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College Basketballs Breakout Stars

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Every year, before the season starts, we put together a list of players with a chance to take a major step forward during the season.

Sometimes we nail our picks because they’re too obvious to avoid – think Grayson Allen, Ben Bentil and Dillon Brooks.

Sometimes, we actually look savvy, like when we said Patrick McCaw would be the best player at UNLV. 

And then sometimes, we ruin all our credibility by saying Malik Pope could play his way into being a lottery pick.

It’s all a guessing game, really, and we’ll call our guesses quasi-educated. 

At any rate, here are the 16 players that we think will be 2016-17’s Breakout Stars.

CONTENDER SERIES: Duke | Oregon |Kentucky | Kansas | Villanova

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Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel, Louisville

Mitchell was one of my favorite players in the Class of 2015, and that did not change during the course of the 2015-16 season. He saw limited minutes early in the year, but by the end of ACC play, he was showing flashes of just how good he can be. Mitchell is a perfect fit for the style that Rick Pitino’s teams play. He’s a strong, athletic combo-guard that is a nightmate defensively and can play both on and off the ball offensively. He needs to get more consistent shooting the ball from the perimeter, but if he does, don’t be shocked to see Mitchell play his way into the mix as a first-team all-ACC candidate.

And, believe it or not, Adel may actually be the better of the two. His freshman season was derailed by injuries, but Adel has been one of the best players in Louisville practices since he arrived on campus. One of the reasons that Pitino brought in a pair of grad transfers for the 2015-16 season was that he knew how good that freshman class would be in time while also being aware of the fact that they needed a year of seasoning at the college level. Adel and Mitchell got that last season. It will pay dividends this year.

Jalen Adams, UConn

Kevin Ollie brought recruited Jalen Adams with the intention of turning over the reins of the program to him eventually. Adams, who hails from the same area of Boston that Shabazz Napier grew up, appears ready to take over that role this year. UConn has an impressive amount of talent on their roster this season, but if the Huskies are going to have a chance to live up to the expectations of that fan base, they are going to need Adams to come-of-age this season. He had an up-and-down freshman year, but there were some performances – 19 points at Cincinnati, 22 points vs. the Bearcats in the AAC tournament, 11 points and eight assists vs. Temple – that showed just how good he can be.

O.G. Anunoby, Indiana

Seeing Anunoby’s name on a list like this shouldn’t shock you, not with the way that he played at the end of last season or with the amount of NBA Draft hype that he has entering this season. But here’s the thing about Anunoby: Part of his appeal as a pro is that he’s an ideal role player. Players that have the size to guard a four, the quickness to guard a one, the ability to knock down threes and attack close outs, and the willingness to accept a role are so valuable. That may as well be a scouting report on Anunoby. So while he projects as a very good pro and should prove that this season, it may not be a situation where that shows up in the box score every night.

LEAGUE PREVIEWS: Big 12 | ACC | Pac-12 | Big Ten | SECMid-Majors

DES MOINES, IA - MARCH 17: OG Anunoby #3 of the Indiana Hoosiers shoots a reverse dunk over Chuck Ester #0 of the Chattanooga Mocs in the second half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 17, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
OG Anunoby (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Carlton Bragg, Kansas

Bragg is probably the fifth-most valuable starter on the Jayhawk roster. He’s also a good bet to lead the Jayhawks in scoring this season. The way that the Kansas offense works is that the ball gets funnelled to the guy that can score out of the post. That was Perry Ellis the last three seasons, and Ellis led the Jayhawks in scoring in two of those three years. Bragg may not be as good as Ellis just yet, but he is an adequate replacement given how skilled he is offensively. I wouldn’t be shocked if he averaged 15 points this season.

Edmond Sumner, Xavier

Yes, Sumner was a star last season. Yes, he’s already on the radar of teams drafting in the first round. Yes, he was an all-Big East player as a freshman. But Sumner is no where near a national name at this point, and, quite frankly, he is no where near being a finished product. He’s a guy that’s still learning about to play at his size (6-foot-6) and athleticism thanks to a late growth spurt. Sumner still has plenty of room to get better, and that should be scary.

