College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

3 Comments

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: For the first 72 minutes that Doug McDermott played St. John’s this season, he lit the Johnnies up for 64 points, with 39 — and the game-winner — coming in the first matchup in Omaha and 25 coming in the first 32 minutes of the rematch in New York. 

But down the stretch, Steve Lavin changed how his team defended McDermott. At first, he tried to just go one-on-one against the Player of the Year, putting JaKarr Sampson or Orlando Sanchez on an island and taking away every other Bluejay option. But down the stretch on Sunday, St. John’s changed their strategy and began running two guys at McDermott on his touches. 

Sometimes even before he got a touch.

Here are two examples. In the first game, McDermott runs off of an in-screen and gets an isolation in the post:

On Sunday, here’s that same in-screen. This time, both St. John’s defenders run with him, leaving Austin Chatman wide-open for a three from the top of the key:

That was one of four open threes that Creighton missed down the stretch of that game. 

2. Jabari Parker, Duke: Remember when Jabari was in a slump? Yeah, me neither. Since the Virginia game — which caused me to write this — he’s been on a tear, averaging 20.0 points and 11.4 boards in the last seven games. Duke is 6-1 in that stretch, the lone loss being the overtime thriller at Syracuse. Parker’s struggles stemmed from the fact he was settling for jumpers. The last seven games, he has taken just 15 threes, getting to the line at least seven times in every game except for the foul-plagued 26 minutes he played against the Orange. Even then, he wasn’t settling. He just got his shot blocked at the rim.

3. Shabazz Napier, UConn: The way I see it, there is a clear favorite to win Player of the Year and there is a two-player battle for second-place between Jabari and Shabazz. Napier got dropped a spot this week after an uninspiring performance against Cincinnati where his poor shot selection helped contribute to UConn blowing a double-digit lead on the road against the No. 7 team in the country. 

4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: 11.8 points, 5.7 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.4 turnovers. Those aren’t exactly numbers that will get you put onto Player of the Year lists, but just watch Ennis for an entire game and you’ll realize why he’s here. It’s by far the most valuable player on a team that’s undefeated on February 11th.

5. Xavier Thames, San Diego State: Thames is averaging 18.2 points as the only real offensive weapon for a team that hasn’t lost in three months. He’s not just scoring a lot of points, either. He’s making big plays on a nightly basis. The latest example? Taking over down the stretch as SDSU came back from 13 down at Boise State last Thursday. 

6. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: In that game against UConn I talked about earlier, Sean Kilpatrick was awesome, finishing with 26 points, 12 boards and six assists. He’s been awesome all year, really. It’s time we took notice.

7. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Johnson is in a bit of a shooting slump, hitting just 10-for-40 from the field the last three games and shooting 0-for-12 from three during that stretch. But he’s still playing great defense and, in Arizona’s two-point win over Oregon, he had 18 points, five assists and no turnovers. 

8. Russ Smith, Louisville: The Russdiculous fad has seemingly passed, but that has more to do with the fact that Smith is actually making better decisions this season. He was KenPom’s Player of the Year last season, and his efficiency numbers are up this year. His raw numbers? How does 18.3 points, 4.7 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 39.7% from three suit you?

9. C.J. Fair, Syracuse: The leading scorer and second-leading rebounder on the No. 1 team in the country that just so happens to remain undefeated in mid-February? Yeah, that deserves a mention on this list even if he’s not the best player on his team.

10. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico: Bairstow is averaging 20.7 points this season and starring for a New Mexico team on which he was supposed to be an afterthought. He’s one of the rare guys that figures it all out his senior season. Shame on New Mexico fans for not turning him into Cameron BEAR-stow.

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

North Carolina gets commitment from four-star 2020 forward

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

North Carolina has its first piece in its 2020 recruiting class.

Day’Ron Sharpe, a 6-foot-9 forward, committed to the Tar Heels on Sunday, according to multiple reports.

