We Salute You: Paying Homage to the Nation’s Undefeated Teams in League Play

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) on February 6th, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court and spent way too much time on these articles.

With the calendar turned to February and the meat of conference play upon us, the most dominant and least effective teams are showing their colors against equal competition. And with the halfway point of conference season rapidly approaching for many – and already here for others – now is a good time to take stock of both teams that are undefeated in conference and those who have yet to win. Tuesday’s installment took a look at the less fortunate teams among us, ranked from least likely to most to not win a game in conference play. Today, we do the same, but with the 10 teams still undefeated in conference play.

Note: All statistics dutifully harvested from kenpom.com.

Syracuse (22-0, 9-0 Atlantic Coast Conference)

Jim Boeheim has done a masterful job managing his lineup. But will the grind of the ACC season catch up to the Orange? (Getty)

Jim Boeheim has done a masterful job managing his lineup. But will the grind of the ACC season catch up to the Orange? (Getty)

  • Odds: 1.8 percent chance to go undefeated
  • Most likely losses: Feb. 22 at Duke, 67 percent; March 1 at Virginia, 59 percent
  • Biggest strength: Top 10 offense; defensively, second in block rate and steal rate
  • Achilles’ heel: Middle-of-the-road free-throw shooting
  • Key player: Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis (12.1 points per game, 5.6 assists per game, 2.3 steals per game; plays more of his team’s minutes than any other power conference freshman)
  • Outlook: Syracuse’s chances of going undefeated are not equal to their chances of beating the teams on this list. (In fact, I’d take the Orange in each match-up, and I hope that the team most likely to go undefeated and this Syracuse squad end up facing off in the NCAA Tournament, because that would be one hell of a game.) But the Orange still have to go into Cameron Indoor Stadium to face a Duke team that took them to overtime in Syracuse in an instant classic this past weekend. They also have to travel to Virginia and former Big East rival Pittsburgh in the regular season, which are the three toughest away games on their entire schedule. Syracuse has played a grind-it-out slow tempo this season, its seventh straight in which its pace of play has slowed down, going from 27th in tempo in 2007-08 to 344th of 351 teams in 2013-14. That slow tempo lets coach Jim Boeheim play six to seven players regularly, and his starters have played tons of minutes, which could be a big problem as the season drags on or, heaven forbid, a core player gets hurt.

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Morning Five: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 6th, 2014

