Award Tour: Mason Plumlee Back at No. 1; A Farewell to Nerlens Noel

Posted by DCassilo on February 15th, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

College basketball suffered a devastating loss when news broke that Nerlens Noel had torn his ACL in Tuesday’s game against Florida. Perhaps the best defender in the country, Noel was starting to come into his own offensively. The injury has once again sparked the debate about the one-and-done rule. First of all, know your target with this debate. It’s the NBA, not the NCAA. David Stern came up with the rule, but the biggest effects have been seen in college basketball. The positive for the NCAA has been increased exposure. Everyone wants a chance to see players like Noel before they hit the big show. But on the flip side, it’s tough on coaches who can’t plan their recruiting as easily as they used to. And finally, there’s the health risk for the player. This is another reason why I think there needs to be some sort of union-like body watching out for college athletes’ interest. If we knew a player like Noel would be taken care of financially in the event of an injury, I don’t think people would have as big a problem with the one-and-done rule.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 17.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG

The big man for Gonzaga is as consistent as they come, seemingly giving the Bulldogs somewhere between 15 and 20 points every single night. Some say this is the best Gonzaga team ever, and he deserves much of the credit for that. This week: February 16 at San Francisco, February 20 vs. Santa Clara

9. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG

The drop for McLemore is mostly because of the terrific weeks by other players on this list. The freshman didn’t do too badly himself, as he poured in 30 points in a win over Kansas State. This week: February 16 vs. Texas, February 20 at Oklahoma State

8. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 20.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

As one of the few Buckeyes that can score, Thomas keeps posting 20-point games because he keeps getting a lot of shots. The junior has taken at least 15 shots in each of his last five games and fewer than 11 just once all season. This week: February 17 at Wisconsin, February 20 vs. Minnesota

7. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 23 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Losers of three straight and perhaps headed for a seat on the bubble, McDermott’s team is playing him out of the Player of the Year race. While he has played well, he’s missing the memorable performances he needs to overcome everything working against him. This week: February 16 at Evansville, February 19 vs. Southern Illinois Read the rest of this entry »

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Duke and North Carolina Never Disappoint: Four Takeaways From Wednesday Night

Posted by EMann on February 15th, 2013

Ethan Mann is a writer for the ACC Microsite. He is a senior at Duke University who just attended his last home game as an undergraduate against North Carolina and re-watched the game on TV for further analysis.

As the saying goes — throw all the numbers out for Duke/North Carolina. Rankings, records and all the rest are immaterial. UNC had rarely been competitive against good competition this season until Wednesday night, and the last time an unranked North Carolina team came into Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Tar Heels were thrashed 82-50. This game was much different, as evidenced by the final score of 73-68.

Rasheed Sulaimon was a second-half catalyst in Duke's victory against North Carolina. (AP)

Rasheed Sulaimon was a second-half catalyst in Duke’s victory against North Carolina. (AP)

Here are four takeaways from the game:

