Demetrius Jackson

AP Photo/Robert Franklin

Jackson, Auguste lead No. 25 Notre Dame over Wake 85-62

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Zach Auguste had 21 points and 12 rebounds and Demetrius Jackson added 14 points in his return to the starting lineup as No. 25 Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 85-62 on Sunday.

V.J. Beachem added 15 points for the Fighting Irish (15-6, 6-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Jackson, who missed a game with a pulled hamstring in a win over Boston College last week, added eight assists and seven rebounds. Notre Dame’s leading scorer missed Thursday’s loss to Syracuse.

Devin Thomas had 19 points and eight rebounds for Wake Forest (10-11, 1-8), which never led. The Demon Deacons have lost six in a row.

Mike Brey: Preparing for Syracuse ‘like we will not have’ Jackson

(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Notre Dame head coach made it sound quite likely that star point guard Demetrius Jackson will not be available on Thursday when the Fighting Irish head to Syracuse.

Jackson suffered a hamstring injury in Saturday’s win at Boston College. He was listed as day-to-day by Brey after the win, but it sounds as if he could miss some time.

“I just want to make sure we get him healed up,” Brey said. “Don’t want to bring him back too quick. We’ve got to be really, really careful with this. You’re just not thinking he’s going to be available for Thursday.”

“We’re preparing like we will not have him,” Brey added.

If Jackson is out for any extended period of time, it’s a brutal blow for the Irish. Notre Dame is currently ranked No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and Jackson is the centerpiece of that offense. He averages 36.2 minutes, 17.6 points and 5.3 assists as essentially the only point guard on the Notre Dame roster.

Notre Dame’s next four games: at Syracuse, Wake Forest, at Miami and North Carolina. If he’s out for two weeks, Notre Dame could end up losing all four of those games.

On the season, the Irish are 14-5 overall and 5-2 in the ACC.

Demetrius Jackson injures hamstring, is ‘day-to-day’

(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Notre Dame struggled a bit earlier in the season, but the Fighting Irish have quietly put themselves into a position where a strong stretch run could get them into the NCAA tournament.

Those hopes took a hit on Saturday, however, as Demetrius Jackson was carried off the floor by teammates with what was diagnosed as a pulled hamstring. Jackson did not return to the 76-49 win over Boston College, and Mike Brey said afterwards that he’s unsure of how long they will be without their star point guard.

“Demetrius has a hamstring injury and those are tricky,” Brey said. “We’ll go day-to-day with him.”

If Jackson is out for any extended period of time, it’s a brutal blow for the Irish. Notre Dame is currently ranked No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and Jackson is the centerpiece of that offense. He averages 36.2 minutes, 17.6 points and 5.3 assists as essentially the only point guard on the Notre Dame roster.

Notre Dame’s next four games: at Syracuse, Wake Forest, at Miami and North Carolina. If he’s out for two weeks, Notre Dame could end up losing all four of those games.

On the season, the Irish are 14-5 overall and 5-2 in the ACC.

No. 5 Virginia beats Notre Dame 77-66 for 11th straight win

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Pound it inside to the big men. Wait for the defense to sage, and then beat them over the top.

Virginia had both formulas working Saturday night as they shot 57 percent and used a 21-4 first-half run to cruise to their 11th consecutive victory, leaving Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey in a complimentary mood.

“Today was kind of men among boys,” he said after the Cavaliers’ 77-66 victory that wasn’t nearly that close. “Any time we tried to make a little bit of a run and get some hope, they kind of squelched it.”

Anthony Gill scored seven of his 14 first-half points during the big early run, and Malcolm Brogdon opened the second half with a pair of 3-pointers from the same spot. Virginia had one first-half 3-pointer.

“I was surprised they didn’t close out,” Brogdon said of his first 3 at the 19:17 mark, when the defense suddenly seemed to be daring the Cavaliers’ leading scorer to shoot. “I had a wide open look. I kind of hesitated a little bit and then just let it go because they were sagging and they backed off a little bit.”

Less than a minute later, Brogdon bagged another one from the same spot.

