Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Player Of The Year Power Rankings: Let’s talk about that last first-team all-american spot

3 Comments

Last week, I walked you through, step-by-step, how Trae Young managed to lose his stranglehold on the National Player of the Year race.

He’s still in front, but another pair of losses last week didn’t firm up the ground that he’s standing on. Not at all, although the three guys right behind him — Jalen Brunson, Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton — all did their best to avoid making up ground as all three lost a game at home.

That said, I still believe that those four are in a league of their own when it comes to the race to be named a first-team all-american, so today, I figured we should take a look at the race for that final spot on the first team. Here are the six guys I think have the best chance of playing their way onto that list:

THE FIRST-TEAMERS

1. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma
2. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova
3. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke
4. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona

FIVE FAVORITES FOR THE FINAL SPOT

5. KEITA BATES-DIOP, Ohio State: If the season ended today, I think that Bates-Diop would be the guy that I would pick to be the fifth first-team all-american. He’s the go-to guy and star player for an Ohio State team that has shocked just about everyone and played their way into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. He’s had big moments, too — he led the comeback from 14 points down at Purdue and made the game-winning shot.

6. KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans is putting up 18.4 points and 3.5 assists for an offensively-deficient teams while also playing stellar defense and taking games over at the drop of a hat. He had 38 points and hit the game-winning shot in overtime against Texas. He had 31 points in a come-from-behind win at South Carolina. He was the best player for the Red Raiders in their win at Kansas earlier this year, and it’s that win that has Chris Beard’s club in the driver’s seat to win the outright Big 12 title.

7. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: If the NCAA tournament started today, Xavier would not only be a No. 1 seed, they’d have a pretty strong grip on the third No. 1 seed with a shot at overtaking Villanova for that second overall spot. Bluiett has been the biggest reason why, making countless big shots and averaging 18.9 points on the season. Like Evans, Bluiett has a chance to upend a dynasty, taking Villanova off of the top spot in the Big East.

8. JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s: The Gaels were smoked at home by Gonzaga on Saturday night. Landale had four shots and didn’t get to the free throw in 37 minutes. He’s been phenomenal this season, but it’s hard to ignore that he had zero impact on what is arguably the biggest game of the year for that team.

9. GARY CLARK, Cincinnati: Clark’s numbers are never going to impress. He’s averaging 12.8 points, 8.8. boards, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. He’s also anchoring a defense that is second nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric and seems like a virtual lock to set a record in the KenPom era — since 2002 — for the fewest points-per-possession allowed in a season.

And just because, here’s the other Gary Clark shredding:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYXMDCNjl8M&w=560&h=315]

THREE MORE NAMES TO WATCH

10a. DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas: On the one hand, Graham is having a terrific season carrying the load for a team where he has to play 40 minutes a night as the primary ball-handler and best perimeter defender. He’s averaging 17.7 points, 7.3 assists and shooting 42.5 percent from three while playing on the ball this year. On the other hand, he might be the fourth Big 12 point guard in line for honors.

10a. LUKE MAYE, North Carolina: Who would have thought, back in October, that Luke freakin’ Maye would be anywhere near the conversation for an all-american team? No one. That’s who. Not even Luke freakin’ Maye. But here we are in mid-February and Maye is averaging 18.3 points, 10.4 boards and 2.4 assists for a UNC team that suddenly looks like they might end up as a top three seed come Selection Sunday.

10c. CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: I’m having a tough time picking someone on Purdue for this list. Edwards is the guy that I would put on this list, but that’s not exactly a consensus. If Michigan State has shown us anything, Isaac Haas is going to be Purdue’s most important player down the stretch of the season as teams focus their energy on taking away the three ball. And if you talk to coaches in the league — or Tom Crean — they’ll tell you that it’s actually Dakota Mathias who is the engine that makes that team run.

ALSO CONSIDERED: MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State; JEVON CARTER, West Virginia; CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State; CALEB MARTIN, Nevada

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
4 Comments

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.