The Winterville, N.C. native picked Roy Williams’ in-state program over offers from Florida, Georgetown and Virginia, among others, after a second visit to Chapel Hill recently.

“We weren’t expecting it, and it kind of came out of the blue,” his father, Derrick Sharpe, told 247 Sports about the commitment. “He told coach Williams and coach was just really excited about it.”

Sharpe averaged 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during his sophomore season.

“He’s a very multi-talented player,” Dwayne West, executive director of the Garner Road Bulldogs told the Raleigh News & Observer. “He does several things very well at a high rate. He can obviously score the ball around the basket, has a solid shot and is actually a very good playmaker. Handles the ball very well.”

Sharpe is a four-star, consensus top-75 player in the 2020 class. Williams also has one commit in the 2019 class, top-50 point guard Jeremiah Francis, who, like Sharpe, committed to the Tar Heels the summer before his junior season.

Former Western Michigan basketball player cleared of murder

Kalamazoo Courthouse
1 Comment

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A jury has acquitted a former Western Michigan basketball player of murder in the shooting death of a fellow student but convicted him of armed robbery and a weapons charge.

The Kalamazoo County jury deliberated two days before returning the verdict for Joeviair Kennedy. He faces a possible life sentence when he’s sentenced July 16.

Nineteen-year-old Jacob Jones was killed near the campus on Dec. 8, 2016.

Co-defendant Jordan Waire of Muskegon was convicted last month of felony murder, armed robbery and weapons charges.

Prosecutors said it was Waire who shot Jones. Kennedy has said they took marijuana and about $25.

Kennedy’s attorney, Eusebio Solis, said his client agreed to the robbery but not the killing.

Kennedy was arrested in 2016 at the start of his second basketball season.

Kansas, Missouri to play alumni game for charity

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kansas and Missouri are putting their differences aside for charity.

Kareem Rush, a former Missouri Tiger and the brother of Brandon Rush, a former Kansas Jayhawk, is organizing a game called “Rivarly Renewed“, which will pit alumni from Missouri against alumni from KU.

On July 28th, the two teams will face-off in a game where the proceeds will go towards benefitting the Boys and Girls Club as well as Kareem Rush’s “Rush Forward Foundation”.

It’s also a chance for the Tigers and the Jayhawks to reignite a rivalry that has been dormant since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC, although they did play a scrimmage prior to the start of last season. There is no lack of hatred between those two fan bases and any chance they get to square off is a good thing.

There should also be some big names involved. According to the Kansas City Star, Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, Drew Gooden, Kim English, Ricky Paulding and Marcus Denmon are among the players that will be participating.

I love it.

Can we make sure that Bill Self is invited so that he can get convinced to play the Tigers in a non-conference game?

Doppelgangers Grayson Allen, Ted Cruz finally meet

Duke athletics
Leave a comment

Ever since Grayson Allen burst onto the national scene during the 2015 Final Four, the former Duke star has been called a Ted Cruz lookalike.

That, frankly, is not exactly a compliment, and it is a comparison that Allen initially bristled at, but now that his college career, Allen seems to be embracing the long-running joke.

We know that because Allen met Cruz this weekend as he helped the senator from Texas beat Jimmy Kimmel in a game of one-on-one:

The actually game won’t be broadcast until Monday night so we won’t know exactly how Cruz won or what Allen did to help, but Cruz did beat Kimmel 11-9.

We will get getting our answers this evening.

2018 NBA Draft: What top ten picks are the most likely to be busts?

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
1 Comment

The 2018 NBA Draft is loaded with top-end talent and potential future all-stars.

The fascinating thing about this group in the top ten is that you can make a solid case that most of these guys could become stars.

On the flipside, all of them also have some kind of glaring weakness.

Deandre Ayton is likely going No. 1 overall and there is a healthy contingent of draft analysts and skeptics who point to his lack of defensive presence as a 7-footer.

Some of these same detractors also believe the NBA is continually going smaller — meaning giants like Ayton will get played off the floor by certain small-ball lineups like the Golden State Warriors just did to some teams during another title run.

