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Player of the Year Power Rankings: Marvin Bagley III holds his lead, Devonte’ Graham climbs

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It’s funny the way that the Player of the Year race plays out.

Prior to the start of the season, Miles Bridges seemed like a lock to be the Preseason National Player of the Year. You combine how good he was last season with how good he could be this season and the fact that Michigan State was a preseason top three team in the country, and it was a relatively easy pick to make.

Fast forward, and a little more than three weeks into the season, Bridges isn’t even one of the names that I’m considering for National Player of the Year.

Now to be fair, much of that has to do with the fact that he dealt with an ankle injury that limited him some what, and the improvement of the likes of Josh Langford and Cassius Winston has made it easier for Bridges to play the background while he gets back to 100 percent.

But it’s still funny how that works.

In fact, four of our five Preseason First-Team All-Americans are out of the top ten of these Player of the Year Power Rankings. None of them are in the top five, which essentially means that we would have whiffed on the First-Team All-Americans should the season end to day. Now, in our defense, Michael Porter Jr. had surgery and Bridges got hurt while Allonzo Trier and Grayson Allen are still in the mix and Devonte’ Graham could arguably be ranked higher.

So it might all even out in the end.

But as of today, this list still has some names that may not necessarily seem like they’re in the right spot.

1. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: Bagley’s place atop these Power Rankings likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so instead of once against talking about the numbers he’s putting up (22.0 points, 11.2 boards) or the performances that he’s had in big games, I want to note something interesting I found about Duke’s offense: Have they turned into one of those teams whose best offense is a missed shot or a bucket in transition?

Duke is in the 11th percentile nationally points-per-possession on spot-up jumpers. Despite having Bagley and Wendell Carter on the roster, they are only in the 41st percentile nationally in PPP on post-ups; Bagley scores a respectable 1.0 PPP on post-ups, while Carter, who has had more post touches, according to Synergy, than Bagley this season, is at 0.732 PPP.

Despite that, Duke is still in the 80th percentile in half court offense and, according to KenPom, a top five offense in raw efficiency. They also lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and are checking in at the 96th percentile in transition offense, which accounts for a full 20 percent of their possessions.

This is not a criticism. Duke is wearing down teams and winning games. It’s working.

But it’s also weird seeing Duke turn into North Carolina.

2. JORDAN MURPHY, Minnesota: We’re now nine games into the season and Jordan Murphy has nine double-doubles. Murphy is the anchor of the Golden Gophers, and the biggest reason that they look like they might end up being the second-best team in the Big Ten this season.

3. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: There are some people out there that will tell you that Villanova’s best player is Mikal Bridges, and honestly, the argument for him is pretty strong. Considering the efficiency that he is playing with offensively and the versatility and playmaking that he provides defensively, it’s a compelling case.

But Brunson is still the guy. Let’s forget the intangibles, the fact that he’s the best pure point guard and leader in college basketball this year and most years, for a second and instead just focus on what he’s actually doing on the floor. Brunson leads the nation in offensive rating for players that use more than 20 percent of their team’s possessions, and he’s posting those kind of efficiency numbers despite playing the position where he has the ball in his hands the most. He’s shooting 71.7 percent from two, 51.7 percent from three and 84.6 percent from the free throw line. Most people want those shooting splits to add up to 180; Brunson checks in at 208. He has nine turnovers in 238 minutes.

Should I mention he’s averaging 17.9 points and 4.5 assists?

We’ll get a real sense for just how good Brunson, Bridges and Villanova truly is on Tuesday night when they take on Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic.

Jalen Brunson (Elsa/Getty Images)

4. DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas: After going for 35 points and five assists in back-to-back games, Graham is one of three players in college basketball this season to average at least 18 points and eight assists. Trae Young is one of them. Marshall’s Jon Elmore – who is putting up 24.9 points and 8.4 assists per game – is the other. The difference? Graham is doing it for the No. 2 team in the country who just so happens to have seven scholarship players and uses a 6-foot-4 walk-on as their third big man.

5. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: Last week, we showed you just how much of an outlier season Trae Young is having. He’s doing things that have never been done, at least not in the 26 years on Basketball Reference’s database or the 14 years in KenPom’s database. To provide a quick update, Young’s usage rate is up to 37 percent, although his efficiency took a little bit of a dip, down to 125.9. Still: no one has ever come close to that. Ever.

6. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: Bluiett snapped out of a mini-slump by pumping in 28 points as the Musketeers beat archrival Cincinnati in the Crosstown Shootout. I’ll let Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News handle the explanation for this one.

7. TRA HOLDER, Arizona State: The Sun Devils have only played once since Holder’s 40-point outburst in the win over Xavier, but he’s still averaging better than 22 points, six boards and five assists, although his three-point shooting percentage dropped from 50 percent to 48.8 percent. Almost had to cut him from the rankings for that.

