ACC Championship Preview: #6 Virginia vs. #7 Duke

Posted by Brad Jenkins & Matt Patton on March 16th, 2014

It’s the game that we all expected when the ACC Tournament brackets came out last weekend. Duke vs. Virginia. Let’s preview the ACC Championship game by answering the key questions headed into this one in Greensboro.

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

1. Can Virginia’s balanced scoring offset the star power of Duke’s Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood?

Yes and no. The Cavaliers can’t get in a shootout, but I don’t think they’ll try. Virginia is an experienced team that plays to its strengths. I’ll be very surprised if Duke can push them out of their comfort zone. That said, if Hood and Parker are both firing on all cylinders, I’m not sure how Virginia will put up enough points to win. Look for them to try to make Parker into a jump shooter or to force things against multiple defenders since he’s struggled passing out of double teams when he gets head full of steam. Hood is a little more difficult to contain (since he’s really a second option), but I expect to see a lot of Justin Anderson hounding him. Neither of these teams will quite be at 100 percent, playing their third game in three days, but I think that favors the more balanced team.

2. Duke hasn’t been hitting as many threes lately. Who do you expect to help keep the offense going if shots aren’t falling?

If the outside jumpers aren’t falling — and by playing the third straight grueling game in as many days, there’s a good chance they don’t — then Duke will have to rely on its two future NBA forwards to make plays. Jabari Parker makes plays that are almost unstoppable, even by great defenses like Virginia’s, so he figures to be the best candidate. Rodney Hood’s conditioning will be tested after chasing T.J. Warren all over the court yesterday. Rasheed Sulaimon has had success in the tournament with his penetration, so he may also try to create scoring chances that way.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 75, N.C. State 67

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 15th, 2014

rushedreactions

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

Three Key Takeaways in Duke’s ACC Semi-Final win.

Jabari Parker Slams Home Two of His 20 Points in Duke's Win over N.C. State. (Photo: Robert willett/newsobserver.com).

Jabari Parker Slams Home Two of His 20 Points in Duke’s Win over N.C. State.
(Photo: Robert willett/newsobserver.com).

  1. Duke’s offense is good enough to carry the Blue Devils to the Final Four – and it will have to. When Duke is clicking like it was on Saturday, they are tough for even good defenses to handle. In scoring an impressive 1.36 points per possession, the balanced Blue Devils were too much for a weary N.C. State team to overcome. Not only did Jabari Parker (20 points) and Rodney Hood (14) score well, but Duke also got 16 points from Rasheed Sulaimon and 14 more from Quinn Cook off the bench. But the Blue Devils’ defense kept the Wolfpack close in the first half, allowing a sizzling 66.7 percent shooting and only forcing four turnovers. The second half was a different story, as N.C. State only shot 35.5 percent, but a lot of that has got to be attributed to the Wolfpack having weary legs after playing their third game in three days.
  2. N.C. State ran out of gas. This is no surprise but still must be pointed out. The second half of the third tough game in a row is usually when you start to see the legs go, and that was the case today. Not only did the Wolfpack hang with Duke in the first half, but they could have easily had a nice lead at the break. At one point close to halftime, N.C. State was shooting over 70 percent from the field, only had one turnover, and the team fouls were in there favor (+4), but the score was tied. That probably was a little demoralizing to the young N.C. State team, and when Duke spurted ahead by double figures in the second half, the tired Wolfpack shooters couldn’t keep up, going 1-of-10 on second half three pointers.
  3. Two stars are better than one. T.J. Warren was sensational again, making contested shots time and again on the way to 21 points and eight rebounds for the game. But Duke’s star forward duo of Parker and Hood was enough to more than offset Warren’s effort. Hood made Warren work hard for everything, holding the ACC Player of the Year to under 50 percent shooting, 10-of-22. On the other end, N.C. State had its hands full trying to focus on the two Duke stars. That attention created openings for the Blue Devils guards which were exploited by Sulaimon on the drive, and Cook from long range (3-of-4 on threes). N.C. State got nice contributions from some surprising sources early, including eight first half points each from Anthony Barber and Lennard Freeman off the bench. But the Wolfpack needed a better shooting game from Ralston Turner (2-of-10), the team’s second leading scorer, to support their star.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 63, Clemson 62

