As we draw to the close of the high school season and near the NCAA tournament, All-Star games featuring the nations finest high school seniors. We tend to think of the McDonald's All-American game being the cream of the crop, followed closely by the Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic. The oldest high school All-Star game, with its 40th anniversary taking place this year, is the Kentucky Derby Festival Classic.
While this game may not have as many top ranked stars as a few of the other All-Star games, it gives some of the players that were passed over a chance to show their stuff. Their are a few McDonald's All-Americans featured in Jarrell Martin, Keith Frazier and Jabari Bird, while some seen as possible snubs such as Austin Nichols, Robert Hubbs, Zak Irvin and Tyler Ennis also garnered selections. 20 players were selected and the game will take place April 19 in Louisville's Freedom Hall.
Here are the rosters for the 2013 Kentucky Derby Festival Classic:
C Akoy Agau Louisville
G Conner Frankamp Kansas
G Keith Frazier Undecided
G Anton Gill Louisville
F Jarrell Martin LSU
F Jordan Mickey LSU
G Robert Hubbs Tennessee
F JaJuan Johnson Marquette
G Rysheed Jordan Undecided
F Austin Nichols Memphis
G Jabari Bird Cal
G Stevie Clark Oklahoma St.
F Devin Davis Indiana
G Tyler Ennis Syracuse
C Luke Fischer Indiana
F Zak Irvin Michigan
G Stanford Robinson Indiana
G Sindarius Thornwell South Carolina
F Troy Williams Indiana
F Derek Willis Kentucky
Their are a few NCAA most valuable player awards and the John R. Wooden award, named after the legendary UCLA coach, usually seen as the biggest. The Mid-Season Top 25 list was announced with these names:
Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Laurence Bowers, Missouri
Trey Burke, Michigan
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Michael Carter Williams, Syracuse
Jack Cooley, Notre Dame
Seth Curry, Duke
Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Elias Harris, Gonzaga
Pierre Jackson, Baylor
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
CJ McCollum, Lehigh
Doug McDermott, Creighton
Ben McLemore, Kansas
Brandon Paul, Illinois
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Otto Porter, Georgetown
Phil Pressey, Missouri
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Russ Smith, Louisville
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Jeff Withey, Kansas
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
Cody Zeller, Indiana
The only two players on the list who were Wooden All-American's last season were Isaiah Canaan and Doug McDermott. Three freshman were chosen with Anthony Bennett, Ben McLemore and Marcus Smart garnering notice. The list will be trimmed to 10 during the Elite 8 weekend with the winner announced during the weekend of the Final Four. Here is what NCAA Daily predicts as the 10 man Wooden All-American team:
- Doug McDermott
- Trey Burke
- Cody Zeller
- Mason Plumlee
- Michael Carter-Williams
- Deshaun Thomas
- Laurence Bowers
- Pierre Jackson
- Jeff Withey
- Anthony Bennett
My ommission of Isaiah Canaan is due to Murray State not having the same type of season as last year. Others who were close to the top 10 were Jamaal Franklin, Brandon Paul, Nate Wolters, Marcus Smart and Ben McLemore. In a sign that the conference still has a little ways to go, the Pac-12 did not have a single top 25 selection. Also, nobody ranked within the top 5 during the final 2012 HS rankings made the cut for the Midseason Wooden list.
As we are entering the midway point of the college basketball season, some of the major awards are starting to take shape. Every year at this time, the Bob Cousy award for the NCAA's top point guard trims its list to 20. These finalists were announced and instead of just telling the 20 names, lets rank them on the likelihood of coming home with this award. This of course will be ranked on their play up to this point and predicted play for the rest of the college season.
