Associated Press

College Basketball’s Breakout Stars

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Here are fifteen players poised to have major breakout years in college basketball in 2015-16: 

Grayson Allen, Duke

The easiest pick ever. Allen was a McDonald’s All-American that was on the wrong side of a playing time crunch, got his chance late in the season and capitalized, lighting Wake Forest up for 27 points before playing his way into the conversation as a potential early-entry candidate with his performance in the Final Four. The only thing that concerns me about this pick is that the Blue Devils have been experimenting with Allen at the point, which is not his natural position. He’s a team player, so he’ll do it no questions asked, but playing out of a position is a good way for a sophomore to see his production and efficiency capped.

Kam Williams, Ohio State

Williams is a bucket-getter, a big time scorer that has spent his first two seasons in Columbus redshirting and playing behind D’angelo Russell. In 15.7 minutes last season, the 6-foot-2 Baltimore native averaged 5.3 points. With Russell and Shannon Scott gone, Williams is a guy that could being the beneficiary of those extra possessions. He’ll be streaky at times, but when he gets going, watch out.

Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin

I’m not sure if Koenig technically qualifies for this list, as he kind of had his breakout season in the second half of last year. A junior, he took over the starting point guard role for the Badgers when Trae Jackson went down with injury and never looked back. This year, with all that the Badgers lost, Koenig will have a chance to be more of a focal point offensively. If Wisconsin is going to finish in the top four in the Big Ten — something they’ve done in each of Bo Ryan’s 14 seasons as head coach — this guy will be a big reason why.

Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

This pick may not seem to make sense given the fact that he may end up being the fourth option offensively on his team. But here’s the thing about Ulis: he’s a prototypical point guard, a throwback kind of dude that’s going to be way more important to Kentucky than his stats will suggest on both ends of the floor. I think the public at large, and not just Big Blue Nation, will see that this season.

Dillon Brooks, Oregon

Brooks was a revelation as a freshman, enrolling in college a year early to become one of the better newcomers in the Pac-12. He averaged 11.6 points, numbers that will go up this season with leading scorer Joseph Young graduating and Dylan Ennis and Jordan Bell out with foot injuries. I think Brooks has a chance to be a first-team all-Pac 12 player this season.

Josh Hart, Villanova

Hart is the typical power wing that Jay Wright has been so successsful with over the years. He’s a better scorer than he gets credit for and is a terrific defender and offensive rebounder. Everyone is going to talk about Villanova’s guards — Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson — but Hart should end up being an all-Big East player this season and could end up their most valuable player.

Ben Bentil, Providence

Bentil was fantastic for the Friars for stretches late in the season. With LaDontae Henton and Carson Derosiers graduating and Paschal Chukwu transferring to Syracuse, there will plenty of opportunities available for Bentil, who will be the major beneficiary of Kris Dunn’s play making ability.

Malik Pope, San Diego State

Pope has worlds of potential. He’s a 6-foot-10 small forward that’s athletic and has three point range. It’s been a long time since he was completely healthy for an entire season, and as a result, his consistency has suffered. If Pope can managed to stay out of the trainer’s room for a full season, we could be looking at SDSU’s next lottery pick.

Patrick McCaw, UNLV

Everyone talks about Dave Rice’s ability to reel in five-star recruits from all over the country, but perhaps his best find in recent years has been McCaw, a 6-foot-5 guard that graduated from Montrose Christian. McCaw has impressed early this year after averaged 9.6 points and 2.7 assists as a freshman.

Patrick McCaw (AP Photo)
Patrick McCaw (AP Photo)

Jalen Reynolds, Xavier

Reynolds is an athletic, 6-foot-9 power forward that played behind Matt Stainbrook and averaged 9.9 points and 6.1 boards in right around 20 minutes last season. As Xavier’s go-to low-post option playing a more significant role this season, Reynolds should be in for an uptick in production.

Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt

Baldwin was arguably the most underrated freshman in the SEC last season, averaging 9.4 points, 4.4 assists and 4.1 boards for a Vanderbilt team that won eight of their last ten in the regular season. We expect the Commodores that be top 15-good this season, and if they do, a large part of it will be because of Baldwin’s improvement.

Abdul-Malik Abu, N.C. State

Abu is a prototype college four, a powerfully athletic, 6-foot-8 dunking machine that threw down his fair share of posters last season. As the rest of his game catches up to his athleticism, and with more playing time available to him this year, Abu could end up being the best big man on the Wolfpack and a borderline all-ACC player.

Isaac Copeland, Georgetown

Copeland has a ton of ability and is a perfect fit for what John Thompson III wants out of his fours — he can shoot, he can put the ball on the floor, he can cut to the rim. Copeland has a little bit of Hollis Thompson in his game. As a freshman, he put together some big time performances, although he was far too inconsistent. Don’t be surprised if Copeland is in the conversation for all-Big East by the time the season ends.

