Top 10 Players Under 6′ Tall In College Basketball

By Kevin Sweeney

While much of the attention from the media goes to players such as LSU’s Ben Simmons & Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, sure-fire first round picks with all the athletic gifts, many players in college basketball are proving that size doesn’t necessarily preclude a player from being one of the best players in college hoops.  Here’s a look at some 6′ and under players making a big impact in college basketball this season.

  1. Kay Felder (Oakland)- Even though Felder stands at just 5’9″, the junior from Detroit is one of the best players in college basketball.  He averages 24.4 ppg, good for 4th in the country, and is the nation’s leader in assists per game with 9.2 per contest. He is a finalist for both the Bob Cousy Award, given to the best point guard in the country, as well as the Wooden Award for the best player in college basketball.  In a game against Michigan State this season, Felder poured in 37 points and had 9 dishes, proving that he can ball against the top competition college basketball has to offer.
  2. James Daniel (Howard)- Daniel is the nation’s leading scorer, putting up an incredible 27.9 points per game for the Bison.  The 5’10” Daniel has had 8 games in which he has scored at least 30 points.  One major way that Daniel is able to score so effectively is his ability to get to the free throw line.  He leads the nation in free throws made and attempted this season.  At his prolific pace, this junior could become the first player since Jimmer Fredette to score 2,500 career points.
  3. Stefan Moody (Ole Miss)-  The 5’10” Moody is one of the most dynamic players in college basketball.  He scores 22.8 points per game for the Rebels.  Moody has done all this despite battling a hamstring injury for much of the season.  He has limitless range from behind the arc, and finishes through contact as well as anyone in the country.  If Ole Miss has any chance of making a run in the wide-open SEC Tournament, they will need Moody at the top of his game.
  4. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)- After being a supporting cast member for last season’s 38-1 squad, Ulis is now the star of this year’s Kentucky team.  He averages nearly 17 points and 7 assists for the Wildcats.  Ulis is also one of the front-runners for SEC Player of the Year.  Also, the 5’9″ guard is perhaps the best leader in college basketball, commanding respect and attention from his teammates.  He may be small, but Ulis truly is the engine that makes Kentucky go.
  5. Justin Robinson (Monmouth)- The star of a Monmouth team that has knocked off USC, UCLA, and Notre Dame this season, Robinson, a 5’8″ junior, has solidified himself as one of the top point guards in the nation. He averages over 20 points per game for the Hawks. Robinson’s confidence is unmatched in college basketball, as he has been known to assert himself as the best guard in the country on Twitter.  Monmouth will look to him to lead them to the NCAA Tournament this March.
  6. Derrick Colter (Duquesne)- Colter has to be one of the toughest players in college basketball.  Not only does he stand toe-to-toe with college basketball’s best despite being only 5’11” tall, Colter is a cancer survivor.  He survived a bout with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2014. This year, Colter is averaging over 18 points per game for the Dukes.  It is incredible to think that a person who less than 2 years ago was fighting for his life is now one of the top basketball players in the country.
  7. Yonel Brown (Kennesaw State)- Despite being only 5’9″, the diminutive Brown is an indispensable piece for the Owls.  He is the second-leading scorer in the Atlantic Sun conference, and has played more minutes than any other player in college basketball. He averages 39.0 minutes per game.  Another thing that stands out about Brown is his steady improvement.  As a freshman, he averaged just 3.6 points per game.  Now, as a senior, he is one of the best players in the nation.
  8. Damon Lynn (NJIT)- Lynn, a 5’11” guard, has helped NJIT’s transition from Independent status to members of the Atlantic Sun conference go smoothly.  A prolific shooter, Lynn is 5th in the nation in 3 pointers made this season. If Lynn continues to score at this pace, the Highlanders could reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
  9. Maurice Watson Jr. (Creighton)- One of the best passers in the nation, Watson is second in the Big East in assists per game, averaging 6.6 dishes per contest.  Watson is also an excellent scorer, leading the Bluejays with 15.2 points per game.  Watson has helped Creighton overachieve this season, with the Bluejays currently in 4th place in the Big East despite being picked 9th in the preseason.
  10. Junior Robinson (Mount St. Mary’s)-The shortest player on this list, Robinson stands at just 5’5″.  That hasn’t stopped him from being one of the best players in the NEC.  After a freshman season in which Robinson was named to the all-rookie team, Robinson has raised his game in his sophomore campaign.  This year, he averages over 12 points a game and was recently named NEC Co-Player of the Week.  Watch for Robinson to rise on this list as he gets older and continues to improve.

