The 2015-16 college basketball season ended with Villanova cutting nets. So Jay Wright's Wildcats were the story of March and April. But the story of November, December, January and February was the National Player of the Year race between Michigan State's Denzel Valentine and Oklahoma's Buddy Hield.
Ultimately, they split the awards.
Valentine won some. Hield won others. It was easy to make a case for either.
But what was remarkable about the POY race is that it featured two players who were, at best, borderline first-round picks last year who returned to school to try to have great seasons and improve their draft stock. And both did both. Hield led Oklahoma to the Final Four. He'll be selected in the lottery next week. Meanwhile, Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds for a Michigan State team that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. And the only thing that might keep him from going in the lottery now is a possible knee issue that is reportedly causing concern among some NBA franchises.
Randomly, we started discussing this on the Eye on College Basketball podcast earlier in the week. And I posed the following question: which players who were projected, at best, as borderline first-round picks this year could have a monster year next season and sneak into the lottery of the 2017 NBA Draft?
After thinking about it, here are five possible answers:
1. Grayson Allen, Duke: Yes, I realize most think Allen would've gone in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft had he declared. But there was never a guarantee of that. And if you're looking for somebody who could use a National Player of the Year award to bounce himself right into the lottery, the list probably starts with Duke's leading returning scorer.
2. OG Anunoby, Indiana: Anunoby was ranked 280th in the Class of 2015, according to 247Sports. But he proved last season that he was vastly underrated. And with a bigger role next season, there's reason to think the 6-foot-7 wing could develop into an elite NBA prospect.
3. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson: Blossomgame would've likely been selected in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft and given a guaranteed contract if he'd remained in it. But the 6-foot-7 wing withdrew late and will now have a chance to show his 3-point percentage of 44.6 (on limited attempts last season) wasn't fluky. And, if it wasn't fluky, Blossomgame could absolutely emerge as a lottery candidate.
4. Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart is a nice two-way guard who could lead Villanova to back-to-back national championships and earn First Team All-America honors. If he improves his jumper next season -- Hart shot only 35.7 percent from 3-point range in 2015-16 -- he could secure the type of guaranteed NBA contract he desires.
5. Tyler Lydon, Syracuse: There are some NBA people who think Lydon is actually a better long-term prospect than former teammate Malachi Richardson. He's a 6-8 forward who shot 40.5 percent from 3-point range as a freshman. He's a good athlete, nice rebounder and terrific shot-blocker. Next year's lottery is within reach.
Five other things on GP's mind
1. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin announced Friday morning that Louisville president James Ramsey has resigned and that the school's Board of Trustees is being reorganized in an attempt to "give a fresh start" to the university. Bevin subsequently said the decision was not driven by athletics -- specifically the ongoing investigation into Louisville's men's basketball program. But it's fair to wonder if the next president and board will, at some point, extend this "fresh start" to an athletic department that's been dealing with a scandal rooted in allegations that a former university employee provided dancers and prostitutes for players and prospects.
2. I'm told there is still no obvious favorite to land Malik Newman. But it's interesting that the Mississippi State transfer recently visited Western Kentucky, where former MSU coach Rick Stansbury is now employed. If Stansbury could pull this off, it would be quite an accomplishment. Newman has also visited NC State, by the way. And he's expected to be on Miami's campus this weekend.
3. Markelle Fultz has reportedly been incredible this week while trying out for USA Basketball's U18 team. He's a big point guard who can create, pass and shoot. Really polished for his age. He'll be a freshman at Washington next season and among the reasons why the Pac-12 will be worth watching late at night.
4. Former Arkansas signee Ted Kapita is back on the market after decomitting from SMU this week. He's spending part of this weekend visiting NC State and would be a nice addition to a recruiting class that's already ranked 19th nationally by 247Sports.
5. Kentucky's men's basketball Twitter account posted an interesting graphic Friday noting that all 16 UK freshmen who have declared for the NBA Draft in the John Calipari era have been selected in the first round. Next week, that stat will be 18-for-18 when Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere both go in the first round.
Plenty of folks have had fun with the video of Derek Willis' arrest, myself included, if only because it's such an absurd visual. But, in between chuckles, I couldn't help but think it's pretty freaking dangerous to get so drunk you end up sleeping on a road next to a parked vehicle.
Have you seen the video of the Kentucky forward?
If not, you can watch it here.
And what you'll see when you watch it is a grown man lying in the street. Smooth passed out. And it's not crazy to think that could've ended terribly. Weird as it sounds, Willis is lucky he only got arrested.
Exactly how UK will discipline Willis remains undetermined.
Calipari hasn't announced anything yet.
But let's be clear: sleeping on a road in the middle of the night next to a parked car either you or somebody else drove to that spot is not a normal boys-being-boys college incident. It's insane. And I say this as somebody who has had too much to drink more times than I can remember. I slept on a picnic table once. On couches a lot. Floors often. But I've never slept on a road. And I don't even personally know anybody who's ever slept on a road.
So watch the video and make your jokes, and know that I did the same. All good. But don't lose focus of the fact that the video of Derek Willis lying in the street and looking like a dead person is actually not that funny at all.