James Webb III, Boise State

Webb’s inclusion on this list isn’t because I think he’s going to greatly improve on the 11.6 points and 8.0 boards he averaged last think. He’s here because I think people are going to end up paying quite a bit more attention to him this year. He’s got a chance to be a first round pick come June.

Daniel Hamilton, UConn

Hamilton, a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2014, entered UConn with the reputation for being a gunner. Then the 6-foot-7 small forward went out and averaged 10.9 points, 7.6 boards and 3.7 assists as a freshman. He’s got a real shot at being the AAC Player of the Year this season.

AND HERE ARE SEVEN MORE TO KEEP IN MIND: 

  • Nate Mason, Minnesota: Mason emerged as the second-best guard in Minnesota’s back court last season, and with Dre Mathieu and Andre Hollins gone, he’ll be the guy running the show this year.
  • Vince Edwards, Purdue: If Edwards can become a more consistent perimeter shooter, he can make the Boilermakers a very dangerous team given the size in their front court. If not, he could lose some minutes to the guys that can better create space.
  • Konstantinos Mitoglou, Wake Forest: Mitoglou is a 6-foot-10 freshman that averaged 9.7 points and shot 38.5 percent from three in his first season in Winston-Salem. He’s a really nice asset for Danny Manning.
  • Brekkot Chapman, Utah: Chapman averaged 5.7 points and shot 44.2 percent from three in 15 minutes as a freshman for the Utes. His shooting ability at 6-foot-7 helps create the space that allows Utah to be effective in pick-and-roll actions.
  • Yante Maten, Georgia: Maten was quite productive in limited minutes as a freshman for the Bulldogs. With Georgia’s front line graduating and with a senior-laden, talented back court returning, Maten is going to play a major role in whether UGA can compete at the top of the SEC.
  • Reid Travis, Stanford: Travis, an undersized four, had a promising start to his freshman season that was interrupted as he battled injury. The Cardinal lose their top three scorers from last year, meaning he will have plenty of opportunities.
  • Jonathan Motley, Baylor: Motley was just a three-star recruit when he arrived in Waco, but the athletic, 6-foot-10 center had some truly dominating performances during the year. Motley, teaming with Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince, will give the Bears one of the nation’s best front lines.

Anthony Edwards posterizes Vanderbilt defender

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It took about four months for us to get to this point, but finally, we have video of Anthony Edwards absolutely posterizing someone.

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Anthony Edwards killed a guy.

A post shared by Rob Dauster (@rob.dauster) on

This is pretty much the definition of a poster.

Is it not?

I’d hang this Anthony Edwards dunk up on my wall:

 (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

TCU drops No. 17 West Virginia in overtime

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Desmond Bane didn’t think a foul should have been called against him on the shot that appeared to be a game-winner in regulation for TCU.

The Horned Frogs rendered the whistle moot in overtime.

Kevin Samuel scored six of his 19 points in the extra period and TCU extended No. 17 West Virginia’s Big 12 road woes with a 67-60 victory over the Mountaineers on Saturday.

Bane sent the crowd into a frenzy on a driving layup with 0.9 seconds left, but the senior guard was called for pushing off on Jermaine Haley as he went up for the shot after racing the length of the floor off a West Virginia miss.

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“I mean, I did,” Bane said when asked if he pushed off. “But he bumped me first, for one, and for two, you just don’t call that with 0.9 seconds left. But, it is what it is.”

Jaire Grayer broke the 55-all tie with his only 3-pointer to start overtime, and Samuel hit two buckets and two free throws as the Mountaineers lost their fifth straight road conference game. They beat TCU by 32 at home in January.

“Haven’t made shots,” said coach Bob Huggins, who stayed tied with Dean Smith for sixth on the all-time coaching victories list at 879. “But I mean, we haven’t made shots at home either.”

Derek Culver had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Taz Sherman scored 16 points for West Virginia (19-8, 7-7).

Samuel made all seven of his shots and had eight rebounds with five blocks, RJ Nembhard scored 16 points and Bane finished with eight points and 10 assists in TCU’s second home victory over a ranked team. The Horned Frogs beat then-No. 18 Texas Tech in January.

“I hope it gives some of the younger guys confidence that it can be done,” said Bane, a senior. “We went out there and got flat out embarrassed in West Virginia. To come back here and beat that team is huge for us. Hopefully we can build off this moving forward.”

West Virginia finished 2 of 17 from 3-point range, including an air ball on an open look for Sean McNeil with the Mountaineers down by three in overtime.

