BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 16: Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats drives against Elijah Long #55 of the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers in the first half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 16, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Player Of The Year Power Rankings: What does Jalen Brunson have to do to catch Trae Young?

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1. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma
2. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova

One of the assumptions that has been made in regards to the Player of the Year race is that there is no race.

Trae Young has had this thing done and dusted since he decided to start leading the nation in both scoring and assists.

And as of today, he is still in the lead. The absurd numbers that he is putting up combined with the incredible performances that he has produced in big games and big moments makes it hard to truly craft an argument that anyone is in the same realm as Young right now.

Which is why I’m going to dedicate today’s Power Rankings to a hypothetical: What does Jalen Brunson, who is my clear-cut No. 2 today, have to do in order to have a real chance at winning the National Player of the Year award.

The big thing that Brunson has to do is to hope that Young continues to come back to earth. The numbers that he has put up this season are absolutely mind-blowing, and if he continues to score and assist at this rate while Oklahoma continues to keep on winning games, it’s hard to imagine that anyone — Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton included — would come close to being able to usurp him.

But there are signs that are pointing to Young slowing down as defenses begin to key entirely on him. Oklahoma has lost three of their last four games and four of their last seven — to be fair, each of those losses came on the road — while Young’s super-human levels of efficiency at his sky-high usage rate have started to look more in line with what we would expect to see. For example: His offensive rating, according to KenPom, is ten points lower in league play than it is over the entire season, and you don’t even need to see the advanced metrics to know that’s the case.

And Brunson?

What he’s doing on the offensive end, the efficiency that he is playing with, is similarly inhuman. It’s literally never been done before, not even close:

I think there may be a more important point to make here as well: Villanova is much better than Oklahoma.

I’d make the argument that Villanova is the best team in college basketball, and part of the reason for that is that Brunson makes full use of the weapons that are around him. Yes, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman and Phil Booth are better than Brady Manek, Christian James and Kristian Doolittle, but being on a team that is led by a point guard that is as good, as smart and as unselfish as Brunson has unquestionably made each of them better.

So let’s take a look into the future.

Young has 10 league games remaining, and five of them are on the road. KenPom currently has them projected to win seven of those ten games, but two of those wins are by one points: West Virginia at home and Baylor on the road. I would personally set the over/under for Oklahoma regular season wins at six, which would put them at 11-7 in the Big 12, which will likely put them in second or third place in the league and somewhere in the 15-20 range in the AP polls. Let’s say Young has as many Alabama games (17 points, eight assists, five turnovers, 6-for-17 shooting, vanishing act down the stretch) as he does TCU games (43 points, 11 boards, seven assists, dominant down the stretch) the rest of the way.

Would that be too much for Brunson to overcome if he keeps up with his production and Villanova wins the Big East outright? As it currently stands, Villanova has a one-game lead on Xavier and a two-game lead on everyone else in the league. Their four toughest games left on the schedule — at Providence, at Xavier, at Creighton, at Seton Hall — come in a five-game stretch over the course of 14 days. I think they’ll win at least two, and probably three, of those games.

And then there is this nugget: Brunson has played his best basketball this season against KenPom’s Tier A opponents, meaning games against top 50 competition, adjusted for home-or-away.

In theory, that would mean that Brunson will be better down the stretch than he has been to date.

So while I still think Young has a commanding lead, this race is far from over.

6. JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s
10. KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech


High school basketball player collapses, dies at AAU event

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James Hampton, a member of Team United and a senior at Liberty Heights, a private high school in Charlotte, collapsed and died during a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League game on Saturday night.

Hampton was 17 years old.

In the second half of a game against Nike Phamily, a Phoenix-based program that is run by the father of Marvin Bagley III, Hampton collapsed to the floor unresponsive. Trainers at the event began CPR on and administered chest compressions. Parademics arrived within 10 minutes, but Hampton could not be revived.

The cause of death has not yet been released, but this is not the first time that Hampton had an issue. Last spring, at an event in the Washington D.C. area, Hampton collapsed on the court and had to be given CPR.

“He just fell down on the floor,” Team United director Jacoby Davis told the Charlotte Observer. “He had seizures a year ago and I remember (one of the Team United coaches) telling me that, ‘I saw his eyes rolling back in his head.’ I ran on the court thinking he was having a seizure. A trainer came over and said he didn’t know what was wrong. Another trainer checked his pulse. He said he didn’t have a pulse. It got crazy after that.”

RIP James Hampton.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.