  1. Why did North Carolina not use this lineup much earlier in the season? Roy Williams finally decided to start PJ Hairston (second on the team in offensive efficiency) alongside Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo, and Hairston rewarded this choice by scoring 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds (seven of which were on the offensive end). Instead of starting offensive black hole Desmond Hubert, the head coach finally turned to a lineup with more offensive firepower so that his team did not fall into a massive early deficit like they did against Virginia Tech, NC State, and Miami, to name just a few. If North Carolina is going to make the NCAA Tournament and maximize its chances of winning there, Hairston must play starter’s minutes.
  2. James Michael McAdoo might be the most frustrating player in college basketball. McAdoo was preseason first-team all-ACC and some people might still vote him there because of his stats (he is averaging 14.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game). However, this is a case where the stats do not match reality. McAdoo is an incredibly talented and athletic basketball player, but in reality he was mostly ineffective Wednesday night. He had a couple of highlight plays (including a nasty reverse dunk that gave UNC a 38-31 lead early in the second half), but following that play, he increasingly settled for mid-range jumpers, which he did not convert. And worse, the 57% FT shooter went just 1-of-5 from the line, including several crucial misses in crunch time. Why McAdoo settled for jump shots instead of going aggressively at the foul-prone Mason Plumlee was a bit of an enigma. He finished with nine points and eight rebounds on only 4-of-12 shooting, which is unacceptable for a player with his talents. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 13th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Tech Hoops: I stumbled across an ACC fan site I somehow hadn’t seen before — good stuff here on Virginia Tech‘s beatdown at the hands of Virginia. Jarell Eddie in particular was just horrific. He only played 14 minutes, but managed to have a plus/minus of -19. Eddie’s problem unfortunately appears to be that he’s totally checked out. He’s turning the ball over and has stopped hitting shots, which is really bad for a team that already struggles offensively without its second option mailing it in. Interestingly, Virginia Tech went 0-of-6 from the charity stripe if you discard Erick Green’s efforts. More damningly, the Hokies only have two ACC games with a positive assist to turnover margin, while their opponents only have one game with a negative assist to turnover margin. That’s an issue.
  2. Hampton Roads Daily Press: In more positive news, Miami‘s 10-0 start in ACC play looks very good for the postseason. Sixteen ACC teams previously started 10-0 in league play — half of those won the ACC Tournament, half went to the Final Four (Miami’s only made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament once ever), and two won it all. That’s not bad company. Only one team (2007-08 Duke) didn’t at least share the regular season crown for the league. The previous runners of the opening 10-game gauntlet are six North Carolina teams, six Duke teams, three NC State teams, and yes, one Virginia team.
  3. ACC Sports Journal: The ACC’s freshmen are an interesting bunch. There’s a lot of really intriguing talent out there but no real superstars. Olivier Hanlan is the closest thing to a dominant freshman this year, and he shines especially bright because of the lack of athleticism and talent surrounding him (which isn’t a knock on his athleticism — Duke didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of him). My only qualm with this list is Devin Thomas‘ ranking. He’s been a bright spot for Wake Forest this season largely because of his effort. He’s not the most polished player around, but he often is the most impactful player on the floor for the Demon Deacons.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: Florida State is still theoretically in contention for an at-large bid to the Big Dance. The key will be to not blow any of its remaining winnable games and stealing a couple of marquee games down the stretch (a win over Duke or Miami would help dramatically). As far as Michael Rogner’s power rankings, it’s interesting how stable the top of the conference is when compared to the ever-morphing top of the national polls. Miami, Duke, Virginia, NC State and North Carolina all sit in the same spots. It’s also time to start asking if the Hurricanes can run the table this year. Their final game at Duke will be the ultimate test, but so far they haven’t shown many vulnerabilities.
  5. US Basketball Writers Association: For the second straight week, the USBWA named an ACC player its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week. This time it’s Mason Plumlee‘s turn, after he averaged 24.5 points, 9.5 boards and 2.0 blocks per game in wins over Boston College and NC State. After a quiet stretch following his early NPOY candidacy, Plumlee is back on track in the ACC Player of the Year race. His free throw shooting has improved and overall he’s just being more aggressive without Ryan Kelly on the floor.
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Set Your DVR: Week Of 02.11.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 11th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

If we’ve learned anything so far this season, the rest of the season will be anything but predictable. Almost every conference is still up for grabs, so we are in for an exciting few weeks as we head towards March. The games this week provide us several battles at the top of each conference that will go a long way in determining who will stand alone at the end of the regular season. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#18 Marquette at #16 Georgetown - 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

  • Six teams still have a legitimate shot at winning the Big East regular season title. Marquette currently sits on top of the standings with Syracuse and Georgetown only one game back. In their previous match-up this season, the Golden Eagles outlasted the Hoyas 49-48 on the strength of their rebounding and free throw shooting. The game was anything but pretty. While shooting was poor on both sides for that contest, the Hoyas have significantly improved their shooting during their current five game win streak. If Georgetown can combine better shooting with a defense that is holding Big East opponents to 42.3% eFG, they become a very difficult team to beat. The Golden Eagles have been living inside the three-point line. They are first in the Big East in two-point field goal percentage at 51.8%. The Hoyas length bothered Buzz Williams’ squad last time out so keep a close eye on how they are shooting on the road this time. However, because Marquette was steadfast in getting into the paint, they got fouled and went to the line. That was the difference in the game. If the Hoyas can play good defense without fouling and hit the boards, they can win the rematch in D.C.
Otto Porter Will Be on Every Gator's Mind In This One (AP/R. Sutton)

