College Basketball Midseason Awards: Josh Hart, Scott Drew head the list

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Every week, we break down the Player of the Year race and who is the favorite to win the award. And at this point, Hart has put himself in a position to be more or less the consensus pick as the National Player of the Year should the season end today.

There are, essentially, three reasons for this:

  1. Let’s put the numbers – 20.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 41 percent 3PT – aside for a second: The most notable thing that Hart has done this year is carry Villanova in crunch time. It seems like every night he’s making big shots and taking over games in ‘winning time’. Those are the moments that people remember. Those are the plays that win you Player of the Year awards.
  2. Hart is not only the best player on the No. 1 team in the country, but he is the guy that makes Villanova’s style of play possible. Hart is a 6-foot-6 wing, but his versatility is almost unparalleled at the college level. He’s an elite defender that can hold his own against pretty much anyone in college, and when you add in his ability to rebound the ball, he’s the guy that lets Villanova play small-ball.
  3. Last season, Hart was an all-american. He entered this year as a preseason first-team all-american. We thought he was going to be good entering the year, but he’s proven to be better than anyone expected. He’s a better passer. He’s turned himself into one of the best shooters in the Big East. He’s working as the dribbler in ball-screen actions. He has, essentially, turned himself into a first round pick.

The race is far from over, but Hart has moved into the lead.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew smiles during practice at the NCAA college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 18, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla. Baylor plays Georgia State in the second round on Thursday. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Baylor head coach Scott Drew (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)


Baylor did not get a single vote in the AP preseason poll. As of today, they’re sitting at 14-0 and No. 2 in the AP poll, ahead of conference rival Kansas and behind only the reigning national champs.

This isn’t a fluke, either. Baylor has beaten, in order: Oregon by 17 points, Michigan State, VCU, Louisville despite being down by 22 points, Xavier by 15 points and Oklahoma, on the road, by 26.

Who saw this coming? If you say you did, I’m calling you a liar.

And the most impressive part of it all is that the Bears’ success this season is totally a result on development within the program. Baylor starts three guys that are 21 years old and two that are 22. None of them were five-star recruits or considered potential program-changing talents. Johnathan Motley was developed into an all-american caliber player. Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil both improved during sit-out seasons last year. Ish Wainwright, Al Freeman, Terry Maston. These are guys that slowly-but-surely got better throughout their college careers.

The result is a team that looks to be the favorite to push Kansas for the Big 12 regular season title.

All from a guy who has been a long-standing joke in the college basketball community. Guess he’s not all bad…

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As a freshman, Holiday, the younger brother of NBA players Jrue and Justin, was a starter for the Bruins. He was “demoted” this season with Lonzo Ball arriving, but he’s been arguably the most important player on the UCLA roster this side of Ball. He can fill in for any of UCLA’s three starting perimeter players, he’s their best on-ball defender and he is not only a playmaker off the bounce but he’s a knock-down three-point shooter. Most importantly, however, he’s embraced being the sixth-man. Accepting that role is the hardest thing for a starter to do.


This is a loaded freshman class with a number of guys that have been playing out of their minds, but Ball is the guy that deserves this award. He’s the only freshman that earned a nod as a first-team all-american. Ball has completely changed the culture surrounding the UCLA program, which wasn’t an easy thing to do. He has hit a rough patch in the last couple of weeks, however, so it will be interesting to see how he bounces back.


This one was tough. The best defensive teams this season are great because of how well they work as a team; there isn’t really just one great individual defender on Virginia, or Louisville, or West Virginia. For me, it came down to Fox or Baylor’s Jo Lual-Acuil – who is second nationally in blocks-per-game and block percentage on the nation’s seventh-best defense, per KenPom – but I went with Fox. He’s one of, if not the best on-ball defender in college hoops and he’s the point man for a Kentucky defense that has been exploitable this season. Put another way, I think his presence as an on-ball defender disrupting offense is why only UCLA and North Carolina have been able to execute against the Wildcats. He covers up some of their flaws, and that’s before you consider his ability to turn defense into offense with his speed in transition.

