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Player of the Year Power Rankings: Zion reigns, De’Andre Hunter moves into top five

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Dating back to the 2009-2010 season, there had never been a player in college basketball that had played more than 20 games in a season and finished with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 37 or higher. As of today, Zion Williamson’s PER this season is a mind-altering ridiculous 42.1. To put that into perspective, only two players from a high-major league had posted a PER better than 35 prior to this year: Wake Forest’s John Collins in 2016-17 had a PER of 35.9 and Anthony Davis, in his one year at Kentucky, had a PER of 35.1.

Coincidentally enough, Davis is the last college basketball player that many scouts believe was a better NBA prospect than Zion Williamson.

2. MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette

Markus Howard is currently averaging 25.4 points, 4.2 boards and 4.0 assists this season. Since 1992, there have been 11 Division I players that have averaged 25-4-4 in a season (two did it twice, Keydren Clark of Saint Peter’s did it three times), but Howard is the only player at the high-major level that has put up those numbers.

3. JA MORANT, Murray State

Morant is going to be a top three pick and is averaging 24.4 points, 10.3 assists, 5.3 boards and 2.0 steals. Here’s to hoping that he and the Racers get to the NCAA tournament so we can watch him try to hang 50 on some unsuspecting No. 2 seed.

4. R.J. BARRETT, Duke

Barrett did his best on Saturday to remind the world that Zion Wiliamson is not the only guy on Duke that is awesome.

5. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

I’ve mentioned this before, but the most impressive part of De’Andre Hunter’s skill-set is, to me, his ability to be so versatile on the defensive end of the floor in addition to being a guy that can do things like score 26 points on 9-for-11 shooting to lead Virginia to a come-from-behind win at Louisville. In this clip below, you’ll see him guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Coby White, Cam Johnson and Luke Maye. How many players in the country can do that?

6. CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Just because I was curious, I went back and logged all 62 of Michigan State’s possessions in their win over Michigan on Sunday. Removing the final five possessions, where Michigan was fouling Sparty to try and extend the game, 36 of Michigan State’ 57 possessions involved Cassius Winston getting put into a ball-screen to initiate the offense, resulting in 1.22 points-per-possession — a number that, frankly, could have been much higher based on a few open looks that the Spartans missed.

Of the 21 possessions that did not involve Winston in a ball-screen, he was the initiator of the action that ended the possession — be it in transition, in isolation or a turnover — nine more times.

In total, 45 of the 57 full possessions that Michigan State had on the road against their arch rival went through Winston, and he delivered, finishing with 27 points and eight assists in the win.

With Nick Ward out for a while and Josh Langford done for the year, Winston is going to have to carry a load like this for the foreseeable future for Michigan State.


There was a point in time where it looked like Jarrett Culver had forgotten how to shoot the basketball. Starting at the turn of the calendar and extending through Texas Tech’s 79-63 loss to Kansas on Feb. 2nd, Culver had a stretch in Big 12 play where he shot 3-for-33 from three. In this recent five-game winning streak, however, Culver has found his rhythm again, hitting 10-for-25 from beyond the arc during that stretch. He’s the engine that runs a Texas Tech offense that, over the course of the last three weeks, has finally looked good enough to carry this team in March.

8. P.J. WASHINGTON, Kentucky

Washington has reached the point for me where I now consider him to be the SEC Player of the Year over Grant Williams. In the last ten games, he is averaging 21.0 points, 7.9 boards, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks. He’s shooting 54.8 percent from the floor and a ridiculous 52.8 percent (19-for-36) from three during that stretch. Where I struggle is with what to do with the first half of the season, where Washington scored in single digits in nine of the first 15 games of the year.


Zion Williamson has the best PER in the last decade. The second-best PER since 2009-2010? That belongs to Brandon Clarke, whose 36.9 rating has only been matched by former High Point star John Brown in high senior season in 2015-16. There are limitations to what Clarke can do on the offensive end of the floor, but there is an argument to be made that he has been one of the five most impactful players in college basketball this season.

10. GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee

Williams has been absolutely terrific this season and nothing should take away from that. That said, in the last two weeks, as the Vols have come back down to earth, we’ve seem what some of his limitations are. Listing his as, essentially, a second-team all-american should hardly be seen as an insult.

IN THE MIX: Phil Booth (Villanova), Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga), Ethan Happ (Wisconsin), Ty Jerome (Virginia), Dedric Lawson (Kansas), Charles Matthews (Michigan), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s)

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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
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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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.