Tyler Lydon, Syracuse

Lydon is the player that Jim Boeheim has been dreaming about for years. He’s a long, athletic 6-foot-9 shot-blocker that can also step out and knock down threes. I’m not sure that it’s possible to find a player that better fits the way that he plays than Lydon. One interesting thing to watch here: How much will Lydon be able to produce on a team that doesn’t have great point guard play? He’s a shot-maker. He’s not a shot-creator.

Ja’Quan Newton, Miami

Jim Larrañaga’s offense is at its best when it is built around a point guard who thrives in ball-screen actions. It was Shane Larkin in 2013, it was Angel Rodriguez last season and it will be Ja’Quan Newton this year. With Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan gone, Newton will inherit the role of Miami’s go-to guy, and he has the talent to be an all-ACC player.

POSITION RANKS: Lead Guards | Off Guards | Wings | Big Men

Miami guard Ja'Quan Newton (0) prepares to shoot against Charlotte during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Miami guard Ja’Quan Newton (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Chimezie Metu, USC

As a freshman, Metu averaged 6.4 points, 3.5 boards and 1.6 blocks in just over 18 minutes last season, and this year, playing on a team that lost starting big man Nikola Jovanovic, he’ll be asked to play a much bigger role. Metu has the athleticism that Andy Enfield loves in his centers, and he’s also added some weight and a perimeter jumper this offseason.

London Perrantes, Virginia

Everyone knows who London Perrantes is at this point. He’s won 89 games in his college basketball career. His arrival at UVA coincided with the Wahoos becoming one of the ACC’s best basketball programs. But there’s never been a point in time where he was going to be asked to carry as much of the load offensively as he’ll be asked to carry this season. I think we’re going to see a different Perrantes than we’ve become accustomed to with Malcolm Brogdon gone.

Markus McDuffie, Wichita State

No Fred VanVleet. No Ron Baker. It’s a new era in Wichita, and it will be McDuffie that is asked to usher it in. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-7 wing that showed impressive flashes as a freshman on a team that was dominated by upper-classmen. If the Shockers are to repeat as MVC champs, it will be because McDuffie realized his potential.

Isaac Haas, Purdue

Haas averaged 9.8 points in just over 14 minutes this past season, but his playing time was limited because the Boilermakers had a guy on the roster by the name of A.J. Hammons. Haas should be able to see upwards of 25-30 minutes this season, but the major question mark with him is endurance. He’s a 7-foot-2, 300-pound kid that looks like he’s chiseled out of stone. It’s hard work moving that body up and down the floor.

Shake Milton, SMU

Milton is a guy that is all over the radar of NBA scouts because he’s a 6-foot-5 point guard with a 6-foot-11 wingspan that shot 42.6 percent from three. He also averaged 10.5 points and 2.7 assists playing behind Nic Moore. If he can take over the lead guard role in SMU’s offense, he could play his way into being a first round pick.

D.J. Hogg, Texas A&M

Someone is going to have to do the scoring for the Aggies this season, and it might as well be Hogg, who, at 6-foot-8, is one of the best shooters in the SEC. His presence will be important for a team that is trying to create space for the massive Tyler Davis in the paint.

Deonte Burton, Iowa State

I’m torn on Burton. On the one hand, his ability to play a Draymond Green-esque role for the Cyclones will be critical to their ability to survive playing small-ball. He has the talent and the physical tools to do so. But he has yet to prove that he can be consistent at the Big 12 level. Let’s put it like this: If Iowa State turns out to be a top 25 team this season it will be because Burton proved he deserved to be on this list.

Markus Derrickson, Georgetown

The Hoyas have a couple of candidates for this list on their roster – some due to the fact they’ve underperformed for two seasons – but we’re going with Derrickson. He’s had a terrific summer and has the size and shooting ability that makes him a perfect fit in the offense that JT3 runs.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 09: Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans dunks against the UCLA Bruins during a first-round game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 9, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. USC won 95-71. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Chimezie Metu (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.