dominant team this season, which makes Larranaga a clearer choice, considering the expectations going into the season, a non-conference loss to Florida-Gulf Coast, and the injuries that the Hurricanes have endured.

He has mastered a range of styles, key for any director, helping Miami to win at a slow, grinding pace, or more up-tempo and in transition. He caps it all off with his personal masterpiece, a 27-point drubbing of then-No. 1 Duke. Bravo.

Best Player in a Foreign Film: Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s (Australia)

Dellavedova comes from a program that has a history of producing and developing quality Australian-born players. He is simply the next in line. In the off-season, he developed his game by adding muscle to his frame, making him a player with more physical tools with which to work. He knows how to work the whole “persona” thing, too. His oversized mouthguard is unique and helps him stick out more than just his 16.1 points and 6.3 assists per game already do.

Best Single-Game Performance in a Leading Role: Kendall Williams, New Mexico vs. Colorado State

There are nights when one player simply cannot be stopped. On Feb. 23 against Colorado State, Kendall Williams had one of those nights. The junior shot 12-of-16 from the floor, including 10-of-13 from three-point range on his way to 46 points and a nine-point New Mexico victory. Consider the stakes of the game, with both teams ranked and fighting for position in the highly contested Mountain West, and Williams’ performance shines even brighter.

Most Animated Player: Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss

Henderson has been as polarizing as he has been productive, which makes him such an intriguing personality and the kind of “What will he do next?” character that we don’t often see at the college level. He once posited that Ole Miss could beat Tennessee 10 out of 10 times (100% of the time, for those of you keeping track at home), and on another occasion kindly told the media that he didn’t have much time for questions because it was a Saturday night and he had a place to be. Oh, and this happened:

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Breakthrough Performance: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga (17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds per game)

A breakout performer turns a quality project into an elite one. This is what Kelly Olynyk has done for Gonzaga. Olynyk redshirted the 2011-12 season and came out of it now averaging 17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He has shown the ability to attack defenses in a number of ways, whether it is around the rim, off the dribble, or on the perimeter. Gonzaga has ridden the classic underdog narrative to a 27-2 record and a No. 3 national ranking. The Bulldogs are hoping that this one ends with triumph and possibly even a national championship.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Jeff Withey, Kansas (13.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 blocks per game)

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to the nation’s best fifth-year senior. Its recipients are part of a select group, one that only has players who have continued to produce long after others around them are past their time. Coach Bill Self and Kansas has had continued success because elite players leave and more fill in seamlessly behind them. This season, Withey is that elite player filling in the gap left by the depature of Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson and is one of the main reasons that the Jayhawks are eyeing another Final Four run. For that, Mr. Withey, we honor you.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Middle Tennessee loses four returnees during the week

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Middle Tennessee has been one of the best mid-major programs in the country over the last few years but now the Blue Raiders will be facing a major rebuild.

With former head coach Kermit Davis taking the Ole Miss job and new head coach Nick McDevitt coming over from UNC Asheville, the program experienced some major roster turnover this week as four returnees left the program.

Earlier in the week, junior guard David Simmons opted to transfer out of Middle Tennessee after he averaged 17.9 minutes per game for the Conference USA regular-season champions last season.

On Friday, the losses continued, as three more players left the team. Rising junior point guard Tyrik Dixon announced his intention to transfer while the program dismissed guard Antwain Johnson and forward Davion Thomas. Dixon was a valuable floor leader for Middle Tennessee the past two seasons while Johnson, a rising senior guard, would have been the team’s returning leading scorer after putting up 10.3 points per game last week.

Since so much of the successful core of the past three seasons is now gone from Middle Tennessee, it will be on McDevitt to bring in new talent to sustain the recent great stretch of play. The Blue Raiders made two Round of 32 appearances in a row before missing the NCAA tournament last season after winning C-USA’s regular season crown.

Now, with Western Kentucky making a power play by bringing in five-star big man Charles Bassey, and the power has shifted very quickly in one of the most competitive mid-major conferences in the country.

Report: One-and-Done rule could be eliminated for 2021 NBA Draft

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The NBA is reportedly exploring the possibility of ending the infamous one-and-done rule that forces many potential professional basketball players to head to college for at least one season.

According to a report from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, citing a league memo sent to NBA teams late this week, the league office is indicating that “eligibility rules” for the NBA draft could change as soon as 2021 or 2022 — but not earlier. The league is currently trying to figure out how the FBI’s investigation into college basketball will play out while also trying to navigate the player development changes that would be needed for high school players to once again potentially enter the NBA. Recently, the NBA has started to allow its teams and front-office personnel to attend elite summer high school events as the Pangos All-American Camp and the NBPA Top 100 Camp both had an NBA presence to watch elite Class of 2019, 2020 and 2021 prospects.

Lowe’s report mentions that the one-and-done rule is not mentioned directly by name, but the NBA is trying to warn its teams before the 2018 NBA Draft. These future changes could be on the horizon and teams need to understand what they are doing with future draft picks in potential trades.

The scenario of a 2021 NBA Draft in which high school players might be eligible is a fascinating subplot for college basketball, and the sport at-large, over these next few years.

As Lowe pointed out in his report, whenever the rule is eventually opened up, it will create one large mega draft in which two elite classes of high school players would be draft-eligible in the same year. With potentially double the lottery-level and first-round talent of a typical NBA draft, it would force a lot of elite college recruits to exam the possibility of reclassifying up in order to get ahead of that mega draft and be in a pool with fewer elite prospects.

