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Buckeyes and Tar Heels Offer Reminders: Weekly Rankings and Championship Week Thoughts

New Flash: Harrison Barnes and the Tar Heels are still really good.

WEEKLY RANKINGS

1. Kentucky (30-1)

2. Syracuse (30-1)

3. Kansas (26-5)

4. North Carolina (27-4)

5. Duke (26-5)

6. Ohio State (25-6)

7. Michigan State (24-7)

8. Missouri (27-4)

9. Marquette (25-6)

10. Wichita State (27-5)

11. Georgetown (22-7)

12. Michigan (23-8)

13. Baylor (25-6)

14. Wisconsin (23-8)

15. Indiana (24-7)

16. Temple (24-6)

17. UNLV (25-7)

18. Murray State (30-1)

19. Memphis (23-8)

20. Creighton (28-5)

21. Florida State (21-9)

22. New Mexico (24-6)

23. Gonzaga (25-5)

24. Florida (22-9)

25. St. Louis (24-6)

Frantz Massenat and Drexel might be left out the NCAA Tournament if they lose to VCU tonight.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

– Since most of this week’s match-ups are still to be determined, I’ll fore go the games of the week section for some random thoughts:

– When Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall, Jared Sullinger and William Buford all decided to return to college for one more year, the expectations for North Carolina and Ohio State shot through the roof. Most people expected to see two of the best college basketball teams of the last 10 or 15 years. While they came into the season with immense hype, both squads seemed to slip under the radar after some high profile slip-ups (UNC got blown out by Florida State on the road and blew a double-digit lead to Duke at home; Ohio State lost at home to Michigan State and Wisconsin). But this past weekend, the Tar Heels and Buckeyes reminded us all why we all placed such high expectations on them in the Fall. North Carolina avenged their loss to Duke by blowing out the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor, clinching the outright ACC regular season title. Ohio State got payback on the Spartans, coming back from a double-digit first half deficit to beat Michigan State and earn a share of the Big Ten regular season crown. It was a nice way of saying, “don’t forget about us, America.”

– I’ve seen a lot of college basketball writers say the loser of tonight’s CAA championship game between Drexel and VCU will still make the NCAA tournament. I’m really not sure about that. While I’d like to see both teams in the NCAA tournament, I’m not sure the loser of tonight’s game will have the resume to make it in as an at-large. No one seems to think Middle Tennessee or Iona will make the NCAAs after they got knocked out of their conference tournaments on Sunday and both those teams have incredibly similar resumes to Drexel and VCU.

Drexel: 27-5, 16-2; RPI: 67 SOS: 282 Vs RPI Top 50: 0-1 Vs RPI Top 100: 4-2

VCU: 27-6, 15-3; RPI: 63 SOS: 234 Vs RPI Top 50: 1-1 Vs RPI Top 100: 4-4

Middle Tennesee: 25-5, 14-2; RPI: 45 SOS: 207 Vs RPI Top 50: 0-1 Vs RPI Top 100: 3-3

Iona: 25-7, 15-3; RPI: 46 SOS: 157 vs RPI Top 50: 1-1 Vs RPI Top 100: 5-3

Personally, I’d much rather see all these successful mid-majors be rewarded with tournament berths over mediocre high-major teams like Seton Hall, Texas and Miami. But, the chances of that are slim-to-none.

-You can jump off the Wichita State bandwagon if you want, but I’m staying on for the long haul. I still like the Shockers to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, barring an awful placement in the bracket (i.e, an early round match-up with Kentucky or North Carolina).

– Power Conference Tournament Picks:

ACC: North Carolina

Big 12: Missouri

Big East: Marquette

Big Ten: Indiana

Pac-12: Washington

SEC: Kentucky

– These are the best two weeks of the sports year, enjoy ’em.

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Do-It-All Draymond: Handing Out End of the Year Awards in the Big Ten

Draymond Green led the Spartans to a Big Ten regular season title.

FIRST TEAM

F Draymond Green, Michigan State: 16.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.6 apg

Day-Day has done it all this season for the Spartans, and done it all well. Green is a shoo-in for first team All-America and is probably third in the race for national Player of the Year – behind Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson. More on Green later.

F Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: 17.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.1 apg

Ohio State hasn’t had the dominant season many expected, but Sullinger has still had an outstanding season. The slimmed-down sophomore is hard to stop on offense. He is tied with John Shurna for the highest offensive rating (117.5) among Big Ten players who have used at least 24 percent of their teams’ possessions. He also ranks 13th in effective field goal percentage (56.7) and 11th in true shooting percentage (61.1). Sullinger has been one of the conference’s elite rebounders, ranking second in the Big Ten in both offensive (12.0) and defensive rebounding percentage (25.6). His defensive mark is good for 25th in the nation.

