Weekend Preview: Ohio State gets a rematch with Indiana

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source: AP

(All times ET)

Game of the Weekend: Sunday, 4:30 p.m.: No. 8 Indiana  at No. 5 Ohio State

The last time these two teams played, Indiana knocked off the Buckeyes in Assembly Hall 74-70, giving their fans even more reason to believe they deserved to be ranked somewhere in the top ten. The problem? Indiana probably doesn’t. The Hoosiers are a flawed basketball team, one that struggles on the defensive end of the floor and that doesn’t have the kind of strength in the paint to effectively battle on the glass. That said, if they are hitting their threes, they are dangerous. Ohio State found that out the first time these two teams got together. As did Kentucky. Even Michigan State was on the receiving end of a 25-2 run from the Hoosiers.

The question we all have right now is whether or not IU is capable of winning game on the road against good teams. The two times they’ve played on the road in the Big Ten, they lost to Michigan State despite going on a 25-2 run and they beat Penn State by six despite shooting 16-24 from three. That’s not exactly promising.

Ohio State, on the other hand, was in foul trouble when these two teams tangoed back on New Year’s Eve. It seemed like everyone on their roster had two fouls in the first 20 minutes of the game. That kind of kept OSU from getting into a rhythm offensively. That said, the Buckeyes have had some issues of late. They haven’t looked quite as dominant as we expected them to be, and a large part of that is due to the fact that we all underrated just how much they would miss David Lighty and Jon Diebler.

That’s the bottom line right there. Diebler did not miss when he got his feet set. Lighty could literally do anything on a basketball court and do it well. The guys filling in those roles — DeShaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith — are capable, but they are not on the level of Diebler or Lighty. Throw in the fact that Sullinger doesn’t appear to be 100 percent or all the way back in shape after the time he had to take off, and it has put a ton of pressure on Aaron Craft to be a primary playmaker. That’s not his forte.

Its sets up a situation with all kinds of intriguing story lines. But most importantly, the loser drops to three games behind Michigan State and out of first place in the Big Ten. That deficit may be too much to overcome.

Three more to watch:

Saturday, 4 p.m.: No. 12 UNLV at No. 22 SDSU: There may not be a more intriguing matchup this weekend that when the Aztecs take of UNLV. On the one hand, SDSU hasn’t played anyone in well over a month. UNLV, on the other hand, has played the role of road dogs, galavanting across the country like they are on the #BIAHRoadTrip. UNLV seems to be the odds-on favorite to win the MWC this season, but the question many people are asking is just how good SDSU is. New Mexico has played about as well as anyone on the west coast over the last month and seems primed to make a run at the league title. If the Aztecs want a shot at winning the conference, defending their home court is crucial.

Saturday, 4 p.m.: Alabama at No. 20 Mississippi State: Who is the favorite in the SEC West? Prior to the start of the season, the obvious pick was Alabama. But as the Crimson Tide started to struggle in early December, the Bulldogs slid into the lead. But Mississippi State has come back to earth, starting with a loss at Arkansas to open up SEC play. Winning this game opens up a two game lead for the Tide in the division. The best part? These two teams match up very, very well. Both teams have big front lines — Arnett Moultrie and Tony Mitchell will be difficult to keep off of first-team all-SEC — while the matchup of Trever Releford and Dee Bost pits two of the best point guards in the league.

Saturday, 7 p.m.: UCF at Marshall: Who is going to be the biggest challenger to Memphis in the Conference USA regular season race? Southern Miss gave the Tigers their best shot on Wednesday, coming up just short as a game-winning three bounced off the rim. Both UCF and Marshall are sitting at 3-0 in the league. Who is for real? Personally, I like Marshall more because I love their back court.

Who’s getting upset?: Saturday, 8 p.m.: No. 23 Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount

Despite all the struggles that LMU has had this season, they are currently tied with Gonzaga are second place in the WCC at 3-1. And, believe it or not, the Lions probably have just as much talent on their roster this season, especially with Drew Viney back in the mix and healthy. Gonzaga is also going to have a tough matchup in the back court as neither Kevin Pangos or David Stockton are really known for their defense and Anthony Ireland has proven to be a player. The Zags are coming off of a 21 point loss at St. Mary’s. They are ripe for the picking.

