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College Basketballs Breakout Stars

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Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today is the day where we work through a list of the college basketball stars that you’re going to find out about this season.

The so-called ‘Breakout Players’.

To be frank, we don’t really have a criteria for this.

As long as you weren’t one of the two or three best player on your team the previous season, or if you were and you just weren’t anything close to a national name, you qualify.

We’re not really all that strict around these parts.

As always, feel free to let us know where we erred in the comments or @CBTonNBC on twitter.

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CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Donte DiVincenzo (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

DONTE DIVINCENZO, Villanova: DiVincenzo is the biggest reason that I’m not that worried about Villanova trying to replace Josh Hart this season. I don’t know that he turns into the player Hart was this year, but he’s already proven that he had the ability to be an explosive scorer – he reached double-figures 14 times and scored at least 19 points four times coming off the bench – and he has the kind of toughness and defensive intelligence that he fit in with Villanova seamlessly on that end of the floor as well.

The only real concern about having DiVincenzo on this list is how good Villanova will be. They’re quite deep on the perimeter and return Phil Booth from injury. He could end up being a much-improved player with a markedly better season and end up with numbers that don’t look all that dissimilar from this season’s.

CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: For my money, Edwards is one of the most underrated players in the country. A 6-foot-1 lead guard, Edwards has yet to find himself in a starring role on a big stage. He played with De’Aaron Fox and Jarred Vanderbilt on the EYBL circuit. He played with Caleb Swanigan as a freshman and still managed to average 10.3 points in 23 minutes. But he made the cut for Team USA for the U19 World Cup, and he was arguably Purdue’s best player as they earned a silver representing America in the World University Games. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t turn into Purdue’s leading scorer this year.

TYLER COOK, Iowa: Seeing as Cook was Iowa’s second-leading scorer at 12.3 points last season, it might be silly to rank the 6-foot-8 sophomore among the nation’s breakout stars, but I firmly believe that this is the year that Cook goes from being good as a freshman to being a legitimate star in the Big Ten. I don’t know if he ends up being a first-team all-Big Ten player – with Ethan Happ, Michigan State’s front line and another player on this list in Justin Jackson – it will be tough competition for that spot. But, as I said on the Big Ten preview podcast, I think Iowa has a chance to sneak up on people, and my feelings on Cook are a major reason for that.

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IOWA CITY, IA – JANUARY 12: Forward Tyler Cook (Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

V.J. KING, Louisville: Someone is going to have to step up for the Cardinals this season with Donovan Mitchell – and Rick Pitino – gone, and King is my pick to be that guy. At one point in time, King was considered a five-star prospect, although his impact as a freshman was somewhat limited. He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s versatile and, according to reports coming out of Louisville, he’s added some strength and look to be in line for a big year.

RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga: Gonzaga has a number of players that could end up being lumped in on this list – specifically, Killian Tillie is a guy with NBA upside – but Hachimura is the guy I think explodes onto the season. He’s an incredible story, a 6-foot-8 Beninese-Japanese hooper that arrived in the States last season speaking very little English. He’s got all the tools – the size, the 7-foot-2 wingspan, the athleticism, the mobility, the perimeter skill, the three-point range – he just needed a year to get acclimated to a new culture, a new style of play and, frankly, a new language. After a standout showing in the U19 World Cup, Hachimura looks poised to make Gonzaga fans forget that Zach Collins went from sixth-man to one-and-done lottery pick with a quickness.

Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 

JUSTIN JACKSON, Maryland: I think Jackson made the right decision to come back to school, as he has a chance to put up some impressive numbers now that a ball-dominant Melo Trimble is gone. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and three-point range, Jackson is everything you want out of a small-ball four in basketball today. Look for him, and for Kevin Huerter, to have big years for the Terps with a distributor like Anthony Cowan running the show.

TEMPLE GIBBS, Notre Dame: Players develop in the Notre Dame system more than just about any other college program in the country. Gibbs played limited minutes as a freshman, as Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem dominated those perimeter roles, but with Notre Dame needing bodies, the younger brother of a pair of former Big East stars – Ashton and Sterling Gibbs – don’t be surprised to see T.J. grow into a major role for what should be a really good Notre Dame team.

MALIK NEWMAN, Kansas: Have you forgotten about this guy? He was a top ten recruit in the Class of 2015, but had one uninspiring year at Mississippi State — 11.8 points, not good enough to go one-and-done in a pitiful draft class – before transferring out of the program. He wound up at Kansas and, after sitting out last season, looks primed to lead the Jayhawks in scoring as a redshirt sophomore.

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Dewan Huell (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

DEWAN HUELL, Miami: Huell is a former five-star prospect that should take over the role of Miami’s best big man. With Kamari Murphy gone, the Hurricanes are going to need someone to play the role of shot-blocker, rebounder and roll-man in ball-screens actions. Huell should be able to thrive doing all of those things.

CASSIUS WINSTON and JOSH LANGFORD, Michigan State: So this is the one I really had to think twice about. Michigan State is the team I have picked to win the National Championship this season, but it’s their back court – it’s Winston and Langford – that is what gives me doubt about that pick. To keep it short and sweet, this duo was not good enough last season. Langford wasn’t aggressive enough as a scorer while Winston, as creative as he was with the ball, turned the ball over on 26 percent of his possessions.

As the saying goes, the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores, and that’s why I have them on this list. I think that, under the tutelage of Tom Izzo and with the amount of attention this front court is going to get, that they should be somewhere between just fine and thriving this season. And if they are, if they end the season in the conversation for the best back court in the Big Ten, then the Spartans should not only be a favorite to win come Selection Sunday, they should be the favorite.

JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati: This might be jumping the gun a year for Cumberland, as he’s going to have to battle with Jacob Evans, Gary Clark, Kyle Washington and a kid that averaged 23 points at Sacred Heart for shots and touches. But he’s instant offense, someone that averaged 8.6 points in 19 minutes as a freshman.

KAMERON MCGUSTY, Oklahoma: McGusty’s name is one that keeps popping up in conversations with people in and around the Big 12. He averaged 10.9 points as a freshman and, this season, he’ll have the luxury of getting to play alongside Trae Young, a guy who should be a focal point of the defense.

JUWAN MORGAN, Indiana: Someone is going to have to step up and be the guy for Indiana this season, and assuming that Morgan can find a way to remain healthy throughout the year, I think that it will be him. Archie Miller has had a ton of success with tweeners in the past, guys who don’t necessarily fit into a position mold but that have some versatility and know how to play. That’s Morgan.

D’MITRIK TRICE, Wisconsin: Let’s assume that Wisconsin ends up being an NCAA tournament team this season. They’re going to need someone to step up and provide some offense alongside Ethan Happ. I think it will be Trice, the younger brother of former Michigan State guard Travis Trice, a coaches son and a guy that flashed some big-game ability.

KYLE GUY, Virginia: Guy is a former five-star recruit that has never seen a shot he didn’t like. With Virginia hemorrhaging seniors and transfers in the last two years, Tony Bennett is left with a young-but-promising group. I think Guy will be the one that comes out of that in a starring role.

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

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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

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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.