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Coach of the Year Power Rankings: Miller, Drew, Wright and Few lead the way

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1. Sean Miller, Arizona: Let’s think about this for a second. As of today, Sean Miller has Arizona sitting in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, a league that counts three top ten teams as members, despite the fact that there are very few people that would think that the Wildcats are the best team in the conference (that would be Oregon) or the most dangerous team in the conference (hello, UCLA). And he’s doing that despite the fact that his best player, Allonzo Trier, missed the first 19 games of the season, his star recruit, Terrence Ferguson, went pro in Australia and last year’s star recruit, Ray Smith, tore his ACL for the third time. Should I mention that the Wildcats have as many question marks at the point guard spot as any elite team in the country, or that they rely heavily on a pair of freshmen – Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins – who can be labeled somewhere between inconsistent and erratic?

2. Scott Drew, Baylor: The Scott Drew Coach of the Year Campaign has hit a bit of a snag in the last three weeks, as the Bears have dropped two games off the pace in the Big 12 after losing three of their last five games, but that really shouldn’t put too much of a damper on what Drew has done with this group this season. Baylor is still a No. 1 seed in spite of their recent slump, and a win over Kansas on Saturday puts them right back into the Big 12 title race. Drew is doing all of this with a team of juniors and seniors, none of whom were considered program-changing talents when they got to school. Do people still think Scott Drew can’t coach?

3. Jay Wright, Villanova: Can the reigning national champs have a coach in the running for Coach of the Year? Yes, they can, when you consider that Villanova lost arguably the two most valuable players from last year’s team, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, and seem likely to end up playing this season without Phil Booth, who scored 20 points in the national title game. Should I mention that Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in Saturday’s bracket reveal despite the fact that they start either Darryl Reynolds or Eric Paschall at center?

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4. Mark Few, Gonzaga: I don’t care how good you are supposed to be or what the caliber is of the league that you play in, if you make it through an entire season undefeated, you belong in the conversation for National Coach of the Year. If you do it with a team that lost Domas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, where your top five scorers played a total of six games your team last season, you deserve to be near the top of that list.

5. Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech: No one expected Georgia Tech to do much of anything this season. Avoiding the ACC basement probably would have been considered a successful season. Instead, the Yellow Jackets are 15-10 overall and 6-6 in the ACC with wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame, and if the NCAA tournament started to day, they would be in it.

6. Bill Self, Kansas: Self has the Jayhawks primed to win their 13th straight Big 12 title despite everything his team has gone through this season. They Udoka Azubuike for the season with a wrist injury, meaning that Landen Lucas is the only effective big man on their roster. Carlton Bragg Jr. has been a bust in between his two suspensions. The Jayhawks seem morally opposed to playing defense despite, which has a lot to do with the fact that the two mid-major recruits starting in their back court are the only two lead guards on the roster. This wouldn’t rank as one of Self’s best coaching performances – he has had a lot of those – but that shouldn’t diminish what he’s done with this team.

MORGANTOWN, WV - JANUARY 24:  Head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts to a call in the second half during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at WVU Coliseum on January 24, 2017 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Bob Huggins (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

7. Bob Huggins, West Virginia: Huggins lost his leading scorer, his second-leading scorer and leading rebounder and the point-man in his press in the offseason and … the Mountaineers got better? Press Virginia has been more effective this season than in any season past, and if they hadn’t choked away a lead at Kansas on Monday night, he might be getting more attention for it.

8. Chris Collins, Northwestern: Collins is on the verge of doing something that no one has done in the history of college basketball: Get Northwestern into the NCAA tournament.

9. Mike White, Florida: Who had Florida as a team that could contend with Kentucky for the SEC title this season? Anyone? Bueller? That’s exactly where Mike White has this group in his second season at the helm.

10. Mike Brey, Notre Dame: Brey isn’t quite at the level of Bo Ryan and Tony Bennett just yet, but he’s quickly reaching the point where, when predicting how good the Irish will be, it’s less important to look at who the team lost than it is to simply recognize the fact that Brey is on the sideline. Two years ago, he lost Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton and made it back to the Elite 8. Last offseason, Demetrius Jackson left and Zach Auguste graduated, and Notre Dame is right in the thick of the ACC title hunt.

John Calipari lobbies for change in one-and-some rule to help athletes

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari is hoping the one-and-done rule changes so that athletes have more rights.

In a revealing interview with Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Calipari went into great detail about his thoughts behind a rule that many believe he has exploited greatly to his benefit over the last 10 years. Even though the Wildcats and Calipari have figured out the one-and-done rule to their advantage, the Hall of Fame coach still wants the rule to be abolished.

“Kids should be able to go (to the NBA) out of high school. That’s not our deal. That’s between the NBA and the Players Association,” Calipari said Friday. “Don’t put restrictions on kids.”

