Player of the Year Power Rankings: A new Duke player tops the list, while three preseason all-americans fall out

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The latest edition of the only Player of the Year Power Rankings that you need to be paying attention to.

The player that was No. 1 in last week’s rankings is no longer in our top ten.

That’s what happens when you shoot 26 percent from three over a five-game stretch and struggle as another player on your team goes absolutely bonkers in the most riveting week of regular season college basketball in years.

What may be crazier is that players No. 4 and 5 from last week’s rankings are no longer on this list, either.

Allonzo Trier and Arizona fell off a cliff in the Bahamas, while Miles Bridges has been dealing with an ankle injury that has kept him from making much of an impact.

The result is that a freshman has climbed to the top while being chased down by four upperclassmen and a freshman having a season that we have literally never seen before.

1. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: For the second straight week, we have a Duke player atop our Player of the Year rankings.

Only …

This week’s Duke player is different than last week’s Duke player, and that’s because Marvin Bagley III took over for the Blue Devils twice in the span of three days to lead them to wins against Texas and No. 6 Florida.

On the season, Bagley is now averaging 22.3 points and 11.3 boards through eight games despite the fact that, in one of those games, he was pulled midway through the first half with an eye injury. He has six double-doubles on the season, four 20-and-10 games and two 30-and-15 performances. He went for 34 points and 15 boards to lead Duke back from down 16 in the second half to beat Texas in overtime and, two nights later, had 30 points and 15 boards as he helped Duke erase a 17 point deficit in the final 10 minutes against Florida.

Through the first two-and-a-half weeks of the season, Bagley has proven to be the most dominant big man in college basketball and the best player on the best team in the country. That is a good combination of things to be.

2. JORDAN MURPHY, Minnesota: Minnesota has played seven games this season. Murphy has a double-double in all seven of them. He’s gone for 20-and-10 in four of those games, and if it wasn’t for Saturday’s matchup with No. 25 Alabama going utterly and completely off the rails, then Murphy would have probably ended up getting there again; he had 19 points and 12 boards in the first half, the biggest reason that the Golden Gophers were up by 17 points and cruising when things got weird.

There’s nothing pretty about Murphy’s game. He’s the best junkyard dog in the country. He attacks the glass, he finishes everything around the rim, he’ll out-tough anyone. This is who he’s been forever, but he finally found the motor to back his talent up. The results speak for themselves.

3. BONZIE COLSON, Notre Dame: Colson has continued to quietly go about his business, anchoring an offense that has vaulted the Irish into the top five of the AP Poll. After finishing last season as a second-team all-american, Colson is now averaging up over 20 points. He is the piece that Notre Dame’s offense orbits around. His ability to score one-on-one combined with the fact that the Irish have about 400 players around him that can shoot threes makes them so hard-to-guard. Ask Wichita State. Colson had 25 points and 11 boards as Notre Dame erased a 14-point halftime deficit in the Maui Invitational title game.

4. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: We entered the season expecting Brunson to separate himself as the best point guard in college basketball, and he has done just that. He’s leading the Wildcats in scoring while shooting nearly 48 percent from three as a junior. The one problem with placing Brunson this high at this point in the season is that we don’t really know how good Villanova is just yet. They won the Battle 4 Atlantis, but thanks to the dumpster fire that was Arizona, the best team they beat in the event was Tennessee. We may not get a real sense of just how good the Wildcats are until they square off with Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic.

Chris Chiozza (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

5. CHRIS CHIOZZA, Florida: Florida is this year’s UCLA. They had moderate preseason expectations, and after putting up massive numbers against poor competition early, they proved themselves to be as dangerous and entertaining as anyone in the country when they started to play real teams. Chiozza is Lonzo Ball in this narrative, the engine that makes the Florida offense run.

But like UCLA, I’m not quite ready to fully jump on the bandwagon just yet. We need to see whether or not defense is going to be an issue for a team that doesn’t really have all that much size, and we need to see what happens to them when those threes stop falling at the rate they’re falling. But that’s neither here nor there when it comes to Chiozza, who has gone from an underlooked piece on last year’s to one of the best at his position in the country.

6. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: I’m still not quite sure just how good Oklahoma is going to end up being this season, but I am sure that Young is going to end up being the most productive point guard in college basketball. Through five games, Young is averaging 28.2 points, 8.6 assists, 4.2 boards and 2.2 steals. He’s even blocked three shots. He’s using 36 percent of Oklahoma’s offensive possessions while posting an offensive rating of 127.5, which is an insane level of efficiency on that kind of usage. Here is how Young’s start compares to other players that have had similarly insane statistical seasons:

Since 2004, there has not been a single player with a usage rate of 36.0 and an offensive rating anywhere near the 127.5 that Young is putting up. If he keeps this pace up – he probably won’t, mind you – he’ll be the first player since 1992 to average 28 points and eight assists.

While his raw numbers are not as impressive – Sexton is averaging 25.2 points and 4.4 assists after going for 40 against Minnesota – but his advance statistics are just as insane as Young’s are.

 

7. TRA HOLDER, Arizona State: Arizona State has quite a bit in common with Florida in the sense that their current lofty record and media bandwagon is a direct result of having a roster loaded with talented, thrilling guards and a run of lights-out shooting. Holder personifies that. He’s currently averaging 23.3 points, 6.0 boards and 5.5 assists while shooting 50 percent from three on nearly seven attempts per game. He’s coming off of a 40-point outburst in a blowout win over No. 15 Xavier, and he’s one of two Sun Devils averaging better than 19.5 points and five assists. We’ll see how long it lasts, but for now, Holder deserves all the attention he’s getting.

8. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: Bluiett and Xavier had a dud last weekend, getting smoked by an Arizona State team that couldn’t miss. Bluiett did not play great in that game, but he is still having a fantastic start to the season, averaging 21.3 points and 3.3 assists while still shooting better than 50 percent from three.

9. MANU LECOMTE, Baylor: Lecomte was a decoy in Baylor’s win over Creighton in the title game of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. But he’s still be the best player for a Baylor team that looks like they will once again be a top 20 program.

10. COLLIN SEXTON, Alabama: See above.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.