THE STONY BROOK GAME
25+ point win! Blocks and rim protection! 11 rebounds from a guard! 88% from the free throw line!
I was planning to pen at least a profound paragraph on the 'Cats' resounding late-night triumph this morning; however, three hours of sleep is not conducive to coherence, so I'll leave it to these people from across the Internet:
In preparation for Saturday's game against IU, Brian Hamilton refers back to the schools' historic and heated rivalry for SI.
NPOYS, ALL-AMERICAN POINT GUARDS, AND STATISTICS
Pending Kentucky's, Michigan State's, and Oklahoma's Tournament achievements (or conceivable lacks thereof), my National Co-Players of the Year are PGs Denzel Valentine (1A) and Tyler Ulis (1B). I know. Selecting two is an indolent dodge, but I still have several weeks to make a final decision.
It should be noted that Valentine basically switched between all positions until taking over PG duties in mid-January when starter Tum Tum Nairn's began suffering from plantar fasciitis. Nairn has since returned, but has totaled just 14 minutes in the Spartans' last two games, including the Big Ten Tournament Championship victory over Purdue.
Buddy Hield has cooled off (along with his Sooners, who are 6-5 in their last 11) somewhat over the past several weeks -- a NPOY whose strength is scoring doesn't go 1/8 from the floor in a conference tournament semifinal loss -- while Valentine and Ulis have continued to ascend, along with their respective squads.
As my Co-NPOYs are both PGs, and should be consensus First Team A-As, I decided to compare their '15-'16 performances to other recent All-American PGs, as well as where they took their teams.
The previous A-A PGs are Jerian Grant ('15 Notre Dame), D"Angelo Russell ('15 Ohio State), Shabazz Napier ('14 Connecticut), Russ Smith ('14 Louisville), Trey Burke ('13 Michigan), and Kemba Walker ('11 Connecticut).
The leaders among categories are noted in italicized bold.
Let's start with the advanced numbers.
For added context, and to appease the traditionalists (!), below are the players' per-game averages. All of them notched between 29.3 (Smith) and 37.6 (Walker) minutes per game.
Since I know most of you will be using this data solely to compare Valentine to Ulis, Valentine has played 32.8 minutes per, to Ulis' 36.9.
Finally, let's consider the results these PGs delivered to their teams during their A-A years.
Valentine '16: 29-5; Big Ten Tournament Champions; 2 seed, ?
Ulis '16: 27-8; SEC Regular Season Co-Champions; SEC Tournament Champions; 4 seed, ?
Grant '15: 32-6; ACC Tournament Champions; 3 seed, Elite Eight
Russell '15: 24-11; 10 seed, Round of 32
Napier '14: 32-8; 7 seed, National Champions
Smith '14:31-6; AAC Regular Season and Tournament Champions; 4 seed, Sweet 16
Burke '13: 31-8; 4 seed, National Runner-Up
Walker '11: 32-9; Big East Tournament Champions; 3 seed, National Champions
Conclusions? I'll offer a few.
*Denzel Valentine is not only the most impressive member of the group, he's actually given one of the great all-around performances in recent NCAAB memory.
Consider that Valentine is the only player in NCAAB history to average 19 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds per game.
*Who has the weakest resume? Ironically, it's probably the most talented player in the group -- D'Angelo Russell. He leads in just one category and his team's success isn't even comparable to any of the other A-As. In Russell's defense, he was the only freshman in the assemblage.
*Walker's 9.7 win shares number from the '10-'11 season is extraordinary. Over the last six years, all positions included, only '11-'12 Anthony Davis (10) and '14-'15 Frank Kaminsky (9.8) exceeded that number.
*Can you believe that Russ Smith played fewer than 30 minutes per game during the '13-'14 season? I swear that he played every minute of every game during his junior and senior seasons.
The relative lack of floor time in relation to the other A-As make Smith's numbers even more impressive.
*Although Ulis has taken much better care of the basketball than Valentine, which is a hallmark characteristic of a great PG, the statistical disparities between them in other areas (advantage Valentine) are undeniable.
Ulis would likely have to scorch the field on a way to a UK title and Valentine would have to vastly underwhelm for Ulis to overtake Valentine as my (and the likely) NPOY. That's not impossible, but the latter seems unlikely.