8. BONZIE COLSON, Notre Dame: Bonzie struggled offensively in the last two games – partly because he had to deal with Jaren Jackson, partly because he was ejected for swinging an elbow against St. Francis – but I do think it’s notable that he posted five steals and four blocks in that game. Colson has become much more of a playmaker on that end of the floor this season.

Desi Rodriguez (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

9. DESI RODRIGUEZ, Seton Hall: After averaging 26.5 points in wins over Texas Tech and at Louisville, the latter of which included a game-winning bucket, Rodriguez is now averaging an even 20 points for a top 20 team on which he wasn’t even supposed to be one of the two best players entering the season. His rise into matchup-nightmare and go-to scorer for the Pirates has kept them from a slow start to the season.

10. JEVON CARTER, West Virginia: We all kind of wrote off West Virginia after their awful start to the season, but maybe we should start paying attention to the Mountaineers again? They haven’t lost since that blowout loss to Texas A&M in Germany, and Carter has turned into a caricature of himself, averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 assists, 4.8 boards and an absurd 4.5 steals. Like Villanova, we’ll get a better sense of where WVU stands nationally as they take on Virginia Tuesday night.

ALSO CONSIDERED: GRAYSON ALLEN, Duke; DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona; MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech; D.J. HOGG, Texas A&M; DAKOTA MATHIAS, Purdue; YANTE MATEN, Georgia; LUKE MAYE, North Carolina; SHAKE MILTON, SMU; KHYRI THOMAS, Creighton; ALLONZO TRIER, Arizona

 

Rutgers lands upset win over No. 15 Seton Hall

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Corey Sanders scored 22 points and Deshawn Freeman added 12 points and 16 boards as Rutgers landed the biggest win of the Steve Pikiell era to date, erasing a 13-point deficit to knock off in-state rival No. 15 Seton Hall, 71-65.

The Scarlet Knights finished the game on a 17-2 run over the final six minutes of the game, answering a 9-0 Seton Hall run that put the Pirates up 63-54. Rutgers did not lead until a free throw from Sanders with 2:22 left put them up 64-63.

The win was the first for Rutgers over Seton Hall in four tries, roughly the time frame that the Pirates have been relevant nationally, and it is precisely what Pikiell needed to continue building a program in Piscataway. Rutgers is now 10-3 on the season, but their three losses have all come to teams are in – or getting votes in – the top 25: Florida State, at Minnesota and Michigan State. As the saying goes, it isn’t really a rivalry until both teams have a chance to win the game, and this win proves just that.

But that’s not the only reason to be bullish on this program. Rutgers is also starting to recruit a little bit better. They sold out the RAC for this game.

He still has a long way to go, and building something out of nothing in the Big Ten is never going to be simple, but Pikiell has this thing going in the right direction.

As far as the Pirates are concerned, there is some reason to be worried here. A team with this kind of veteran presence should not be getting rattled and blowing leads down the stretch. Khadeen Carrington, who is making the adjustment to playing the point this season, was 4-for-17 from the floor with five turnovers, and he struggled to make plays when Seton Hall needed them in the final minutes. Angel Delgado finished just 3-for-9 from the floor.

I’m not sure this is the kind of situation where you need to be worried about their long-term prospects, but it is something to monitor.

No. 17 Purdue takes down Butler in Crossroads Classic

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The annual Crossroads Classic opened with No. 17 Purdue running past Butler for a solid 82-67 win on Saturday afternoon. The Boilermakers continued a recent strong stretch of play with another road or neutral win against a power-conference opponent.

Here are three takeaways from this one.

1. Purdue is the second best team in the Big Ten (and the gap might be growing).

The Big Ten is a mess so far. Only Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State are 2-0 in league play. The Buckeyes aren’t expected to maintain their surprising hot start. Obviously, others in the Big Ten like Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern could all be dangerous. But those four teams have also been underwhelming and have a lot of glaring holes.

For the current moment, Purdue (11-2) clearly looks like the second best team in the Big Ten. And the gap seems to be getting wider during a seven-game winning streak. Outside of a weird two-game stretch at the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Boilermakers have put together a solid stretch that now includes road or neutral wins over Arizona, Maryland and Butler in the last few weeks.

Purdue has experience, unique size with 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas and 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms, and capable perimeter shooters who can space the floor. The Boilermakers have good defenders at multiple positions. They outplayed Butler in nearly every facet of the game during a solid win on Saturday. Carsen Edwards (18 points) has matured as a solid leading scorer and plenty of players around him are double-figure scorers.