Otto Porter and the rest of the Hoyas have improved their shooting significantly during their five game win streak. (AP/R. Sutton)

#14 Kansas State at #13 Kansas - 9:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

  • Kansas was going to eventually lose at home. However, three straight losses and a game behind Kansas State in the Big 12 standings seemed pretty far-fetched even just 10 days ago. This is a big game for the Jayhawks as they look to tie Kansas State at the top of the Big 12 and avoid back-to-back home losses. Kansas stopped the Wildcats 59-55 in Manhattan a few weeks ago by locking down the interior on defense and preventing second-chance points. In their most recent loss to Oklahoma, the Jayhawks improved their two-point shooting considerably over the last several games hitting 51% of their attempts inside the arc. Look for Bill Self’s squad to continue to take the ball into the paint where they have a size advantage. For Kansas State to win, they need to hit the three-ball. Kansas has shown vulnerability to the three and the Wildcats must take advantage if they want to build on their lead in the Big 12.

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ACC M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 11th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Andrew Carter’s midseason look at the ACC is a good read, although one phrase stuck out when he described Mason Plumlee. Carter justified Plumlee as the conference player of the year (a reasonable choice) by saying: “Plumlee is the most important player on the conference’s best team.” We’re halfway through the season, Miami owns a dramatic win over the Blue Devils and won (in a great game) at the school responsible for Duke’s other loss. It’s high time Miami was considered the conference’s best team. Plumlee may be the ACC Player of the Year (he’s arguably more important to Duke’s success than any one player on the Hurricanes), and I think Duke has a slight edge at home. But that doesn’t undermine Miami’s success. The Hurricanes are the best team until proven otherwise.
  2. Tar Heel Blog: Speaking of Duke, a bit of controversy popped up around the Cameron Crazies when they allegedly chanted “How’s your grandma?” at NC State’s Tyler Lewis last week (whose grandmother died recently). If the chant happened, it was obviously boorish, unnecessary and cruel. I’m not going to pile on the Cameron Crazies, but I’m not going to defend them either. The Crazies get a lot of polarized publicity from the media, but like most stories the truth isn’t so black and white. The Crazies are passionate fans that make Cameron Indoor Stadium one of the best atmospheres in the country. They’re also college students. They make the same stupid mistakes other student sections around the country do. Theirs are often more visible, as they get more coverage than the average student section, and I’m not sure there’s any more story here.
  3. Hampton Roads Daily Press: A little less than two years ago, arguing the prognosis of Virginia and Virginia Tech hoops teams would’ve been an interesting discussion (and Virginia Commonwealth would be irrelevant). Now, the discussion is hugely one-sided (and the Rams are anything but irrelevant), but the difference is more subtle than it looks. The Hokies lost two major talents, Montrezl Harrell and Dorian Finney-Smith, each of whom would have added a lot of talent and depth to this year’s team. That still wouldn’t make up the difference between the two teams this season, but it’s amazing how much can change in a short period of time.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Alex Len is one of the country’s most improved players this year, but he still lacks the consistency required to be a top-flight performer. Last year, only his athleticism and upside impressed. This season his flashes of brilliance consist of longer stretches, but he won’t finish first team all-ACC nor will he live up to his All-American tools. The biggest issue for Len appears to be physicality. He’s much stronger than last season, but teams have found that they can pop him in the mouth and aggressively force him out of position. If he comes back next season, it’s possible that he’d become one of the top players in the country; it’s also likely that he’d expose his fatal flaw and cost himself a large sum of money come NBA Draft day.
  5. Tallahassee Democrat: It’s weird to read this article. Leonard Hamilton‘s team — the squad led by arguably the most competitive player I’ve ever seen live — lacks effort. Sure it would help if this team had more bangers in the paint and a little more experience running the show, but that’s not this year’s problem. This team, on paper, may be more talented than last year’s ACC championship squad. Those Seminoles were the best of the Hamilton era: effort, experience and toughness defined. This year’s squad doesn’t make you cringe quite as much as Hamilton’s teams of yore (other than their turnovers), but the intensity just isn’t there enough of the time.
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Award Tour: Trey Burke Is The Best Player In The Country