Brogdon led Virginia (12-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 24 points, Gill had 21 and Mike Tobey had his second straight big game off the bench with 15 points and six rebounds. The 7-foot senior, coming off a career-high 16 points in a victory against Oakland, made 5 of 9 shots and added two blocks and an assist.

In the four games before Virginia beat Oakland, Tobey totaled six points and seven rebounds.

“That’s what we’re going to need from him throughout the season,” Gill said. “He’s a great player, has a soft touch around the basket and takes up a lot of space on defense. When his mind is right, he can be a really effective player for the team and help us get to the next level.”

Demetrius Jackson led the Fighting Irish (9-4, 0-1) with 18 points. Steve Vasturia and Bonzie Colson each added 14, and Brey said he was thrilled to be finished with the Cavaliers, at least in the regular season.

“They’re so secure with who they are and they never waver,” he said. “I use the phrase – their game is tight on both ends. They’re the tightest in the league and maybe in the country on both ends of the floor.”

The Cavaliers’ 12th straight victory at home came as Virginia launched its bid to become the first team since Duke from 1997-2000 to win three consecutive outright ACC championships.

Virginia made it look easy once the Irish stopped making contested shots.

Notre Dame made its first four shots, all by different players, and then missed 10 of 12 as Virginia turned an 8-4 deficit into a 25-12 lead. The Cavaliers built their lead as high as 13 points three times in the first half.

It was 36-24 at halftime, and the closest the Irish came thereafter was 36-26 on Colson’s basket to open the second half. Brogdon scored Virginia’s first eight points, including the two early 3-pointers, then fed London Perrantes for another 3 in the right corner for a 47-30 lead, the Cavaliers’ biggest to that point.

Later, two free throws and a three-point play by Tobey, who was coming off a career-best 16 points against Oakland, and a free throw by Gill capped 10-2 burst that pushed the margin to a game-high 59-40.

QUOTABLE:

“Tobey and Gill, they’re just really good, man. They’re just men. They’re men. When do they graduate?” – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.

TIP-INS:

Notre Dame: Coach Mike Brey fell to 0-7 in his career against Virginia. … The Cavaliers were the first ranked opponent the Irish have played this season.

Virginia: Coach Tony Bennett improved to 5-0 against Notre Dame is his career, including an NCAA tournament victory in 2008 while at Washington State. … Brogdon (16.2 ppg) started the day having missed all 13 of his 2-point shots in his last two games, and 17 of 18 in his last three. He ended the drought with a driving left hand layup at the 13:22 mark of the first half.

UP NEXT:

Notre Dame: is at Boston College on Thursday night.

Virginia: is at Virginia Tech on Monday night.

Follow Hank on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

College Basketball’s Most Important Players

Kris Dunn (AP Photo)
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While the conversation of who is the best player in college basketball can be rather straightforward most years, as many have focused on Providence’s Kris Dunn and LSU’s Ben Simmons ahead of this season, determining who are the most important players in college basketball is a different matter. For some that may mean that they’re the primary scorer, while the importance of other players may best be measured in areas such as defense and leadership.

Below are ten of the nation’s most important players heading into the 2015-16 campaign.

1. Kris Dunn, Providence: Say what you want about the Friars’ chances of reaching the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive season, but there’s no denying just how important the redshirt junior point guard is to his team. Last season Dunn averaged 15.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game, emerging as one of the nation’s best point guards. Now expected to be the best player in the country, Dunn has to lead a team that lost three of its top four scorers from a season ago. His skill level and leadership will be critical for Ed Cooley’s team.

2. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky: Sure the future professional prospects of players such as Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere are bound to receive attention, but no player may be of greater importance to the Wildcats than their sophomore point guard. Ulis played in a reserve role on last year’s 38-1 team, and given the overall youth of this group his ability to lead will be of great importance to John Calipari’s team. While Kentucky does have some experienced players, the best of that bunch is either returning from injury (Alex Poythress) or getting used to a more prominent role (Marcus Lee).

