Player of the Year Power Rankings: Grayson Allen takes the early lead

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Today, we are rolling out the first installment of the annual NBC Sports College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings.

As always, these rankings are quite subjective and based on a consensus of all of my opinions.

Things that are relevant in this discussion:

  • Is the player on a team that can win? Whether it’s getting to the Final Four or winning their league, I can’t nominate a player for a postseason award if they are on a bad team.
  • Does that player put up impressive numbers, whether they are counting stats or advanced metrics?
  • How did he play in big games? Were there any moments that stand out from his season? College football has a Heisman moment. College basketball has about 284 Player of the Year awards, but the principle remains the same.

If your favorite player doesn’t check those three boxes, it’s hard for me to justify putting him on, or ranking him higher, on this list.

Take Allonzo Trier, for example. He’s been on fire for three games. He’s also chewed up three teams that have no business being on the same court as the Wildcats. The three guys above him? They all went nuts in one of the five most impressive wins we’ve seen this season.

Hopefully, that will help dissuade some of the anger lists like this create, (Ha! Right.) o let’s commence with the small sample size fun!

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS

1. GRAYSON ALLEN, Duke: Through five games this season, Allen is averaging 18.4 points, 3.4 boards and 3.2 assists. His last two games have been fairly unimpressive; 15 points combined against Furman and Southern while shooting 5-for-18 from the floor and 1-for-10 from three. He’s come back down to earth after the performance he had against Michigan State, when he went for 37 points – 23 in the second half – and hit seven threes as the Blue Devils picked off the Spartans without Marvin Bagley III healthy.

The last two years, a performance in the Champions Classic has vaulted a player atop the National Player of the Year race, and he remained there throughout the year. In 2016, it was Denzel Valentine’s triple-double against Kansas, and while he briefly ceded his lead to Buddy Hield when he got injured early in league play, Valentine did eventually earn a split of the Player of the Year awards; he was the NBC Sports Player of the Year.

Last season, it was Frank Mason that put together a run like that. He hit the game-winner to beat Duke in Madison Square Garden and never looked back. After he did this, is Allen next?:

2. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: Monday night’s 36-point win over Hampton was the first time this season that Bluiett failed to score at least 25 points in a game; he had 21 on 7-for-9 shooting. It was also the first time that he didn’t make at least three threes in a game; he only shot three and hit two of them. On the season, Bluiett is now averaging 24.3 points while shooting 62.5 percent from the floor, 55.6 percent from three and 22-for-23 from the free throw line.

That’s efficiency.

But the biggest reason Bluiett is No. 2 on this list is for his performance at Wisconsin. He struggled to find a rhythm in that game but still managed to score 25 points and make some massive shots in the second half, including a pair of threes within the span of a minute that broke a tie and sealed Xavier’s win.

3. JORDAN MURPHY, Minnesota: We’re only four games into the season, but Murphy is emerging as the guy that might be able to challenge Miles Bridges for National Player of the Year. He has four double-doubles this season, has yet to score fewer than 18 points in any games, is averaging 24.8 points and went for 23 points, 14 boards, three blocks and two assists as the Golden Gophers went into the Dunkin Donuts Center and knocked off a good Providence team by 12 points.

If you thought that Murphy was going to be Minnesota’s best player and the strength of that team was going to be their front court, you are a lying liar that’s full of lies.

4. ALLONZO TRIER, Arizona: No player in college basketball has had a hotter start to the college basketball season than Trier. Through three games, he’s leading the nation in scoring at 30 points while shooting 70 percent from the floor and 58.8 percent from three. He has 90 points in three games and it’s taken him 40 shots to get there. It’s early, but his offensive rating is 150.9, according to KenPom. That’s insane.

5. MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State: So this is how tough it is to be Miles Bridges this season: The Spartans are 2-1 on the season with a pair of blowout wins and a loss to the No. 1 team in the country when the No. 1 player in these rankings went for 37 points. Bridges, in those three games, is averaging 19.7 points, 7.0 boards, 2.7 blocks and 2.0 assists while shooting 41.2 percent from three on nearly six 3PAs per game.