1. Trey Burke, Michigan
2. Michael Carter Williams, Syracuse
3. Pierre Jackson, Baylor
4. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
5. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
6. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
7. Erick Green, Virginia Tech
8. Ray McCallum, Detroit
9. Phil Pressey, Missouri
10. Lorenzo Brown, NC State
11. Peyton Siva, Louisville
12. Keith Appling, Michigan State
13. DJ Cooper, Ohio
14. Jahii Carson, Arizona State
15. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
16. Kendall Williams, New Mexico
17. Quinn Cook, Duke
18. Aaron Craft, Ohio State
19. Andre Hollins, Minnesota
20. Mark Lyons, Arizona
Was a tough list to make, though ultimately it looks like a two horse race between Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams. Even with Carter-Williams putting up incredible assist numbers, seems like this is Burke's award to lose. If he keeps up his production and impact during conference season, he will be in the running for National Player of the Year, much less the Big 10 award that was once thought to be a lock for Indiana's Cody Zeller.
While I would not have thought Pierre Jackson would be this high in the rankings, his play has been incredibly impressive. If Baylor has a strong Big 12 season, which seems entirely probable, he could hold off Kansas' Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey for Player of the Year honors. Marcus Smart will be in the Big 12 POY conversation as well, though Oklahoma State might have a tougher time in conference. Smart's all-around play definitely has him in talks of possible All-American status.
Flip Pressey's inconsistent shooting is the reason he falls so low, though I expect Missouri to really play well in their inaugural SEC stint. Nate Wolters, Isaiah Canaan and Ray McCallum all should really boost their numbers once conference play begins. The question will be whether they are still not penalized for playing in smaller conferences. Wolters played the best against top competition, though his missing a chance against Minnesota was a shame. Either way, those three are all near the top of most NCAA PG lists.
Erick Green might have been quite a bit higher, though it seems ACC play will be incredibly hard on Virginia Tech as far as the standings are concerned. His scoring is still very difficult to overlook, much less his value to the team that had some nice wins in non-conference play. Lorenzo Brown may have been the favorite pre-season and can still get back near the top of the list with a strong ACC season from NC State.
CJ McCollum's unfortunate broken foot more than likely cost him a top 3 spot on this list had he remained healthy for the season. The list as a whole was solid, though arguments could be made that there were a few snubs. Matthew Dellavedova of St. Mary's may be considered a SG, though he seems to be much more of a PG than, for instance, Mark Lyons. Lyons has had a nice season for a good team, though his PG abilities are not necessarily omnipresent. One other player that could have made a case was Eric Atkins of Notre Dame, who has an excellent assist to turnover ratio as well as much improved shooting from the field for a really strong Notre Dame team that seems to follow his lead.
UNLV barely escaped with a 76-75 win over Cal on Sunday, with Anthony Bennett going off for 25 points and 13 rebounds. Unfortunately, the Runnin' Rebels may have lost a major piece as Mike Moser went down with what was later determined to be a dislocated elbow. While it appears that Moser could come back in as little as 3 weeks, the likely scenario is more than a month, possibly even as late as February.
Moser transferred to UNLV after his freshman season at UCLA, having a very strong sophomore season where he averaged a double-double. With the addition of Anthony Bennett, he became a tad more perimeter oriented and was having some difficulties with the adjustment. Even before the injury, Moser had missed what was supposed to be a homecoming in UNLV's 68-60 victory in Portland.
Some reports were even more pessimistic about Moser's injury as CBSSports.com was reporting he could be out for the year. UNLV coach Dave Rice said this was indeed a possibility, also stating that his X-Rays were negative and his status was largely unknown. Nonetheless, this injury could be very tough in what looks to be a strong Mountain West conference.
Sophomore USC transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones should see a major boost in minutes with Moser's absence. In what was easily his best game this season, Dejean-Jones scored 22 points and made crucial second half baskets against Cal. Of course the Runnin' Rebels still have a possible freshman of the year candidate in Anthony Bennett, though one will want to monitor his history of injury and reports of a lower back issue.
With Khem Birch eligible next week, UNLV will at the very least get another rebounding presence to try to make up for Moser's contributions on the glass. With a stable of Katin Reinhardt, Savon Goodman and of course Dejean-Jones, the Rebels have some options on the wing, though none as versatile as Moser. This team would definitely be much more dangerous with his presence in the line-up, though in the mean time, their are options that should still make UNLV a likely top 25 staple as well as a contender for the Mountain West title.
