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Player of the Year Power Rankings: How good is Grant Williams?

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After taking a one week break for the holidays, the Player of the Year Power Rankings are back in full effect this week.

The top spot hasn’t changed, but there has been some movement in the top ten after a handful of impressive performances over the course of the last fortnight. 

Here are the official power rankings.

1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

Duke has not taken the court in nearly two weeks. The last time we saw them play, Williamson put up 17 points and 13 boards in 25 foul-plagued minutes against Texas Tech in Madison Square Garden. Personally, I don’t think there really is a debate at this point. Zion is the front-runner.

2. GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee

We all love Dedric Lawson because he’s a double-double machine as a small-ball four whose perimeter ability and passing skill allows Udoka Azubuike to thrive in the post, and he’s doing all of that for a top five team in the country.

Well, Grant Williams is averaging 20.1 points, 8.3 boards and 4.1 assists (more than double Lawson’s output) this year. He’s a better defender than Lawson. He’s shooting the ball better from the floor and from three. He’s a more efficient player. He has a better offensive rating on KenPom. And he’s doing all of this for a team that is ranked higher in the AP Poll than Kansas is.

If you love Lawson as a Player of the Year candidate, you are mandated by law to love Williams more.

Anyway, here is a quick breakdown of his ability to pass the ball and what it does for Tennessee’s offense:

3. R.J. BARRETT, Duke

I am not the biggest R.J. Barrett fan in the world. I think he’s a little bit overrated as an NBA prospect, I get frustrated watching him dribble into three defenders in the lane when he has teammates on the perimeter waiting for a kick-out and I know he is the second-best player on his team.

He’s also averaging 23.8 points, 6.8 boards and 3.8 assists for the team that I think is going too win the national title. I’m not going to overthink this one.

4. JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech

As of today, Culver is my pick for Big 12 Player of the Year over Lawson. His raw numbers make it very easy to put him on the list of all-americans this season: 19.6 points, 5.6 boards, 4.3 assists and shooting splits of 60.6/69.7/45.2 on a team that ranks in the top 15 nationally. That is all really quite impressive.

For me, however, the difference comes in the advanced numbers. Culver is the nation’s third-most efficient high-usage player, according to KenPom, finishing right behind Zion and Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman. His offensive rating of 124.8 on a usage rate of 30.0% is all the more impressive when put into this context: In 2014, Doug McDermott had an offensive rating of 24.4 on 32.9% usage. Those numbers will eventually come down once league play kicks off, but it shouldn’t diminish what Culver has done already this season.

What makes it all the more impressive — and the real reason I have him this high on the list — is that he is really the only threat Texas Tech has offensively. Matt Mooney is a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer at this level. Tariq Owens is not really a threat offensively beyond catching and dunking. Brandone Francis, Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew — they’re fine, but they’re not something opposing coaches are going to lose sleep over. Put another way, the only reason that this Texas Tech team is not thought of as, say, Syracuse is that Culver is much, much better than Tyus Battle. The same can be said re: Kansas State and Barry Brown, Cincinnati and Jarron Cumberland and Texas and Kerwin Roach.

Carrying a bad offense is not an easy thing to do, and Culver might just carry this bad offense to a Big 12 title.

5. DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas

Lawson is averaging 19.6 points, 10.8 boards and 2.5 assists for a top five team. That is the stuff that first-team all-americans are made out of. If there is something standing between him and a spot on the first team, it’s Lagerald Vick. Vick has been super inconsistent, but there is an argument that he deserves the award over Lawson given just how incredible he’s been on the nights when he gets it going and saves Kansas. We’ll see if that continues throughout the season.

6. MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette

Howard ran into a buzzsaw in his first Big East game of the season, shooting 2-for-15 from the floor and finishing with just eight points in 26 foul-plagued minutes against a good St. John’s team in Carnesecca Arena. That’s not good, particularly when his biggest competition for Big East Player of the Year — Shamorie Ponds — went bonkers.