And it feels like he hasn’t done much of anything through the first two weeks of the season. Sometimes the burden of expectation can be heavy.

Miles Bridges (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

6. MANU LECOMTE, Baylor: In a league that suddenly looks very deep in the back court, Lecomte has been the Big 12’s best player to date. He’s averaging 21.5 points and 3.8 assists through four games and just had his best performance on Monday night, putting 24 points and five assists on Wisconsin to advance to the Hall Of Fame Classic title game.

7. KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have a bonafide star in senior lead guard Keenan Evans, who was the best player on the floor as Texas Tech knocked off Boston College (Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman) and Northwestern (Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsay) to win the Hall Of Fame Classic at Mohegan Sun this weekend. He averaged 27 points in the two games while the three players  mentioned combined to shoot 11-for-34 from the floor.

8. JORDAN MCLAUGHLIN, USC: The USC program has struggled early on this season, as they are trying to find a way to get minutes for the 10 guys on their roster that deserve minutes while navigating the waters of an FBI investigation. They are still without De’Anthony Melton, who plays a role on that team that no one else can play. And when it looked like that would cost them a win at Vanderbilt, McLaughlin stepped up and ended any talk of that nonsense.

If the 37 points that Allen put on Michigan State wasn’t the most impressive individual performance of the season, McLaughlin’s 35 points in Memorial Gymnasium was. He put his team on his back and willed them to a win they weren’t going to get any other way:

9. BONZIE COLSON, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are 4-0 on the season and Colson is averaging 20.8 points, 10.8 boards and 3.0 blocks. They still haven’t really beaten anyone yet. Here’s to hoping we get to see Colson go up against Wichita State in the Maui finals.

10. KHYRI THOMAS and MARCUS FOSTER, Creighton: It’s hard to pick between the two here, so for now I’ll just list them both. Creighton has been one of the most surprising teams in the country, winning games at Northwestern and against UCLA on a neutral floor already this season. Thomas is the better defender of the two and has clearly improved his ability to play on the ball; in the past he’s been nothing but a 3-and-D guy. But Foster has been Creighton’s best scorer and is their most dangerous offensive weapon. One will emerge as their Player of the Year candidate before too long, but for now they both deserve the mention.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.

Miles Kelly leads Georgia Tech to 79-77 win over rival Georgia

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 02 Northeastern at Georgia Tech
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ATLANTA – Georgia Tech’s Miles Kelly hit another winning shot against a state rival.

Terry Roberts endured a nightmarish final minute for Georgia.

Kelly hit a long 3-pointer and then a drove for the game-winning floater with 23 seconds remaining as the Yellow Jackets rallied to beat Georgia 79-77 on Tuesday night.

Kelly hit the winning shot in similar fashion against Georgia State on Nov. 12. He did it again to beat the Bulldogs, finishing with a team-high 17 points after failing to score in the first half.

“I’m going to continue to keep shooting, no matter how many times I miss,” Kelly said.

Roberts missed a 3-pointer, turned the ball over twice with bad passes, and was called for an offensive foul as he was trying to drive for the basket that would’ve sent the game to overtime.

“A tough finish for us,” Georgia first-year coach Mike White said. “We were in position to steal one on the road.”

A pair of second-chance buckets seemingly put Georgia (7-3) in control with a 77-73 lead.

The Bulldogs wouldn’t score again as Kelly led the comeback for the Yellow Jackets (6-3) – with a big assist from Roberts.

He had a chance to essentially seal it for the Bulldogs, but his jumper beyond the arc clanked off the rim.

Georgia Tech grabbed the rebound and raced down the court, where Kelly swished a 3 from well behind the stripe that brought Georgia Tech within a point with about a minute left.

Trying to work the ball inside, Roberts made an ill-advised entry pass that was deflected and stolen by Deivon Smith, setting up Kelly’s drive for the basket that put the Yellow Jackets back ahead,

Roberts tried a drive of his own, only to have it blocked by Jalon Moore. Georgia retained possession, but Roberts’ inbounds pass was stolen by Moore, who was fouled and made one of two free throws.

Roberts took the ball again and hurriedly dribbled toward the basket, only to be called for an offensive foul when he sent Smith flying.

