Bobby Portis averaged 17.5 points and 8.9 boards this past season, helping lead the Razorbacks to a 27-9 record and a trip to the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, and on Tuesday, he announced that his next step will be to enter the NBA Draft.
Portis is a versatile and athletic 6-foot-10 power forward. He’s definitely a first round pick, and there’s a shot that he could end up in the lottery. Draft Express projects him as the No. 18 pick in the draft.
The question for Arkansas now becomes whether or not they will be getting Michael Qualls back. Qualls was one of the breakout stars of the NCAA tournament, and if the Razorbacks lose him they’ll be looking at a serious rebuilding season.
Kaminsky has greatly outperformed expectations he had entering the season, even though he was a preseason all-american pick. He’s been sensational, leading the Badgers in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals. Not bad for a guy that averaged 10 minutes as a sophomore.
Jahlil Okafor, Duke (17.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg)
Okafor is an easy pick as well, as he was the most dominating offensive force in the country this season. To get an idea of just how good he can be, think about this: He’s not just a poor defender, he can be downright awful at times, and yet he’s going to finish the season as a consensus first team all-american and the runner-up to Kaminsky in the Player of the Year voting. Not bad.
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State (19.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.2 apg)
If Kaminsky has been the nation’s best player and Okafor has been the most dominating offensive force, than Russell has to be the nation’s most entertaining player. He can take over a game with his ability to score, and he throws some absurd passes in transition. Can he be this year’s Shabazz Napier in the NCAA tournament?
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame (16.8 ppg, 6.7 apg)
The Irish have no business being a top ten team this season, but they are because Grant has been incredible. Notre Dame has one of the most potent offensive attacks in the country, and it all centers around Grant’s ability to make plays off the dribble and in ball-screen actions. He’s better than anyone else in the country at making his teammate’s better.
Cauley-Stein’s numbers don’t measure up to anyone else on the first team, but what he does best doesn’t necessarily show up in the scorebook. The Wildcats are downright dominant on the defensive end of the floor, and Cauley-Stein is the engine that drives them. He’s the best perimeter and the best interior defender in the country all at the same time.
NBCSPORTS.COM’S SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICANS
Delon Wright, Utah (14.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.1 spg): Wright did so much for Utah this season, and while his numbers were impressive, it was his defense and ability to understand his strengths offensively that were most important to the Utes.
Kris Dunn, Providence (15.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 7.4 apg): The only reason Dunn isn’t in the conversation for National Player of the Year is that he turns the ball over too much. He was completely dominant at times this season.
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (17.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg): Hield has a rep for being one of the nation’s best defenders, dating back to his freshman season. Now he’s also one of the best wing scorers.
Rico Gathers, Baylor (11.6 ppg, 11.7 rpg): Gathers is the nation’s best rebounder, an improving scorer on the block and a critical component for arguably the nation’s most surprising team.
Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse (17.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.5 bpg): He won’t get to showcase his ability this March, but there was not a more improved player in the country than Christmas this season.
NBCSPORTS.COM’S THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICANS
T.J. McConnell, Arizona (9.6 ppg, 6.3 apg, 2.1 spg): McConnell’s numbers are nowhere near as impressive as the other lead guards here, but if you watched Arizona play over the last two months, you understand just how important he was to that team’s success.
Melo Trimble, Maryland (16.1 ppg, 3.1 apg): Maryland is ranked 31st in KenPom. Yet, they’re a top ten team that’s going to be a top four seed because they’re 11-0 in games decided by six points or less. Trimble is their ‘closer’. He earned this spot.
Justin Anderson, Virginia (13.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 48.5% 3PT): Anderson was in the mix for first team all-american when he broke his finger. He deserves recognition despite missing time.
Bobby Portis, Arkansas (17.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg): I was called out by an Arkansas assistant coach for having Bobby Portis ranked 62nd in our top 100 players list in the preseason. That coach was right.
Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa (15.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.3 apg): I’m fully on the Tuttle bandwagon. He’s a low-post scorer with three point range, the ability to put the ball on the floor and terrific vision. He’s Frank Kaminsky 2.0.
Bobby Portis beats Alabama at the buzzer on ‘Bobby Portis Headband Night’ (VIDEO)
Thursday night was “Bobby Portis Headband Night” in Fayetteville, and the game between Alabama and Arkansas was an important one as both entered on two-game losing streaks. Portis had himself an interesting game, accounting for ten points and 13 rebounds, and a mistake on his part led to the game going into overtime.