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks is reacts after making a basket during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Frank Mason III (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)


  • Frank Mason III, Kansas: Mason’s case for National Player of the Year has been severely underrated at this point. He’s averaging 19.8 points, 5.9 assists, 4.6 boards and just 2.2 turnovers while shooting 56.9 percent on 2’s and 48.2 percent on 3’s, posting an offensive rating of 130.9 as the go-to guy, leader and most important player on a top five team. He made the biggest shot of the season to date as well, beating Duke in Madison Square Gardon in the Champions Classic.
  • Lonzo Ball, UCLA: Ball has been phenomenal, and while his numbers alone are impressive – he’s averaging 14.3 points, second-nationally averaging 8.1 assists while shooting 43.4 percent from three – it’s the impact he’s had on UCLA has a whole that earns him this spot. Not only does his presence bump everyone into their more natural position, but he’s turned them into one of the nation’s most entertaining and unselfish basketball teams.
  • Luke Kennard, Duke: Kennard has been the best player for Duke this season, and frankly, it’s not all that close. He’s been their best player in every one of their biggest games, he was the guy that kept them from losing to Elon and Tennessee State, and he was the only player that showed up against Virginia Tech. It’s weird to think about it like this, but on a team with four potential first round draft picks, the Blue Devils would be in serious trouble if it wasn’t for Kennard.
  • Josh Hart, Villanova: He’s our pick for Player of the Year. Of course he’s a first-team all-american.
  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Swanigan has been the best big man in college basketball this season, and it’s not all that close. He’s averaging 18.1 points and 13.0 boards at this point, and he’s already posted four games with at least 20 points and 20 boards. He draws 6.6 fouls-per-40 minutes – second on his team to Isaac Haas, who is at 8.1 fouls – and his ability to pass, out of double-teams and in high-low actions, is part of what makes Purdue’s offense so good this year.
LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 07: John Calipari the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats gives instructions to De'Aaron Fox #0 and Malik Monk #5 during the game against the Valparaiso Crusaders at Rupp Arena on December 7, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)


  • Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton: Watson is the engine that makes Creighton’s high-powered offense run. He leads the nation in assists and he’s the reason why guys like Marcus Foster, Khyri Thomas and Cole Huff consistently get so many good looks from three.
  • De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: We also talked about what Fox brings defensively, but he’s also averaging 15.8 points and 6.8 assists with a nearly 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. If only he was shooting better than 14.3 percent from three.
  • Malik Monk, Kentucky: Monk is the most electrifying scorer in the country. He’s had the iconic performance of the season to date, popping off for 47 points in the win over North Carolina, but he also went for 34 points at Ole Miss in his first-ever SEC game. He’s averaging a ridiculous 22.4 points this year.
  • Kelan Martin, Butler: Martin is averaging 18.1 points and 5.8 boards as the most dangerous scorer on a Butler team that has proven to be quite dangerous this season. He’s the reason the Bulldogs have a chance to make some noise in March this year, and yet there are so many people that have no idea he exists.
  • Jonathan Motley, Baylor: Motley has been the best player on Baylor, the still-undefeated No. 2 team in the country. His development into an all-american from a guy that was an afterthought on an AAU team with the Harrison twins has been impressive to watch. He’s the posterboy in Scott Drew’s career-defining coaching performance.
Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)
Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)