Posted by DCassilo on February 8th, 2013

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

After weeks and weeks of coming close, Trey Burke has finally broken through and grabbed the #1 spot. It’s a long time coming, as Burke embodies everything you want in a player. He’s a scorer that can take over the game. He’s an unselfish player that likes to get his teammates involved. He’s a leader, who steps up in big moments and keeps his team focused. Look no further than his block of Aaron Craft’s potential game-tying shot on Tuesday as to why there’s nobody like him in the country. Michigan is in good hands come March.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Victor Oladipo – Indiana (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day, if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

I’ll reluctantly include Oladipo, partly because there’s no one better and partly because you almost have to at this point. I don’t blame him, but the hype surrounding him has really surprised me. I just don’t see why people say he’s better than some one like Otto Porter Jr., who puts up equal if not better stats, when Oladipo has Zeller down low and Porter Jr. lost his second-best player to suspension. This week: February 10 at Ohio State, February 13 vs. Nebraska

9. Nate Wolters – South Dakota State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 22.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.5 APG

I don’t care what conference he’s in and how good his team is, Wolters is without question one of the 10 best players in the country. In case you missed it, he scored 53 points against IPFW on Thursday night. And as his numbers above show, he’s well-rounded too. This week: February 9 at Oakland, February 14 vs. IUPUI

8. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG

Porter Jr. played just once this week and had 11 points and seven rebounds in a win over St. John’s. He’s shot at least 50 percent from the field in five of his last six games. This week: February 9 at Rutgers, February 11 vs. Marquette