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

  1. Don’t trust Duke in the NCAA Tournament. This is admittedly a harsh assessment, and the Blue Devils certainly deserve to be listed among the contenders for the title. When they’re hot, they’re borderline unbeatable. And they have a deep rotation of skilled offensive players. But their defense has serious issues. Duke gave up points on nine straight possessions after going up by 13 points in the second half. They scored some too, so it didn’t look like a dominant Clemson run by any means, but what should have been the time Duke put the Tigers away became the time Clemson held on to challenge for the game. Clemson’s offense is mediocre. Those kinds of runs can’t happen, but they’re beginning to seem like standard second half occurrences with this Duke team.
  2. On the other hand, Duke rebounded really, really well. Unlike defense, many concerns people have with Duke don’t make a lot of sense. This is a very good rebounding team, especially when shots aren’t falling like on Friday night. Amile Jefferson is both a capable offensive player — benefitting from not being the focal point of opposing defenses — and a force on the glass. His and Jabari Parker‘s post games mean Duke has no trouble scoring down low. Jefferson has grown a lot over the course of this season. Remember, during the first half of this season, Josh Hairston was playing comparable minutes to Jefferson (and Marshall Plumlee wasn’t playing at all). As a side note, Quinn Cook’s development has flat-lined — for whatever reason he can’t find much consistency. Offensively, I think point guard play is Duke’s biggest concern going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Wins National Player of the Year

Posted by Jameson Fleming (@JamesonFleming) on March 13th, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Picking a 10th player to fill out the National Player of the Year rankings was agonizingly hard. There were so many tremendous options like rankings stalwart Tyler Ennis, who finally fell out of the Top 10 thanks to his poor play during Syracuse’s struggles. Then there’s Bryce Cotton and T.J. Warren. Providence is closer to the NCAA Tournament than North Carolina State, but both stars have had incredible seasons. Cotton is averaging more than 40 MINUTES per game and is single-handedly willing the Friars to the Big Dance. Warren has been nothing short of spectacular for the Wolfpack. While he won ACC Player of the Year, on a national scale his team’s lack of success kept him out of these rankings. There’s also Marcus Smart, who turned in an impressive five-game stretch to put Oklahoma State back into the Tournament picture comfortably. His fellow Big 12 stud Melvin Ejim took home the league’s Player of the Year honors. Kyle Anderson has had a Shabazz Napier-like season for the Bruins, except he did it as a 6’9″ point guard.

Doug McDermott proved time and time again that he was the premier standout this season. (AP)

Doug McDermott proved time and time again that he was the premier standout this season. (AP)

Player of the Year

10. Marcus Paige – North Carolina. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.1 PPG, 4.5 APG, 120.6 ORtg

After a long absence from the Top 10, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige finally returns thanks to dominant play in the ACC. Before losing to Duke in the regular season finale, UNC had won 12 consecutive games thanks to Paige’s leadership. During the last 13 outings, Paige has averaged 17.6 points per game. Even when he’s not scoring, the Tar Heels’ sophomore impacts the game as a passer, but also a defender. Against Notre Dame, Paige shut the door on an upset attempt by blocking a last-second layup at the end of regulation.

9. Andrew Wiggins – Kansas. Last Week: 8
2013-14 stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 113.9 ORtg

All season long, fans have been waiting for Andrew Wiggins to explode and have a Kevin Durant-like game. The Kansas freshman finally delivered in a loss at West Virginia without Joel Embiid. Wiggins dropped an efficient 41 points to give scouts a signature performance and a chance to remember why he should be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. His shot chart from that game is a thing of beauty.

Shot chart via CBSSports.com

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ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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Award Tour: The Battle for Runner-Up is Heating Up

Posted by Jameson Fleming (@jamesonfleming) on February 28th, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Marcus Smart is well on his way to getting back in the good graces of the Player of the Year rankings. In the two games since he returned from suspension, the Oklahoma State sophomore is averaging 16.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 8.5 APG. It’s too late to make any kind of run at Player of Year – both nationally and in the Big 12 – but Smart can salvage an otherwise disappointing season and ensure the Cowboys go dancing with a strong finish.

Player of the Year

10. Kyle Anderson – UCLA. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 14.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 6.9 APG, 113.1 ORtg

Kyle Anderson is on thin ice after a poor performance in a loss against Stanford and a one-game suspension Thursday night for violating team rules. Other than Doug McDermott, Anderson might be the most unique player in the country. He’s one of just two players 6’7″ or taller in the country to rank in the top 100 in assist rate. The 6’9 Anderson is 20th in that metric, assisting on 35.4 percent of his team’s baskets. Saint Joseph’s Halil Kanacevic stands 6’8″ and assists on 29.2 percent of his team’s buckets.