That said, it was the first time in nearly a month that Howard scored less than 26 points and the first time since Nov. 27th that he failed to crack 20. Prior to Tuesday night, Howard has averaged 31.8 points in his previous six games, including 45 point outbursts against Buffalo and Wisconsin, Marquette’s two biggest wins of the season. I don’t think it’s wrong to have Ponds ahead of Howard at this point, but for my money, Howard has had the better season.

And while we’re here, let’s just appreciate the incredible second half performance he had against Buffalo. 40 points in 20 minutes of basketball is unheard of:

7. ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin

I still love Happ and the way that he plays, but I’m less convinced that Wisconsin is one of the elite teams in the country than I was two weeks ago — they got beat pretty solidly by Western Kentucky on the road on Saturday — which limits where he can be on this list. League commences in full for the Big Ten this week, so we shall see.

8. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

Hunter is a tough one to place on this list because it’s difficult to parse through the three best players on Virginia. Kyle Guy is leading the team in scoring. Ty Jerome might actually be the best player on the team. For my money, Hunter is the game-changing talent on the roster and the guy that allows them to play different ways.

9. RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga

Personally, I’m in a wait-and-see mode with Rui in terms of his Player of the Year chances. I love the player, I love the kid and I love the story, but for a team whose weakness in their issues on the defensive end of the floor, it’s hard for me to reward the guy that is as guilty as anyone on the roster.

We discussed Rui’s defensive issues last week.

10. NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech still hasn’t really been pushed since the Charleston Classic. Alexander-Walker has been good against the good teams they have played — he averaged 20.5 points, 3.5 boards, 3.0 steals and 2.5 assists against Washington and Notre Dame, shooting 16-for-22 from the field — but we’ll have a better feel for where he belongs on this list as ACC play gets into full swing.

IN THE MIX: Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Charles Matthews (Michigan), Ja Morant (Murray State), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s)

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

AP Poll: Louisville remains No. 1, Ohio State jumps to No. 3

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Louisville and Kansas finally provided some consistency to what has been a volatile Top 25 poll this season, while perennial bluebloods Michigan State and North Carolina continued to tumble after another wave of defeats.

The Cardinals solidified thier place at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released Monday by routing then-No. 4 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and breezing past Pittsburgh over the past week. The Jayhawks stayed at No. 2 after returning from their Maui Invitaitonal title to thump former Big 12 member Colorado.

“I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer.”

Ohio State jumped from sixth to third following its 74-49 rout of then-No. 7 North Carolina and a Big Ten blowout of Penn State. Maryland dropped one spot to fourth despite continuing to pile up wins, while Michigan slid one spot to round out the top five after Juwan Howard’s bunch ran into the Louisville buzzsaw for their first loss of the season.

The Spartans continued their fall from preseason No. 1 after losing to Duke, this time dropping from 11th to No. 16. The Tar Heels tumbled 10 spots to No. 17 after getting crushed by Ohio State and losing to No. 9 Virginia.

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

Others receiving votes: Utah St. 160, Washington 144, Purdue 130, Indiana 13, Marquette 11, Liberty 9, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 8, Texas 6, Florida 5, Penn St. 5, Georgetown 4, West Virginia 3, Richmond 3, LSU 2, Duquesne 1, DePaul 1, VCU 1.

Monday’s Overreactions: Naji Marshall owns Cincinnati, Ohio State is No. 1, Joel Ayayi

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Naji Marshall, Xavier

Marshall has lived up to the hype through the first month of the season, but the biggest and best game that he has played in 2019 happened on Saturday. Squaring off with archrival Cincinnati, Marshall went off for 31 points, eight boards, five steals and three assists, hitting four threes and totally outplaying his Bearcat counterpart, Jarron Cumberland.

As a team, Xavier has been a little bit up and down this season. Their issues shooting the ball have been prevalent all season long, and as good as the likes of Tyrique Jones, Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs – hell, and Marshall himself – can be, there has been some inconsistency to date.

There was not any on Saturday.

Marshall took over and led Xavier to their biggest win of the season.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Can we even consider anyone else?

