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Player Of The Year Power Rankings: Jalen Brunson is having a season that we’ve never seen before

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When it comes down to the nitty gritty, there are two things that have to happen for a player to be named the National Player of the Year: They either need to be the best player that happens to play for a national title contender, or they need to put up outlandish numbers on a team that finishes, at worst, as a No. 4 seed.

We’ve gone through this in detail before.

In the last 12 years, just four of the players that won the consensus National Player of the Year award — college basketball is stupid in that there are six recognized Player of the Year awards, but there is almost always a majority winner — have been a member of the team that wasn’t a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Doug McDermott in 2014, Trey Burke in 2013, Jimmer Fredette in 2011 and Kevin Durant in 2007. Adam Morrison was just beaten out by J.J. Redick in 2006.

McDermott, Fredette and Morrison were No. 3 seeds in the NCAA tournament in the year they won the award. Burke and Durant were No. 4 seeds. All five players — with the potential exception of Burke — had seasons that were statistical oddities.

That’s where Young is right now.

He’s doing something we’ve never seen before — leading the nation in scoring and assists — because Oklahoma is allowing him to play in a way that we’ve never seen someone play before: At the fourth-fastest pace in the country with the entire offense revolving around what he does with the ball in his hands.

The question that I have at this point is whether or not Oklahoma is going to end up being good enough to put Young into that category.

Personally, I would no longer slot the Sooners in as a national title contender. They don’t defend well enough, and the more that opponents throw bodies at Young, the more difficult it is going to be for his supporting cast to help carry the water. They’ve now lost five of their last seven games, and the two wins were a two-point home win against Baylor and a home win over Kansas that was heavily-aided by intentionally fouling Udoka Azubuike.

As it stands, Oklahoma is currently projected as the top No. 4 seed, according to Bracket Matrix, a site that compiles all of the relevant bracket projections in one place. If they go 4-3 down the stretch, as KenPom projects, it’s hard to imagine them finishing that much lower, and at that point, Young almost has to be the Player of the Year.

But let me paint a picture here for you:

Villanova is currently the No. 1 team in the country both on KenPom and in the AP and Coaches polls. Jalen Brunson, as we detailed last week, is on another planet in terms of how efficient he has been this season given the level of usage and importance he has in Villanova’s offense.

That Villanova offense, it should be noted, is historically good. Their adjusted offensive efficiency metric is higher than any in the KenPom era — Villanova is at 131.0, higher than 2015 Wisconsin’s 129.0 — while their raw points-per-possession numbers are even more of an outlier.

Heading into this season, no team had ever posted more than 1.211 PPP for an entire season. That record was set by both 2015 Wisconsin and 2017 UCLA. This year, Villanova is scoring 1.253 PPP, and while 0.042 PPP doesn’t seem like all that much, I promise you: it is.

Let me put this another way. Jalen Brunson is currently having a season that, in many ways, is as incredible as Young’s, only he is doing it for the best team in the country as the centerpiece of what may be the best offense we’ve seen in college basketball.

Trae Young is still the Player of the Year as of today.

But Jalen Brunson can still win this thing, too.

And it is a lot closer than anyone is willing to admit.

1. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma
2. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova
3. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke
4. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona
5. JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s
6. KEITA BATES-DIOP, Ohio State
7. KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech
8. DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas
9. CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
10. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier

ALSO CONSIDERED: MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State; JEVON CARTER, West Virginia; GARY CLARK, Cincinnati; CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State; CALEB MARTIN, Nevada; YANTE MATEN, Georgia; LUKE MAYE, North Carolina; SHAKE MILTON, SMU; ALLONZO TRIER, Arizona

Bubble Banter: It is a massive night for teams on the bubble

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

YET TO PLAY

SYRACUSE
VIRGINIA TECH
PENN STATE
SETON HALL
PROVIDENCE
ST. BONAVENTURE
TCU
MARQUETTE
LOUISVILLE
FLORIDA
TEXAS
KANSAS STATE
USC

Wichita State’s Landry Shamet out sick against Tulane

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Wichita State guard Landry Shamet will miss the Shockers’ game against Tulane on Wednesday night as he sits out due to illness.