morning5

  1. By now all of you have heard of DeAndre Kane and at least part of his story including about his father and his time at Marshall before transferring to Iowa State, but we have not seen as thorough a description of Kane and some of the details of those incidents at Marshall as what Luke Winn provided in his article on Kane for Sports Illustrated. While Kane certainly comes across as a sympathetic figure it is interesting that he denies that any of the reported incidents happened despite multiple sources confirming the reports including one player who Kane reportedly punches who admits that he was at fault for the incident. Outside of the details on Kane it also has a guest appearance by Royce White, it also has a surprising story about how Lattrell Spreewell is one of Fred Hoiberg’s favorite teammates and how his experiences with Spreewell helped shape his view on accepting transfers.
  2. Richmond’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament appear to be over after they announced yesterday that Cedrick Lindsey‘s career at Richmond was over due a torn meniscus in both knees. Lindsay, the team’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, was the team’s only remaining senior after forward Derrick Williams quit the team. Richmond’s resume is good enough that with a solid February and March they could be on the bubble, but without Lindsey and Williams it is tough to envision them putting together such a run. Without Lindsey in the lineup even more burden will fall on Kendall Anthony, the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.8 points per game, but at this point Richmond fans might be better served looking forward to next season.
  3. Loyola’s bad season is about to get worse after they announced that Dylon Cormier, the top scorer in the Patriot League at 21.2 points per game, is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair two fractures in his left hand. The injury might have a bigger impact on Loyola than Cedric Lindsey’s will have on Richmond, but Loyola was nowhere near the point of having any postseason aspirations as they were only 9-12 prior to the announcement although they did manage to beat American, the top team in the Patriot League, last night without Cormier. It is possible that Loyola could rally without Cormier, but we would probably just consider last night’s result an aberration.
  4. As a general rule using “I’m not the only one” is never a good defense, but apparently that is what Marcus Smart has elected to use as his defense for his growing reputation for flopping. We can’t argue with Smart’s claim because we do see a lot of flopping, but we doubt that his defense will win him many supporters. What will win him supporters is getting his game back together as it and his Oklahoma State team have fallen apart. We are not quite ready to write off Smart and the Cowboys yet, but if they do not turn it around relatively soon they could be looking at a much lower seed in the NCAA Tournament than they expected coming into the season.
  5. Yesterday on ESPN’s Mike and Mike show, Jim Boeheim stated that college basketball is in “the best place it’s ever been.” On the surface it might seem like a ridiculous statement because of how much people complain about how college basketball has fallen off with many of the top talents only staying in college for the mandated one year before heading to the NBA, but Boeheim is looking at things a little differently. Boeheim’s argument is based more on parity. Some might call this mediocrity, but in Boeheim’s eyes there are benefits to not having a few dominant teams and instead having “a lot of really good teams”. On some level that is something we can certainly get behind and hope that it leads to a great NCAA Tournament.
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ACC M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Fayetteville Observer: Rasheed Sulaimon has been one of the more interesting players to follow in the conference this season. He was a presumed star in Duke’s rotation after a strong freshman campaign before spending much of the start of the season on the bench. Then he became the go-to player for Duke’s second rotation as the Blue Devils righted the ship. Now, he’s tentatively taken over the starting point guard role while Quinn Cook is struggling through a slump. As a freshman Sulaimon showed a knack for finding the open man, so his new role fits. Suddenly Duke is less reliant on Cook to run the offense, which only makes the team more dangerous over the next couple of months.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: This article really surprised me. I know Syracuse‘s 22-game winning streak is a big deal, but I had no idea that it ranked so highly among unbeaten starts in league history. Syracuse is already tied for the third-best start ever in the ACC. The rest of the list? 1980-81 Virginia started 22-0 on its way to the Final Four (Ralph Sampson’s sophomore campaign); 1972-73 NC State’s unbeaten season on probation (David Thompson’s sophomore year); and 1956-57 North Carolina unbeaten year, which won the national title, 54-53 (in three overtimes!), over Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: I’m on board with Jerry Ratcliffe’s general premise that the ACC isn’t getting its due (thanks to a horrible bottom of the conference), but let the record show that Florida State isn’t underperforming. They’ve played a hellacious league schedule and still have a reasonable chance for an at-large bid. It’s tough to expect better than that after last year’s disaster. Go ahead and add Clemson (tentatively), Pittsburgh and Miami to the list of ACC teams playing better than expected. North Carolina, Maryland and Boston College are certainly on the wrong side of expectations, but as a whole the ACC’s chronicles of woe are mostly thanks to overzealous preseason expectations.
  4. WRAL Sports Fan: Put me down as a second to Adam Gold’s idea for an ACC double-header of Duke-Syracuse and North Carolina-Louisville during the weekend of next season’s Super Bowl. Hell, why not throw in Virginia and Pittsburgh for those who prefer a slower game. While you’re at it, put me down for whatever it takes for the Blue Devils and Orange to face off twice a year while they have their respective Hall of Famers still at the helm.
  5. Bleacher Report: Here comes another interview with PJ Hairston. He’s learned a valuable lesson: Don’t read message boards. Probably the most interesting quote in this piece was from Hairston’s assistant coach, Hollis Price, after Hairston dove for a loose ball in practice: “That’s a credit to Roy Williams and the things he instilled in him,” said Price, laughing. “But I told him, ‘P.J., you’re not in college anymore. You’ve got to protect your money, especially in practice.” And you wonder why elite college coaches don’t always pan out at the next level?
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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Blowing Away the NPOY Competition

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 31st, 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.

