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College Basketball Awards: Who won the NBC Sports Player of the Year?

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Who was the college basketball Player of the Year? Which coach was named NBC Sports college basketball Coach of the Year? Who was the best defensive player in the country? The best freshman?

Today, we are unveiling the college basketball postseason awards.

National Player of the Year was, in the end, much easier than I thought that it was going to be to pick.

College basketball Coach of the Year, however, was tough. There were at least four candidates that deserved the award.

Tomorrow, we will be unveiling the NBC Sports All-America teams.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Obi Toppin, Dayton

For my money, this was an easy decision.

Obi Toppin is the clear-cut college basketball National Player of the Year. The 6-foot-9 Toppin exploded onto the national scene with a mammoth performance during Dayton’s run to the title game of the Maui Invitational, and he hasn’t slowed down since. He’s averaging 20.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 2.2 apg while shooting 63.3 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three this season, but it’s not just his numbers that make him the NBC Sports National Player of the Year.

It’s not just the dunks, either, although those are pretty damn impressive as well.

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What makes Toppin so special is that it is his unique combination of skills that allows Dayton to be able to play the way that they want to play. He has the size, strength and athleticism to be able to guard basically any position on the floor, giving the Flyers the ability to play a switching defense. Then combine that with the way that he can play on the perimeter, his ability as a passer and playmaker, his elite floor-running and the fact that he is the most dangerous player in college basketball rolling to the rim after a ball-screen, and what you get is the nation’s most dangerous offense.

The reason why the Flyers have a shot at being a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday and have a very real chance to get to a Final Four and win a national title is because Toppin is the absolute best player in the sport in the role that he is asked to play, and that makes Dayton simply unguardable.

Oh, and he can big boy Atlantic 10 players in a way that seems almost unfair:

COLLEGE BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR: Scott Drew, Baylor

Baylor has absolutely no business being as good as they have been this season.

Think about it like this: The Bears spent roughy half the season as the undisputed No. 1 team in college basketball despite the fact that they do not have a top 50 prospect on their roster. They are going to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament despite the fact that their starting center is a Division III transfer; that he is only starting because their best player from last season has no knees; that their starting four-man should be playing tight end for the football team; that they have four quality guards, none of whom are taller than 6-foot-2; that their offense can go through stretches where it looks as dangerous as a middle school team.

Don’t let a sluggish end to the season let you forget that this team won 23 straight games and will enter the NCAA tournament with, at the absolute most, five loss on the season. That is Coach of the Year material.

I guess Scott Drew can coach after all.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas

I honestly never thought that I would be saying this about Doke.

When he was a sophomore, when was carrying an extra 30 pounds of weight, Doke was exposed. Kansas went up against Villanova in the 2018 Final Four, and it was Azubuike’s inability to get out on the perimeter and deal with the likes of Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall that allowed the Wildcats to beat the Jayhawks by roughly 100 points that night in San Antonio.

Fast forward two years, and Azubuike is arguably the most competent center at defending ball-screens in college basketball. It’s never going to be an ideal matchup when he is facing off with someone like Obi Toppin, but we saw in Maui that he can, at the very least, keep things respectable in a matchup like that.

The reason why the Jayhawks are the best team in college basketball is because of their defense, and as good as Marcus Garrett is on that end of the floor, the reason that Kansas is a juggernaut defensively is their big fella.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Vernon Carey Jr., Duke

Duke is a top ten team in college basketball. Vernon Carey Jr. is a five-star prospect that was rated in the top five of his recruiting class. He’s averaging 17.8 points and 8.8 boards for a team that has a shot at getting a No. 2 seed if they win the ACC tournament, and it feels like no one actually realizes this.

In any other season with any other Duke star, a guy putting up those numbers would be a massive deal. But since Carey’s NBA upside is somewhat limited, so is the hype surrounding him this season.

So we’re going to ignore that here. He’s been absolutely dominant for long stretches this season and deserves the recognition as such.

Vernon Carey Jr., college basketball Freshman of the Year.

How about that?

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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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

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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.