Big things were expected from Otto Porter this season and since he returned from a head injury sustained in Georgetown's first game, it seems that he is living up to expectations. After getting a career high 22 points and 7 assists last night against Longwood, Porter is showing a definite improvement in his overall game. His jumpshot appears to be much more fluid and he is taking care of the ball at a high rate considering his use in the offense.
Defensively, he is averaging 2.4 spg and 1.6 bpg. Though he only grabbed 4 boards in last nights win, Porter has proven to be an aggressive rebounder overall on both sides of the court. The jury is still out as to whether he can convert to a full time 3 man at the next level, though he has at the very least worked on the perimeter aspect of his game. Regardless, Porter has taken a nice step forward and should be garnering lottery looks come June 2013.
Longwood is usually known for its rather hilarious name as opposed to its basketball players, though a freshman from Switzerland might change that pretty soon. Michael Kessens is currently averaging 13 ppg and leading the incoming freshman class in rebounding with 11.4 rpg. Granted, Kessens is turning 22 in February, though he has only been playing basketball since he was 16. Using a late growth spurt to hit 6-9, he was playing junior basketball in France before deciding to come state side to give the NCAA a try.
He has struggled early on with fouls and turnovers, not to mention a rough contest against #16 Creighton. However, he put up 17 and 11 against Arkansas, along with a 20 and 14 game facing Cornell. The Lancers coach Mike Gillian expected big things from Kessens and believes the best has yet to come.
"Physically, I’d say he is nowhere near what he’s going to be two or three years from now, even 12 months from now.”
An interesting story to follow from a player who may end up being the lone freshman to average a double-double this season. Kessens may play at a small school, but with his combination of size and athleticism, he could be one to keep an eye on.
The world of college basketball received some tragic news as Rick Majerus passed away at the age of 64. Originally from Wisconsin, Rick began his career at Marquette as a player, eventually becoming a long time assistant and three year head coach. After a year stint with the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant, Rick eventually took the head coaching job at Ball State with his success leading to his most memorable coaching job, leader of the Utah Utes.
Compiling a record of 323-95 during his time at Utah, Majerus made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament 9 times. After managing to get to a Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in consecutive seasons with Keith Van Horn as his star player, he managed to get to the NCAA Tournament Finals on a team run by Andre Miller featuring Michael Doleac. A candidate for many high profile jobs, his health made him step down at Utah during the 2004 season.
After accepting a job at USC which he eventually passed on, he was a commentator at ESPN from 2004-2007. He decided to get back into the coaching world in 2007, taking the head coaching job for the St. Louis Billikens. His last season he led the Billikens to the NCAA 3rd Round before losing to #1 seed Michigan State. With heart issues still prevalent, Rick took leave from St. Louis, eventually deciding to fully step down. On December 1, he was pronounced dead due to heart failure at a Los Angeles hospital.
Rick Majerus was a beloved and respected figure by his friends, peers, players and countless numbers of basketball fans. Though he at times could carry the wrath of a head basketball coach, his knowledge and dedication to the game of basketball was truly inspiring. His success as a basketball coach put him in an elite class and he absolutely seemed to carry even greater standards off the court. Reading some of the stories about Rick, you realize how incredibly special he was to a large portion of the basketball community. University of Utah will hang his sweater from the rafters in a fitting tribute to the life of Rick Majerus.
After a Tuesday that saw the Big Ten go 4-2, the ACC came back to do the same on Wednesday to finish the annual challenge between power conferences at a 6-6 deadlock. The Big Ten, who had won the previous three challenges, retained the Commissioner's Cup as the previous years winner. Nonetheless, this signified a major step forward for the ACC as they took some key match-up's.
Duke managed to avenge their 2011 beatdown at the hands of Ohio State, winning 73-68 at Cameron. Rasheed Sulaimon scored all of his 17 points in the 2nd half, while Mason Plumlee continued his solid senior season with a 21 point and 17 rebound performance. Duke moved to 7-0 on the season and should hold down their #2 ranking. After looking sluggish out of the gate, the Blue Devils once again made defense their calling card, holding the Buckeyes to 33.8% FG on the game. DeShaun Thomas led Ohio State with 16 points.