Michigan State was so close to landing a player in this week’s Award Tour rankings, but Gary Harris struggled in a loss to Michigan. His day will come… eventually. Providence’s Bryce Cotton and Ed Cooley are also very close to making their debuts on the watch lists as well. Cotton is an ironman who has carried the Friars after taking over as the point guard, while Cooley has kept the team moving forward after a rough start to conference play. Andrew Wiggins is quickly turning into the player everyone expected before the season — he was never bad or mediocre, just not a stud – until now. After 27 points against TCU and 29 more against Iowa State, Maple Jordan is rounding into form as Kansas’ second Big 12 Player of the Year candidate. Pitt’s Lamar Patterson struggled against Duke, but he’ll have several more chances in the coming weeks to prove he’s an ACC Player of the Year candidate.

Player of the Year

Thanks to some outstanding play of late, Justin Jackson (left), Xavier Thames, and Nick Stauskas are all in the POY discussion.

Thanks to some outstanding play of late, Justin Jackson (left), Xavier Thames, and Nick Stauskas are all in the POY discussion.

10. Justin Jackson – Cincinnati. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 11.1 PPG, 7 RPG, 3.3 BPG, 107.5 oRTG

Justin Jackson isn’t going to wow anyone offensively. He can score a few buckets here and there, be a playmaker occasionally, and draw a lot of fouls. So why did he make the Player of the Year rankings? He’s a dominant defender and rebounder. Jackson is arguably the best player on a Cincinnati team that is now 20-2 with wins at Louisville, at Memphis, Pittsburgh and SMU. He’s the only player in the top 50 in the country in block AND steal rate according to KenPom, and his late steal against Louisville helped seal an impressive victory in the KFCYum! Center against the Cardinals.

9. Xavier Thames – San Diego State. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.5 PPG, 2.7 APG, 121.6 oRTG

Xavier Thames has emerged as San Diego State’s top player after spending three years toiling in mediocrity thanks to poor shooting and turnovers. But as a senior, Thames has become a much more efficient scorer and distributor. He’s the main reason why the Aztecs could overcome huge personnel losses and improve from last year’s NCAA round of 32 squad.

8. Joel Embiid – Kansas. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 11.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 113.6 oRTG

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ACC M5: 01.31.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 31st, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Great profile of Anthony Gill by Whitey Reid. Gill hasn’t had the easiest journey to Charlottesville, but he’s still a good-hearted prankster ready to dupe an unknowing reporter into believing he is a magician or once had a two-headed pet cat. Gill seems like the ultimate glue guy: a solid basketball player — he’s averaging just shy of eight points in 18 minutes a game — who’s fun to be around.
  2. Nike: Big uniform news, as Nike announced new “Hyper Elite” uniforms for seven programs, including Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse. Oh, and they’re throwbacks. I personally like all three (although North Carolina’s current jerseys are some of the best in the country). Take a look for yourself below.

    Nike's new throwback uniforms are excellent. (photo credit: Nike)

    Nike’s new throwback uniforms are excellent. (photo credit: Nike)