3. Melo Trimble, Maryland: Trimble met (and some would argue, exceeded) the hype in College Park as a freshman, accounting for 16.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Also one of the nation’s best at getting to the foul line, Trimble was a key factor in the Terrapins’ turnaround in 2014-15. Now with Mark Turgeon’s team being labeled as a national title contender, Trimble’s strides as a leader will be key for a group that isn’t short on talent by any stretch of the imagination. How will this group deals with those expectations will depend largely upon the play of their point guard.

4. Marcus Paige, North Carolina: Paige is currently sidelined with a broken bone on his non-shooting hand, with the expectation being that he’ll miss between three and four weeks. While that provides some of his teammates with opportunities to step forward, that doesn’t mask just how important the senior guard is to North Carolina’s national title hopes. Paige (14.1 ppg, 4.5 apg) was UNC’s best distributor and scorer a season ago, and he was also by far their best perimeter shooter. He’s the biggest key for a team expected to contend for a national title.

5. Tyrone Wallace, California: We’ve discussed Wallace’s role on here during our preseason coverage and with good reason. The left-handed senior was a Bob Cousy Award finalist last season and will once again run the show for Cuonzo Martin’s Golden Bears. But the circumstances are much different this time around, with Cal being a team expected to both contend in the Pac-12 and be a factor nationally. None of that happens if Wallace, who averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game as a junior, doesn’t lead.

Tyrone Wallace (AP Photo)
Tyrone Wallace (AP Photo)

6. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: The Spartans lost two key contributors from last year’s Final Four team in Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, but they have enough talent to make a return trip. One of those players is Valentine, a senior whose versatility is matched by few in college basketball. Valentine can play any position on the perimeter, and after averaging 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game as a junior he’s capable of taking another step forward in 2015-16.

7. Monté Morris, Iowa State: Morris took a significant step forward as a sophomore, averaging 11.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game on a team that won its second consecutive Big 12 tournament crown. But that team was one and done in the NCAA tournament, and with a new head coach in Steve Prohm at the helm a team with national title desires will have to adjust to a different style. At the forefront is Morris, and given how point guards who have played for Prohm in recent years (Isaiah Canaan, Cameron Payne) have flourished this could be a big year for the junior. While the front court has talent and experience, how well Morris runs the show will have the greatest impact on the Cyclones.

8. Ben Simmons, LSU: Simmons arrived in Baton Rouge amidst much fanfare and with good reason, as he’s considered to be the top prospect heading towards next June’s NBA Draft. At 6-foot-10 the Australian has the size and athleticism needed to make an immediate impact for a team that lost Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, and his skill set is such at he’ll serve as a point forward for Johnny Jones’ Tigers. How Simmons navigates the balance between scorer and table-setter will be key for a team looking to rebound from their disappointing NCAA tournament loss to NC State.

9. Brandon Ingram, Duke: The reigning national champions have a lot to replace from last season’s team, with three first-round picks (Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones) and senior leader Quinn Cook all having moved on to the professional ranks. Adding another top-ranked recruiting class to the ranks helps with the adjustment process, with the crown jewel being the 6-foot-8 Ingram. Slender of build, Ingram has the skill set needed to play any of the three perimeter positions in Duke’s offense and there’s a good chance he’ll be asked to do so. While Grayson Allen’s expected to make a sizable jump as a sophomore, Ingram’s production could be the key to a run at a sixth title for Coach K.

10. Wayne Selden Jr., Kansas: How far Bill Self’s loaded team goes this season may rest on the shoulder of the junior off-guard. And how ready Selden is to shepherd this group will depend largely upon his mindset entering the season. Does Selden play as the sometimes deferential player he was in his first two seasons in Lawrence? Or does he play in the “attack mode” shown at the World University Games in South Korea this summer? If Selden is the former, Kansas risks not reaching their full potential even with the talent they have on the perimeter (Frank Mason III, Devonté Graham, etc.) and in the post (Perry Ellis, Carlton Bragg, Cheick Diallo if cleared, etc.).