9. Scottie Wilbekin – Florida. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 13.5 PPG, 3.9 APG, 113.2 ORtg

Wilbekin Has Been Outstanding for the Gators This Season

Wilbekin Has Been Outstanding for the Gators This Season

During the last month, it’s become more apparent that this Gators team is Scottie Wilbekin’s team. Casey Prather was the early star, but lately, Wilbekin has been the dominant force on an outstanding Florida squad. Wilbekin has improved in SEC play, toting an offensive rating of 121.0 and averaging 19.0 points per game in Florida’s five toughest conference games so far.

8. Andrew Wiggins – Kansas. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 114.1 ORtg

Andrew Wiggins hasn’t quite been the star he was expected to be on the offensive end of the floor. There’s no doubt that he’s been a very good scorer, but his top contribution for the Jayhawks may be on defense. Read the rest of this entry »

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Heading into March, Duke Much in Need of Its Upcoming Break

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 26th, 2014

After dispatching Virginia Tech 66-48 on Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke will get a much-needed week off. Going into this break, the Blue Devils have played five games in the last 11 days. It was already going to be a tough stretch in the schedule, but it became even more so when a rare Triangle winter storm forced the postponement of the game with North Carolina, originally set for February 12. The rivalry tilt was rescheduled for play on February 20, the only available date that made sense for both schools, but it created a situation where Duke has basically been playing every other day for the last week and a half. Now with a clear schedule until next Wednesday at Wake Forest, it’s a good time to assess how this Blue Devils’ team is currently playing and their prospects moving forward.

Rasheed Sulaimon's Playing Well On Both Ends Of The Floor. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Rasheed Sulaimon Is Playing Well On Both Ends Of The Floor.
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Perhaps the best thing to happen for Duke lately is the emergence of Marshall Plumlee. After spot duty and inconsistent play for most of the season, the redshirt sophomore has developed to the point that he is now clearly the top frontcourt reserve. Plumlee had shown some flashes of talent previously, most notably in a home game against Florida State in which he achieved career highs in points and rebounds (seven each). That outing was followed by a total of two points and seven rebounds in Duke’s next four games. But in his last three outings, the youngest of the Plumlees has shown much more consistency. In 47 total minutes combined, he has scored 11 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. He has also had an impact on the defensive end, blocking five shots over that period. Earlier in the year, Plumlee was very weak at defending the high pick-and-roll and was often late in help situations. That part of his game has improved enough so that Duke can now take advantage of Plumlee’s size to help with it’s biggest issue on defense – protecting the basket. That weakness was on display again in the Virginia Tech game. The Hokies’ trio of big men, hardly an imposing bunch, converted 16-of-22 field goals against the Blue Devils’ interior.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott is Simply Toying with the Competition

Posted by Jameson Fleming (@jamesonfleming) on February 21st, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Several players and coaches dropped out of the rankings even though they probably deserve a spot on their respective lists. Arizona’s Sean Miller saw his team drop a road game against Arizona State, which is of course completely acceptable. For now, or at least until his squad figures out how to score again, Miller will remain sidelined from our top five. Jim Boeheim’s team also can’t score. The offensive issues for the Orange are more fixable than Arizona’s because the only player ‘Cuse is missing is Baye Keita — his face should be put on a milk carton for how little he contributes with the ball. On the NPOY side, both of Cincinnati’s Justin Jackson and Sean Kilpatrick deserve some love and one will likely find his way into the rankings with a win against Louisville this weekend.

Just weeks away from the end of the regular season, everyone is still chasing the guy on the left.

Just weeks away from the end of the regular season, everyone is still chasing the guy on the left.

Player of the Year

10. Kyle Anderson – UCLA. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 15.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 6.8 APG, 114.0 oRTG

At no point this season did UCLA ever look like it would struggle to make the NCAA Tournament, but rarely did the Bruins look they’d be a threat to make a deep run in March. That has changed. UCLA has won seven of eight games to easily move into second place in the Pac-12 thanks to a league-best offense. Who runs that attack? Kyle Anderson. He picks his spots to score, but he also puts an emphasis on being the distributor Steve Alford’s offense needs. He’s had three double-figure assist games in his last eight after recording just one previously.

9. Andrew Wiggins – Kansas. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 16.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 113.3 oRTG

The Big 12 is arguably the best conference in the country, and it’s loaded with very good players. For most of the season, various Big 12 players have popped in and out of the rankings, most notably Marcus Smart. With the Oklahoma State guard’s decline, however, the Big 12 is lacking a standout Player of the Year candidate. Joel Embiid looked like he might take over the race, but the Kansas freshman still hasn’t been able to consistently play major minutes. Queue Andrew Wiggins: He’s the top shot-taker and maker for the best team in the league (by far) and he can defend all over the court. With a stretch against Texas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and at West Virginia remaining, Wiggins could easily put the Big 12 POY award on lockdown with several strong performances.