  3. Daily Orange: Another interesting part of the “2-3 Zone Series” focusing on Syracuse‘s relative lack of recent success in the NBA is that it’s hard to say how much the zone plays into the trend. It’s true the NBA doesn’t play much zone and probably isn’t looking to spend time teaching draft picks on the ins and outs of elite man-to-man defense. But Syracuse doesn’t have a problem getting players drafted. I think it also comes down to the type of players Syracuse recruits. They’re very good, but the Orange don’t draw nearly the number of McDonald’s All-Americans as the other blue-bloods. Jesse Dougherty does a good job in getting feedback from former players working professionally both here and abroad. Unrelatedly, Jim Boeheim is already falling in love with North Carolina cuisine.
  4. State of the U: Informative graphic showing Miami‘s scholarships over the next four years. This year’s team doesn’t have much depth, but the Hurricanes only have three scholarships left to give over the next two years (thanks in part to being down a scholarship). And amazingly, the Hurricanes have six seniors on the roster, which means there’s a big class coming to set the tone for the next few years. We’re also going to get to see what a Jim Larranaga-constructed team looks like in Coral Gables.
  5. FSU News: David Walker reflects on the paradox that is Florida State basketball. While football dwarfs basketball’s popularity in Tallahassee, the fan base has come to expect some degree of success under Leonard Hamilton. Apart from last year — when Hamilton fielded a fairly young team that didn’t quite gel — the Seminoles have been perennial postseason warriors despite institutional disadvantages when compared with some of the more basketball-focused schools in the conference.
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ACC M5: 01.30.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 30th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: I’m late to the party on this Post-Standard series, “10 Reasons why Duke is hated.” First let’s talk about the piece from Tuesday on Duke’s lack of NBA success. It’s fair to say Brent Axe is standing in a glass house here — and we won’t even talk about the “I could do 10 posts on bad calls Tim Higgins has made against SU alone” comment. Syracuse has had two NBA All-Stars since Jim Boeheim took over: Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Coleman (who only went once). That’s three fewer than Duke over the last 10 years. But Wednesday’s piece takes the cake, with Axe writing what feels like a fanboy blog piece on Duke’s “dark side.” This isn’t to say the national media doesn’t put Duke on a pedestal — it most certainly does. But long story short, this series looks pretty ridiculous on a newspaper blog (a paper, theoretically capable of reporting on scandals in the conference), and crosses the fine line between fun trolling and unprofessional potshots.
  2. Daily Orange: In a better example of Syracuse journalism, the student paper continued its “2-3 Series” talking about how Jim Boeheim teaches his teams to feel the zone instead of “reacting” to the play. Specifically, it looks at Hakim Warrick, who — like most post players — took time learning the rotations. That’s one reason I (and Stephen Bailey) don’t think Jim Boeheim will ever fully embrace the one-and-dones. All it takes is one disinterested or lost player to ruin a zone (unlike man-to-man, where you make sure a weak link guards a non-factor).
  3. ACC: The ACC announced this year’s ACC Legends, which will be honored at the ACC Tournament in March. It’s a good thing the league is expanding because it’s really having to stretch on some of these — no offense to Sam Ivy, who was a “linchpin” in Bob Staak’s teams at Wake Forest — teams that never made the NCAA Tournament. I was happy to see Julius Hodge honored for his nine four years of playing for NC State. And Al Thornton probably deserves to be an ACC legend based on this play alone.
  4. Boston Globe: Boston College was 5-14 going into its game against Virginia Tech last night (winning by 24). Steve Donahue admits to over-scheduling his team, but he would have been killed for playing a Clemson-like schedule. He also cites Ken Pomeroy’s numbers as proof of Dennis Clifford’s impact on his team’s defense. The only question now is how many wins Donahue needs to notch to keep his job.
  5. Cardiac Hill: Pittsburgh has a lot of wins, but is is still missing a marquee victory that helps its resume stand out. A down conference and horrid non-conference schedule doesn’t make the search for a capstone win any easier. The Panthers have two more chances for a good one — at home against both Virginia and Syracuse. Losethose games and you could be looking at a 25-win major conference team that somehow ended up on the bubble. The Panthers also have the conference tournament to prove their worth, but time is running out.

EXTRA: McDonalds All-American teams were announced on Wednesday and seven (eight if you pretend Maryland isn’t leaving next summer) will play in the ACC next season. Four will play for Duke and three for North Carolina. Syracuse recruit Chris McCullough would likely have been a burger boy, but he’s ineligible for the recognition as a fifth-year player.

VIDEO EXTRA: The ACC Digital Network is doing an interesting series miking up coaches from around the league. Here’s Virginia Tech’s James Johnson.