Trailing by three, Alabama threw the ball inside to Michael Kessens with four seconds remaining in regulation. Had Portis simply allowed Kessens to shoot the ball, the Razorback would have been up by a point with the ball. Instead, he fouled Kessens and the Alabama forward made the shot. Kessens also made the free throw, ultimately sending the game into overtime.
Yet Portis managed to redeem himself in a manner that would have made the protagonists of the film “Dumb and Dumber” proud, scoring on a missed Rashad Madden shot as time expired in overtime. Quite the way to cap a night in which fans received a clothing item that Portis, one of the SEC’s top forwards, has made popular during his time in Fayetteville.
Video courtesy of ESPN
Player of the Year Power Rankings: Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky are still 1-2
1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: How many big men in the world — not just in college — can make a move like this?:
Okafor helped Duke bounce-back from a rough two-game stretch with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting against Montrezl Harrell as the Blue Devils blew out Louisville on the road. He also added a solid 14 point performance in a win over Pitt.
2. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Kaminsky bounced back from the concussion that sidelined him during Wisconsin’s loss at Rutgers by scoring 22 points as the Badgers beat Nebraska last Thursday. He’ll get a test tonight against Iowa at home. Neither he nor Okafor has fallen out of the top two on these rankings since the beginning of the season.
3. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: Grant played one of his best games of the season on Saturday, taking over down the stretch as Notre Dame overcame a 12 point second half deficit to beat Miami at home. He’s still struggling a bit with his jumper — he had missed 10 straight threes entering the game — but this performance was about as good as Grant has looked against elite competition this season. Here’s a break down of how Grant has performed against when compared to the other four lead guards on this list:
4. Delon Wright, Utah: Wright started out great in Utah’s showdown with Arizona on Saturday, scoring seven of their first ten points and assists on a three, but he finished the evening with just 10 points and four turnovers, getting to the line just twice. The Utes cannot afford to have him struggle like that if they are going to be elite.
5. Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson had his first off-night of the season, as he went 0-for-8 from the floor in Virginia’s closer-than-the-score win at Boston College. It’s not really a secret that Anderson’s shooting was the biggest concern for him throughout his career prior to this season, which is why it was so surprising to see him hitting 52.7 percent of his threes even after that off-night. As ACC defenses start to key in on slowing him down, it is going to be interesting to see how Anderson reacts. Will he start forcing shots, or will he continue to do what he’s done best this year: Get everything within the flow of the offense.
6. Georges Niang, Iowa State: Niang has had a bit of an up-and-down year, looking terrific for stretches but also putting together too many off-nights. He remains on this list because of the threat that he brings the Cyclones on the offensive end.
7. Melo Trimble, Maryland: Trimble put together a statement performance in the first half of a win over Michigan State on Saturday by scoring 21 of his 24 points, capping it off with this:
Trimble has been a little shaky with his ball-handling, decision-making and shot selection early on this season, but he’s also just a freshman. He’s only going to get better as the season progresses.
8. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein has had a couple of less-than-stellar performances in a row, and while his ability on the defensive end is unquestioned, I’m starting to wonder if he’s even the most valuable Wildcat on this team.
9. D’angelo Russell, Ohio State: As the chart above clearly shows you, Russell has had the biggest drop-off of any guard on this list when it comes to playing against the best teams in the country. That said, much of that is a result of four awful games against good teams to kick off his season. In his last five games, all in Big Ten play, Russell is averaging 22.0 points, 6.2 boards and 3.8 assists while shooting 47.1 percent from three.
Oh, and check out this pass:
10. Bobby Portis (Arkansas): Arkansas did not have a good week, losing to both Tennessee and Ole Miss, but it’s hard to blame Portis for those struggles. He averaged 20.0 points, 10.5 boards and 2.0 blocks in the two games.
OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Ron Baker (Wichita State), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse), Kyle Collinsworth (BYU), Tyler Haws (BYU), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), D’angelo Harrison (St. John’s), LaDontae Henton (Providence), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Jonathan Holmes (Texas), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Jarell Martin (LSU), Jordan Mickey (LSU), Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Juwan Staten (West Virginia), Brad Waldow (St. Mary’s), Ty Wallace (Cal), Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington), Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga), Joseph Young (Oregon)
Player of the Year Power Rankings: Jahlil Okafor the favorite, Delon Wright top three?
Every Tuesday, we will be providing you with a breakdown of the top ten candidates for National Player of the Year. You can read through the older posts here.