Calipari told Engel that he met with the NBPA last week in the hopes of the organization creating a combine for worthy high school juniors with pro potential. Calipari also wants agents more involved with high school kids.

“The players and the families need to know – here are the ones who should be thinking about the NBA, and here are the ones who should not,” Calipari said. “That’s why you need a combine.”

“If they want to go out of high school, go. If they want to go to college and then leave, let them leave when they want to leave. Why would we force a kid to stay? ‘Well – it’s good for the game?’ It’s about these kids and their families. Because let me tell you, if we (abolish one-and-done), the kids that do come to college will stay for two to three years.”

Calipari also has plenty of thoughts on the NBA G-League and how the league could potentially help young athletes with an education fund if they choose to turn pro directly out of high school. Regardless of what happens with the NBPA and the one-and-done rule, Calipari also said that his program would be fine — regardless of the rules.

Given that Calipari has operated on a different recruiting plane than everyone else in college basketball (with the exception of a few other bluebloods like Duke and Kansas) the last several years, it’s always notable when he gives his thoughts on the overall landscape of basketball.

But is Calipari actually lobbying for this? Or is this yet another way for Calipari to mold quotes into a recruiting pitch for elite players? Ultimately, it’s up to the NBPA to decide how the rules will be for future pros.

Report: NCAA allows Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale to compete on Dancing with the Stars

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After a memorable March Madness run that included two game-winning jumpers in the Final Four and an eventual national title, Notre Dame junior guard Arike Ogunbowale became a breakout national star.

Ogunbowale already appeared on Ellen while meeting her basketball idol, Kobe Bryant. Now, Ogunbowale will get the rare opportunity to appear on Dancing with the Stars — which the NCAA will allow even though Ogunbowale is still a rising senior who is scheduled to return to school next season.

Dancing with the Stars compensates its contestants and also has a prize for the winner. Under NCAA Bylaw 12.4.1, college athletes cannot be compensated based on their athletic abilities.

But the NCAA is arguing that Ogunbowale’s appearance on the show is “unrelated to her basketball abilities,” according to a statement they released regarding the decision. According to a report from Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post, the NCAA is also limiting Ogunbowale’s visibility for the show’s promotional tools.

From the Washington Post report:

The NCAA has placed restrictions on Ogunbowale that limit her involvement with the show and her potential to build her brand. She is not allowed to appear in promotional materials for the show, including commercials, according to the NCAA’s statement. She didn’t join other contestants during a group appearance on “Good Morning America” last week. Show handicappers have already wondered whether the NCAA’s limits will hurt her chances.

And the NCAA could turn down future requests by arguing that Ogunbowale is not endorsing “Dancing with the Stars” by appearing on the program, but instead is participating in a “personal growth experience” by learning how to ballroom dance, said Barbara Osborne, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.

This is a slippery slope for the NCAA to take with this. Ogunbowale is, quite clearly, a famous basketball player. She’s on Dancing with the Stars because of her basketball abilities. The NCAA arguing anything else is just silly and embarrassing. The NCAA is also trying its best to uphold its argument about amateurism in the only way they know how.

But could this also could be a sign that the NCAA is perhaps open to the potential of allowing athletes to profit off of themselves in the future? The NCAA is currently handling a number of different court cases regarding amateurism, so it’s hard to say where all of this might go until the legal process starts to clear up.

Either way, this should be a fun experience for Ogunbowale while providing great national exposure for herself and women’s basketball. Ogunbowale might not be technically allowed to build her own brand during the show, but she’ll be gaining tons of new exposure for her basketball future — regardless of what the NCAA says in a statement.

Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab diagnosed with leukemia

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Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab announced on Saturday that he’s been battling leukemia lymphoma.

The 6-foot-11 big man from Egypt has been receiving medical treatment since the beginning of April as he took to Twitter to announce his current status.

Sameh Azab played in 15 games this season for the Tigers as he saw action for 84 total minutes. The reserve big man was a late addition in former head coach Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at Memphis as he didn’t quality to play during his first season.

“Karim has my full support and the support of our whole team,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said in a statement earlier this month. “While we appreciate the support of the Tiger family in this matter, we would also like to protect the privacy of Karim and his family.”

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum declares for 2018 NBA Draft without an agent

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South Dakota State big man Mike Daum will enter the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 redshirt junior has been a mid-major draft darling the past few seasons as Daum was one of the most productive players in the country last season. Putting up 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Daum shot 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range during the season.

With his size and unique floor-spacing ability, Daum is going to be an interesting player to track during the NBA draft process. Teams are always looking for big men who can space the floor, and if Daum shoots well in workouts, he could wind up staying in the draft.

If Daum returns to South Dakota State, then he once again makes them a major NCAA tournament contender after the Jackrabbits won the Summit League last season.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.