McNeil also had a desperation heave from past half court bounce off the back of the rim when West Virginia managed to get off a shot after the call against Bane.

The Mountaineers missed four straight free throws late before Oscar Tshiebwe made the second of two for a 55-all tie with 1:03 to go. Miles McBride couldn’t finish off a possible three-point play, and Culver missed two free throws.

Culver scored six points and Sherman had the last five on a 15-1 run that put West Virginia up 25-15 in the first half.

TCU later answered with a 19-2 run that carried over halftime, turning a 31-21 deficit into a 40-33 lead when Nembhard hit a 3-pointer.

BIG PICTURE

West Virginia: Tshiebwe, the freshman leading West Virginia in scoring, was held to just one point and has attempted just six shots, with one make, the past two games. The Big 12’s second-leading rebounder wasn’t as much of a factor inside either, finishing with five boards after six straight games with at least eight.

“We sat him most of the first half because he just wouldn’t get back to his man,” Huggins said.

TCU: The slide toward the bottom of the standings has been steady since the Horned Frogs started 3-0 in the Big 12 after getting voted last by league coaches in a preseason poll. But this is quite a boost coming off seven losses in eight games.

ARGENTINE’S CONCUSSION

The Horned Frogs scored the final eight points of the first half, starting with a 3-pointer from guard Francisco Farabello. The only points for the freshman from Argentina came moments before he ended up on the floor holding his head following a scramble for a loose ball. Farabello had to be helped to the locker room and was ruled out with a concussion.

KNOCKING DOWN THE FREEBIES

Samuel, a 34% shooter on free throws coming into the game, was 5 of 6 from the line. The two in overtime put the Horned Frogs up six with 1:19 remaining.

“Obviously Kevin was terrific, so happy for him, how hard he’s worked on his free throws,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “And to go and knock those down, to be 5 of 6 at the end of the day is a great thing.”

UP NEXT

West Virginia: At Texas on Monday.

TCU: At Iowa State on Tuesday.

For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Memphis keeps at-large hopes alive with win over No. 22 Houston

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Precious Achiuwa scored 10 points, including the go-ahead free throw with 28.2 seconds left, and Memphis beat No. 22 Houston 60-59 on Saturday.

Malcolm Dandridge scored 12 points and Lester Quinones and Tyler Harris had 10 points apiece as Memphis (19-8, 8-6 American Athletic Conference) won its second straight.

Caleb Mills led Houston (21-7, 11-4) with 21 points and Marcus Sasser added 18 points for the Cougars. Mills’ jumper with 4 seconds left was off the mark. Houston missed its last four shots.

Houston was without guard Quentin Grimes, its second-leading scorer at 11.8 points per game. Grimes was dealing with a hip pointer.

The Cougars were forced to play catch-up for much of the game.

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Sasser’s 3-pointer gave Houston the lead with just under seven minutes left. It started a string of nine straight points for Sasser.

The teams exchanged leads down the stretch. Mills converted a pair of free throws with 47 seconds left to tie it at 59. Achiuwa then made the second of two free throws for the final margin.

By the midway point of the first half, neither team was shooting well. Memphis, which struggled early, managed to take the lead.

The Tigers put together enough of an offensive push during the middle stages of the first half to build the lead to eight points on a couple of occasions. Memphis led 27-23 at halftime with Houston shooting 26% from the field.

BIG PICTURE

Houston: The Cougars improved their shooting in the second half, going 12 for 26 (46%), but went cold again in the final minutes.

Memphis: The Tigers needed the win since they are considered outside looking in on the NCAA Tournament. Memphis struggled from the field, especially Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis and Quinones, who combined to go 3 of 24. Dandridge made all five of his shots.

UP NEXT

Houston: Hosts Cincinnati on March 1.

Memphis: At SMU on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegesbasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Pipkins scores 24, Providence beats No. 19 Marquette 84-72

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Luwane Pipkins scored 24 points and David Duke had 15 to lead Providence to an 84-72 victory over No. 19 Marquette on Saturday, the Friars’ third straight victory – all over ranked teams.

Markus Howard scored 38 points for Marquette, which lost its third straight game. Howard shot 10 for 25 from the field and had just one assist while committing four of the Golden Eagles’ (17-9, 7-7 Big East) 18 turnovers.

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AJ Reeves added 11 points and three others had 10 for Providence (16-12, 9-6), which held a double-digit lead for all but 39 seconds of the game’s last 26:29. Trailing 71-50, the Golden Eagles scored seven points in a row, but they could get no closer.

Providence led by as many as 17 in the first half thanks to its 3-point shooting (8 for 15) and 17 points from Pipkins. After Marquette cut the lead to nine, 52-43, midway through the second, the Friars scored six straight points.