1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: Duke lost their first game of the season on Sunday, succumbing at N.C. State, 87-75, despite Okafor’s 23 points, 12 boards, three blocks and three steals. The key numbers there? Three blocks and three steals. What did the Blue Devils in against the Wolfpack was the dynamic play of guards Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and, to a point, Cat Barber. The Blue Devils play a style of man-to-man defense that requires guards to pressure out to half court, with off-ball defenders pushing out and cutting into perimeter passing lanes. The goal is to take a team out of their offense, but one of the by-products of that is that it creates driving lanes for ball-handlers.
Against ACC opponents, there is going to be pressure put on Okafor as a rim protector, which can potentially be a problem given the fact that he’s not exactly known for being the second-coming of Tim Duncan. That said, eight blocks in three ACC games is a good start.
2. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: The Badgers lost their last game, succumbing to Rutgers — I know, right? — in a road game where Wisconsin played without Kaminsky (concussion) and without Trae Jackson for much of the second half (broken foot). At this point, we’re in a holding pattern. Just how long will this concussion keep Kaminsky off the floor, and just how much will the absence of Jackson hurt them?
3. Delon Wright, Utah: There’s an argument to be made that Wright is the single most valuable player in the country. He’s a defensive menace against opposing ball-handlers, the spark for a team that currently ranks sixth-nationally in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom. His turnover rate is down and his assist rate is up playing on a team that has, at times, struggled to score. Perhaps most importantly, Wright has not spent his senior season in college trying to prove to NBA scouts that he can shoot.
The biggest concern for Wright as a pro prospect is that he’s a career 23.8 percent three-point shooter. But in his last five games, he’s only attempted five three-pointers. He knows his strengths and he knows his weaknesses, and he knows which of those things will help Utah win games. The Utes look like they’re in the discussion for being the best team in the Pac-12, and they’ll get a chance to prove it on Saturday: at Arizona.
4. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: We diagrammed Jerian Grant’s importance to Notre Dame’s No. 1-ranked offensive attack (according to Kenpom) last week. He’s been terrific all season long, but in their two games last week — at North Carolina and against Virginia — Grant finished with just 14 points combined, shooting 3-for-16 from the floor. He’s missed all nine of his threes in ACC play and, if you discount the 6-for-8 he shot from deep against Coppin State, is shooting just 28.4 percent from three on the season. And despite Grant’s (relative) struggles, the Irish are still playing like one of the ACC’s elite, having won at North Carolina and taken Virginia down to the wire.
5. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: Harrell had six points and was 2-for-5 from the floor as Louisville struggled to beat Clemson on Wednesday night. He was 4-for-10 from the floor with just nine points as the Cardinals lost at North Carolina on Saturday, although that was a game that Louisville led by 13 midway through the second half.
6. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein is still a major part of what Kentucky wants to do on the defensive end of the floor, but his struggles on the offensive end are becoming more apparent. He was 4-for-12 from the floor and had just 11 total points as the Wildcats needed three total overtimes to beat Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
7. Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson’s hot start this season hasn’t slowed down yet. Through three ACC games, Anderson is shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 14.3 points. His numbers will never be eye-popping — eventually, that 56.3 percent three-point shooting will come down, and with it the 14.9 points that he is averaging — but that’s part of Tony Bennett’s mantra as a coach. Virginia shares the wealth. They work the ball offensively until they get a great look, and they lock up as well as anyone on the defensive end. It’s why they’re 15-0 and No. 2 in the country, and no one on the roster has been better at it through two months that Anderson.
8. Georges Niang, Iowa State: Niang hasn’t quite had the season that we’ve expected from him, as he continued his up-and-down play against quality opponents with a poor performance in a win over Oklahoma State and impressive play in a win at West Virginia. Niang is now shooting just 33.3 percent from three and averaging 3.6 assists and 2.6 turnovers.
9. Melo Trimble, Maryland: It feels weird putting Trimble on this list. He’s a point guard, but he’s averaging 2.9 assists and 2.5 turnovers this season. He’s Maryland’s leading scorer, but through four Big Ten games he’s shooting 28.6 percent from the floor and 5-for-25 from three. But there’s two things that he does that have gotten him on this list: 1. He’s finally provided Mark Turgeon with an effective ball-handler, a guy that can get them into offensive set, and 2. He gets to the foul line and does not miss when he’s there. He shoots 7.8 free throws per game and is hitting them at an 88.6 percent clip. The difference between Maryland being good and Maryland being “second-best in the Big Ten” good is free throws. According to Kenpom, they’re top 15 nationally in free throw rate and defensive free throw rate.