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ACC M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 20th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. KenPom.com: If you have a subscription, the win probability graph from Boston College‘s upset over Syracuse last night is amazing. The Orange had a 96 percent chance to win at the tip. That stayed at or above 94 percent before peaking with around 16 minutes left in the second half (when Syracuse was up 13 points). Then things get interesting. A few Boston College threes later, and each possession starts influencing the graph. Boston College’s best chance to steal the win in regulation came with two seconds left (when CJ Fair almost committed the worst foul of the year), but the percentage spiked back to over 80 percent to start overtime. At that point every possession is high leverage. If you don’t have a subscription, today’s the day. How else would you know Boston College held Syracuse to its second-worst offensive efficiency of the year?
  2. BC Interruption: But how did the Eagles do it? They slowed the game down to a crawl (only 56 possessions in an overtime game!). They knocked down threes. They stopped turning the ball over (though the first half was admittedly horrible on this front). And they played remarkably good defense once they cut out Syracuse’s runouts. Olivier Hanlan was aggressive; Lonnie Jackson stepped up and hit four clutch free throws to close the game out; and Joe Rahon managed to hold CJ Fair to 20 points on 23 shots.
  3. Sports Illustrated: This is just a tremendous piece on Jabari Parker, focusing on his relationship with Coach K. It’s worth the time (which will be substantial), but really delivers great insight into who Parker is on and off the basketball court.
  4. Charlotte Observer: What do you get when you mix Barry Jacobs with a classic game on the day of Duke-North Carolina? A must-read. Jacobs chronicles the famous 7-0 half at Cameron Indoor to finish off the 1979 season. Duke was in its “signature 2-3 matchup zone” (yes, Bill Foster was coaching, but that’s still weird to hear), so Dean Smith brought out the four corners to try to coax the Blue Devils away from its defensive principles. It didn’t work. In the second half both teams ran more and put up 40 points each. Come for the first half shutout, stay for the flopping anecdote.
  5. Shakin the Southland: Clemson earned a win that could help itself a lot come Selection Sunday. No, it won’t stand out for being a great win, but NC State is currently sitting along with the Tigers on the bubble, and Clemson had to stop the bleeding to end its three-game losing streak. The win puts Clemson in a better position than its foes from Raleigh. This was Clemson’s best offensive performance of conference play and second-best performance on the season. More performances like that will help Clemson pass the dreaded (and arbitrary) eye test in a few short weeks.
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Morning Five: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 20th, 2014

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  1. Wyoming’s hopes of making a surprise run to the NCAA Tournament by winning the MW Conference Tournament took a huge hit yesterday when a MRI on Larry Nance Jr. revealed that he had a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season. Nance led the team in scoring, rebounds, blocks, and steals this season so it is a devastating blow for the Cowboys. We do not know any additional details about other damage in Nance’s knee, but according to Andy Katz’s source Nance is awaiting surgical intervention on his knee.
  2. As any Wichita State fan will point out Alabama’s season has not gone according to plan. Now the Crimson Tide will likely have to play the rest of the season without forward Nick Jacobs who is taking “an indefinite leave of absence” from the team. Jacobs, the team’s third leading scorer at 8.4 points per game, had been playing regularly, but it appears that “off-the-court issues” are the reason for his leave of absence according to Anthony Grant. Jacobs is still a junior so he still can return to the Tide next season. He has been a steady scorer for the Tide during his three seasons, but has not shown a significant increase in his production while at Alabama (6.1 points per game as a freshman, 7.6 as a sophomore, and 8.4 this season). Still he would be a big loss for the team if he does not return as a result of whatever the issues are.
  3. We are sure that the last thing that some of you want to read is another piece about Duke, but Sports Illustrated‘s article about how Mike Krzyzewski has helped transform Jabari Parker‘s game is an excellent read. Told through a series of anecdotes it shows how Parker has developed from a top recruit recovering from injury to possibly the most complete player in the country outside of Doug McDermott. Perhaps what is more interesting is the interaction that he and Krzyzewski have and how Krzyzewski even at this point in his career still appears to be learning and developing.
  4. We tend to head about the big NCAA violations that schools commit. What we usually do not hear about is some of the smaller infractions–real and imagined–that they commit. The Oklahoman obtained a report of violations that Oklahoma self-reported to the NCAA including one for what appears to be a pasta bar violation (see the May 10, 2013 entry). According to the report, three student-athletes ate more than the amount the NCAA supposedly allows at a graduation dinner and the school had the students pay $3.83 (the cost over the amount allowed by the NCAA) to the charity of their choice. To their credit, the NCAA has come out and said that it does not have any such rule. So for all the criticism that the NCAA gets for the way it runs college sports it appears that sometimes the schools make it harder for themselves for no reason.
  5. According to Andy Katz, Arizona is making a push to end court storms after their two losses this season were marred by premature court storms (we don’t use our name when it is done that way). Since our site is named for something similar (done correctly) we often get asked about this. We have answered it several times and even been misquoted so here is our basic take. We understand why some people are against it (risk of injury, etc), but when done correctly (and this is partly on the school and its event staff) it is a reflection of the passion and energy that the fans have for the game. Taking that away would not necessarily detract from the game at least the on-court product, but it might affect the in-game experience for the fans who drive the sport. We won’t try to argue that college basketball has better basketball than the NBA in terms of athleticism and precision because it doesn’t, but the one thing it does have is a passion that the NBA rarely has, which you can see in the difference of the intensity of the regular season games for the two. Obviously, there need to be some limits on what fans can and cannot do at the games, but the administrators need to tread lightly or risk taking away part of what makes college basketball so special.
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Scintillating Battle for ACC ROY Under Way This Season