TWEETER-SATION OF THE DAY
Preciate it bro! https://t.co/z1pTRIsrNQ— Tyler Ulis (@tulis3) March 18, 2016
Congrats Lil bro !! RT @KySportsRadio: Tyler Ulis just broke the single season UK assist record— John Wall (@JohnWall) March 18, 2016
*Chalk mostly ruled yesterday, but two of three 12 seeds, both 11 seeds, and the trio of 9 seeds (sorry, Tubby) prevailed in what was a fun and compelling first day of games.
*Here is Gary Parrish's Viewing Guide for today's action.
I'm most excited about Hawaii-Cal. Cal has a pair of extremely talented '16 NBA Lottery picks on its roster (Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb) who I haven't gotten to see enough of living in the Eastern time zone with a 9 p.m. bedtime.
*In case you missed it, observe Sean Miller, horrifyingly sweaty mess and Arizona head coach.
No undershirt, Sean?!? YOU SAVAGE! At least respect the nips, bro.
*Check out this oral history of Alex Poythress' UK career, as told by his teammates, which was masterfully orchestrated by Aaron Torres.
*One of four reasons that UK can win a title this year is that "offense wins championships," according to NCAA.com's Brian Mull. Along with the other obvious reasons (Tyler Ulis and John Calipari, of course), there is one other that intrigues.
This is great stuff; it's a little brief, but significantly more enlightening than the typical "X Reasons Why..." fluff post.
*Gene Abell analyzes each 'Cat's NCAAT role for the LHL.
*Derek Willis is UK's "unsung hero" as a national title contender, according to CBT's Raphielle Johnson.
KU's Landen Lucas, Lawrence's big man who irritated me during UK's January overtime loss to the Jayhawks, is also included.
*It's always hilarious when UK is the subject of an article from satire favorite The Onion. Yesterday's piece, citing a (fictitious) report that the freshmen are hazing the seniors, does not disappoint.
I repeat, this is satire. It is not real. Also, hat tip to Nick W. for the heads up.
*Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray are two of the 68 best players in the NCAAT, according to Yahoo!'s Jeff Eisenberg.
*Every fanbase thinks the Selection Committee screwed their team. FiveThirtyEight's Neil Paine and Jay Boice quantify the "screwing," and UK is highlighted.
*UK does not make an appearance in this list of the 10 biggest upsets in the last 2 decades of the NCAAT, but it's still worth a read because of how many times Duke and KU appear. UNC is also included.
There is certainly something to be said about sports nostalgia involving other fanbases' crushed dreams.
*Matt Norlander at CBS Sports provides a colorful look at which team, among the NCAAT field of 68, has to travel the farthest for the first round.
Hawaii had the longest commute and UNC lucked out with the shortest. Yale and Temple, a pair of double digit seeds, only had to travel ~100 miles.
*2016 5* UK target Marques Bolden led his high school to a state title last week.
*SI's Roundtable is, once again, a must-read. Notable topics include sleeper NBA prospects in the NCAAT and random NCAAT-NBA player comparisons.
Skal gets a mention, as well as St. Joseph's F DeAndre' Dembry, who will replace Kris Dunn as my non-UK NCAAB obsession next season if he returns to school.
By the way, Bembry is going to take his Hawks to the Elite 8 this March if you were not aware.
*Four Illinois players have been arrested since last August. Two arrests were for domestic battery and one was for brandishing a knife in a club. These are not "stupid college kid"-type arrests involving marijuana or open containers.
*In 13 seasons at Northwestern, head coach Bill Carmody came close to taking the Wildcats to their first-ever NCAAT several times, but never managed to get it done. Carmody was fired in 2013.
Now, in his first season at Holy Cross, Carmody has a NCAAT victory under his belt in the midst of a 15-19 season and an improbable Patriot League Tournament Championship. Poor Northwestern fans.
Anyway, here's an interesting piece on Carmody and his Crusaders from SI's Dan Greene.
*On the Banks, Rutgers' SB Nation site, includes Kenny Payne as a possible person of interest in the school's head coaching search.
Payne should have a shot at much better head jobs than RU's.