  • Matt Farrell, Notre Dame: It’s tough to pick between Bonzie Colson and Farrell for this spot, but I lean towards Farrell. Notre Dame’s offense has always operated around having a point guard that can handle being the focal point of an offense, and Farrell’s ability to be able to do that was the biggest question mark entering the year.
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: The collapse against Nebraska aside, Trimble has been a terrific leader for a very young Maryland team. They’re 13-2 on the season and, now, 6-1 in games decided by six points or less. Trimble has the winning points in the final minute of four of those games. The Terps are 26-6 in games decided by six points or less in his Terp career.
  • Markelle Fultz, Washington: Fultz may be the best player in college basketball this season. Until Fultz showed up at Washington, no one since 1993 – which is as far back as I can find stats – has averaged 22 points, six boards and six assists. Fultz is averaging 22.3 points, 6.7 assists and 6.4 boards as well as 1.6 blocks and 1.4 steals while shooting 45.5 percent from three. It’s too bad Washington is horrible, which is why Fultz is on our third team. If you can’t get your team into the NCAA tournament, I can’t really consider you for first or second team all-american.
  • Lauri Markkanen, Arizona: Despite playing on a team whose point guard is somewhere between mediocre and injured, Markkanen is averaging a team-high 15.8 points, 7.3 boards and shooting better than 44 percent from three. He’s been the consistent presence for a team that, to date, has been overachieving.
  • Yante Maten, Georgia: Maten is the best player in the SEC that doesn’t reside in Lexington, but it looks like the Bulldogs are going to be headed to the NIT. So like Fultz, Maten is locked into being a third-teamer.
SPOKANE, WA - DECEMBER 07: Markelle Fultz #20 of the Washington Huskies controls a rebound against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center on December 7, 2016 in Spokane, Washington. Gonzaga defeated Washington 98-71. (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
Markelle Fultz (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)

Providence hires Kim English as next head coach


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Kim English is just 34 years old, but has already moved around a lot in his coaching career, serving as an assistant at three schools over six years before landing his first head coaching job at George Mason in 2021.

It was going to take a special opportunity for him to pack up and move again.

“Every place I’ve been, I’ve wanted to stay there forever. I really want to stay at a place for a long time,” English said Thursday. “I’m sick of moving,”

He believes he has found that place in Providence.

English was named the Friars’ new head coach, ending a fast search by first-year Providence athletic director Steve Napolillo that was created after Ed Cooley left to take the job at Big East rival Georgetown.

English becomes the 16th coach in school history. Cooley resigned on Monday following 12 seasons. He complied a 242-153 record with the Friars that included seven appearances, but just three March Madness victories.

English was 34-29 in two seasons at George Mason, leading the Patriots to a 20-13 record this past season. It was the first time the school reached the 20-win milestone since 2016-17.

George Mason president Gregory Washington said it would begin a national search to replace English.

In English, the Friars get a hungry, young coach who has built his reputation on recruiting. He said his secret sauce finding players is simple.

“You work at it. You do it every day. You’re relentless,” English said.

He played college basketball at Missouri and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round in 2012. But his NBA tenure was short and he was waived in 2013. He had a brief stint with the Chicago Bulls in 2014 and also played two years professionally overseas.

English began his coaching career as an assistant under Frank Haith at Tulsa in 2015 and spent two seasons there before being hired by Tad Boyle in 2017 as an assistant coach at Colorado. In 2019, former Friars coach Rick Barnes brought English to Tennessee as an assistant coach and he stayed until being hired by George Mason

He feels as if he has found a kindred spirit in Napolillo, who sold him on the passion the administration and community have for the Friars’ basketball program.

The intel he got about Providence and Napolillo aligned with what he observed when he got the chance to meet him.

“His passion, his fire, his love for Providence basketball really speaks to me. It really spoke to me what he was looking for,” English said. “As a first-year athletic director to be in this situation and to go at it and not just do what other people may have been comfortable with. … That’s what you want in a partnership.”

English also said he’s impressed by facilities at Providence that he said are among the best he’s seen.

Napolillo said the reason he was able to move so quickly on the hire was because he heeded the advice of his mentors who told him to always be prepared to have to fill a coaching vacancy.

“You always need to have names in a drawer for any coaching situation. You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. ”This year, as noise kept growing and growing, I had a list in my drawer.”

That list also included a Sports Illustrated article he saved from last year that listed some rising coaches. He can’t recall why, but for some reason he highlighted English’s name in the story.