That’s just one example.

Going down the list of top-ten prospects and you can point to a lot of potential flaws that could lead to downfalls. But here are two top-ten prospects who could wind up being busts.

MICHAEL PORTER JR.

Before his freshman season at Missouri, I thought Michael Porter Jr. was going to put up monster numbers and be a Player of the Year candidate. His top-five status in the 2018 NBA Draft appeared to be safe. After a decorated high school career in which he destroyed most challengers and played well on the international stage with USA Basketball, Porter looked like he could be a jumbo scoring wing at the game’s highest level.

Then the back and hip issues began.

Porter only played in three games during his lone season with the Tigers — including two uninspiring postseason efforts in which he couldn’t get his shot to fall while trying to prove that he was healthy. And now it feels like there are a million questions about MPJ and his health.

During the NBA Draft process, Porter has cancelled and rescheduled pro days, kept medical records private for long lengths of time and given plenty of teams pause as to whether or not he is truly healthy. If Porter’s back and hip stay as a lingering issue then it changes who he is as a basketball player. Already a bit rigid, with hips that aren’t particularly fluid, Porter could have trouble moving laterally in an increasingly quick and nimble league that is only getting smaller.

Porter’s jumper also uses his whole body to elevate. It didn’t look nearly the same during those March games where he tried to gut it out. And Porter has been such a gifted scorer during his high school career that he’s never had to worry about passing or making others around him better.

Some have also questioned Porter’s ego and his ability to be a willing teammate — which are legitimate questions in a league that often sees its stars feud with others and move on to new teams.

Again, if Porter is fully healthy and ready to go, he could be a double-double threat on the wing and a 20-point per game scorer. But if Porter isn’t healthy? Some team is taking a big risk on not only taking an injured player but passing on a talented healthy player who could morph into an all-star.

(John Weast/Getty Images)

TRAE YOUNG

Perhaps the most fascinating prospect in the draft because of his insane range and overall offensive ability, Young is going to be one of the names to watch on draft night.

Some mock drafts feel he’s a top-three talent, or even the best prospect overall because of his new-age ability to pull-up and hit threes from 30 feet away. Others feel like he’s a potential defensive liability who doesn’t necessarily play winning basketball all the time because of his shot selection and high number of turnovers.

While Young could be a monster steal for some team hoping to get the next Steph Curry, those comparisons are also going to be dangerous, while likely following Young the rest of this career.

For Young, it could be all about fit and who winds up taking him.

When Young was in high school, he was at his best when he had elite talent around him. Michael Porter Jr. was the go-to scorer on a MoKan team that won the Nike Peach Jam. Young also looked solid during stretches with USA Basketball when he had tons of weapons around him.

Once teams in the Big 12 figured out his individual offensive tendencies after a hot start last season, they forced him into being a playmaker and the Sooners struggled to win games. Of course, the lack of talent around him doesn’t fall on Young, who didn’t recruit his teammates at Oklahoma. But what happens if Young falls to a dysfunctional franchise like the Orlando Magic? He’ll be expected to be a savior right away with minimal help — while also having to overcome glaring deficiencies like perimeter defense and a high number of turnovers.

And how do you think NBA players are going to react to the task of guarding Young? There’s an old Dream Team story about Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen practically fighting so they could defend future Chicago Bulls teammate Toni Kukoc one-on-one during the ’92 Olympics. They had heard about the hype surrounding Kukoc, even though he had never played in an NBA game.

After being a national media darling much of last season, Young is going to get a lot of strong one-on-one defenders who are hungry to slow him down. Game plans will revolve around limiting Young’s touches and ability to launch shots. Teams and veteran players are going to do everything they can to frustrate Young and make life tough.

Young is talented and skilled enough to make all of these questions go away. He’s a unique talent who could very well end up being worthy of all of the hype. But he’s going to need some help reaching his full potential, and some of those things are out of his control.