Cavaliers shock Basketball World by taking Bennett No. 1

anthony-bennett-nba-draftThe 2013 NBA Draft isn’t even halfway finished yet, but no matter what happens tonight, people are mainly going to be talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers number one pick. The Cavs shocked pretty much everybody involved in the basketball world by taking UNLV forward Anthony Bennett first overall.

Bennett, who won the Mountain West Player of the Year award as a freshman, becomes the first Canadian to go number one in the NBA Draft. He’s also the second UNLV player to be selected with the top pick, an honor he now shares with retired forward Larry Johnson.

Many people who attended the draft were baffled when Bennett was first off the board. According to the DraftExpress mock draft, the 6’7″, 239-pounder was expected to go with the eighth pick. He definitely showed a good overall game by averaging 15.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, and shooting 38.3% from the three-point line. However, he wasn’t exactly considered number one overall pick material coming into tonight. CBS Sports NBA writer Zach Harper summed this up pretty good when he wrote:

Bennett is a big-time scoring prospect, but doesn’t exactly have the cachet of someone you’d expect taken with the top pick. Bennett has a really good face-up game with range out to the 3-point line.

nerlens-noelMany experts thought that the Cavaliers were leaning towards selecting either Kentucky center Nerlens Noel or Maryland center Alex Len. After all, Cleveland has a solid young nucleus with PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters and PF Tristan Thompson. So adding a good defensive center would’ve given them another piece to building a future contender. However, they chose to go with Bennett, who’s expected to fill a hole at the starting small forward spot.

Nerlens was another surprise among the 2013 NBA Lottery selections because, not only did he not get taken first, but he also tumbled down to the sixth pick. The New Orleans Pelicans ended his freefall and quickly traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that includes All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.

Nerlens didn’t seem too dispirited about falling down the board as he hugged his mom and smiled at the podium after being picked. “I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn’t thinking I was the No. 1 pick,” the 7-foot shot-blocking specialist said.

victor-oladipoThe Orlando Magic avoided going with a center as well since they took Indiana guard Victor Oladipo with the second overall pick. After getting selected, Oladipo said, “It’s like a weight vest you took off after running five miles. It’s relaxing, man. But at the same time, you know it’s just getting started.”

The Washington Wizards kept Georgetown swingman Otto Porter Jr. in town by taking him with the third pick, while the Charlotte Bobcats took Oladipo’s Indiana teammate, PF Cody Zeller, with the fourth selection. Len rounded out the top five when he was taken fifth by the rebuilding Phoenix Suns.

Besides Noel, another surprising fall in the draft was former Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore. Many mock drafts had him going within the top three picks, but he wasn’t taken off the board until the Sacramento Kings grabbed him with the seventh choice.

Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went to the Detroit Pistons with the eighth draft pick. And Michigan guard/2013 Final Four hero Trey Burke was picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves at ninth, then traded to Utah for the 14th and 21st picks.

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum was the first mid-major player to be selected as he rounded out the top 10. The Portland Trailblazers love the point guard’s sharp shooting, as McCollum averaged 23.9 PPG while shooting 51.8% from the three-point arc.

College Basketball Power Rankings for March 15th, 2013

kelly-olynyk-1In the power rankings that we ran last week, Gonzaga moved into the top spot after ending the regular season on a 12-game winning streak. Since they’ve added two more wins in the West Coast Conference tournament, things don’t look to change for the Bulldogs. In fact, for the first time in weeks, things won’t dramatically change for most of our top 10 college basketball rankings – although this isn’t to say that there’s no switching around.

1. Gonzaga (30-2) – Last week, the Zags ascended to the AP’s number one ranking for the first time in school history. So how did they handle the pressure? Well Gonzaga responded by easily winning both of their WCC tournament games – including a 14-point victory over St. Mary’s in the WCC Finals. As expected, future NBA lottery pick Kelly Olynyk came up big with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the finals. As a whole, this team should be well rested and ready for the NCAA tournament.

2. Duke Blue Devils (27-4) – Duke may not have ended the year on an impressive streak like Gonzaga; however, they are pretty close to the Bulldogs in our opinion – especially after beating their rival North Carolina by 16 points on the road. The Blue Devils shot 55% from the field in this game and buried plenty of shots from the outside to doom the Tar Heels. Regardless of their performance in the ACC tournament, Duke should have a number one NCAA tournament seed wrapped up.

cody-zeller3. Indiana Hoosiers (26-5) – A star is expected to come through when their team needs them. And that’s exactly what Cody Zeller did against Michigan with the Big 10 title on the line. Not only did the 7-footer make the go-ahead layup with 13 seconds left, but he also altered Trey Burke’s last second shot. With a 72-71 victory, the Hoosiers guaranteed themselves an outright Big 10 title and can also grab a top NCAA tournament seed too. They finish up their regular season with a home contest against Illinois.