Etherington Helps Butler Earn Much-Needed Win Over Creighton

By Kevin Sweeney

In a game in which both teams were in desperate need of a win, Butler got a boost from senior forward Austin Etherington to defeat Creighton 88-75 on Tuesday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Etherington registered a career-high 17 points off the bench, including 4 3-pointers, as he easily eclipsed his season average of 2.4 points per game.

Butler’s struggles in Big East play has left the Bulldogs on the bubble despite a strong non-conference performance that included wins over Purdue, Cincinnati, and Temple. After a blowout loss to Xavier on Saturday, the Bulldogs fell to 6-7 in league play. With a matchup with #1 Villanova looming, this game was a must-win for Butler to stay on track for the Big Dance. The Bulldogs showed up in a big way, and did so from the opening tip. Sophomore wing Kelan Martin knocked down 3’s for Butler’s first two field goals, setting the tone for a 3-point barrage by the Bulldogs, who would finish the night 13-27 from downtown. Martin, Etherington, and senior guard Kellen Dunham each poured in 4 shots from long range for the Bulldogs.

Creighton coach Greg McDermott called Etherington “the difference in the game” and credited him for adding an extra dimension to the Bulldog offense, saying “It makes it difficult to figure out who you are going to help with on [Tyler] Wideman’s roles off those screens with that many guys around him who can shoot the basketball.”

Martin had 21 points and 8 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs, while Dunham added 16 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists. Maurice Watson poured in 22 points for the Bluejays.

Up next for Butler is a huge matchup with #1 Villanova in Philadelphia on Saturday. Creighton will return home on Wednesday, February 24 to face Marquette.

Loss of Deon Jones Could Prove Costly for Monmouth

By Kevin Sweeney

Monmouth’s win over Manhattan last night didn’t come without a cost, as the Hawks may have lost senior captain Deon Jones for the rest of the season. Jones, a 6’6″ forward from Wilmington, Delaware, collided with Manhattan guard Thomas Capuano with 10:18 to go and immediately grabbed his right hand and wrist. Jones came back to the bench in the second half with the wrist heavily wrapped, and did not return to the game.  After the game, Monmouth coach King Rice announced that Jones had 2 breaks in his right hand and that he would likely need surgery. A final decision will be made today, but Jones’ season appears to be over.  

Losing Jones would be a crushing blow to Monmouth, who look to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006.  Jones’ 6’6″ frame as well as his unique skillset makes him one of the most valuable players in the MAAC. His size allows him to guard big men, while his speed gives him the ability to defend smaller, quicker players. Jones also leads his team in rebounds and is second in blocked shots per game. On offense, Jones is third on the team in scoring, and can do so in a variety of ways. He shoots over 40% from distance, has an excellent mid-range game, and can score in the paint. 

There really is no one player on Monmouth that can replicate all that Jones does for the Hawks, but Monmouth’s depth will allow King Rice to use a variety of players to fill the void. The clear replacements on Monmouth’s roster are 6’8″ forwards Collin Stewart and Pierre Sarr. Stewart, who averages 8 points per game, can shoot the three, but lacks the strength to defend true power forwards. Sarr is one of the more athletic players on the team, but also would struggle in one-on-one matchups in the post. Monmouth could look to go big by playing reserve centers Zac Tillman or Diago Quinn alongside starter Chris Brady. However, neither of these players add much offensively, nor can they defend on the perimeter. The Hawks could also consider going small, as they did for some stretches last night, to force an up-and-down style of play. This may allow Monmouth to be explosive offensively, but could lead to foul trouble or easy buckets on defense. It will be up to Rice to mix-and-match in order to fill Jones’ production.

Overall, this injury could have a huge impact on the MAAC race. One team built to benefit from the loss of Jones would be Siena. Siena, who has size up front with forward Lavon Long and Brett Bisping, as well as center Javion Ogunyemi, could force Monmouth to go big and slow the game down. This style change would benefit the Saints. Jones was extremely effective against the Saints this season, scoring 21 points against them on January 18. Another team who could bother Monmouth with their size is potential quarterfinal foe Quinnipiac. The Bobcats struggle to score the ball, but have the size and defensive ability to make Monmouth play a slow game. Jones’ loss appears to be a tough blow for Monmouth, but they are still a strong team who will be tough to beat in March. 