AND TEN MORE

  • 11. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: The last standing member of “The Movement” that was supposed to change Indiana basketball, Ferrell will have to lead the way for a talented team facing high expectations.
  • 12. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: While Iowa State has received a lot of attention as Kansas’ biggest threat in the Big 12, do not overlook Oklahoma with the reigning Big 12 POY being a key reason why.
  • 13. Fred VanVleet, Wichita State: The tandem of VanVleet and Ron Baker has accomplished a great deal to this point in their college careers. VanVleet will look to lead the Shockers to their second Final Four appearance from the point, and don’t be shocked if he pulls it off.
  • 14. Daniel Ochefu, Villanova: The Wildcats are loaded with perimeter talent, but do not overlook the importance of their defensive anchor.
  • 15. Caris LeVert, Michigan: Healthy after playing just 18 games due to a foot injury, the versatile LeVert is a key component for a Michigan team more than capable of rebounding from last year’s 16-16 record.
  • 16. Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame: With Jerian Grant moving on Jackson will run the show for Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish. Expected by many to make a considerable jump as a junior, Jackson is the kind of talent who can make Notre Dame a contender in the ACC.
  • 17. Ryan Anderson, Arizona: The Wildcats’ closest thing to a proven scorer at this level, the Boston College transfer will need to be that guy for a team looking to mesh a lot of new pieces with holdovers who played in supplementary roles the last couple years.
  • 18. Taurean Waller-Prince, Baylor: As a key cog in one of the nation’s top front courts, the 6-foot-8 senior has the ability to score at all three levels. That will be key for a Baylor team with perimeter questions to answer.
  • 19. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State: Rathan-Mayes’ scoring abilities aren’t be questioned based upon what he did as a freshman on a team lacking scoring options. Now with the Seminoles loaded with talent, his role as a distributor will be key for a team that can be a sleeper in the ACC.
  • 20. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin: Given how much the Badgers lost from last season’s national runner-up team, both Koenig and Nigel Hayes will be key players. The pick for most important is Koenig, as he’ll be the one with the ball in his hands at the point.

NBC Sports Preseason All-Americans: Kris Dunn Player of the Year

Kris Dunn (AP Photo)
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PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kris Dunn, Providence

Kris Dunn was criminally-underrated last season, and despite the fact that he’s being projected as a top ten pick, it seems that the media at large is intent on doing the same thing once again this season. Here’s the deal: Dunn is a big, athletic point guard in the mold of John Wall, only, as one NBA scout put it to NBC Sports, a B-plus athlete instead of an A-plus athlete. He’s as good in transition and in ball-screen actions as any guard in the country, which is important because Providence head coach Ed Cooley is going to be putting Dunn in those situations quite a bit this season.

Cooley always asks his point guards to carry the water for his team’s. That’s why guys like Vincent Council, Bryce Cotton and, at Fairfield, Derek Needham put up such big numbers. Last season, Dunn averaged 15.6 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 boards despite struggling with his efficiency; that’s what happens when you average 4.2 turnovers. Providence hemorrhaged big bodies this offseason and lost leading scorer LaDontae Henton to graduation.

[MORE: Top 100 players | Preseason Top 25]

In other words, Dunn’s usage this season is going to be off-the-charts, and so long as he can rid himself of the massive number of unforced turnovers he committed last season, his efficiency should improve. Throw in his elite defensive ability and (hopefully) an improved jumper, and you’re looking at the nation’s best player.

Now I get it.

Providence is likely going to be one of those teams that doesn’t lock up an NCAA tournament berth until late-February. This is a group that’s probably looking at getting seeded somewhere in that No. 7-No. 10 range.

Assuming the Preseason Player of the Year Award is a prediction of who we think wins it at the end of the year, is it possible to give that honor to a player that isn’t supposed to advance out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament?

When they’re as good as Kris Dunn is, I say yes.

(And as an addendum, I understand why someone would vote ‘no’ there. I get that argument. But leaving him off of first-team all-america entirely? That’s just plain wrong.)

MORE: Top leads guards | Top off guards | Top Wings | Top Bigs

Buddy Hield (AP)
Buddy Hield (AP)

NBC SPORTS’ FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICANS

Kris Dunn, Providence

Marcus Paige, North Carolina

Last season, we had Marcus Paige pegged as the Preseason National Player of the Year. That … did not turn out well, but it wasn’t because Paige suddenly became a bad basketball player. It’s because he was injured. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his ankle. He was able to rest the plantar fasciitis that bothered him last season. He’s back to 100 percent, which means, theoretically, he’s back to being the player that was predicted to be the National Player of the Year at this time last year.

