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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

 

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.