Pac-12 Burning Questions: Is Ivan Rabb an NPOY Contender?

Posted by Adam Butler on November 2nd, 2016

It’s been floated around the league that California‘s Ivan Rabb could contend for the National Player of the Year award (more on that and other Pac-12 prognostications later). From what we saw last season, however, the Bay Area big man is wildly efficient and offensively underutilized. To quantify: 120.0 offensive rating; 62 percent inside the arc; top-100 (nationally) eFG% and true shooting percentage. From a utilization standpoint, Rabb played 70 percent of the available minutes (a bit above average for most big men) with a very pedestrian 20 percent usage rate during his time on the floor. His lack of involvement with the offense last season was at times heartbreaking. Meanwhile, teammates Tyrone Wallace and Jaylen Brown hovered around the herculean usage mark. For context against Rabb’s 70/20 minutes/usage ratio, Wallace and Brown were 68/32 and 65/28, respectively. Seriously, the two Bears finished first and second in Pac-12 usage, respectively, one of just three pairs of teammates to lead a conference in such. Naturally this becomes a numbers game — Rabb will get more touches and a corresponding increase in usage, and his scoring efficiency suggests that he will thrive when he gets that opportunity. Consequently, the talk of a National Player of the Year effort.

Ivan Rabb for player of the year? Only if his teammates help him. (Pac-12 Networks)

Ivan Rabb for Player of the Year? Only if his teammates help him. (Pac-12 Networks)

And yet two thoughts immediately come to mind: 1) Cuonzo Martin knows how to milk his stars for all they’re worth and he isn’t afraid to give the ball to those individuals. In which case, Rabb could get all of the touches for seemingly every minute he’s on the floor (something akin to Brown’s one-and-done experience); or 2) Martin’s strength is on the defensive end and he won’t necessarily optimize the offensive end. This dichotomous thinking is the fodder to Cal’s burning hot fire question. If we look at Martin’s teams historically, they’ve generally followed the pattern of riding two horses to their best success. Last year it was Brown and Wallace (at not particularly high efficiency). During his 2014 Tennessee campaign (24-13, Sweet Sixteen appearance), it was Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes (28.9% and 25.9% usage rates, respectively) yet at very efficient numbers (each greater than 115.0 offensive ratings). At Missouri State in 2011 (26-9), it was Kyle Weems (25.2%) and Will Creekmore (25.7%) who logged greater than 110.0 offensive ratings. All of which leads us to a third (perhaps fourth) question: Can Jabari Bird be that second guy? He’s played his entire California career somewhat in the shadows after arriving to considerable hype. Gone are Wallace and Brown, but so too is sharpshooter Jordan Mathews, who chose to grad-bolt for Gonzaga. This ultimately feels like a Bears’ roster that is thin on high-major bodies and talent — two critical pieces not only to earning a teammate the highest individual hardware, but also for making another NCAA Tournament. Consider the last four NPOYs:

  • 2016 – Buddy Hield, Oklahoma – #2 seed
  • 2015 – Frank Kaminski, Wisconsin – #1 seed
  • 2014 – Doug McDermott, Creighton – #3 seed
  • 2013 – Trey Burke, Michigan – #2 seed

Does Rabb have the talent to be an NPOY? Absolutely. Does he have the teammates? It’s going to take more than just a strong senior year out of Jabari Bird. Which is a long-winded and politically correct way of saying: No.

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The Cases For Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine For NPOY

Posted by Chris Stone & Alex Moscoso on March 7th, 2016

The National Player of the Year race wasn’t always a two-man affair (we miss you Ben Simmons, Jarrod Uthoff and Kris Dunn), but as we enter postseason play this week, there’s little denying the simplicity of the choice facing voters: Valentine or Hield. We asked Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) and Alex Moscoso (@alexmoscoso) — writers for the Big 12 and Big Ten microsites, respectively — to make a case for their league’s best players as the most deserving NPOY this season.

The Case For Hield

This season’s battle for National Player of the Year has become a two-man race between Michigan State‘s Denzel Valentine and Oklahoma‘s Buddy Hield, as the other primary candidates have faded into the background with lackluster late season performances from their teams. Thus, Valentine and Hield appear to stand alone as the two players with first-class season-long resumes on Final Four contenders. The case for Sparty’s Valentine is understandable. He’s one of the sport’s most versatile players — a quintessential jack-of-all-trades. But despite all of Valentine’s individual achievements and his oversized role on a national title favorite, the Sooners’ Hield is the player who should be this season’s National Player of the Year.