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ACC M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 29th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Daily Orange: The Syracuse student newspaper is running a tremendous series on Jim Boeheim and the history of his zone. Suffice it to say that the whole series will make the ACC M5. This is the first of the bunch and covers Boeheim’s playing career and his slow adoption of the zone. It has quotes from former players and opposing coaches to go with GIF diagrams of specific plays. Great stuff.
  2. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Ron Cook has what appears to be a popular opinion after Duke’s win at Pittsburgh. Lamar Patterson and the Panthers are overrated (remember, this is coming from someone who named Patterson the favorite for ACC Player of the Year and the Panthers as the top team in the league). I agree with the second part of that statement. Pittsburgh is a challenger for the regular season title, but hasn’t shown itself yet to be the best team in the league. That said, Patterson has been their best player. Duke essentially doubled him every time Pittsburgh tried to set a screen, and his teammates stepped up — for most of the game on offense — knocking down jumpers in his stead. But he’s still my conference player of the year to this point, and it’s not all that close.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State did an admirable job contesting Duke’s shots Saturday, but the Blue Devils scored 29 second chance points on 27 (!) offensive rebounds. The chink in the armor of Florida State’s historically great defenses has always been mediocre defensive rebounding. That’s often because Seminole bigs work to seal off the lane, often leaving opponents free to get better position on the glass. The question is whether the poor rebounding stems from a problem with the Seminoles’ eraser in the paint, or the wings who need to crash the boards in his place? My guess is the latter.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: Don’t look now, but if James Michael McAdoo plays like he did against Clemson, you shouldn’t write North Carolina off just yet. Who knows if the historical significance loomed over the Tigers, but regardless, McAdoo lit a fire under the Tar Heels in the blowout win on Sunday. That’s the kind of play Roy Williams desperately needs from his upperclassmen (along with lots of scoring to back up Marcus Paige).
  5. John Gasaway: Tuesday Truths are back! Which means it’s the weekly time to marvel at Virginia for being the most dominant team in conference play thus far (with Duke and Syracuse close behind). Also, the gap between fourth ranked Pittsburgh and fifth ranked Florida State is 0.02 points per possession lower than the gap between Florida State and last ranked Virginia Tech. The most surprising part of the data set is that Maryland is the fastest team in the league by a comfortable margin (69.2 possessions a game, to Syracuse’s 54.2).
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Rushed Reactions: #2 Syracuse 59, #22 Pittsburgh 54

Posted by mpatton on January 18th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Pittsburgh is worthy of a higher ranking. With no great non-conference wins and that horribly slow loss to Cincinnati, there was good reason to question whether the Panthers deserved their advanced statistical love. But they played Syracuse even on the road, even owning a lead in the final three minutes. But even more impressive was that the Panthers took the lead after trailing by double figures in the second half. It’s not a secret at this point: Lamar Patterson is a special player and may be frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year if he keeps up the pace.

    Tyler Ennis got to the rim to seal Syracuse's victory. (credit: Dick Blume / Syracuse Post-Standard)

    Tyler Ennis got to the rim to seal Syracuse’s victory. (credit: Dick Blume / Syracuse Post-Standard)

  2. Syracuse isn’t going undefeated in the ACC. The Orange might be perfect at home when it’s all said and done, but their late game rebounding is a huge concern. Pittsburgh missed a lot of foul shots and layups, and still almost won the game at the Carrier Dome. Someone will get hot from beyond the arc and torch Syracuse on the offensive glass. Even more importantly, the Orange only played seven players, and every starter logged more than 29 minutes. Jerami Grant, CJ Fair and Tyler Ennis each played the entire 40 minutes, which could cause problems if the Orange get in foul trouble.
  3. Syracuse’s interior length bothered Pittsburgh on offense. Part of the problem is that the Panthers’ front line doesn’t have a lot of height. But multiple times Pittsburgh ended up having to force a jumper late in the shot clock because a guard was met by Rakeem Christmas or Baye Keita in the paint. That said, Talib Zanna had a couple of really good offensive possessions operating near the elbow, and finished with an efficient double-double.