10. Bobby Portis, Arkansas: Arkansas is looking more and more like the second-best team in the SEC this season, and Portis is the biggest reason why. The 6-foot-11 forward is now averaging 18.1 points and 7.8 boards while shooting 58.2 percent from the floor and hitting nine of his 15 threes this season. In two wins to kick off league play last week, Portis averaged 26.5 points, which included 21 points in a come-from-behind win at Georgia and 32 points and 11 boards — nine on the offensive end — in a win over Vanderbilt and star big man Damian Jones.
OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Ron Baker (Wichita State), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Kyle Collinsworth (BYU), Tyler Haws (BYU), D’angelo Harrison (St. John’s), LaDontae Henton (Providence), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Jonathan Holmes (Texas), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Jarell Martin (LSU), Jordan Mickey (LSU), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Bobby Portis (Arkansas), D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State), Wesley Saunders (Harvard), Juwan Staten (West Virginia), Ty Wallace (Cal), Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington), Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga), Joseph Young (Oregon)
UCLA’s season was over. They had lost five straight games, had kicked off Pac-12 play by losing at Colorado and getting embarrassed at Utah, and had managed to make the term ‘Daddy Ball’ popular among the Bryce Alford haters. But that all changed this past week, as the Bruins beat both Stanford — in double-overtime — and Cal at Pauley Pavilion. And suddenly, things don’t look so bad. That five-game losing streak consisted of two top ten teams and three road games, and with games against USC, Oregon and Oregon State coming up, a 5-2 mark in league play heading into Super Bowl weekend is feasible.
The catalyst for that resurgence? Kevon Looney. The 6-foot-8 former McDonald’s All-American had 27 points and 19 boards against Stanford, following that up with 15 points and seven boards against Cal. He was 14-for-24 from the floor and has now hit four of his last six from three. UCLA may not be a different team than they were a week ago, but the doom and gloom surrounding the program has certainly changed. That’s a big step.
THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
Kris Dunn, Providence: Dunn led the Friars to wins over Providence and Georgetown, averaging 20.5 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 boards to go along with three steals and three blocks.
Darrun Hilliard, Villanova: The Wildcats reaffirmed their place at the favorite in the Big East by winning at St. John’s and smacking around previously 3-0 DePaul. Hilliard averaged 21.0 points in the two wins.
George Fant, Western Kentucky: WKU moved to 3-0 in Conference USA with wins over Charlotte and No. 25 Old Dominion with Fant averaging 21.0 points and 12.0 boards.
Marcus Foster, Kansas State: Foster scored 23 points in a win at TCU on Wednesday and followed that up with 14 points, including the game-tying and game-winning shots, as the Wildcats won at Oklahoma. Foster was benched last week.
Bobby Portis, Arkansas: Portis went for 21 points as the Razorbacks kicked off SEC play with a win at Georgia, following that up by putting 32 points and 11 boards — nine offensive — on Vanderbilt star Damian Jones.
Kentucky will remain the No. 1 team in the country after this week despite the fact that they were twice taken to overtime by overmatched SEC opponents. Duke lost to an overmatched N.C. State team on the road. Wisconsin lost at Rutgers. Arizona was pushed to the brink at Oregon State. Louisville lost at North Carolina. Texas lost twice. Elite teams have not handled the start of league play all that well, yet here we are, approaching the midway point of the season, and Virginia is not only undefeated, but they’ve now beaten three top 20 teams on the road.
The Cavs knocked off Maryland during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and beat VCU in Richmond back in December. But their most impressive win came this week, as they went into South Bend and knocked off No. 13 Notre Dame three days after outlasting a hot-shooting N.C. State team in Charlottesville. I still have my doubts about Virginia, but the Cavs are every bit deserving of that No. 2 ranking they’ll have on Monday.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
Iowa State Cyclones: The Cyclones bounced back from a loss to South Carolina with a pair of impressive wins to kick off Big 12 play, knocking off Oklahoma State in Ames and West Virginia on the road.
Dayton: Playing with just six scholarship players, Dayton has now won six straight games and is now tied for first place in the Atlantic 10.
Michigan State: The Spartans won three games in Big Ten play this week after losing to Maryland in double-overtime to kick off the conference season.
UNC Wilmington: The Seahawks moved into first place in the CAA by picking up three league wins this week. Kevin Keatts has won eight games this season; UNCW won nine all of last year.
Wyoming: The Cowboys continue to look like the best team in the Mountain West, following up a win at Colorado State by smacking around Boise State. Larry Nance Jr. is the favorite for MWC Player of the Year at this point.
Notables: Vermont, Utah
SET YOUR DVR
No. 16 Oklahoma at No. 14 West Virginia, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
No. 2 Duke at No. 5 Louisville, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
No. 14 West Virginia at No. 10 Texas, Sat. 6:15 p.m.