5 Potential Giant-Killers who are Flying Under the Radar

By Kevin Sweeney

Every March, teams many people never have heard of explode onto the national scene by upsetting the blue bloods of college basketball. Everyone has seen Monmouth and their bench mob knock off big schools like UCLA and Notre Dame, and Stony Brook has rattled off 18 straight wins. Perennial giant-killer Valparaiso has also enjoyed a magnificent season. But who are some names you haven’t heard of that are poised to be this year’s Cinderella? Here are five teams that I think could make noise in March. 
1. Chattanooga- The Mocs have put together a fantastic season in year one of the Matt McCall era. Chattanooga reached the halfway point in February with a 23-4 record (12-2 in the Southern Conference) and an RPI of 33. A veteran squad whose top 9 scorers are juniors or seniors, the Mocs are battle-tested, with wins over Georgia, Illinois, and Dayton, as well as a loss at Iowa State. Since losing SoCon Preseason Player of the Year Casey Jones, Chattanooga hasn’t slowed down, going 17-2 in his absence. If they can navigate through their conference tournament, the Mocs could be in position to be the next bracket-buster.  
2. Hawaii- Another team that won’t be afraid of the stage, Hawaii stood toe-to-toe with Oklahoma, one of the top teams in the country, in the Diamond Head Classic in December.  Even though they lost the game, they made it clear to the national audience that Hawaii Basketball would be a force to be reckoned with in the Big West Conference. Led by senior forward Stefan Jankovic, Hawaii has a 20-3 record. The Rainbow Warriors will have to avoid bad losses down the stretch to keep their RPI up, as dropping into 15-16 seed territory can be a huge blow to a team’s upset chances. 
3. UNC-Wilmington- Playing in one of the best mid-major conferences, UNC-Wilmington has stood out in a league with 4 teams in the top 100 of the RPI. Since dropping two straight league games in early January, the Seahawks have turned their season around winning 11 straight, and seem to be playing their best basketball lately, knocking off CAA contenders James Madison and Hofstra in recent weeks. Second year head coach Kevin Keatts seems poised to earn his second consecutive CAA Coach of the Year honors, and if the Seahawks can make it through the conference tournament, Keatts may make his NCAA tournament debut as well. 
4. Princeton- Overshadowed by Ivy League leaders Yale, the Tigers have put together a fantastic season in their own right. With a big win at Columbia on Saturday, Princeton moved into second place in the Ivy League. Sitting at 16-5 on the season, Princeton boasts an RPI of 41, mostly due to a strong schedule with games at Maryland, Miami, and St. Joseph’s. However, without a conference tournament, Princeton’s NCAA tournament hopes rest on a huge game at home on Friday against Yale. With a loss, the Tigers would trail Yale by 2 games with just 6 games to go. But if the Tigers can win Friday, watch out for them in March. 
5. South Dakota State- Having reached the postseason 4 seasons in a row, the Jackrabbits are no stranger to March Madness. This year, South Dakota State has once again positioned themselves to be a contender in the Summit League. Led by senior guard duo George Marshall and Deondre Parks, SDSU holds wins over TCU and Minnesota in the non-conference. With an RPI of 45, expect the Jackrabbits to be a force to be reckoned with in March Madness. 

Warney’s Late Block Helps Stony Brook Hold Off New Hampshire

By Kevin Sweeney

Stony Brook stretched their win-streak, the longest in college basketball, to 18 games and remained undefeated in America East play with a hard-fought 59-58 win over New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon.  Playing without head coach Bill Herrion, who was mourning the death of his mother, New Hampshire took the Seawolves to the final buzzer, but a late block by senior center Jameel Warney kept the Wildcats from bringing home an emotional victory. 

With neither team effective from behind the arc, the game turned into a battle of big men, with Warney putting up 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 blocks, while New Hampshire power forward Tanner Leisner poured in 26 points and 9 rebounds.  The Wildcats, who came in having won 4 straight games, trailed by two at the break despite holding the Seawolves to 31.3% shooting in the first half.  In the second half, it seemed that the Seawolves were going to send home a sold out crowd at IFCU Arena happy, as they never trailed in the second half.  A conventional 3-point-play by Stony Brook senior guard Carson “Tre” Puriefoy stretched the Seawolves’ lead to 9 with 5:41 to go in the game.  But the Wildcats never quit, knocking down 3’s on their next 2 possessions to cut the Stony Brook lead to 3. In the final 5 minutes, Warney swatted 4 shots to protect the lead for the Seawolves, including one in the final seconds.  Leading by one with 40 seconds to go, the Seawolves took nearly the entire shot clock before junior guard Ahmad Walker was fouled.  Walker missed the front end of the one-and one, giving New Hampshire one last chance to win it. After a timeout, junior guard Jaleen Smith drove into the lane, but had his shot rejected by Warney as time expired. 

Puriefoy scored 16 points and snatched 6 rebounds for the Seawolves, and Rayshaun McGrew added 14 points and 8 boards. Ronnel Jordan put up 12 points and 7 rebounds for the Wildcats. 

Stony Brook will look to continue their nation’s-best win streak when they travel to take on second place Albany on Wednesday night. New Hampshire will return home to take on UMASS-Lowell on Wednesday. 