English has already started working and began recruiting not long after signing his contract on Wednesday night, he said.

He also confirmed that Dennis Felton, one of his assistants at George Mason, will join him at Providence. Felton served as a Friars assistant under Barnes from 1992 to 1994.

In a Big East that is stacked from top to bottom with coaching talent, English feels as if the pieces are in place to build something special.

“I’ve had no reason to take a bad job,” English said. “I was a 20-something-year-old assistant in the SEC. I didn’t have to rush. If I’m going to have interest in it, it’s going to be really good.”

For him, that translated into being in a position to bring the Friars a national championship.

“If you want to win the big trophy, you’ve got to be in the big dance,” English said. “At the mid-major level it’s getting increasing harder to get to the big dance. This gives us an opportunity. If we are competing for Big East championships, we’re going to be in the show.”

Report: Notre Dame closing deal with Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame is finalizing a deal to make Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry its new men’s basketball coach, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because contract details were still being completed and needed school approval.

Shrewsberry, in his second season at Penn State (23-14), led the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and a tournament victory for the first time since 2001.

The Nittany Lions beat Texas A&M and were eliminated by Texas in the second round.

Notre Dame has been searching for a replacement for Mike Brey, who spent the last 23 season as coach of the Fighting Irish. He announced in January that this would be his last season with Notre Dame

The Irish finished 11-21.

Shrewsberry grew up in Indianapolis and went to school at Division III Hanover College in Indiana.

He was the head coach at Indiana University South Bend, an NAIA school located in the same city as Notre Dame, from 2005-07.

He later worked as an assistant coach at Butler and Purdue, with a stint as an assistant with the Boston Celtics in between.

ESPN first reported Notre Dame was close to a deal with Shrewsberry.

Armando Bacot says he’s returning for fifth season at North Carolina

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina forward Armando Bacot is returning to play a fifth season for the Tar Heels.

Bacot announced his decision Wednesday, giving North Carolina fans a bit of good news after the Tar Heels failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.

The 6-foot-11 Bacot is North Carolina’s career leader in rebounds, double-doubles and double-figure rebounding games.

Bacot led North Carolina to a runner-up finish in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and his decision to return was a major reason the Tar Heels were ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25.

The Tar Heels didn’t come close to meeting those expectations. They went 20-13 and opted against playing in the NIT. Bacot earned Associated Press All-America third-team honors and averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds.

He averaged 16.3 points and 13.1 rebounds in 2021-22. He capped that season by becoming the first player ever to have six double-doubles in one NCAA Tournament.

Bacot participated in North Carolina’s Senior Night festivities this year. He has a fifth year of eligibility because of the waiver the NCAA granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ed Cooley takes over at Georgetown with lofty aspirations

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Ed Cooley’s task at Georgetown is to bring a once-storied program back to prominence in a competitive conference that has three teams still part of March Madness in the Sweet 16.

Cooley’s lofty aspirations go beyond lifting the Hoyas up from the bottom of the Big East Conference. After leaving Providence, which he took to the NCAA Tournament seven times in 12 years, he already is talking about trying to coach Georgetown to its first championship since 1984.

At his introductory news conference Wednesday that felt like a pep rally, Cooley said he wanted current and former players to envision cutting down nets and watching “One Shining Moment” with the nets hanging around their necks. He promised wins – many of them – and plotted a path forward that he knows will involve some tough times.

“It’s a process, and the process now, because you have a changing landscape in athletics, you’ll have an opportunity to probably move it quicker than you would have 10, 20 years ago,” Cooley said. “We’re going to lose some games. It’s OK. Losing’s part of growth. But over the course of time, it will pay off.”

Georgetown has lost a lot the past couple of years under Patrick Ewing, who was fired earlier this month after six seasons. The team went 7-25 this season after going 6-25 last season and lost 37 of 39 games in Big East play.

