Butler, VCU getting more than wins with this Final Four

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Even if Butler or VCU fail to win the NCAA tournament, a Final Four berth will pay huge dividends for years to come. And not just in money, either.

The Bulldogs and Rams figure to reap rewards in recruiting and exposure while the schools can expect massive rises in admissions, advertising and overall revenue.

Not bad for winning four games in March.

When George Mason made the Final Four in 2006, a study conducted by one of the school’s professors estimated the school  reaped more than $677 million in free media coverage. Also, admissions inquiries rose 350 percent, active alumni increased 25 percent and unique viewers to the official athletic department web site shot up 702 percent.

When Butler played in last year’s Final Four, the school estimated it was worth nearly $450 million to the school in advertising. This year could be down a bit because of VCU’s addition, but it’ll still be massive.

The schools can do even better for themselves by taking advantage of the moment in recruiting, too. They won’t start bringing in five-star players, but they’ll be able to attract interest in guys they wouldn’t have before and able to improve their overall class quality.

“Take a peek at what Butler was able to accomplish this last year. They got Kellen Dunham, who’s potentially a Top 100 player,” said Evan Daniels, the national recruiting analyst for Scout.com.

“Now, will it help them get into the recruiting of a different type of player? Sure. Butler was right there with Cody Zeller last year. They didn’t get him, but they were right there until the end.”

Zeller, rated as a five-star center, signed with Indiana. It’s unlikely Butler would’ve even tried recruiting him – or that Zeller would’ve considered it – without that Final Four.

“Visibility is the biggest thing,” Daniels said. “It gives them a quicker in with kids. Maybe a kid in Kentucky, maybe he didn’t know VCU. Maybe them making the Final Four is how he found out about the school. Now [coach] Shaka Smart can get on the phone and the kid’ll listen.”

However, Daniels emphasizes that the Butler and VCU coaching staffs won’t spend all their time chasing after big-name prospects. They’ve already reached the Final Four by identifying players they want for their systems, and won’t completely go away from what’s worked.

Consider what George Mason did with its first recruiting class after the ’06 Final Four. It signed one 3-star recruit in Vlad Moldoveanu and three 2-star players. Two, Cam Long and Isaiah Tate, ended up playing key roles on their season’s CAA championship team. (Moldoveanu transferred after his sophomore year to American, where he averaged nearly 20 points a game the last two years.) But all were from the D.C. area, right by the Mason campus.

After that, the Patriots branched off into New York, Florida and other areas, signed three 3-star players and built what’s become a deep, talented team.

So if Butler and VCU don’t return to the Final Four next season, don’t be surprised. But if it happens in two or three years from now, that’s where the Final Four will have paid off.

Again.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.

Report: Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all pass on sponsoring Lonzo Ball

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Lonzo Ball will enter his rookie season in the NBA without a sponsorship deal from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, only his family’s Big Baller Brand apparel.

That, according to a report from ESPN, is due to his father LaVar’s insistence that Lonzo not sign with one of the three major apparel companies unless they opted to sign a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand merchandise instead of outfitting Lonzo with their own gear.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

LaVar had been representing his son in the negotiations, and is now expected to reach out to other shoe brands, including Chinese apparel companies like Li-Nang.

Big Baller Brand is a startup apparel company launched by LaVar Ball. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, with most of their products costing at least $50.

Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft after an all-american season that saw him and the UCLA Bruins flame out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. UCLA lost to Kentucky in that game, and Lonzo had a quiet night while his point guard counterpart, De’Aaron Fox, went off for 39 points.

Lonzo is a likely top three pick in the NBA Draft and, potentially, could still end up going No. 1. He has two younger brothers as well. LiAngelo will be a freshman with the Bruins next season while LaMelo just finished his sophomore season in high school. Both will attend UCLA.