- Indiana may not have faced the quality of teams that Duke has thus far, but they still absolutely appear worthy of the title of the #1 team in NCAA basketball. They manhandled North Carolina at Assembly Hall with Cody Zeller leading the way with 20 points, 8 boards and 4 blocks. Juniors Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey each finished with 19 and the Hoosiers held North Carolina's primary offensive option James McAdoo to 10 points on 4-15 FG. While they may have had minor struggles in the Legends Classic against Georgia and Georgetown, the Hoosiers still look like they have everything it takes to challenge for a NCAA championship.
- Trey Burke had a very memorable performance for Michigan against North Carolina State, scoring all of his 18 points in the 2nd half. Burke also finished the game with a career high 11 assists and no turnovers, clearly get the best of the talented Wolfpack guard core. Freshman Nik Stauskas scored 20 points off of the bench for Michigan, with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III also finishing in double figures. TJ Warren scored 18 for NC State, with CJ Leslie adding 16, at one point shrinking the lead to 5 points with a little less than a minute remaining. Michigan managed to draw an offensive foul on Leslie, ending the comeback bid with a final of 79-72. Michigan has taken care of the ball exceptionally well and while they can struggle a tad with size, they can cause teams fits with their outside shooting.
- Miami stormed the court after a big time upset win over #13 Michigan State. Seniors Trey McKinney Jones and Durand Scott finished with 18 and 15 respectively, while center Reggie Johnson chipped in 10 and 11 rebounds. Freshman Gary Harris, returning from injury after missing Michigan State's last two contests, finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds in the loss. After an embarassing loss to Florida Gulf Coast early in the season when they were missing Scott, Miami looks like they are back on track to compete amongst the top half of the ACC.
- Virginia Tech's Erick Green is getting some serious buzz for his consistency to start off his senior season. He was right around his season average with 24 points and 5 assists in the Hokies 95-79 takedown of Iowa. Tech is now 6-0 and with improvement from wing players Jarrell Eddie and Robert Brown will look to show they can compete in the ACC.
- In what was probably the biggest road win of the Challenge, Minnesota beat Florida State 77-68 to give validation to their Top 25 ranking. Other road winners were Maryland over Northwestern, Nebraska over Wake Forest, Virginia over Wisconsin, Purdue over Clemson and Boston College over Penn State.
- Illinois has once again gotten off to a blistering start to the season at 8-0 after beating Georgia Tech 75-62. Last year the Illini won their first 10 contests before finishing the season at 17-15. With new coach John Groce at the helm along with some maturation from players such as Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand, hopefully Illinois will not face the same drop off they did last year.
Most hardcore college basketball fans know the story of tiny Division II school Chaminade having one of the most historic upsets in NCAA history. The year was 1982 and the 900 person school was facing off against Virginia. Two things Virginia had were a #1 ranking and a 7-4 center named Ralph Sampson, who was en route to his third straight national player of the year award. They left with a 77-72 defeat in Hawaii, one that the national media had a hard time believing and goes down as one of the ultimate David versus Goliath stories.
Flash forward to the EA Sports Maui Invitational, an event that Chaminade hosts every year. Going into this years Invitational, Chaminade had a 6-76 record. One always remembers that this school has beaten improbable odds and they did so last night against the Texas Longhorns. In a game that even the Chaminade website had awarded to Texas, the Silverswords won 86-73 in yet another big upset.
Texas is of course missing high profile PG Myck Kabongo, still having his fate decided by the NCAA over a trip he took to visit friend Tristan Thompson in Cleveland. Nonetheless, the Longhorns had defeated two Division I opponents before losing to Chaminade. DeAndre Haskins finished with 32 points and 9 rebounds for the Silverswords in what will be a game he will never forget. Freshman Javan Felix, Myck Kabongo's fill in at the point, finished with 17 points and 5 assists, while Sheldon McClellan chipped in 14. The Longhorns effort was chastised, but all credit given to the giant killers of Chaminade for another impressive upset of a much larger school.