Butler isn’t likely to be a second-weekend NCAA tournament team, but they’re a solid postseason-caliber group that the Boilermakers made look silly for much of the game. Purdue knows itself. The Boilermakers know their personnel and they’re a veteran group. There’s a lot to like about Purdue at this point in the season.

2. Butler struggles mightily against length

Butler’s offense couldn’t get much of anything going on Saturday. The Bulldogs were ice-cold from the perimeter (7-for-22 from three-point range) and they didn’t fare much better when they tried to go inside (26-for-69).

The Bulldogs haven’t been a very good perimeter team in general this season — entering Saturday’s game with only 31 percent three-point shooting — and those problems were very apparent against Purdue. Without an ability to space the floor, attackers like Kelan Martin (15 points) and Kamar Baldwin (13 points) struggled to get anything going with the drive as the Boilermakers had a great defensive game plan to limit Butler’s looks. Senior big man Tyler Wideman (seven points) also had a hard time finishing over the length of players like Haas and Haarms at the rim.

Paul Jorgenson (15 points) had a big second half and he has been solid at times this season as a floor-spacing threat. The Bulldogs need more help for him on the outside. Sean McDermott has been labeled as a perimeter specialist, but he’s also returning from a recent injury and the Bulldogs are slowly bringing him back.

Butler’s offense is at its best when they can rely on Martin and Baldwin to attack. That wasn’t even close to the case on Saturday as both struggled to get going. It meant Butler didn’t stand much of a chance.

3. Purdue has some late-game turnover issues

Purdue has been generally solid with closing out games this season but they weren’t able to do so against Butler on Saturday.

It looked like the Boilermakers were going to cruise to an easy win before turnovers became an issue and Butler crept back in this one. While Purdue maintained most of its defensive intensity, its offense took a foot off the gas as Butler’s aggressiveness defending on the perimeter led to 18 Boilermaker turnovers.

Purdue is great at closing out games from the free-throw line if they need to. But their ball handlers need to limit turnovers and continue to run good offense if they build up a lead.

Purdue had trouble at times defending late leads last season. They’re now 10-0 this season when they have a halftime lead. Could this be an issue that comes back once again? It doesn’t seem likely but the second half on Saturday brought some ugly flashbacks.

VIDEO: Miami’s Lonnie Walker skies for ridiculous putback dunk

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Miami freshman guard Lonnie Walker timed this one perfectly.

The 6-foot-4 McDonald’s All-American came from across the floor to hammer home a left-handed putback on Saturday as Walker showed why many consider him to be a potential one-and-done prospect.

After a career-high 26 points in a win over Boston on Tuesday, it appears that Walker might be gaining confidence as ACC season approaches.

VIDEO: Memphis’ Jimario Rivers catches lob on Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud

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Memphis senior forward Jimario Rivers caught a tough one-handed alley-oop on Saturday as Louisville senior big man Anas Mahmoud found himself on the receiving end.

This is one of the better lobs we’ve seen this season. Rivers got way up there for this one.

Northern Colorado basketball placed on probation by NCAA

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA placed the University of Northern Colorado men’s basketball program on three years’ probation among other sanctions Friday after finding academic fraud and recruiting violations by ex-coach B.J. Hill and some of his assistants.

The violations by Hill and eight members of his staff over a four-year span included completing coursework for prospects, paying for classes prospects needed to become academically eligible and arranging off-campus practice sessions with an academically ineligible student-athlete.

In addition to probation, penalties in the case include a one-year postseason ban (already served) for the men’s basketball team; a financial penalty; scholarship and recruiting restrictions; and a vacation of records.

Seven coaches received “show cause” orders, including a six-year penalty for the head coach, five years for two assistant coaches, four years for another assistant coach and three years for two assistant coaches and the graduate assistant. During the show cause periods, if an NCAA school hires the coach, that school must demonstrate why restrictions on the coach’s athletically related duties should not apply.

The NCAA concurred with the university’s self-imposed one-year postseason ban last season, a reduction of three scholarships and recruiting restrictions. Also, the school must return all proceeds from its 2011 NCAA Tournament appearance.

The rules violations spanned four years under Hill, a first-time head coach who personally completed coursework for a prospect and enlisted an athletic director to do the same, the NCAA found.

The NCAA said Hill recruited ineligible players, then broke rules to get them on the court.

Hill was fired last year when the NCAA began looking into the violations. He had gone 86-98 with two postseason appearances in six seasons after taking over the program in 2010 following a stint as an assistant in Greeley to current Colorado coach Tad Boyle.

The NCAA commended the university for its “exemplary cooperation” in the case and said Hill “admitted that he failed in his responsibilities to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff.”

The panel said two assistant coaches violated ethical conduct rules for lying to investigators and a third failed to cooperate with the probe.