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Player of the Year Power Rankings: What makes Trae Young so good?

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1. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: The scoring and the three-point shooting and the ability to split pick-and-rolls, all that is easy to see when it comes to Trae Young.

What I’m most impressed with, and what I think gives him a real shot to be a starting point guard on a playoff-caliber teams at the next level, is his ability to pass, the way that he can read the floor.

Here are just a few examples of what I mean.

In the first clip, Young reads where the help is coming from – Brady Manek’s defender – and he is able to make the crosscourt pass going against his momentum to find Manek for a three.

In the second, he recognizes that Manek’s defender isn’t leaving him and hits the roll-man for a dunk.

In the next two clips, you’ll see how he is able to creates shots for his teammates simply by drawing the attention of two or three defenders and making the simple pass for a bucket:

UPDATE: After I wrote this, Young went for 22 assists on Tuesday night.

2. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: Duke hasn’t played since their loss to Boston College last weekend, but it’s hard to ignore how dominant Bagley was down the stretch in wins over Texas, Florida and Indiana. He’s averaging 21.3 points and 11.3 boards.

3. TRA HOLDER, Arizona State: Holder is averaging 21.6 points, 5.5 boards and 4.9 assists for the No. 3 team in the AP Poll. He’s also shooting 45 percent from three while shooting six per game. He had 40 in the win over Xavier. He had 29 points and seven assists in the win at Kansas. I’m not totally convinced he can keep this pace up, but as long as he is he deserves where he is ranked on this list.

4. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: So who is Villanova’s Player of the Year this year? On the one hand, Mikal Bridges is Villanova’s second-leading scorer on the team, one of the keys to their switchable defense and shooting 46.6 percent from three, a major part of the reason they hard so hard to guard offensively.

Then on the other hand, Brunson is leading the team in scoring at 18.5 points a night while shooting 62.9 percent from the floor and 53.5 percent from three and posting an assist-to-turnover ratio 4-to-1. He also just so happens to be the engine that makes Villanova run and, frankly, embraces the “point guard ideal” more than any point guard I can ever remember watching at the college level.

Right now, I think Brunson is more deserving of a spot on this list, but I can already tell I’m going to spend the year flip-flopping on this.

5. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona: Like Villanova, I have some issues picking between Ayton and Allonzo Trier for this list. Right now I lean Ayton. He’s averaging 20.3 points and 11.8 boards and doing things like this every night:

6. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: I’m not sure how much there is to say about Bluiett and Xavier after their come-from-behind win over East Tennessee State on Saturday. He made some big shots. He shouldn’t have let the led get to that point. I’ll chalk that one up to finals, holidays and a lull in the college hoops calendar.

7. JEVON CARTER, West Virginia: A lot of people wrote off the Mountaineers after that early season embarrassment at the hands of Texas A&M. Well, Texas A&M happens to be a top seven team in college basketball these days and the Mountaineers have not lost since then. And Carter? He’s a fantasy basketball player’s dream: 19.4 points, 6.0 assists, 5.4 boards and 3.8 steals while shooting 43.3 percent from three on more than six attempts per game.

8. LUKE MAYE, North Carolina: Maye has been college basketball’s most pleasant surprise, having developed into one of the best big men in the sport on a team that desperately needs it’s bigs to be great. He’s the biggest reason why the Tar Heels went from being a potential second-weekend team to a potential ACC title contender this year.

Luke Maye (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

9. BONZIE COLSON, Notre Dame: Colson had 29 points and 11 boards against Indiana. His counterpart, Juwan Morgan, had 34 points and 11 boards. Indiana won in large part because Colson missed a boxout on Zack McRoberts on a free throw with 11 seconds left. Colson is fantastic. He’s not, however, infallible.

10. JORDAN MURPHY, Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have come back to earth in the last five games after a scalding hot start to the season, but Murphy’s play has been phenomenal. He’s posted a double-double in all 12 of Minnesota’s games and is leading the Big Ten in scoring at 20.3 points and the nation in rebounding at 13.0 boards.


Christian Vital going back to UConn for junior season

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Dan Hurley is keeping his roster intact at the top.

Christian Vital, UConn’s second-leading scorer a season ago, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, he announced Monday via social media.

“Great Talk Today Coach! Appreciate The Wisdom You Have Let Me In On!” Vital wrote “I Think It’s Time To Get Back To Winning Ways In Storrs! I’m Going To Need That #1 Back ASAP! WE GOT (UNFINISHED) BUSINESS!”

The 6-foot-2 junior-to-be Vital joins Jalen Adams, who was the Huskies’ top-returning scorer, back in Storrs in Hurley’s first year. Vital averaged 14.9 points on 38.3 percent shooting. Adams previously announced he would return to school without declaring for the draft.

The return of UConn’s top two scorers underscores an even bigger trend under Hurley as the Huskies appear to have avoided any major defections from last year’s roster despite the coaching change.

UConn is coming off a 14-18 season that proved to be the last of coach Kevin Ollie’s six years with the Huskies that included a national championship but also back-to-back losing seasons.