4. Louisville Cardinals (27-5) – No team has risen as much as Louisville over the past two months. They now end the season where they began – right near the top. Despite playing in a very tough Big East, the Cardinals were able to rattle off eight straight victories and grab a conference title. During this stretch, they swept Notre Dame and beat 12th-ranked Syracuse to finish the year strong. Gorgui Dieng (10.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG) and Chane Behanan (10.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG) will provide the Cardinals with a very strong inside presence in the postseason.

5. Georgetown Hoyas (25-5) – The Hoyas move up two spots from last week after destroying Syracuse in a 61-39 route and beating Cincinnati 62-43. Next up is a third game against Syracuse – a team which will no doubt be looking for some revenge after losing two games to the Hoyas by a combined 33 points. Georgetown’s star Otto Porter Jr. (16.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG) will be looking to carry Georgetown past the Orange since he’s averaging 19.0 PPG over the past five contests.

otto-porter-jr6. Kansas Jayhawks (27-5) – An ugly 81-58 loss to Baylor drops Kansas one spot in our power rankings. Bears senior guard Pierre Jackson was huge in this game after scoring 28 points and dishing out 10 assists. Fortunately, the Jayhawks had no Pierre Jackson to deal with last night as they dominated Texas Tech 91-63. Kansas’ freshman star Ben McLemore was big in both recent games after scoring 23 points against Baylor and 24 points against Tech.

7. Ohio State Buckeyes (23-7) – The Buckeyes jump back into our top 10 after a five-game winning streak. The most impressive win during this run is a 9-point road victory against Indiana. The Buckeyes also defeated other tough squads like Minnesota, Michigan State and Illinois too. Junior guard Aaron Craft (9.7 PPG) has picked up his scoring lately since he’s averaged 12 PPG during the five game winning streak.

trey-burke-michigan8. Michigan Wolverines (26-6) – Ever since February began, Michigan’s season has hit several stumbling blocks. After opening the year 19-1, the Wolverines have gone 6-5 amidst a brutal Big 10 schedule. They don’t exactly get a breath of fresh air to end the regular season either because they face 22nd-ranked Wisconsin tonight. Despite suffering tough losses in the last month and a half, we like Michigan’s chances in the NCAA tournament with a bevvy of stars in Trey Burke (19.2 PPG), Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.8 PPG), Nik Stauskas (11.6 PPG) and Glenn Robinson III (10.9 PPG).

9. Kansas State Wildcats (26-5) – One team that we really expect to do well in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament is the Kansas State Wildcats. After all, this team has played very strong against clubs they are supposed to beat. The worst team that K-State has lost to all year is Iowa State, which is 22-10 on the season. The Wildcats dropped a tough road game against Oklahoma State on March 9th, but they rebounded with a 17-point win over Texas.

10. Michigan State (24-7) – After losing three straight contests in a murderer’s row lineup of Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan, the Spartans closed out the regular season with victories over 22nd-ranked Wisconsin and Northwestern. The Wisconsin win was quite impressive since Michigan State won by 15 points. Keith Appling (13.5 PPG) played well in both of these contests as he scored 19 points against the Badgers and 16 points against Northwestern.

College Basketball Power Rankings for February 27th, 2013

duke-basketballAfter starting out 15-1 and landing a top 10 ranking, the Minnesota Golden Gophers haven’t had much luck. They’d lost 8 out of the last 11 games and were on their way to a disappointing NIT bid. However, there may still be some life left in the Gophers after they pulled off a big upset over number one-ranked Indiana. And while this won’t land Minnesota a spot in our power rankings, it does have an effect on where the Hoosiers sit this week.

1. Duke Blue Devils (24-3) – It was pretty much a no-brainer for us to put Duke back on top. After all, the three teams ahead of them in last week’s power rankings lost while the Blue Devils pulled out a couple more ACC victories. But do note that we cautiously put Duke in this spot since they’ve had some difficulties on the road. In any case, mark your calendar for March 2nd when Duke gets a shot to avenge an earlier loss to the fifth-ranked Miami Hurricanes.