Star of the Game: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse. Ennis scored six of Syracuse’s last eight points to close the game, including the big shot to retake the lead. He finished with 16 points (a team high) on eight shots with three assists and one turnover in just shy of 40 minutes. Jim Boeheim made it clear after the game that they opened the floor (keeping CJ Fair and Trevor Cooney on the wing) to let Ennis work. That’s a lot of responsibility for a freshman, but you never felt like Ennis was rattled. Even when Pittsburgh deflected his pass late in the second half, he stayed calm and got it back.

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Five Key Questions as Pittsburgh Heads to the Carrier Dome with Something to Prove

Posted by Matt Patton & Lathan Wells on January 18th, 2014

In anticipation of the new marquee ACC match-up this afternoon at 4:00 PM EST, microsite columnists Matt Patton and Lathan Wells ask each other the tough questions. Somehow, we only mention CJ Fair once.

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse's diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse’s diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

LathanTyler Ennis has proven to be a freshman beyond his years at the point, with a demeanor that belies his class. Can anyone disrupt him defensively and thus help stymie what Syracuse wants to do on offense?

Matt: Calling Ennis a surprise is disingenuous because everyone expected him to be really good. People just didn’t him to be this good this quickly. He’s made the offense more efficient by replacing Michael Carter-Williams, the current NBA Rookie of the Year front-runner. But Pittsburgh will likely try to make the freshman uncomfortable by sealing off the lane with face-guarding on the perimeter.

Pittsburgh has some of the best ball movement in the country (seventh nationally in assists per field goal made). How will Syracuse’s zone combat it?

Lathan: In short, the zone makes ball movement the key to staying in the game. Syracuse’s length across its lineup forces teams to keep throwing the ball around the perimeter and causing teams to hurry late in the shot clock to get a good shot. Establishing a solid high-low option is probably the key to having some sort of success on offense.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Strengthens Grip on POY

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 17th, 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.

As usual, there are many candidates knocking on the door of the Player of the Year race. Florida’s Casey Prather dropped out temporarily after missing the last two games with an injury. He’ll likely be back in the rankings at some point as he’s Julius Randle’s top competition for SEC Player of the Year. After a few rough games, UMass’ Chaz Williams is back on track thanks to a 26-point, eight-assist performance in the Minutemen’s thrilling win against George Mason. Andrew Wiggins is inching closer to the rankings after a monster double-double game against Iowa State, with 17 points and 19 rebounds against the Cyclones. Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Keith Appling have also picked up the slack for the injured Adreian Payne as Sparty continues to roll on.

It's a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

It’s a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

Player of the Year

10. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 113.4 oRTG

Russ Smith hasn’t put together a complete game in a while and that trend continued Thursday night against Houston. He hasn’t scored fewer than 18 points since December 17, but his turnovers are out of control. He has committed 19 miscues in his last four games including five more against the Cougars. He’s logged at least four turnovers in seven of Louisville’s last eight games after doing so well with just three times in the Cardinals’ first 10 games. With Chane Behanan’s dismissal and Chris Jones’ recent struggles (10+ points in just one of Louisville’s last nine games), Smith’s production has to remain elite WITHOUT turnovers for Louisville to be considered a national title threat.

9. Lamar Patterson – Pittsburgh. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats:  17.6 PPG, 4.6 APG, 123.4 oRTG

It’s a gamble to add Lamar Patterson to the Player of the Year rankings considering Pitt basically hasn’t played anyone all season. The Panthers’ first major challenge comes Saturday in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. This weekend will be Patterson’s chance to show he has in fact emerged as one of the best players in the country. He’s currently tearing it up in Oakland to the tune of 58 percent from two, 43 percent from three, and a studly 123.4 offensive rating on a 27.5 percent usage rate. He’s the main reason Jamie Dixon’s squad is the second best team in the ACC.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott, Steve Fisher Lead POY, COY Races

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 10th, 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.