“Just sacrificing my body for the team,” Smith said.

Georgia stole an inbounds pass around midcourt, giving Karlo Oquendo one last shot to launch a 3 that still would’ve won it for the Bulldogs. It bounced off the rim.

The game was tight throughout. Neither team led by more than eight, and a sequence in the second half showed just how tightly these rivals were matched.

With both squads playing at a frenetic pace and showing little regard for defense, the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions as the teams traded baskets.

Stunningly, they combined to score on 19 straight possessions before Georgia’s Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe missed a pair of free throws with 5:17 remaining.

FIRING UP THE CROWD

Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came when Georgia Tech football coach Brent Key addressed the crowd at halftime.

Key, who served as interim coach for the last eight games of the season, was introduced Monday as the full-time choice for job.

He fired up the fans by getting them to chant “To hell with Georgia” over and over again. When a smattering of Bulldogs fans responded with barks, Key smiled and egged on the Yellow Jackets crowd to drown them out.

He also declared Georgia Tech to be the “greatest school in the entire state, the entire country,” following up his vow the previous day to not back down from the defending national champion and top-ranked Bulldogs.

BIG PICTURE

Georgia: This will be a tough one to swallow for Roberts, who led his team with 16 points and seven assists. The Bulldogs lost despite shooting 53.4% from the field.

Georgia Tech: Four players scored in double figures, and two others players finished with eight points. But it was Kelly, as usual, who had the ball in his hands at the end of a tight game.

UP NEXT

Georgia: After a nearly two-week break, the Bulldogs return to Atlanta on Dec. 18 to face Notre Dame at State Farm Arena in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event.

Georgia Tech: Head to North Carolina on Saturday for the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the struggling Tar Heels.

No. 17 Illinois rallies late, beats No. 2 Texas 85-78 in OT

Illinois v Maryland
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NEW YORK – Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 12 of his 16 points in overtime, including the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:34 remaining, and No. 17 Illinois rallied to hand second-ranked Texas its first loss of the season, 85-78 on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.

Jayden Epps added 11 points, including the final five points of regulation – a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left and two tying free throws with 8 seconds remaining. Epps then blocked Marcus Carr’s jumper in the lane just before the buzzer to force overtime in an entertaining showdown at Madison Square Garden.

Matthew Mayer, who faced Texas several times at Baylor, tied a career high with 21 points as he made his first seven shots and finished 8 of 10.

Shannon, who missed eight of nine shots in regulation, took over in the extra period to help Illinois (7-2) beat a ranked foe for the second time this season. He opened overtime with a jumper after Marcus Carr was called for traveling and then hit an open 3 from the right wing over Brock Cunningham for a 73-70 lead.

Shannon then converted a reverse layup and finished off a three-point play to make it 77-70 with 2:16 left. Carr hit two free throws to get Texas within one with 1:28 remaining. Jayden Epps hit a layup, RJ Melendez sank two free throws to put Illinois ahead by five, and Shannon made two free throws with 27.7 seconds left.

Timmy Allen scored a season-high 21 points for Texas (6-1), which failed to open 7-0 for the first time since 2014-15. Tyrese Hunter added 10 points but Carr was held to nine points on 3-of-14 shooting as Texas had 12 shots blocked and shot 42%.

Texas took its only double-digit lead when Dillon Mitchell hit a layup with 8:28 left. Illinois cut the lead to 58-56 on a 3 by Melendez nearly four minutes later. After Cunningham hit an open 3 with 4:15 remaining, Si’Jabari Rice made a 3 for a 64-58 lead.

Allen found Cunningham for an open jumper that counted when officials called goaltending on Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins. That gave Texas a 65-61 lead with with 1:51 remaining.

Carr’s rainbow jumper in the lane made it 68-63 with a minute left and Illinois had a 3-pointer by Melendez waved off because it called timeout with 45.3 seconds left. After the timeout, Epps made an open corner 3 with 33 seconds remaining.

Hunter missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to set up Epps’ tying free throws.