2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-2) – The West Coast Conference doesn’t exactly provide a lot of powerhouse teams to help Gonzaga boost their image. However, with all the other top-ranked teams losing games recently, you can’t exactly fault the Zags for continuing to win. They face their last tough test on the road against a 20-9 Brigham Young team. Assuming Gonzaga wins this contest, they should have no trouble beating Portland and setting themselves up for a number one NCAA tournament seed.

victor-oladipo3. Indiana Hoosiers (24-4) – In a month where no team has truly stepped into the nation’s number one ranking, Indiana took its turn being the top dog. Unfortunately, they fell at the hands of a desperate Minnesota team that’s fighting to make the NCAA tournament. Indiana center Cody Zeller had one of his worst games of the season (2-for-9 shooting), while Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe had the hot hand (8-for-10 shooting). The Hoosiers play Iowa on Saturday before closing out with tough games against Ohio State and Michigan (road).

4. Michigan Wolverines (23-4) – Michigan moves up a few spots to number four after beating Penn State and Illinois over the past couple of games. The Illinois victory was particularly nice as Michigan guard Trey Burke poured in 26 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Out of the four remaining Big-10 games for Michigan, Indiana and Michigan State figure to be pretty brutal battles.

5. Miami Hurricanes (22-4) – Just when the Hurricanes were on top of the college basketball world and looking unbeatable, they lose to a 12-15 Wake Forrest team by 15 points. Demon Deacons guard C.J. Harris was instrumental in this victory as he scored 21 points on 5-for-5 shooting from behind the three-point arc. As for Miami, they must go back and figure out why they’ve only scored totals of 45, 54 and 65 points against fairly mediocre teams lately.

elijah-johnson6. Kansas Jayhawks (22-4) – Kansas leaps back into our power rankings after winning five straight games. Of these wins, beating Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Iowa State will look particularly impressive to poll voters. Senior Elijah Johnson was spectacular in the 108-96 overtime victory over Iowa State as he scored 39 points and hit six three-pointers in this contest. That’s definitely stepping up when you consider that his season average is 10.2 PPG.

7. Michigan State Spartans (22-6) – The Spartans might be facing the most brutal three-game stretch of any team this season. They lost to number one-ranked Indiana and 16th-ranked Ohio State (road), and they still have to play fourth-ranked Michigan (road) and 17th-ranked Wisconsin. This being said, we can’t fault Michigan State too much for dropping a couple of tough games in a row. The question is, can they stop the losing streak any time soon?

8. Louisville Cardinals (22-5) – Louisville may only be sitting third in the Big East right now, but they’re number one in our minds. The Cardinals really get a chance to prove where they stand in the conference with upcoming games against Syracuse, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. If they’re going to pick up wins against these clubs, guard Russ Smith (18.4 PPG) is definitely going to need some scoring help.

9. Georgetown Hoyas (21-4) – The Hoyas are closing in on a Big East regular season title, but there are some difficult tests remaining. They have to travel to Connecticut and Villanova in addition to facing Syracuse one more time. Georgetown will go as far as do-it-all forward Otto Porter Jr. (15.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG) will take them – which we expect to be pretty far in regard to the NCAA tournament.

10. Florida Gators (22-4) – Florida falls five places this week after dropping two out of the past three games. If there’s any solace to come out of these losses, it’s that the Gators were playing two tournament-hungry teams on the road in Missouri (19-8) and Tennessee (17-10). A top seed is probably out of the question for Billy Donovan’s club; however, they can definitely grab a nice NCAA tournament position by winning their final three conference games against Alabama, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

College Basketball Power Rankings for February 18th, 2013

durand-scott-miamiIf anything is clear thus far into the 2012-2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball season, it’s this: there is no clear number one team right now. First place votes are spread across five different teams, including Duke (18 votes), Indiana (6), Gonzaga (1), Miami (5) and Michigan (1). Out of these teams, both Miami and Gonzaga are nice surprises because neither club was expected to contend for the number one ranking. So which of these teams do we think is number one? You can check out the answer below.

1. Miami Hurricanes (19-3) – As mentioned in the introduction, nobody expected Miami to be this good – especially when they lost to Florida Gulf Coast and Indiana State earlier in the season. Butt the Hurricanes quickly put these losses behind them after demolishing Duke by 27 points a few weeks ago. Now they’re sitting at 12-0 in the ACC and have NBA stars like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade showing up to their games. This has really been a team effort with Durand Scott (14.0 PPG), Shane Larkin (13.4 PPG), Kenny Kadji (13.1 PPG) and Reggie Johnson (10.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG) all making big contributions.

2. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3) – The Hoosiers have rebounded nicely after a narrow February 7th loss to Illinois. They’ve now won three straight games (Ohio State, Nebraska and Purdue) and are looking very good going into a road matchup with eighth-ranked Michigan State. This is an extremely efficient offensive team with Cody Zeller (16.8 PPG, 59.8% shooting) and Victor Oladipo (13.8 PPG, 63.9% shooting) leading the way.

3. Michigan State Spartans (20-4) – Michigan State makes a big jump from last week after beating in-state rival Michigan by 23 points. This hasn’t been their only impressive victory either because the Spartans also have recent wins against Illinois and Minnesota. Tuesday night they’ll be facing off against Indiana in a highly-anticipated matchup. Things don’t get any easier because they face Ohio State, Michigan (again) and Wisconsin immediately after this.

Duke v Miami4. Duke Blue Devils (22-3) – Duke’s road woes continued this season after losing at Maryland by 22 points a couple of nights ago. Of course, there’s no reason to panic because the Blue Devils did win six straight games in one of the nation’s toughest conferences before this. Mason Plumlee continues to be a do-it-all player for Duke with 17.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.6 BPG and 1.0 SPG.

5. Florida Gators (21-3) – After being beaten by Arkansas on February 5th, Florida has came back strong by winning three straight contests against Mississippi State, Kentucky and Auburn. This is a veteran team that’s led by seniors Kenny Boynton (13.0 PPG), Mike Rosario (12.9 PPG) and Erick Murphy (12.7 PPG) as well as junior Patric Young (10.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.8 BPG). That said, we like the Gators’ chances when March Madness rolls around.

6. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2) – We’re aware that Gonzaga has a great team and even gained a first place vote. However, their weak conference schedule makes it hard to put the Bulldogs much higher than where we have them now. This certainly isn’t to say they haven’t beaten anybody though because the Zags have defeated Oklahoma, Davidson, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and BYU throughout the season. Assuming Gonzaga keeps winning, they have a good shot at a number one NCAA tournament seed.

tim-hardaway-jr7. Michigan Wolverines (22-4) – Michigan has had some rough matchups this month and has lost three out of the last five contests. If there’s anything good to be said of these losses, at least they were to ranked teams on the road (Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan State). They’ll be seeing both Indiana and MSU against at home, so this will provide a chance to get some revenge. We like their chances of winning at least one of these two games because the Wolverines have an excellent core croup in Trey Burke (18.2 PPG), Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.5 PPG), Nik Stauskas (12.0 PPG) and Glenn Robinson III (10.9 PPG).

8. Syracuse Orange (21-4) – Big East play has proven pretty tough for Syracuse since they’ve lost three out of the last six games. Don’t expect the Orange to go undefeated the rest of the way since they face Georgetown (twice), 18th-ranked Marquette and 12th-ranked Louisville over the coming weeks. C.J. Fair continues to have an outstanding junior year since he’s averaging 14.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG and shooting 41.2% from three-point territory.

9. Louisville Cardinals (21-5) – Louisville lost favor with the pollsters after losing three straight Big East games in late January. But they’ve been doing pretty solid this year after winning five out of their past six games. The lone loss was an overtime game to Notre Dame in South Bend. Quality wins during this period include beating Marquette and Pittsburgh. Gorgiu Dieng has been a great all-around player for the Cardinals with 9.4 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 2.6 BPG.

10. Georgetown Hoyas (19-4) – The Hoyas make their first appearance in our power rankings after rattling off seven straight Big East victories. And some of these wins weren’t easy to come by since Georgetown faced Notre Dame, Louisville, Marquette and Cincinnati during this stretch. Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. is the star of this team and his contributes 15.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG and 1.0 BPG.

College Basketball Power Rankings for Dec. 10th, 2012

With the 2012-2013 NCAA basketball season now several weeks deep, we’ve had an opportunity to see some of the top teams tested. Duke is one squad that’s definitely risen to the occasion after defeating three of the nation’s top teams. And Indiana has done an admirable job of taking care of business and remaining undefeated. So which of these teams is playing the best right now? Let’s take a look….

1. Duke Blue Devils (9-0) – Most people didn’t view Duke as a top title contender entering the season. Sure, they were expected to have another good season and grab a decent tournament seed, but championship….that was left for Indiana and Louisville to contend for. However, the Blue Devils have already beaten Louisville, Kentucky and Ohio State this year, thus giving them our top power rankings spot.