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG

It was a rough week for Kansas, but McLemore was only partially to blame. He had 23 points, his second-most in Big 12 play, in the loss to Oklahoma State, so he can be absolved for the game. Against TCU, though, his 0-for-6 3-point shooting was part of a dreadful night for the Jayhawks. This week: February 9 vs. Oklahoma, February 11 vs. Kansas State Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 7th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Huge ACC media news out of Raleigh as Caulton Tudor announced his retirement after over four decades of work with the News & Observer. For those keeping score at home–as any good sports fan should–that’s over 6,000 columns, 40 conference tournaments and 24 Final Fours for good measure. I didn’t always agree with Tudor (notably after he put the entire North Carolina team on his first-team All-ACC last season), but you always knew what you were getting. Luke DeCock, the other primary sports columnist on staff, had many more anecdotes to share.
  2. CBSSports.com: So the NCAA may be caught in a lie. After Mark Emmert’s self-deprecating presser claiming the NCAA found out about the improper use of Nevin Shapiro’s lawyer when his bill showed up on their doorstep, Dennis Dodd caught onto something different. NCAA vice-president (of enforcement) Jule Lach approved at least $20,000 to pay Shapiro’s lawyer. This isn’t good for the NCAA and doesn’t bode well for Elena Perez, Shapiro’s lawyer, either. It is good for Miami, where Al Golden took to the signing day pulpit to proclaim his program has paid enough for its sins. Smart move, considering it looks like at best the NCAA will have to throw out much of its case against the Hurricanes.
  3. Run the Floor: This article points out several interesting facts about the ACC and college basketball as a whole. First, as I sort of suspected, the ACC is really young (significantly younger than any other major conferences). As an aside, the Mountain West is by far the most experienced league. Which helps explain why the league is outperforming its normal expectations and is competitive top to bottom. In the ACC, Miami and Duke lead both the conference standings and the percentage of minutes played by seniors. It’s no coincidence: barring unbelievable talent (see: Michigan this year or Kentucky last year), experience is extraordinarily valuable in college basketball. Between coming experience and the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the ACC should be back atop the conference power struggle next season.
  4. Charlotte Observer: Speaking of the Blue Devils, what is their plan for the game against NC State? Play better. Specifically, stop the Wolfpack in transition and defend Richard Howell and CJ Leslie. It’s funny, reading Duke talk about these goals reads more like a review of its game against Miami instead of NC State. It’s true the Wolfpack outscored Duke in transition and dominated the frontcourt battle. But that was also the team’s first game without Ryan Kelly–in an incredibly hostile environment. That’s not the game Duke wants revenge for. The Blue Devils want revenge for the game that made everyone question its place as a national title contender. That was the game at Coral Gables.
  5. CBS Atlanta: How about an ACC Player Power Rankings for dessert? Interestingly, no NC State players make the cut. Right now my power rankings would probably look similar (Michael Snaer, Shane Larkin, Erick Green, Kenny Kadji and Mason Plumlee). How can you go against buzzer beaters ad winning? But All-ACC will be a very interesting discussion should prove a very interesting discussion this season.
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ACC M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 6th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. US Basketball Writers Association: The USBWA named Miami’s Shane Larkin the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week after Larkin led the Hurricanes to a couple of road wins to move to 8-0 (they’re now 9-0) in conference play. Larkin’s stats from the two games are impressive across the board as he scored 19 points on over 60% shooting with four assists, four steals, three rebounds, and a block to boot. Not bad numbers for a guy who is probably 5’10″ on a good day. The Hurricanes have a very favorable final half of conference play looming. The game at Duke notwithstanding, Miami will likely be favored in the rest of the games.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: For the first time since his injury, Dexter Strickland looked like himself defending Erick Green. It’s hard to really notice changes in defense, but it seemed like Strickland has been a step slower this year. Also offensively, my hypothesis for his struggles are that being slightly less explosive has led to more jump shots and more time for defense to get in position. But something underreported so far this season is a new wrinkle in his game: the assist. Last year Strickland’s assist rate was 13.6. This year it’s 23.6! That’s a huge improvement (and shows he’s nearly as effective a distributor as Marcus Paige).
  3. Shelby Star: Even just halfway through the season, conference awards look like they’re going to be controversial this season. Starting with player of the year, which realistically will go to one of Erick Green, Mason Plumlee or to a player on Miami (right now Larkin has the hot hand, but Kenny Kadji is equally important on both ends of the floor). Rookie of the year should also be interesting, though Olivier Hanlan would get my vote unless Rasheed Sulaimon or TJ Warren goes on a tear. Regardless, individual story-lines are very interesting going into the second half of conference play.
  4. Gobbler Country: Speaking of Green, this is a takedown of his award candidacy from the Virginia Tech faithful. I would actually be a lot more generous to Green. I think he’s a great player with very solid statistics across the board, but it’s impossible to ignore his team’s struggles. His team is so bad that you have to take him out of consideration for national awards. Virginia Tech isn’t deep enough to handle Robert Brown’s slump or Cadarian Raines’ offensive disappearances. No one player can do it alone. That shouldn’t take away from Green’s abilities as a scorer, but one can’t look at stats in a vacuum.
  5. Duke Basketball Report: Continuing the theme of midseason reviews, Al Featherston took a look at the ACC’s NCAA chances with four teams sitting squarely on the bubble: North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida State. The Tar Heels are in the best shape and appear to be trending in the right direction. Virginia has good enough wins to make the Big Dance, but its losses are incredibly troubling. Maryland and Florida State need marquee wins and fast. Both–especially the Seminoles–will need to do major work in the ACC Tournament, barring winning out in conference play.