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 14th, 2014

No offense to Ben Emelogu, Kennedy Meeks or Anthony Barber, but it was never really much of a contest to begin with. From the moment they stepped foot on their respective campuses, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis made it clear they were the biggest and baddest freshmen around. And from November up until present day February, it has been painfully clear that Ennis and Parker are two of the best (if not the two best) freshmen in the entire country.

Tyler Ennis shocks Pittsburgh with this 35-foot miracle. (ESPN screenshot)

Tyler Ennis shocks Pittsburgh with this 35-foot miracle. (ESPN screenshot)

While Parker started white-hot, recording countless 20+ point games in his first few weeks in a Blue Devil uniform, Ennis remained steady and consistent. Parker dominated the national POY conversation up until about December, when he ultimately handed the torch to Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who has not relinquished his grasp on the top honors since. So while it seems unlikely Jabari, or anyone else for that matter, will be able to catch McDermott, Parker still has his eyes set on ACC POY and ROY trophies in what will likely be his only season in Durham. While no one debates Parker’s next-level readiness from an offensive arsenal standpoint as well as physical makeup and his NBA-ready frame, Parker’s defense is lacking and he can be a liability at times. That gap in his game is overshadowed by the dunks, step back isolation jumpers, often gaudy rebounding numbers and solid rim protecting, but the ‘other’ side of the ball still remains an issue. It is understandable why he continues to receive what some might call backhanded praise, comparing him to Carmelo Anthony, who while a prolific scorer, is not known for his defensive prowess by any means. While Parker’s projected national-level accolades have dropped since his scorching start, Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis has been shooting up the rankings over the past few months.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Has Some Company

Posted by Jameson Fleming on February 14th, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart has fallen out of the rankings, not only because of his suspension, but because his play on the court has suffered. Prior to a good performance against Texas Tech (aside from the Jeff Orr incident), Smart had limped through four ugly games, three of which were Cowboy losses. With Oklahoma State now firmly on the bubble, Smart needs to return to form quickly in order to avoid an incredibly disappointing season.

Player of the Year

10. C.J. Fair – Syracuse. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 16.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 101.8 oRTG

I’ve been hard on C.J. Fair all season because he has turned into a volume shooter and turnover machine as a senior. He’s the main cog in Jim Boeheim’s offense, but he’s rarely been very efficient this season. Despite that, he’s still the leading scorer on an undefeated power conference team. Fair finally makes this list for two reasons: His turnovers are down in ACC play (42 in 13 non-conference games vs. 19 in 11 ACC games), and his clutch shots against Pitt. This breakdown is as much about Fair’s skills as Lamar Patterson dogging it defensively. In the first play, Fair runs off a simple screen along the baseline. Patterson gets caught on it and basically gives up, allowing the Syracuse senior to fire an easy three.

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In the second play, Patterson gets tricked into thinking Fair is going to drive baseline after he guarded Fair’s penetration well all game long. The Pitt star is a step too slow and Fair gets off a relatively uncontested mid-range jumper.
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9. Justin Jackson – Cincinnati. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 11.4 PPG, 3.1 BPG, 106.9 oRTG

Sean Kilpatrick is the sexy pick from Cincinnati in the Player of the Year race, but teammate Justin Jackson ultimately has had a bigger impact on both ends of the floor. Jackson might be the best defensive player in the country. Toss in the fact he’s Cincinnati’s second best option offensively along with his rebounding and you get the Bearcats’ most influential player.

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