On Wednesday, the Buckeyes went into Chapel Hill and ran North Carolina out of their own gym, leaving with a 74-49 win. On Saturday, Chris Holtmann’s club hosted Penn State, and that did not go well for the Nittany Lions, who lost by 32 points while giving up 106.

This team is starting to look scary, and there’s a valid argument to make that they should be sitting at No. 1 in the AP poll this morning.

Speaking of which …

OVERREACTIONS

1. OHIO STATE HAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE RESUME IN THE COUNTRY

If we ranked teams solely based on resume at this point in the season, I don’t think there is any way to leave the Buckeyes out of the top spot.

They are undefeated. They have beaten Villanova by 25 at home. They have beaten North Carolina by 25 on the road. They have beaten Penn State by 32 at home. Those are three of the top 24 teams in the country, according to KenPom. No one else can match that. Hell, the Buckeyes are currently sitting at No. 1 in KenPom’s rankings.

To put those wins into context, consider this, via Jordan Sperber of Hoop Vision: There have been six instances this season of a top 50 KenPom team losing by 20 or more points. Ohio State is responsible for three of them.

To be honest, I’m not ready to actually call Ohio State the best team in college basketball – I explain why in the podcast below at the 11:20 mark – but they are certainly playing like it.

2. WE FINALLY SAW THE ANTHONY COWAN WE NEED TO SEE FOR MARYLAND TO REACH THEIR POTENTIAL

Look, I know how ridiculous this is going to sound.

Coming off of a performance where Anthony Cowan shot 6-for-14 from the floor in a game where Maryland needed something bordering on a miracle to erase a 15 point second half deficit at home against unranked Illinois, I’m finally convinced?

Well, kinda?

Here’s my logic: I am not sold on Mark Turgeon being the best coach in college basketball, and I am hardly alone in that sentiment. But he does have a roster with some talent, and it is always a good sign when a team’s talent takes over and wins a game where, frankly, they played like crap. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday. In the past, Cowan would not have taken over. In the past, he would not have put the team on his back, scored 20 points in the final 23 minutes and finished with seven boards, six assists and the game-tying and winning points in the final 20 seconds.

All-Americans bail their team out in games they are not supposed to win. Final Four teams win games where they don’t show up until they are getting thoroughly embarrassed. The Terps did both of those things.

Now, would I like to see them finally figure out how to win without sleepwalking through the first half of games?

Absolutely!

But it’s hardly a bad sign to be sitting at 10-0 as you’re still figuring things out.

3. BUTLER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY

After taking down Florida in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, Butler has a surprisingly impressive crop of wins this season. They beat Minnesota at home. They beat Missouri in Kansas City. They beat Stanford on a neutral. They won at Ole Miss. And now they have that win over the Gators, who we just can’t quite seem to quit.

Either way, the Bulldogs play at Baylor on Tuesday night and then take on Purdue in the Crossroads Classic next Saturday.

We’ll know more about them then, but for now, this is a team that we have to talk about.

That said …

4. … NO ONE HAS MADE US A BELIEVER IN MORE TEAMS THAN FLORIDA

Florida State beat Florida in Gainesville?

The Seminoles must be awesome!

UConn beat Florida in Storrs?

The Huskies are back, baby!

Butler knocks off the Gators in Hinkle?

The Bulldogs are the most underrated team in the country?

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5. JOEL AYAYI IS THE X-FACTOR THAT WILL MAKE GONZAGA A TITLE CONTENDER

Listen, I’m not saying that Ayayi is the best player on this Gonzaga roster.

I think that he’s probably their third-best player, and even that might be generous.

What he is, however, is a guy that fills a role that the Zags didn’t have anyone to fill. The issue with this Gonzaga team heading into the season was in their backcourt. We wondered if they had enough point guard play, perimeter shooting and playmaking to be able to compete with the best teams in the country. It’s one thing to have a great frontline with guards that can get them the rock where they need it. It’s another thing to have a great frontline and no one that an initiate offense or keep defenses honest.

