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Postseason Awards: 2018-19 All-American teams, Player of the Year, Coach of the Year

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NBC SPORTS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Zion Williamson, Duke

The 2018-19 season was The Year of Zion.

Zion Williamson, the 6-foot-7, 280 pound behemoth that took the college basketball world by storm, wasn’t considered to be the best player in college basketball heading into the season — his teammate R.J. Barrett was — but it didn’t take long for us all to realize the mistake that we made.

It’s impossible to overstate the impact that Williamson had on the sport this season. He dictated the way every media outlet in the country covered college basketball. His presence on the floor completely and totally changes the way that this Duke team operates. Duke is 23-2 when Williamson plays more than 35 seconds this season — one loss came to the current No. 1 team in the country on a neutral floor by two points, and the other came without two other starters — and 3-3 when he sits. He is a game-changing presence on the defensive end and an unstoppable force when he gets the rim in his sights.

He also became the biggest story in college basketball for not playing.

Williamson has not seen the floor since he blew out a shoe on February 20th, spraining his right knee and setting off a firestorm of takes on whether or not he should suit up and finish out the season. He is, mercifully, expected back for the ACC and NCAA tournaments, which means that this Duke team — which is the best team in the country when Williamson plays — will have a chance to cut down the nets in Minneapolis.

And college basketball is better for it.

(John Weast/Getty Images)

NBC SPORTS CO-COACHES OF THE YEAR: Chris Beard, Texas Tech, and Matt Painter, Purdue

It’s hard for me to differentiate these two because they more or less did the exact same thing.

Let’s start with Beard. He took a Texas Tech team that lost six of their top eight players from last year’s team and was picked seventh in the Big 12 to a share of the Big 12 title. He helped turned Jarrett Culver into a top ten pick and a roster of guys that weren’t really chased by the bluebloods into conference champs. He is responsible, along with Kansas State’s Bruce Weber, for ending the 14 year Kansas run at the top of the conference.

On paper, Painter had a little more coming back this season. We all knew how good Carsen Edwards was going to be, but he was surrounded by a lot of whatever. No one knew what to expect of a team that lost four senior starters, especially playing in a league as tough as the Big Ten with two national title contenders at the top. But Painter found a way to get the job done, winning a share of the regular season title along with Michigan State.

Both of these coaches deserve all the credit in the world for the job they did with their teams this season.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICA

ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke (21.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 2.2 spg, 1.8 bpg, 68.3% FG)

He was a shoe-in for National Player of the Year. The only concern was whether or not he had played enough games to qualify.

CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State (19.0 ppg, 7.6 apg, 47.1/41.3/82.6)

Winston was sensational this season. Despite playing the point on a team that lost Josh Langford for the season and Nick Ward for the stretch run, Winston posted the best season of his career while leading the Spartans to a share of Big Ten title that also happened to include a sweep of in-state rival Michigan.

JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech (18.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.3 spg)

I’m not sure there was a more improved player in the country this season than Culver, who took over the lead guard from for a Red Raider team that won a share of the Big 12 title. If it wasn’t for a three week swoon in the middle of January, there wouldn’t even be a conversation here. This would be the consensus.

R.J. BARRETT, Duke (23.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.2 apg)

Barrett entered the season as the guy thought to be the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and he’s lived up to expectations. Since 1992, only five players have averaged 23-7-4 and only one of them — Anfernee Hardaway — did it for a “high-major”. Memphis, at the time, was playing in the Great Midwest Conference. Barrett did this in the ACC.

DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia (15.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 47.3% 3PT)

His numbers are somewhat diluted by the fact that he plays on a slow-paced Virginia team that prides themselves on sharing the wealth, but I’d make the argument that he is the second-best player in the country this season behind Zion. He can defend all five positions — and he has in different games this year — and he knocks down 47.3 percent of his threes while being borderline unguardable off the bounce.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICA

MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette (25.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.9 rpg, 41.6% 3PT)

Marquette’s late-season swoon is the reason that Howard is on the second team instead of the first team. The Golden Eagles lost four straight down the stretch of the season, and it was Howard’s propensity to turn the rock over that did the most damange.

JA MORANT, Murray State (24.6 ppg, 10.0 apg, 5.5 rpg)

Ja did the world a favor and qualified for the NCAA tournament, giving us all the gift of watching Morant try to put 50 on whatever power conference team the Racers draw.

CAM JOHNSON, North Carolina (16.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 46.9% 3PT)

As good as Coby White has been, Luke Maye was last year and Nassir Little will be in the future, I think that Johnson has been UNC’s best — and most consistent — player all year long. White is up and down, Little is down and up and Maye isn’t what he was last season. Johnson has been their rock.

GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee (19.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.3 apg)

Williams has been the rock that has held together a Tennessee team that, surprisingly enough, finished tied for second in the SEC despite spending much of the season ranked in the top three. He’s a throwback that old school basketball folks will love.

BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga (16.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.2 bpg)

Clarke is the best defensive player in college basketball this season. He also posted a PER (player efficiency rating) of 37.4. The only player since 2009 to ever post a number that his was … Zion Williamson at 42.3. That tells you the company that Clarke keeps.

(Zach Wajsgras/The Daily Progress via AP)

THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICA

COBY WHITE, North Carolina (16.3 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.2 rpg)

White can be streaky, but he was very good for much of the year playing the most important position in UNC’s offensive attack.

CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue (23.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg)

Edwards’ efficiency was down this season, but the attention that he drew made it easier for his teammates to do what they did. Let’s not overthink this: Edwards put up those numbers on the Big Ten regular season champ.

TY JEROME, Virginia (13.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, 4.1 rpg, 42.6% 3PT)

Call me biased, call me whatever: I love Ty Jerome’s game and I never want him to leave college. He’s a killer that looks like you can copy his notes in physics class.

RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga (20.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

Like Edwards, let’s not overthink this. Hachimura is the leading scorer on the No. 1 team in the country. He’s an all-american.

DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas (19.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.8 ap)

The shame of the way this season played out is that we never got to see Lawson at his best, running Self’s high-low offense with Udoka Azubuike at the rim.

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.

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.