Buddy Hield is a deserving National Player of the Year. (Mandatory Credit: USATSI)

Buddy Hield is a deserving National Player of the Year. (Mandatory Credit: USATSI)

Hield is not a jack-of-all-trades like Valentine; rather, he’s a master of one. The senior guard is a transcendent scorer, so good that he’s drawn comparisons to Stephen Curry from multiple national analysts. Hield is the nation’s second-leading scorer at 25.3 points per game, and he’s done it while playing in the country’s most challenging conference (according to KenPom‘s adjusted metrics). What’s more impressive, though, is the efficiency with which the Oklahoma guard scores. Hield’s true shooting percentage — a statistic that measures all aspects of shooting, including three-pointers and free throws — is an astonishing 66.3 percent this season. Scoring that many points in such an efficient manner makes Hield’s NPOY case. Only two other players since the 2009-10 season have averaged 25 points per game on a true shooting percentage higher than 60 percent (min. 400 minutes) — one of those, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, won the Naismith Award himself in 2013-14. Hield, who spent much of this season flirting with a 50/50/90 shooting line, is the most efficient of the bunch.

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The RTC Podcast: New Year’s Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2016

Happy 2016, everyone! The RTC Podcast is back after a couple weeks of not much basketball but a whole lot of merry. In this week’s start-of-conference-play edition, the guys — hosted by Shane Connolly  (@sconnolly114) and joined by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) — dig into one of the best college basketball games of recent memory in Kansas-Oklahoma, discuss some of the other surprises of the last couple of weeks, and offer some new year’s resolutions to conferences, teams and personalities (OK, just one personality) around the sport. The full rundown is below, and make sure to subscribe to the pod on iTunes so that you’ll have it as soon as it releases each week.

  • 0:00-20:01 – Kansas-Oklahoma Fallout
  • 20:01-26:25 – LSU Upsets Kentucky
  • 26:25-31:42 – Cause for Concern in Charlottesville?
  • 31:42-38:20 – Making Sense of the Big East
  • 38:20-41:45 – South Carolina/SMU Remain Undefeated
  • 41:45-52:00 – College Basketball New Year’s Resolutions
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Evalutating the Midseason National Player of the Year Candidates

Posted by Andy Gripshover on January 1st, 2016

In the spirit of the New Year and the start of conference play, this post will count down the top candidates for National Player of the Year to this point in the season. It’s a diverse list that features a couple players who are putting up strong traditional numbers for low-major teams, a couple of teammates who are putting up fantastic efficiency numbers on one of the top teams in the country, and a few of the standouts that you’ve already heard so much about this season.

10. Jameel Warney, F, Stony Brook — Warney gets the Keenan Reynolds career achievement spot on this list. He’s a four-year starter for the Seawolves who has led the team in scoring each year, going from the America East Rookie of the Year in 2013 to an honorable mention All-American last year while leading the nation in double-doubles with 24 of them. He’s back at it again this season, averaging 20.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and contributing a third-best nationally 3.5 blocks per game.

Fighting among the "Big Boys" - Kahlil Felder has been spectacular this season. (Oakland Athletics)

Fighting among the “Big Boys” – Kahlil Felder has been spectacular this season. (Oakland Athletics)

9. Kahlil Felder, G, Oakland — The kid known as “Kay” is the nation’s second leading scorer (26.6 PPG) and its leading assist man (9.3 APG). He’s a classic little man (5’9″) doing big things for the Golden Grizzlies. He exploded for 37 points and nine assists in last Tuesday’s overtime loss to No. 1 Michigan State and put up 30 on Wednesday night against Virginia’s vaunted defense. Greg Kampe’s breakneck offense (12th in adjusted tempo) allows Felder to get what he wants when he wants, and he can both score and set up teammates from anywhere on the floor. 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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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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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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Award Tour: Can Anyone Challenge Doug McDermott?

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 24th, 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.

While most players need the Jaws of Life to pry the Player of the Year award from Doug McDermott right now, the race to be named in the top 10 continues to be heated. Russ Smith fell out of the rankings after two more turnover-prone, poor-shooting performances. Casey Prather had two solid outings after returning from an injury against Auburn and Alabama. Gary Harris and Keith Appling have remained impressive during big man Adreian Payne’s absence. Xavier Thames seems to improve with each game and hasn’t been held to single figures since scoring five points against McNeese State a month ago.

Player of the Year

10. Lamar Patterson – Pittsburgh. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 17.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, 122.8 oRTG

The Panthers didn’t pass their tough road test at Syracuse, but Lamar Patterson battled Tyler Ennis as the stars in the Carrier Dome. After an early second half run by the Orange, Patterson single-handedly brought Pitt back with a trio of three-pointers from DEEP behind the line. Pitt couldn’t hold the lead, but Patterson definitely held near his spot in the Player of the Year rankings.