Video of the Day: Props to Michael Snaer who continued his string of clutch shots with a buzzer beating lay-up at Georgia Tech.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUK9ip58nM

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Award Tour: Fabulous Week For Freshmen; Jim Larranaga Is New No. 1 Coach

Posted by DCassilo on February 1st, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

What a couple of days it was for our freshmen across college basketball. On Tuesday, there was Nerlens Noel, who provided one of college basketball’s best performances of the year by blocking 12 shots in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss. Meanwhile, his teammate Archie Goodwin posted 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. A day later it was Baylor’s Isaiah Austin stealing the show with 19 points and 20 rebounds. Elsewhere in the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart had 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Anyone who believes talent is down this year for the freshman class just hasn’t been paying attention.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG

After starting the season on fire, Bennett has not been nearly as dominant in the Mountain West Conference. He clings to a spot this week after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds over his last two games. This week: February 2 at Boise State, February 6 at Fresno State

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Zeller has drawn a lot of criticism this season, mainly because of expectations that were too high in the first place. When the dust settles, he’s still the top scorer and rebounder on the third-best team in the country. This week: February 2 vs. Michigan, February 7 at Illinois

8. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 18 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season.

With the below-average competition in the West Coast Conference, Olynyk isn’t posting monster numbers lately because he really doesn’t have to. He’s coming off a week in which he averaged 14 points and seven rebounds, while the Bulldogs cruised to two victories. This week: February 2 at San Diego, February 7 vs. Pepperdine

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Early foul trouble against West Virginia on Monday had McLemore destined for his worst game in ages. But he still found a way to finish with a solid 13 points and four rebounds. It must be nice to have a freshman that you can pencil in for at least those numbers every night. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU

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Mason Plumlee Makes His Case For ACC Player of the Year

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on February 1st, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham

The ACC Player of the Year award is, just as with every conference’s top award, an honor that has different meaning depending on whom you ask. Some would define it as the most outstanding player in the conference during the season. For others, the award should go to the player who was the most indispensable and without whom his team would have fallen well short of where it finished. Going even deeper down the rabbit hole, some believe that a player who makes a bad team competitive isn’t as “valuable” as the best player on the best team in the league. I trend towards the second definition with a bit of the third mixed in, settling on the award going to the most indispensable player on one of the league’s top teams. Using this criteria, Duke‘s Mason Plumlee has made one of the strongest cases in the league.

Mason Plumlee scored a career-high 32 points with 9 rebounds on Wednesday against Wake Forest. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Mason Plumlee scored a career-high 32 points with 9 rebounds on Wednesday against Wake Forest. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, Duke escaped Wake Forest with a 75-70 win on the back of a career-high 32 points from Plumlee. On a night where Duke shot 2-of-14 from three-point range and turned the ball over more than they are accustomed to, the Blue Devils got a good win because of Plumlee’s ability to come through time after time. Without Ryan Kelly in the lineup, Duke has had to rely on Plumlee more on both ends of the court and while it took some growing into, the senior finally looks like the same player who was on pace to do things the ACC hasn’t seen since Tim Duncan averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. [Ed. Note: We are not trying to suggest that Plumlee is even close to the player Duncan was in college so save the angry comments and tweets.]

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Award Tour: Ben McLemore and Brad Stevens Reach No. 1 For the First Time

Posted by DCassilo on January 25th, 2013

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David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

The two players I have the most trouble with every week are Russ Smith and Michael Carter-Williams. With Smith, it’s because his on-ball defense, arguably his biggest strength, doesn’t show up in box scores or highlights, so I need to watch his entire games to stay up to speed. And I have to be honest, his reputation sometimes gives him credit in games he doesn’t deserve it. Couple that with a streaky jump shot, and he falls short of the top-10. As for MCW, I have a real problem ranking him because he’s a terrible shooter and a turnover machine. People say he makes the big shots, but if he made them in the first half or didn’t keep giving the ball away, there wouldn’t be big shots to make. So like it or not, that’s why those two guys aren’t on the list at this juncture.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Since the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer, Greg Whittington, was ruled ineligible, Porter has raised his game to another level. Over his last four games, he’s averaging 19.8 PPG and 9.3 RPG and played a full 40 minutes in Georgetown’s upset win at Notre Dame. This week: January 26 vs. Louisville, January 30 vs. Seton Hall