*WKU coach Ray Harper resigned yesterday and three players were suspended. It will be interesting to learn what's behind these things occurring simultaneously.
Harper took the Hilltoppers to the NCAAT in his first two years, but his teams have regressed every year since then.
*Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings has spoken with St. Louis about its coaching vacancy.
To me, Stallings is a top 5 coach in the SEC, but I have to admit that this season was a genuine headscratcher. VU was a trendy Final Four pick before the season and had at least two future NBA talents (Wade Baldwin and Damian Jones) on this season's roster.
*Mid-90s Arizona standout (and Brad Martinez childhood hero) Damon Stoudamire has landed Pacific's head coaching job.
*Sacramento head coach George Karl has "exiled" prized assistant coach Nancy Lieberman. Not surprising, I guess. Buried in the article, however, is this:
"[T]he Kings will likely fire Karl and if a new coach can't turn things around, may look to trade Cousins at next season's trade deadline."
NBA.com's David Aldridge moved the timetable up approximately six months, indicating that the Kings will "look seriously" at dealing Boogie this summer.
Send Boogie and Willie to my 76ers, Vivek! You can keep Rondo, though. Hinkie will be drafting Tyler Ulis in June, ya heard?
*In an absolute must-read, Ben Leibowitz examines how last year's NCAAT stars who were drafted in the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery are faring in the NBA. "Calipari's Cats" get an entire section.
Among other data points:
"[B]y averaging at least 17 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks in his first go-around in the pros, [Karl-Anthony] Towns is in the company of just five other guys ever to post similar figures as rookies: David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Elton Brand and Ralph Sampson."
*Speaking of KAT, he remains atop CBS Sports' Rookie Rankings. Devin Booker has ascended to the second spot and WCS took Trey Lyles' place at the back of the list.
*Jeremy Woo's first SI Big Board for the '16 Draft, which lists his top 20 prospects, posted yesterday and it includes THREE (not two!) 'Cats. 15% of Woo's list is blue and white. I like it.
Ben Simmons remains at the top. You know how I feel about him.
*In a development that's not getting nearly enough notice, the NCAA has lost another battle in its war with former USC football assistant Todd McNair and his defamation claim stemming from the Reggie Bush scandal. The California Supreme Court has opted not to review an appellate court's ruling that authorized McNair's suit to proceed.
Strong words from the state's highest court:
"McNair made a sufficiently convincing showing that the NCAA recklessly disregarded the truth," Justice Richard D. Aldrich wrote in the opinion, "when the COI deliberately decided not to correct the investigation's errors or to acquire more information about what McNair knew concerning the rules violations, even after McNair notified the Appeals Committee of the errors."
Now, McNair has not prevailed in his suit; this just means that it can go forward. Still, it is a loss for the NCAA and the case's progression bears watching. Don't hold your breath for a resolution, though -- the suit is already nearly five years old.
*New UGA head coach Kirby Smart is barring outgoing RB A.J. Turman from transferring to Miami or UF.
*Louisville has hired Lonnie Galloway, formerly WVU's wide receiver's coach, as co-offensive coordinator. Offensive line coach Chris Klenakis will take the other co-OC position.
*The league's Competition Committee is very likely to pass an automatic ejection rule.
An explanation of the lengthy rule can be found in the linked article. Like most NFL rules, it appears that it's is going to be overlong and convoluted.
*Team needs exceed linebacker inventory in the upcoming NFL Draft, says Frank Cooney. That might be good news for former 'Cat LB Josh Forrest who underwhelmed at the NFL Combine but did well at UK's Pro Day earlier this month.
*Chris Jones is the second NFL prospect from Mississippi State to be arrested in the last month, joining QB Dak Prescott (DUI).
By the way, we have learned that Prescott's Breathalyzer tests were inconclusive. I'm an Ohio lawyer, not a Mississippi lawyer, so I'm not sure what that means for Prescott.
*If you're not Johnny Manziel'd out, Emily Kaplan did a relatively hot take-less look at how the Heisman winner stumbled to where he is today for MMQB.
*Reflections on the Rams' return to L.A. Coliseum by SI's Don Banks.
Okay, I'm going to sleep on the floor of my office now.