Chris Silva returning to South Carolina for senior season

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South Carolina is getting an first-team all-SEC performer back.

Chris Silva, who led the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding last season, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, the school announced Monday.

“I’m thankful for the experience of going through the draft process,” Silva said in a statement. “I want to thank all of the teams that gave me the opportunity to workout for their organization. I’m excited to announce that I’m returning to South Carolina for my senior season. I can’t wait to get back on the court with my brothers and continue to work on my game.”

The 6-foot-9 Silva, who did not get an NBA draft combine invite, averaged 14.3 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior.  He shot 46.7 percent from the floor.

“Going through the evaluation process was an unbelievable experience for Chris and us,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said in a statement. “He comes back to a place he loves with some knowledge on some of the things that we have to help him improve on in his efforts to one day fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.”

In addition to being South Carolina’s leading scorer, he was the SEC co-defensive player of the year last season after averaging 1.4 blocks per game. His return to Columbia gives the Gamecocks a potential contender for SEC player of the year in 2018-19.

Kansas fires athletic director Sheahon Zenger

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Kansas has fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger, effective immediately, citing a lack of progress in key areas within the athletic department.

“Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership,” Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod wrote in an email to KU faculty and staff. “But athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary.”

Zenger had been in the role of AD since 2011.

The issue, of course, is not the play of the Kansas basketball program. The Jayhawks have won every Big 12 regular season title since 2004, and head coach Bill Self has taken the program to two Final Fours since Zenger was hired.

The football team is still a disaster, but one can’t help but wonder whether or not the real issue at hand here is Kansas’ getting tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.

The Jayhawks were not mentioned in the initial indictments that were handed down, but Kansas was a central figure in the superseding indictments that were dropped after the national title game. The mother of Billy Preston, who did not play for the Jayhawks this season, was alleged to have been funneled $90,000 by Adidas, while Silvio De Sousa’s status is currently in question after the FBI alleged his guardian was paid at least $20,000 to help offset money that the family had already accepted from a rival shoe company.

All of that came in the aftermath of dealing with Cheick Diallo and Cliff Alexander, both of whom had their one season in Lawrence reduced due to off the court issues.

“Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with higher education peers and Jayhawks to hear their perspective on KU,” Girod wrote. “A common thread in these conversations is that, as a major public university with national aspirations, we must continue to strive for excellence in all areas — including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our broader mission as a flagship research university.”

Louisville, ex-AD Tom Jurich reach $4.5M settlement

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville has reached a $4.5 million settlement with former athletic director Tom Jurich, who was fired in the wake of a national federal corruption investigation of college basketball.

Jurich disputed his Oct. 18 firing for cause after nearly 20 years as AD and had considered suing the school. The University of Louisville Athletic Association and Board of Trustees on Friday approved the settlement. Jurich’s employment ended “without cause” as a result of his resignation, also described in the settlement as “retirement.”

He’ll also receive another $2.6 million in accrued employment benefits, along with home game tickets and parking for Louisville football and basketball for 20 years.

An audit of the University of Louisville Foundation released last June showed that Jurich averaged annual compensation of more than $2.76 million from 2010-16, including more than $5.35 million in 2016.

Then-interim president Greg Postel had placed Jurich on paid administrative leave in September after the school’s acknowledgement of its involvement in the investigation. Trustees voted 10-3 to fire Jurich, two days after the ULAA unanimously fired Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The former AD said in a joint statement that he “spent the better part of my career” working with dedicated athletes, coaches and staff to elevate Louisville. He added, “I am proud of what we accomplished, which is well documented.”

Jurich’s legal team had stressed that the ex-AD did nothing illegal and hadn’t violated NCAA rules.

Trustee chairman J. David Grissom said in the statement that “Everyone is pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved. All parties can move forward to begin the next chapter.”

Jurich played a major role in Louisville’s success on the field and how the school handled issues off it. He led the school’s 2014 entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference and oversaw numerous program and facility upgrades, including a $63 million expansion of the football stadium due for completion by fall.

He also hired several successful coaches including Pitino, who guided the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship. Louisville ultimately vacated that title in February as part of NCAA penalties for a sex scandal after an escort’s book allegations that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with players and recruits.

Pitino has filed a $38.7 million federal lawsuit against Louisville, alleging breach of contract.

Georgia Tech’s Okogie to sign with agent

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Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie, one of the big winners from this past weekend’s NBA combine, announced on Monday that he will be signing with an agent and remaining in the NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-4 Okogie finished his sophomore season averaged 18.5 points and shooting 38.4 percent from three. The numbers he posted during the athletic testing at the combine, as well as his 7-foot wingspan, makes Okogie an ideal 3-and-D wing at the NBA level.

“Josh is a tremendous young man and an excellent student-athlete,” said head coach Josh Pastner. “He has set a tremendous example, making the Dean’s List this past semester, and deserves a lot of credit for making himself a much better player over the course of his two years here. We will miss him in our program in many respects, from his performance on the court to the energy he plays with and brought to our team. We fully support his decision to take this next step, and wish him all the best.”