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Indiana and Cody Zeller Also Finished Strong in the Big Ten (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Cody Zeller has a lot of work to do to get back up the rankings. (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Zeller did not register a single field goal on Wednesday against Penn State, but prior to that, he had back-to-back games of at least 20/10. While people have made the case that Victor Oladipo is more valuable to the Hoosiers, I still think Zeller will dictate the big games. This week: January 27 vs. Michigan State, January 30 at Purdue

8. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 18.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG

Against Wyoming on Thursday, Bennett’s scoring finally returned, as he finished with 17 points. But the rebounding has disappeared. Bennett has just 13 boards over his last three games. Once a double-double machine, it will be interesting to see if he gets it back.  This week: January 29 vs. Nevada

7. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG

For those who didn’t see it late Thursday night, Olynyk had a night to remember against BYU. He went 9-of-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line en route to 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Make sure to catch him next time he’s on TV because he’s fun to watch. This week: January 26 vs. San Francisco, January 31 at Loyola Marymount

6. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Since breaking out against Iowa State to start Big 12 play, McLemore has been a steady contributor for the Jayhawks. Although teams are devoting more defensive attention to him, he finds a way to get his points. This week: January 26 vs. Oklahoma, January 28 at West Virginia Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 01.25.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Since it left the Big East there has been quite a bit of speculation about who the so-called Catholic 7 would select to join them in their basketball-centric conference. Several names have been mentioned as potential additions and yesterday Marquette’s athletic director Larry Williams came out and endorsed the addition of Butler to the conference. Williams notes that these are just his thoughts and not extending an invitation to the school. One interesting aspect is that one of the presumed potential hurdles in the addition of any schools to the new conference is that the seven current members are Catholic affiliated, but as Williams notes that would not be an impediment if the schools share similar values (we aren’t quite sure what that means specifically, but probably just that they fit in with the image that the conference wants to project to advertisers).
  2. The separation of the Catholic 7 from the remnants of the Big East has left grasping for what essentially amounted to TV leftovers making some question the continued existence of the conference. Although the Big East may never exist in the way that we knew it for years it appears to have received a boost in the form of a TV deal that is near completion. While the details of the deal–both dollars and years–have not been disclosed this is a good sign for the Big East going forward assuming this is not some ridiculously low offer such as one might have expected following reports of prior offers from TV networks.
  3. In the wake of Wednesday night’s debacle in Coral Gables there were plenty of questions about how Duke would react. Yesterday on his show Dan Patrick reported that the Blue Devils held a late night/early morning three-hour practice after landing in Durham, which set Twitter on fire and would have been a NCAA violation if it was true except it wasn’t true. It appears that the producers on the show felt it would be amusing to run with a fake story, but we still are not sure why everybody was so eager to run with it (even Kobe went to the gym before leaving Miami during his infamous late-night practice session at American Airlines Arena). For as much press as this imaginary practice got we would have been much more interested to hear what happened in the actual practice the Blue Devils had to go through yesterday.
  4. Notorious number hater Seth Davis is back with his annual Jigsaw Man column where he pairs unheralded players with teams that are a piece away from being complete. So you won’t find Ben McLemore on any of these pairings as Seth tries to find players that are not in the national spotlight. Perhaps it is because we get to see more of these players (even ones in small conferences) on a regular basis or at least hear about their exploits nightly on Twitter by those who are plugged into those teams, but it seems like many of these guys are more well-known than we would come to expect from the Jigsaw Man. Someone like Travis Releford would seem to fit the bill being the third most important player on the Jayhawks while someone like Mike Muscala probably should be left off since he should merit consideration as an All-American.
  5. In our eyes the national player of the year has essentially come down to a two player race even if Mike Rothstein’s latest straw poll still says it is a three player race. We can buy into both Trey Burke and Doug McDermott as legitimate contenders, but Mason Plumlee is definitely a tier below those two even if the current voting might suggest otherwise. The player who will probably walk away with the majority of the postseason hardware is the one who is on the team that closes the best. We are leaning towards Burke here with the quality of opponents he will be playing and the fact that he will be on national TV more than most. There is a chance that we could see an even split if both players close the season strong.
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