While Cooley at Providence was responsible for four of those defeats, the 53-year-old distanced himself from Georgetown’s recent run of losing.

“I don’t have anything to do what happened yesterday,” he said. “My job is to move us forward from today.”

Cooley’s mere presence is an acknowledgement that Georgetown needed a major change to become relevant again. After late Hall of Fame coach John Thompson’s 27-year-old run led to longtime assistant Craig Esherick succeeding him and then son John Thompson III and Ewing getting the head job, Cooley is the school’s first outsider in the position in a half-century.

His only connection to the Hilltop – beyond coaching in the Big East – is his daughter, Olivia, attending Georgetown. Cooley, a Providence native, said her desire to live in the Washington area played into his decision to leave for a conference rival.

It was certainly no accident that athletic director Lee Reed and school president John J. DeGioia used phrases like “new era” and “new chapter” when discussing Cooley. DeGioia said he believes Cooley will “uplift and restore this team” to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

“He has a proven record of success,” Reed said. “We knew we needed a leader, someone who understood our identity and could reimagine Georgetown basketball to fit today’s unique basketball landscape.”

That landscape, including players being able to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) and more easily transfer schools, are the biggest changes Cooley has seen since landing his first head job at Fairfield in 2006. He expects to be aggressive, and given the high volume of Georgetown players coming and going via the transfer portal, could rebuild the roster in his image sooner rather than later.

“You have to find student-athletes that fit the way you want to play, your style of play, that fit you as a coach,” Cooley said. “We need to find players that can play for me that can attend Georgetown, not the other way around.”

Cooley acknowledged that some luck is needed but also stressed recruiting local talent to keep the best players in the region around. That’s just one building block to putting Georgetown back on the map, which Cooley wants the time and latitude to do.

“The word patience is always hard because everybody wants it and they want it right now,” he said. “Everybody wants it right now. Have a little bit of patience.”

Texas’ Arterio Morris plays amid misdemeanor domestic violence case

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — In a season when Texas fired coach Chris Beard after a felony domestic violence arrest, it has allowed a reserve guard to keep playing while he awaits trial on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Second-seed Texas has advanced under interim coach Rodney Terry to the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2008, and the Longhorns play No. 3 Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri.

Arterio Morris, a freshman who was one of the top recruits in the country last year, was initially scheduled to stand trial March 29, three days before Final Four weekend. Denton County prosecutors were granted a delay to an unspecified date.

Beard was fired Jan. 5, about three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of a felony charge of choking his fiancée in a fight during which she also told police he bit, and hit her. She later recanted the choking allegation and the Travis County district attorney dismissed the case, saying prosecutors were following her wishes not to got to trial and that the charge could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Morris is charged with Class A misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a family member, which in Texas includes dating relationships. It stems from a June 2022 confrontation in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The charge carries penalties ranging from probation and fines to up to a year in jail if convicted.

Morris’ attorney, Justin Moore, said the charges against Beard and the player are different.

“(Beard) was charged with a felony family assault,” Moore said. “That was far more serious as to what Arterio was alleged to have to committed. We maintain Arterio’s innocence.”

According to police, the ex-girlfriend said Morris grabbed her arm and pulled her off a bed, and later pulled the front of her sports bra, causing an injury to her neck and shoulder area. Police reported seeing a sizable bruise or scratch.

Texas officials declined comment. Beard said before the season that school officials he would not identify determined the freshman could play this season.

Moore defended Texas officials’ decision to not suspend Morris.

“I do believe Texas has taken this seriously. They’ve also allowed Arterio to enjoy his due process rights,” Moore said.

Morris has played in all 36 games this season, although his minutes and have been limited on a senior-dominated team. He averages nearly 12 minutes and 4.7 points per game. His biggest moment was a soaring alley-oop dunk against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

Attempts to reach Morris’ ex-girlfriend through family members were not successful. According to online records, prosecutors sought the trial delay to “procure witness availability.” Prosecutor Jamie Beck did not immediately return messages.