It was 62-50 when Providence scored nine in a row, the last five on a basket and a 3-point play by Duke.

BIG PICTURE

Marquette: The Golden Eagles dipped into The Associated Press Top 25 at No. 18 on Feb. 10 and have lost three in a row. Though the first two were to higher-ranked teams, the loss at Providence will certainly drop them out of the rankings

Providence: The Friars are fourth in the Big East and the top unranked team in the conference. They are 4-4 against ranked teams this season.

UP NEXT

Marquette: Hosts Georgetown on Wednesday.

Providence: At No. 12 Villanova on Saturday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Dominant Doke leads No. 3 Kansas past No. 1 Baylor

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Udoka Azubuike wasn’t hard to find this time around.

The 7-footer put together the best performance of his college basketball career on Saturday afternoon, going for 23 points, 19 boards and three blocks while shooting 11-for-13 from the floor as No. 3 Kansas went into the Ferrell Center and staked their claim to the title fo the best team in college basketball with a 64-61 win over No. 1 Baylor.

After Baylor scored the first five points of the game, Kansas answered with a 9-0 run and never looked back. The Bears were only able to draw level once for the remainder of the game, and while Ochai Agbaji managed to make things interesting down the stretch with a late turnover against Baylor’s pressure, the Jayhawks were more or less in control throughout.

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And the reason for that is simple: Udoka Azubuike.

The first time that these two teams squared off back in January, when Baylor landed the program’s first-ever win in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, Azubuike was invisible, especially offensively. He finished with just six points on 3-for-6 shooting from the field largely due to the fact that Baylor’s defense is uniquely designed to take away players in the post. The Bears fronted Azubuike, they played off of non-shooters on the weak side of the floor and they dared Kansas to beat them from the perimeter.

It did not go well.

But giving Bill Self four days to devise and implement a game-plan is never going to work out well for anyone, and Baylor learned that the hard way.

And the tweak, truthfully, really quite simple:Mi

Middle ball-screens.

This had an impact on two things on that end of the floor. For starters, it made it difficult for Baylor to influence which way the ball-handler would come off of the screen. You can’t ‘ice’ a ball-screen in the middle of the floor. You can ‘weak’ it — forcing the ball-handler to come off of the screen going to his weak hand — but this is risky, especially with a point guard that is as quick as Dotson is. He was allowed to get a full head of steam going with only Freddie Gillespie between him and the rim. That’s a good thing for Kansas.

The other part of this is that since the ball is in the middle of the floor, and since Baylor cannot make the offense go the way they want them to go, it’s harder to sell out as a helper. This creates open lanes for Azubuike to run to the rim, and there is no one in college basketball that is a better lob-catcher in traffic than Azubuike.

“He was great and controlled the paint,” Self told reporters after the game. “That was about as well overall as I’ve seen him play.”

And he’s not wrong.

Azubuike was a titan on the offensive end of the floor.

But he was just as good defensively.

Baylor’s guards were never able to get into a rhythm on Saturday afternoon. MaCio Teague hit a couple of threes, but for the most part, he was a non-entity. Matthew Mayer scored eight straight points in the first half but was invisible outside of that run. Devonte Bandoo took one shot. Davion Mitchell shot 2-for-11 from the floor, and while Jared Butler went for 19 points and six assists, he needed 18 shots to get there.

Much of the credit there belongs to the perimeter defenders on this Kansas roster. Marcus Garrett is a walking, talking, ball-hawking demolition derby. He’ll take the soul of someone that is careless with their dribble, and Mitchell learned that the hard way. Devon Dotson more than held his own, while Ochai Agbaji, Isaiah Moss and Christian Braun did just enough to keep whoever they were guarding from getting a clean look. The Jayhawk ball pressure was, throughout the game, something else.

But the reason that ball-pressure was possible is because of the human eraser at the five. Doke owned the paint. He only finished with three blocks, but that’s because Baylor opted to settle for jumpers instead of trying to challenge the big fella. His ability to move his feet eliminated Baylor’s ball-screen offense:

All told, when you factor in both ends of the floor, this was one of the single-most dominant performances that I can remember seeing this season.

Kansas is going to enter this upcoming week as the biggest talking point in the sport.

Is this the best team in the country?

Can the Jayhawks win a national title this year?

Are they actually the favorite to cut down the nets?

And the reason that the answer to all three of those questions is ‘yes’ is the presence of Udoka Azubuike.

The more interesting question that we should be having has less to do with Kansas as a team and more to do with Udoka Azubuike: Is he, and not Dotson, the All-American on this Kansas team?

And where should he factor in the Player of the Year race?