Ayayi has done those things to date this season. He’s averaging 10.1 points, 6.6 boards and 3.8 assists, which is second on the team to Ryan Woolridge, who is quietly having a solid start to the season as well. He provides length, athleticism, floor-spacing, a second ball-handler and creator. He takes the pressure off of Woolridge to carry the lead guard load.

He is more or less everything that Gonzaga fans were hoping Admon Gilder would turn into.

We’ll see if this lasts, but his performance against Washington on Saturday was really promising. Ayayi didn’t play or shoot particularly well, but he stepped up with 20 seconds left and buried the biggest shot of the game, a three to give the Zags a 82-76 lead and bury U-Dub.

Mamukelashvili breaks wrist as No. 16 Seton Hall loses to Iowa State

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AMES, Iowa — No. 16 Seton Hall lost much more than a game in Ames, as starter Sandro Mamukelashvili broke his right wrist in the first half of a loss at Iowa State.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 17 points, George Conditt had a season-high 17 off the bench and the Cyclones knocked off Seton Hall 76-66 on Sunday for its second straight victory.

Rasir Bolton scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half to help the Cyclones avenge an 84-76 loss on Nov. 29 to the Pirates (6-3) in the Bahamas. The rematch was part of the Big East/Big 12 Alliance series.

Mamukelashvili, a 6-foot-11 forward and a facilitator who averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game entering play, went down hard with 15:14 to go in the first half and didn’t return.

Coach Kevin Willard said after the game that it was too soon to know how long Mamukelashvili might be out.

“I don’t know for sure. It’s definitely broken. But we … have to go get an MRI tomorrow and let our doctors and radiologists read it,” Willard said. “There’s definitely a break in there, it’s just that we don’t know where it is.”

Conditt’s free throws pushed Iowa State’s lead to 59-53 with 2:56 left. Haliburton then drew an offensive foul and freed himself for a wide-open 3 at the top of the key. Haliburton drilled it, making it a nine-point game at the 2:23 mark.

Seton Hall fouled Prentiss Nixon from beyond the arc with 1:27 left. Nixon hit all three from the line to push Iowa State back up by nine, and Conditt’s transition dunk sealed the win.

Iowa State won despite shooting just 4 of 19 on 3s.

“Every good team needs a signature win and this was the first one for us,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “It felt really good beat a ranked team, but also a team that beat us before.”

Myles Powell scored 19 points with eight rebounds for Seton Hall. But Powell was 7 of 20 shooting, had five turnovers and fouled out with 54.4 seconds to go on an offensive foul. The Pirates’ previous defeats came against Michigan State and Oregon by just five combined points.

Seton Hall committed 20 turnovers and was outrebounded 43-40 despite having a major size advantage. The Pirates also gave Iowa State 33 tries from the line, and Cyclones made 26 of them.

“We turned the ball over too much and we fouled,” Willard said. “You can’t go on the road against a good team and turn the basketball over and foul.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: On losing Mamukelashvili, Willard said that “it changes things a lot. But the good thing is, we have some guys that need to get comfortable in that role and step up in that role…we’re going to need everyone to step up.”

Iowa State: The Cyclones have been strangely awful at times this season shooting jump shots — even though they supposedly have enough shooters. It’s a problem that Iowa State will need to get sorted out before it threatens to sink their season. On the plus side, the Cyclones were active with their hands in forcing Seton Hall’s bigs to turn it over, and Haliburton delivered yet another signature performance.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Losing on the road to a Big 12 team that had the opportunity to play them 10 days ago shouldn’t cost the Pirates too much. Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum can be a brutal place for opponents — especially one that didn’t necessarily know what it was walking into.

HE SAID IT

“It’s a hell of a win for us.” —- Prohm said.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: At Rutgers on Saturday.

Iowa State: Hosts Iowa on Thursday night.

Monday Overreactions Podcast: Ohio State’s the best, Travis Steele’s the GOAT, is Anthony Cowan good?

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Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan are back to walk through everything that happened in college basketball this weekend. Is Ohio State the best team in college basketball? Is it actually Maryland? Just how good is Anthony Cowan? Just how bad is Florida? And did Travis Steele do the greatest thing in the history of coaching on Saturday night? He might have.