It also gives the high school players themselves a unique decision with regard to their potential college futures. If an elite high school prospect is one year away from entering the NBA draft out of school, would some go to college or would they try to go for a postgrad year and follow in the footsteps of players like Thon Maker and Anfernee Simons?

The expanding presence of the NBA’s G-League is also a factor in all of this as salaries for the league are increasing and becoming more respectable — giving high school players a viable professional option in the United States instead of college for one year before moving on to the draft.

There are still way too many moving parts to truly speculate how this will all go down. But at least we know that the NBA appears to be viewing 2021 or 2022 as the potential change to the one-and-done rule. We’ll have to see how elite high school prospects start potentially adjusting to reclassify while colleges also might have to adopt some new and unique recruiting strategies if they rely on one-and-done players to fill out their roster.

Five-star guard Ashton Hagans enrolling at Kentucky after graduating year early

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Kentucky received additional reinforcements for the 2018-19 season on Friday as five-star guard Ashton Hagans graduated high school a year early with the intent to head to Lexington for next season.

The 6-foot-4 Hagans is considered by many recruiting analysts to be a top-ten national prospect in the Class of 2019 as he gives the Wildcats three five-star recruits at lead guard for next season. The Georgia state Player of the Year as a junior this past season, Hagans joins a crowded Kentucky backcourt that includes sophomore Quade Green and fellow incoming freshman and McDonald’s All-American Immanuel Quickley.

While the juggling of minutes is going to be a major storyline for head coach John Calipari this season, the addition of Hagans gives Kentucky even more lineup flexibility than they had before. Because Hagans has good size and defensive ability, he could be used to play alongside the smaller Green, giving the Wildcats a two-guard look that would have more defensive intensity. Playing Quickley and Hagans together would give Kentucky a bigger two-guard lineup that would have a chance to be pretty strong defensively.

And, of course, Calipari could opt to go with some three-guard lineups with other off-guards like Keldon Johnson or Tyler Herro to give Kentucky a tough perimeter attack.

Handling minutes and egos will be something to watch for in Lexington this season, but Calipari has handled this sort of situation with a Final Four appearance before. It’s hard to say if the Wildcats will try to play another platoon type of system like we saw in 2014-15, but if they end up getting graduate transfer forward Reid Travis, they might have the personnel to give it a shot.

Villanova lands late commitment from four-star prospect

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Villanova made a late addition to their 2018 recruiting class on Friday afternoon as they landed a commitment from four-star prospect Saddiq Bey.

Bey was originally committed to N.C. State, but he asked out of his Letter of Intent in mid-May as the Wolfpack ended up over the scholarship limit. The versatile, 6-foot-7 forward is a good fit for the way that Villanova likes to play, as he can guard different positions, plays with the toughness you expect out of a kid from Washington D.C. and is a capable scorer.

Bey is also a product of Sidwell Friends, the same high school that produced former Villanova star Josh Hart.

He will joined a recruiting class that also includes five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, four star prospects Cole Swider and Brandon Slater and Albany grad transfer Joe Cremo.

The news was first reported by 247 Sports.

Marvin Bagley III, a ‘Nike kid’, to sign endorsement deal with Puma

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In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Marvin Bagley III will reportedly sign an endorsement deal with Puma in the NBA.

It’s a five-year deal, according to reports, that will pay Bagley and his family quite a bit of money and will allow them to fund an AAU program for Bagley’s younger brother. That program will be coached by Marvin Bagley Jr., and that gets to the heart of what makes this decision so surprising.

Bagley III has always been considered a “Nike kid”. He played for Nike AAU programs throughout his high school career. The last two years, his father ran the program that he played for, originally called Phoenix Phamily but eventually changed to Nike Phamily. That meant that Nike was able to legally pay Bagley Jr. a significant amount of money to fund that program. Eventually, Bagley would up enrolling at Duke, one of Nike’s flagship college basketball programs.

This is not the way that it is supposed to go for a shoe company like Nike. The reason they spend as much money as they do in the youth ranks is to keep as many kids as possible loyal to the brand. It’s fairly easy to figure out who will end up having a chance at being an NBA player as early as 15 years old, but what’s harder to do is to predict who will actually be able to move product. Did anyone think James Harden or Damian Lillard would be worth a signature shoe? So these shoe companies will spend a relatively small amount of money to fly those kids around the country during their high school years, keep them decked out in their gear and hope that lottery ticket eventually pays off.

What is a couple hundred thousand dollar investment when the payoff is hundreds of millions of dollars in shoe sales? All you need to do is land one Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant to make the math work.

But that isn’t all that the shoe companies are looking for here.

With the amount of money that they have invested in sponsorship deals with these schools, they need to protect that investment. We saw it with Adidas and Louisville. They funneled $100,000 to Brian Bowen, a Nike kid, to get him to an Adidas school not because they thought he would end up being an uber-profitable spokesman but because they needed to protect their investment at the college level.

So while it’s easy to look at this and same that Bagley’s time spent at Duke helped him get a big, fat shoe contract, I think it’s the other way around. He helped Nike — without getting his market value — during his one season at Duke, and what it got him was a shoe contract worth roughly $1 million a year, according to Oregon Live.

Either way, the fact of the matter is that Bagley’s value to these brands is no different now than it was when he was playing for the Blue Devils.

Why is it only now that he’s allowed to cash in on it?