9. Joel Embiid – Kansas. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 11.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 114.4 oRTG

Joel Embiid Needs to Stay on the Floor (USA Today)

Joel Embiid Needs to Stay on the Floor (USA Today)

If case you haven’t heard, Joel Embiid has only been playing basketball for a couple years. OK, now that we have the most uttered piece of trivia in college basketball out of the way, here’s the lowdown on the Kansas freshman. Embiid would be one of the favorites to win Player of the Year if he could stay on the floor longer. He’s only averaging 22 minutes per game, which trails former Kansas stars Thomas Robinson (31.8 MPG in 2012) and Jeff Withey (30.9 MPG in 2013) by a considerable margin. His per-40 minutes average for blocks is five per game, but foul trouble frequently plagues the precocious freshman. In Sports Illustrated’s Power Rankings, Luke Winn shared a stat via Group Stats about Kansas’ efficiency with and without Embiid in the lineup. The Jayhawks are 0.19 points per possession better with him on their front line. That’s a major difference-maker.

8. Nick Johnson – Arizona. Last Week: 7
2013-14 stats: 16.4 PPG, 2.4 APG, 123.1 oRTG

During the non-conference slate, nearly every member of Arizona’s rotation stood out in at least one game to give the Wildcats’ incredible balance. Now that Pac-12 play is in full swing, Nick Johnson is without a doubt their star and go-to guy in the second half. Johnson is averaging 19 points per game in his last five outings while shooting 62 percent from two-point range. Remember, he’s doing that as a guard and not a back-to-the-basket forward.

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Award Tour: Randle Dropping, Parker and Napier Still at the Top…

Posted by Jameson Fleming on December 16th, 2013

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.

We haven’t been doing rankings for Freshman of the Year mostly because this freshmen class is so class loaded that you’ll see two or more freshmen in the top 10 of the National Player of the Year rankings all season. One player who has been noticeably absent or toward the bottom of rankings from all across the web (NBCSports.com, CBSSports.com, Cleveland.com) is Andrew Wiggins. The Kansas freshman was a preseason All-American, but he has struggled to crack those rankings (including this one). Despite his “struggles,” he’s closer than you think. In fact, Wiggins hasn’t really struggled at all. He’s only played poorly in one of Kansas’ three losses, a 10-point performance against Villanova, but has played well otherwise, scoring 15.9 points per game and averaging 20 per game against Kansas’ top four opponents: Duke, Villanova, Colorado and Florida. If Wiggins’ supporting cast gets backs on track like they did against New Mexico on Saturday, you’ll see him in the Player of the Year rankings eventually. He hasn’t been as dominant as expected one month into the season, but it’s way too early to say he’s a disappointment.

Andrew Wiggins is Likely to Find Himself on the NPOY List Sooner or Later

Andrew Wiggins is Likely to Find Himself on the NPOY List Sooner or Later

Player of the Year

10. Roberto Nelson – Oregon State
2013-14 stats: 25.5 PPG, 5.0 APG, 121.5 oRTG

The Beavers’ star continued to excel with 26 points on 16 shots against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Once Pac-12 play begins in a couple weeks, we’ll be able to get a better read on whether Nelson can keep up his elite scoring pace.

9. Jahii Carson – Arizona State
2013-14 stats: 19.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 114.2 oRTG

Jahaii Carson is struggling through a bum ankle, but that didn’t slow him down much against DePaul. He dropped 23 points on 15 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, and had five assists. Carson’s Sun Devils likely won’t be tested again until an early January date with UCLA. Read the rest of this entry »

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20 Questions: Which Returning Player Will Make the Leap?

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the Pac-12 and Mountain West correspondent and a regular contributor.

Question: Which Returning Player Will Make the Leap?

Two seasons ago, Derrick Williams was quite a find as a freshman for Arizona. He averaged 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and a member of various freshman All-American teams. Despite those accomplishments, it was surprising the big leap forward he took last season, when he upped his averages to 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and did so in insanely efficient fashion, posting the second highest offensive efficiency rating  according to Ken Pomeroy (among players using at least 28% of his team’s possessions). After hitting just four three-pointers as a freshman, he hit 42 as a sophomore and did so at an superb 57% clip.  The year Williams was a freshman, Evan Turner was busy turning in a monster season in Columbus, averaging 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game on his way to winning multiple National Player of the Year awards. While Turner wasn’t nearly the surprise bust-out that Williams was (he did, after all, average 17.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 4.0 APG the previous season), both players made huge leaps in their final collegiate seasons on their way to earning NPOY consideration.

Evan Turner & Derrick Williams Both Broke Out In Big Ways

This season, it looks like Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes are the two preseason co-favorites for National Player of the Year honors. But, will we see someone else come up from out of the pack to challenge the frontrunners? For the purposes of answering this question, I’m going to look for a dark horse candidate, and in doing so, eliminate guys like Jordan Taylor and Ashton Gibbs, two veterans who have proven themselves already and who will likely be All-American candidates. Likewise, I’ll eliminate Perry Jones and Terrence Jones from consideration as well — two youngsters who had good if not spectacular freshman seasons but whose amazing athletic ability any old dummy could see.

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