When you scroll down in a few moments, you’ll notice Michigan State is not represented in these Player of the Year rankings. It’s not for a lack of a star player. The Spartans are arguably the best team in the country and are many pundits’ midseason pick to win the national title. The difficulty Michigan State faces when it comes to having a Player of the Year candidate is who do you pick? Adreian Payne has been the dominant force in a frontcourt that lacks a second or third dependable option. Gary Harris is arguably the team’s best defender and the best pure scorer. Keith Appling is statistically one of, if not the best, point guards in the country. As Big Ten play rolls on, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Harris emerge as the team’s top player, as he averages over 19 points per game in the Michigan State’s six toughest contest.

Player of the Year

10. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 6
2013-14 stats: 17.8 PPG, 4.8 APG, 113.4 oRTG

Russ Smith continues to fall in the rankings after a mediocre performance against Memphis. The Tigers held Smith without a field goal until late in the first half. Smith also missed a shot at a critical point in the game and committed five turnovers.

9. Casey Prather – Florida. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 17 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 121.5 oRTG

Casey Prather is a Surprise NPOY Candidate This Season (msn.foxsports.com).

Casey Prather is a Surprise NPOY Candidate This Season (msn.foxsports.com).

Casey Prather’s breakout season has him contending with Julius Randle for SEC Player of the Year. In Florida’s SEC opener, Prather was an impact defender and contributed 13 points in 18 minutes. He’s scored in double-figures in every Gators’ game this season.

8.  Joseph Young – Oregon. Last Week: 8
2013-14 stats: 19.1 PPG, 1.4 SPG, 137.4 oRTG

Joseph Young is on a short leash with these rankings after he was a non-factor against Utah and struggled in Oregon’s first loss against Colorado. He contributed next to nothing besides his 25 points in two games and committed five turnovers.

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Award Tour: Four New Players Enter the NPOY Discussion

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 3rd, 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.

College basketball is chock-full of star players on the verge of making these Player of the Year rankings. Wichita State’s Ron Baker and North Carolina’s Marcus Paige dropped out, but not by their own faults. Michigan State’s Keith Appling and Florida’s Casey Prather have simply had better seasons to this point. Massachusetts point guard Chaz Williams was once as high as No. 4 in the rankings, but several poor performances have dropped him straight out of the top 10. Meanwhile, Kansas has two players, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, who could go No. 1 in the NBA Draft, but neither has yet to crack the list. The Pac-12 may have only one elite team this season, but it is loaded with top players like Arizona’s Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, and UCLA’s duo of Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – none of whom are on this week’s list either. So who made it? Let’s get to this week’s post-holiday list.

Player of the Year

10. Keith Appling – Michigan State. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 15.8 PPG, 4.8 APG, 121.9 oRTG

Keith Appling Breaks Into the NPOY Discussion This Week.

Keith Appling Breaks Into the NPOY Discussion This Week.

NBCSports.com‘s Rob Dauster put together a handy little chart comparing all of the nation’s elite point guards. What did he find? Under these parameters, Keith Appling is the No. 1 high-profile point guard in the country.

via NBCSports.com

You can see the rest of the chart here. When you factor in the points Appling scores per possession and the points he creates per assist, he ranks better than Tyler Ennis, Shabazz Napier, Chaz Williams, Marcus Smart and Russ Smith. The biggest knock against Appling remains his inconsistency in Michigan State’s biggest games.

9. Casey Prather – Florida. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 121.9 oRTG

After three seasons without much of a role at Florida, Casey Prather has developed into one of the best players in the SEC. He’s nearly tripled his point production (6.2 PPG to 17.8 PPG) thanks to an increase in minutes (33 percent to 74 percent of Florida’s game time) and usage (19.5 percent to 28.1 percent).

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