BIG PICTURE

Illinois: The Illini continued to struggle with turnovers, committing 17. But only two of them came in the final 10-plus minutes of regulation or overtime. Illinois’ 15th turnover was an offensive foul by Mayer, which sent him to the bench with four fouls with 10:42 remaining.

Texas: The Longhorns had little offense beyond Allen and Hunter. While the duo was a combined 13 of 29, the rest of the team missed 24 of 40 shots.

UP NEXT

Illinois hosts Penn State in its second Big Ten game on Saturday. The Illini lost their conference opener to No. 13 Maryland.

Texas hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the Jimmy Blacklock Classic on Saturday.

Clark, Gardner lift No. 3 Virginia past James Madison, 55-50

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Kihei Clark scored 18 points, Jayden Gardner had 14 points and eight rebounds, and No. 3 Virginia beat feisty in-state rival James Madison 55-50 on Tuesday night.

The Cavaliers (8-0), who lost starting guard Reece Beekman to a right leg injury early in the first half, prevented the Dukes (7-3) from winning a second straight December game in Charlottesville. James Madison beat Virginia 52-49 last Dec. 7.

Clark had seven assists while playing nearly 39 minutes with Beekman sidelined.

“Kihei gave everything he had and I had to, you know, ride him,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “Sure, he missed some free throws. And I know he made some mistakes, but you could just see him, you know, how tough-minded he was.”

Dukes coach Mark Byington said he told Clark – who’s playing his fifth season for Virginia – after last year’s game that he loved watching him play.

“He’s seen everything and nothing you’re going to do is going to surprise him,” Byington said. “There’s nothing Kihei Clark hasn’t seen out there, and he’s poised. I mean, you can’t rattle him. … So I told him this time I was like, `Look, I better never see you in college basketball again.’ But he’s one of my favorite players to watch just because he’s tough, talented, and he’s a winner.”

Takal Molson scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half for James Madison, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 42-all with 7:47 to play. Gardner responded for Virginia by scoring five straight points in a 9-1 run.

The Cavaliers kept the Dukes in the game by missing eight of 13 free throws over the last six minutes.

Molson made an acrobatic layup while being fouled with 1:51 left, but he missed the free throw. He scored again with 1:01 left, pulling the Dukes within 52-50, but freshman Ryan Dunn answered with a strong move on the baseline for Virginia with 35 seconds to play.

James Madison threw the ball away on its ensuing possession.

BIG PICTURE

James Madison: The Dukes came into the game leading the nation in scoring (93.3 points per game) and having scored as many as 95 points five times. They were shooting 52.7% for the year, but made just four of their first 19 shots and finished 15 of 55 (26.9%). Vado Morse scored 11 points, the only other JMU player in double figures.

“Yeah, we knew how good they were and they showed it in spots tonight,” Gardner said. “But I think you saw a lot of resiliency tonight on the defensive end getting crucial stops.”

Virginia: The Cavaliers played the final 36 minutes without Beekman and gave extensive minutes to freshman Isaac McKneely. Virginia will hope Beekman, its third-leading scorer and a primary ballhandler and defender, recovers in time for its showdown with No. 1 Houston on Dec. 17.

UP NEXT

The Dukes return home to play Gallaudet on Saturday night.

Virginia has a 10-day break before hosting the top-ranked Cougars.

No. 25 Villanova women beat American University 83-42

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VILLANOVA, Pa. – Maddy Siegrist had 24 points and seven rebounds, Lucy Olsen added 14 points and No. 25 Villanova beat American University 83-42 on Tuesday night.

Siegrist scored 15 points in the opening 13 minutes as Villanova led 34-15. The Wildcats extended it to 46-23 by halftime before starting the second half on a 9-0 run for a 32-point lead.

Villanova added an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter for its largest lead of the game at 79-36. The Wildcats held American to 15-of-50 shooting (30%) and scored 21 points off 19 turnovers.

Christina Dalce scored 13 points for Villanova (8-2), which plays Saint Joseph’s on Saturday before taking a week off for final exams. Siegrist, who was coming off a 29-point performance on Sunday, made 10 of 17 shots as Villanova shot 56%.

Emily Johns scored 12 points for American (0-8), which hosts Marist (3-5) on Saturday.