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

As a freshman, Hield was considered to be mostly a defensive stopper. Over the course of the last two seasons, however, he developed into one of the nation’s best scorers as well, averaging 17.4 points and 5.4 boards as a junior. He deserves his spot on this list, even if he plays for a team off of basketball’s beaten bath. The next step for Hield will be to solidify his jumper. At the tail end of his junior year, the 6-foot-4 Bahamian shot just 9-for-40 from beyond the arc.

Ben Simmons, LSU

Basketball fans are going to fall in love with Simmons’ game rather quickly. In the pantheon of new-age big men, Simmons, a 6-foot-9 Australian, falls somewhere between point forward and small-ball four. He’s a deft passer and a slick ball-handler, smooth in spite of his size with a flair for making dazzling plays in the open floor. He’s has a bad habit of trying to make the fancy pass instead of the easy pass, and his jumper needs work, but given his size and skill-set, Simmons will likely make a run at Kyle Collinsworth’s record of six triple-doubles in one season.

Skal Labissiere, Kentucky

Labissiere has everything that NBA teams look for in a big man these days. He’s a face-up post scorer with range, for now, out to the college three-point line. He’s functional with his back-to-the-basket. He has the size (7-feet) and the athleticism to catch lobs and finish above the rim. He can protect the rim defensively. He works hard. He wants to be good. He has a tremendous backstory. These are the kind of kids that John Calipari always has success with, and while Labissiere isn’t the defender that Anthony Davis is or the low-post scoring threat that Karl Towns is, but he should be just as good in Kentucky blue.

Denzel Valentine (AP Photo)
Denzel Valentine (AP Photo)

SECOND TEAM

  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: Trimble is the star point guard on a Maryland team that is the favorite to win the Big Ten title and has the horses to reach the Final Four. I expect Trimble’s scoring (16.0 ppg last year) to drop this year, but he’ll be this team’s engine and the guy with the ball in his hands down the stretch.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia: Brogdon is one of those guys that doesn’t have a weakness in his game. He can shoot, he can pass, he can score in the post, he can rebound the ball, he can defend. Tony Bennett loves guys like that, which is why Brogdon is such a perfect fit in Charlottesville.
  • Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: Valentine is going to go from being a good player teams in the Big Ten know about to a star in the college ranks this year. As a junior, he averaged 14.5 points, 6.3 boards, 4.3 assists and shot 41.6 percent from three.
  • Georges Niang, Iowa State: Niang may be the toughest cover in the sport. The biggest question that he faces this season: How much of his success the past two seasons was due to his ability, and how much was a result of just how good Fred Hoiberg was at taking advantage of his skill-set?
  • Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Wiltjer’s shooting splits as a junior (54.0/46.6/78.9) strongly resembled those of Doug McDermott. I get why people will make that comparison: high-scoring, sharp-shooting, defensively-lacking fours playing for programs outside the Power 5 Conferences.
Fred Van Vleet (Getty Images)
Fred Van Vleet (Getty Images)

THIRD TEAM

  • Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame: Jackson will be taking over the Jerian Grant role this season. Another super-talented point guard, Jackson will be put into plenty of ball-screen actions by head coach Mike Brey, something he thrives on.
  • Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State: We went with Van Vleet over Baker here. Baker may have the better pro prospects, but Van Vleet is the guy with the ball in his hands in the big moments.
  • Jamal Murray, Kentucky: I’m still not quite sure what to expect from Jamal Murray. He’s a big-time shooter that can get hot in a hurry, but is he truly a lead guard? He’s the odds-on favorite to lead Kentucky in scoring.
  • Perry Ellis, Kansas: Mr. Consistency. For some reason, Ellis always seems to be overlooked when we talk about the best players in college basketball.
  • Damian Jones, Vanderbilt: Jones is going to sneak up on some people this season. A junior, he was one of the best big men in the SEC last season. He’ll be surrounded by shooters this year, meaning he’s going to have a ton of room to operate.