Devin Cannady’s Heroics Lead Princeton to Comeback Win at Columbia

By Kevin Sweeney

With no conference tournament, every Ivy League game has extra importance.  In a critical battle for position in the Ivy League standings, freshman guard Devin Cannady led large comebacks in both regulation and overtime to lead Princeton to a come-from-behind victory, an 88-83 win over Columbia Saturday night.

Both teams entered tonight’s contest trailing Yale by one in the loss column, making this game a must-win for both teams’ NCAA Tournament hopes.  With a 67-58 lead and only 3:48 to go in regulation, it appeared that Columbia would take the next step towards its first Ivy League title since 1968.  Princeton took control from that point, yet still trailed by by 5 with only 30 seconds to go.  Then, the fearless freshman Cannady put Princeton on his back, scoring the final 8 points for the Tigers, including 2 clutch 3 pointers in the final 11 seconds of the game.  After Columbia senior guard Maodo Lo scored on a layup with 8.2 seconds to go, Cannady raced the ball up the floor and knocked down a long, high-arcing 3 with only 3.3 seconds to go. Here’s the shot:

Although the momentum seemed to have shifted to Princeton, it was Columbia who exploded to begin the overtime period.  The Lions scored the first 7 points of overtime to take an 83-76 lead with 2:12 to go.  Yet when the going got tough, the Tigers went back to Cannady, who scored an old-fashioned 3-point-play on the ensuing possession.  That bucket was the beginning of a 12-0 run that Princeton closed the game on to win 88-83.

Princeton was able to win despite their leading scorer, junior forward Henry Caruso, only scoring 9 points on 1/10 from the field.  This was mainly due to the performances of Cannady and 6’11” junior forward Pete Miller, who easily eclipsed his season averages of 6.2 points and 5.8 rebounds, scoring 20 points on 9/10 shooting & adding 13 rebounds.  For Columbia, the senior guard duo of Maodo Lo and Grant Mullins each scored 19 points, with Mullins pulling down 12 rebounds.

With the win, Princeton moves 16-5 on the season and 6-1 in the Ivy League.  Columbia falls to 17-8, 6-2 in the Ivy League.  Princeton’s win sets up a critical matchup on Friday night vs 1st place Yale on Friday night at Jadwin Gymnasium.  Columbia will look to rebound Friday night against a struggling Harvard squad.

Hot 2nd Half Shooting Leads Siena Past Iona

By Kevin Sweeney

The Siena Saints shot a blistering 64% from the field in the second half to earn an important comeback win over the Iona Gaels at Hynes Center on Saturday.  The Saints were led by strong performances from Nico Clareth (20 points) and Brett Bisping (19 points, 13 rebounds).  The Gaels led by 12 with 11:27 to go in the game, but then surrendered an 11-0 run by the Saints, including 2 3-point baskets from senior guard Ryan Oliver, which brought the game within one.

Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos credited a team huddle with 12 minutes left for starting the turnaround. “We had like a huddle with 12 minutes to go and it was kind of like, everybody was upset because we knew we were better than that.  Everybody cared, there was nobody mad at each other, we were just upset that we weren’t playing better,” said Patsos.

Oliver scored 13 points for the Saints, including 4-6 from deep, nearly double his season average of 6.8 points per game.  Oliver led a 3 point shooting barrage by the Saints, who shot 11-20 as a team from downtown. Siena seemed in control with a 77-70 lead after a Clareth jumper with just 2:17 to go, but Iona responded, scoring the game’s next 6 points to trim the Siena lead to just 1 with 43.7 seconds to go.  After Clareth went 1-2 from the foul line with 5 seconds left, Iona had one chance to send the game to overtime, needing a 3 pointer.  They put the ball in the capable hands of senior guard A.J English, whose shot from just inside of half-court missed to the right.  The Saints were able to withstand the senior duo of English, who scored 31 points and added 8 assists, and Isaiah Williams, who added 20 points for the Gaels.  Siena was able to overcome 23 turnovers, including 8 by junior wing Lavon Long.

This game will seemingly have an huge impact on the MAAC standings the rest of the way. Siena’s win pulls them within a 1/2 game of the Gaels for second place.  The Iona loss also seemingly locks up the MAAC regular season title for Monmouth, who now holds a 2 game lead on the Gaels with just 5 games to play.  The two teams will meet again on Monday, February 22 in Albany.  Siena’s junior point guard and captain Marquis Wright is expected to be available for the Saints in that contest, despite not having played since December 22 due to a stress fracture in his foot.

Looking forward, Siena will play next on Friday night when they travel to take on Rider.  Iona will play next on Monday in a home tilt with Quinnipiac.