F John Shurna, Northwestern: 20.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.7 apg

As mentioned above, Shurna is tied with Sullinger for the highest offensive rating (117.5) in the conference. His shot may be ugly, but Shurna makes things happen on offense. The senior leads the Big Ten with 20.1 points per game, and ranks 15th in effective field goal percentage (56.3) and 14th in true shooting percentage (59.4). The 6-9 forward has excellent range, making .425 percent of his three-point attempts. Shurna has also been one of the Big Ten’s better shot-blockers, ranking seventh in block percentage (5.3).

F Robbie Hummel, Purdue: 16.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg

It’s been odd watching Hummel play this season without his old running mates JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore (both are currently on the Boston Celtics). But despite playing without those stars and having to recover from two season-ending ACL injuries, Hummel has had a strong finish to his Purdue career. The 6-8 forward has the third best offensive rating (116.0) among Big Ten players who have used at least 24 percent of their teams’ possessions. The fifth-year senior leads the Boilermakers with 16.8 points per game, but Hummel has also been valuable on the defensive end. Hummel ranks fifth in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding percentage (20.8) and 10th in block percentage (4.7).

G Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin: 14.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.1 apg

Taylor came into the season as a preseason All-American, but he just squeaked onto the Big Ten’s postseason first team. It was a tough call between Taylor and Michigan freshman Trey Burke, and really, there isn’t a wrong choice. I gave Taylor the edge due to his aversion to turnovers, and the fact that the Badgers would be NIT bound, or worse, without him. Among Big Ten point guards, Taylor ranks fifth in assist rate (27.2) and first in turnover rate (12.0).

Michigan’s Trey Burke is one of two freshman on the second team.

SECOND TEAM

F Cody Zeller, Indiana: 15.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg

F Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: 15 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.9 apg

G Aaron Craft, Ohio State: 8.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.5 apg

G Trey Burke, Michigan: 14.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.8 apg

G Tim Frazier, Penn State: 18.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 6.3 apg

John Shurna gets all the attention in Evanston, but Drew Crawford has been great for the Wildcats.

THIRD TEAM

F Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan: 14.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 apg

C Meyers Leonard, Illinois: 13.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.9 bpg

G Drew Crawford, Northwestern: 16.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.1 apg

G Lewis Jackson, Purdue: 10.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.2 apg

G Matt Gatens, Iowa: 15.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg

Honorable Mention: William Buford, Ohio State; D.J. Byrd, Purdue; Keith Appling, Michigan State; Brandon Paul, Illinois; Branden Dawson, Michigan State

AWARDS

Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Michigan State

As one would expect from the nation’s best conference, there have been a lot of great individual performances in the Big Ten this season. However, picking Draymond Green as the conference’s player of the year was a no-brainer. Green has done everything for the Spartans this season, as evidenced by the number of categories in which he ranks among the top 20 in the Big Ten. The senior forward ranks seventh in offensive rating (108.3), 18th in offensive rebounding percentage (8.3), first in defensive rebounding percentage (27.1), 13th in assist rate (22.8), 16th in block percentage (3.2) and 10th in steal percentage (2.8).

Cody Zeller will lead the Hoosiers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008.

Freshman of the Year: Cody Zeller, Indiana

Trey Burke would be the best freshman in a lot of conferences across America, but Cody Zeller happens to also play in the Big Ten. Zeller has had a tremendous season for the Hoosiers, and it was hard leaving him off the first team. His offensive rating of 127.9 is first in the Big Ten and 12th in the nation among players who used at least 20 percent of his team’s possessions. Zeller has been an efficient scoring machine for Indiana. The freshman is the third in the Big Ten and 19th in the nation in effective field goal percentage (63.4), and first in the Big Ten and 10th in the nation in true shooting percentage (10th). He has also been a solid rebounder, ranking fifth among Big Ten players in offensive rebounding percentage (10.7) and 15th in defensive rebounding percentage (16.7). Zeller was also the Big Ten’s ninth best shot-blocker, posting a block percentage of 4.8.

Big Ten guards have nightmares about Aaron Craft.

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Craft, Ohio State

Craft might be the best on-ball defender in college basketball. The sophomore averages 2.41 steals per game and ranks first in the Big Ten and 16th in the nation in steal percentage (4.61). Craft’s defensive prowess is more than steals, he has the ability to take an opposing team’s best guard out of the game.

Izzo did it again and the Spartans are a final four contender.

Coach of the Year: Tom Izzo, Michigan State

Michigan State was unranked in pre-season polls, and after the Spartans started the season 0-2, expectations were low in East Lansing. But, Izzo did his thing – again – and the Spartans are now regular season Big Ten champs, ranked in the top-five and in line for a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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