Dressed in street clothes for the AAC conference clash, Shamet has put up All-American-caliber numbers for Wichita State this season as he’s putting up 14.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Without Shamet in the lineup, it gives Samajae Haynes-Jones a potential shot at minutes as he’s fallen out of the rotation over the last several weeks. Wichita State is still heavily favored against Tulane at home on Wednesday but they have an important three-game stretch to close out the conference season. The Shockers have to go on the road to play SMU and UCF before closing out the conference slate with an important home game against Cincinnati.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley III out for the fourth straight game with knee injury

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Duke star freshman big man Marvin Bagley III will miss his fourth consecutive game on Wednesday night as he continues to battle a knee injury.

The 6-foot-11 freshman suffered a mild knee sprain in his right knee in Duke’s game against North Carolina on Feb. 8 as he’s missed the Blue Devils’ last three games — all wins. Bagley will miss Duke’s contest against Louisville on Wednesday as he’s also missed games against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Duke still has three regular-season games after Wednesday before the ACC tournament starts as Bagley still has plenty of time to heal and recover before the postseason begins.

Bagley is putting up 21.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for Duke this season as he’s a consensus top-five pick in most 2018 NBA mock drafts. Without Bagley in the lineup, Duke has continued to play well and win games as they’ve still had big man Wendell Carter to handle things on the interior.

 

Rick Pitino: ‘I had no knowledge’ of the violations that led to banner coming down

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Disgraced ex-Louisville head coach Rick Pitino spoke at a press conference in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon and denied any knowledge of the violations that were committed by Andre McGee, any potential NCAA violations involving the recruitment of Brian Bowen and pushed for Louisville to file an injunction against the NCAA’s decision to remove the 2013 national title banner.

“I take full responsibility for everyone I hire,” Pitino said. “To say I’m disappointed with the NCAA ruling is a gross understatement.”

“I have apologized many times. I feel awful for what happened. I’ve run a clean program all my life. [Sitting where you are], I would agree with you. It looks bad. I’ve coached for 41 years. For 35, as a head coach, nothing has come up.”

Pitino went on to say that he “hired the wrong person” when he made the decision to bring McGee onto his staff. McGee is the one that was responsible for hosting the parties and bringing the strippers and sex workers to them.

“I had no knowledge of the reprehensible things that went on in that dormitory,” Pitino said. “Did a few of [my players] partake in parties they didn’t organize? Yes, they did. That had nothing to do with an extra benefit,” going on to add that attending these parties were not the reason that Louisville won the 2013 national title.

Pitino also denied any involvement in the recruit of Bowen, a five-star prospect that committed to Louisville in a deal that was supposed to get his family paid $100,000 from Adidas.

“In 40 years of coaching, I have never been involved, directly or indirectly, in any effort to pay any money or extend any improper benefit to any recruit or recruit’s family members or representatives,” he said.

Pitino said that he has not had any discussions about coaching again or looking for a job this spring, but he did say that he does “miss it.” He also urged the new University of Louisville administration to fight this decision in court, to file an injunction and do what they can to keep Louisville from having to sacrifice a national title banner.

No other Division I basketball program has ever had a national title vacated.

“The NCAA,” Pitino said, “cannot rewrite history by taking a banner down.

John Wall is heading back to school to get a business degree

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John Wall, the former Kentucky star that helped launch Coach Cal’s one-and-done movement in Lexington, is planning on using a piece of that $207 million contract extension that he signed last July for summer school.

“I’m going back to school this summer to get my business degree,” Wall told the Washington Post this week. “That’s what I’m focusing on. I promised my dad that.”

Wall’s dad died when he was eight years old, and anyone that knows his story knows that it hasn’t been the easiest path for Wall to get from that moment to this moment.

So good for John.

Seriously.

I do believe that it is important to educate yourself, even if that education is something as simple as learning how to run a business on your own.

But I also think that, in the larger context of basketball and, specifically, the one-and-done rule, this is important to note. Wall left school as a 19-year old, made a whole bunch of guaranteed money on his rookie deal, got more guaranteed money on his first contract extension and now is working under a contract that will pay him nine figures with a crooked number in front. Throw in endorsement deals, and by the time Wall hangs up his sneakers, he could end up banking close to half a billion dollars.

That’s more than enough money to be able to pay for three years worth of classes at Kentucky to finish his undergrad degree, get a master’s and become a PhD. For Wall, that financial hit would be like the financial hit you or I take for adding chips and guac at Chipotle. (But not queso. We pretend their queso doesn’t exist.)

My point is this: The time a person has to educate themselves never ends. The time that Wall, or any professional athlete, has to profit off of their ability does, and much sooner than most think.

So the next time you decide to criticize a player for leaving school early to chase their professional dreams or because they’re just looking to get paid or because they don’t care about education, just think about this.