2. Indiana Hoosiers (9-0) – The Hoosiers remain the pollsters’ favorite team since they’ve stayed undefeated – including an 83-59 trouncing of North Carolina. The only thing keeping Indiana from the top spot is the fact that they haven’t beaten as many quality opponents as Duke. C Cody Zeller is having a great sophomore campaign with 15.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG and 1.4 BPG.

3. Florida Gators (7-0) – Entering this year, Billy Donovan worried about his club’s ability to defend opponents. Looking at the results, which see Florida win by an average of 25 PPG, you might just chalk this fear up to Donovan’s perfectionism.

4. Michigan Wolverines (9-0) – While Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. command the national attention here, freshman Nik Stauskas has been just as good averaging 13.7 PPG while shooting 60.5% from behind the arc. Teams have certainly had trouble shutting down all of the Wolverines’ scoring options.

5. Syracuse Orange (8-0) – Michael Carter-Williams has really stepped up his game in 2012 since he’s averaging a nation-best 10.4 APG and a nation-second-best 3.8 SPG. Expect the Orange to be remain undefeated for quite some time since their schedule is pretty soft until Big East play.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1) – The Buckeyes carried an eight-point lead into the half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. However, they couldn’t hang on and will have to wait until a matchup against Kansas on December 9th to make a national statement. DeShaun Thomas is picking up where he left off from last season in averaging 20.6 PPG and 6.1 RPG.

7. Illinois Fighting Illini (10-0) – Illinois receives a huge boost in our power rankings because they just knocked off previously-unbeaten Gonzaga. Senior Brandon Paul saved his best for his last season by averaging 19.5 PPG – up five PPG from the previous year.

8. Louisville Cardinals (8-1) – The Cardinals were our favorite team to open the season, and they looked every bit the part…..up until a home loss against Duke and an injury to starting center Gorgui Dieng (8.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG). With Dieng out, Louisville’s lineup is certainly weakened.

9. Cincinnati Bearcats (9-0) – The Bearcats are looking very good heading into a game against crosstown rival Xavier. They’ve also become one of the favorites to win the Big East.

10. Arizona Wildcats (7-0) – Arizona may have point guard difficulties at the moment, but they’re hoping that Xavier transfer Mark Lyons can eventually fill the role. A big test is coming up on December 15th when the Wildcats face Florida.

College Basketball Power Rankings for Nov. 10th, 2012

On the eve of a new college basketball season, there is no unanimous number one team. However, the Indiana Hoosiers come the closest to being a preseason favorite since they’ve grabbed 43 of a possible 65 first place votes. But Louisville and Kentucky are also highly-rated coming into the 2012-2013 NCAA basketball season. Plus there are several other teams worthy of national title consideration, as you’ll see in our first college basketball power rankings.

1. Louisville Cardinals – Following a Final Four run, the Louisville Cardinals are back with a strong returning group of Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Wayne Blackshear, Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng. With so much returning and some new faces in Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock, the Cardinals look poised to make anoher deep tournament run this year.

2. Indiana Hoosiers – The Hoosiers are coming off a Sweet 16 appearance and big regular season win over Kentucky last year. With Christian Watford and Cody Zeller returning to dominate the paint for Indiana, big things are expected in the upcoming season.

3. North Carolina State – Often a middle-of-the-pack ACC team, the Wolfpack should be leading college basketball’s most prestigious conference this year since they return both C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown.

4. Kentucky Wildcats – The Wildcats added an eighth championship to their decorated basketball history after a 67-59 title game win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Unfortunately, they lose a massive amount of talent, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis. Coach John Callipari had no trouble reloading though after picking up top-flight recruit Nerlens Noel.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes – Ohio State has big shoes to fill after losing  Jared Sullinger and William Buford. However, Deshaun Thomas looks poised to break out this season while Aaron Craft should provide some steady leadership at both ends of the court.

6. Kansas Jayhawks – Few people expected the Jayhawks to make it all the way to the NCAA title game. Now championship expectations are there since veterans Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson will combine with super freshmen Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore.

7. Michigan Wolverines – Following a disappointing second round exit in the NCAA tournament, Michigan returns with a strong nucleus that includes Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Some of the incoming class could provide immediate help as well.

8. Syracuse Orange – Syracuse may have lost some key players, but they still figure to be a powerhouse with Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland returning.

9. Florida Gators – The loss of Bradley Beal to the NBA is no doubt a huge blow to Florida. However, Patric Young is one of the best centers in college basketball and Kenny Boynton will certainly help ease the loss of Beal.

10. Duke Blue Devils – Maybe this isn’t Coach K’s best Duke team to open the season. But we certainly see a potential top 10 club with Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Tyler Thornton returning as starters.