Three more on upset watch:

Saturday, 1 p.m.: No. 13 Michigan at Iowa: The Hawkeyes have caught a couple of teams napping this year (ahem, Wisconsin), and they are certainly more talented than typical Iowa teams. Throw in the fact that they are coming off of an embarrassing and thorough whooping at the hands of Michigan State — one that caused Fran McCaffrey to body slam a chair — and I think that Iowa will be ready to play. Michigan struggled against Northwestern at home their last time out as well.

Saturday, 1 p.m.: Texas at No. 9 Missouri: To be honest, I love Missouri. I think they proved quite a bit with the way that they beat Iowa State on the road last week. When you can win on the road while doing what you do best poorly, that’s a good sign. That said, I like this Texas squad. I think they have a good young core and an underrated big man in Clint Chapman. But I had to pick someone to get upset, so I’m betting that J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo put it all together for a game.

Saturday, 6 p.m.: Tennessee Tech at No. 14 Murray State: Tennessee Tech has a really solid 1-2-3 punch in Kevin Murphy, Jud Dillard and Zach Swansey. They’ll be able to get up and down with Murray State. So yeah, I’m going to call the upset this weekend. Streak: over.

Mid-major matchup of the weekend: Friday, 7 p.m.: Cleveland State at Butler

OK, so maybe I’m just being hopeful because I’ll be at this game tonight, but I think there is a ton of intrigue in this game. Both programs lost a ton from last season, but both are still right near the top of the Horizon League. Hinkle is never an easy place to win, even if Butler is a bit down this season.

Three more to watch

Saturday, 4 p.m.: Ohio at Akron: Two of the best teams in the MAC take the court. Akron had the hype in the preseason, but it was Ohio that made a run early in the year and got themselves considered for the top 25.

Saturday, 9 p.m.: Montana at Weber State: The two best teams in the Big Sky? National Player of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, who currently leads the nation in scoring, has carried WSU to a 5-0 record in the league, but the Grizzlies are currently sitting at 4-0 themselves.

Sunday, 3:30 p.m.: Loyola MD at Iona: Iona blew a 17 point lead in the final eight minutes last night to Manhattan, suffering their first loss in league play. Loyola is sitting just a half game back in the win column, meaning that a win here for the Greyhounds would put them into first place in the MAAC. That is going to be a fun race to watch this season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

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Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.

The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.

Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.

This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

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Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.

Oakland’s Greg Kampe hosting charity golf event with big-name coaches

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Oakland head coach Greg Kampe hosted a successful charity event for cancer research two years ago by allowing people to bid online to play a round of golf with some of college basketball’s best coaches.

Kampe is back again this year as he’s hoping to eventually raise $1 million for the American Cancer Society.

According to a report from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Kampe has 11 high-profile names that fans can play with this year.

  • Tom Izzo, Michigan State
  • Frank Martin, South Carolina
  • Rick Barnes, Tennessee
  • Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
  • Chris Holtmann, Butler
  • Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
  • Greg Kampe, Oakland
  • Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons
  • Steve Lavin
  • Fran Fraschilla
  • Bill Raftery

Fans can find more details about the auctions and all of the details here.

The minimum bid is $15,000 per coach. A “buy now” bid of $24,000 is also available.

Each round includes the following, according to the event’s website:

Up for auction will be 11 spectacular packages, featuring a private dinner with elite basketball coaches and VIPs, a one night stay at MotorCity Casino Hotel on Sunday, June 4, and an afternoon of golf on Monday, June 5 at Oakland Hills Country Club on the South Course. The winning bidders and their two guests will round out the foursomes with their selected VIP: Rick Barnes, Mick Cronin, Fran Fraschilla, Chris Holtmann, Tom Izzo, Greg Kampe, Steve Lavin, Frank Martin, Bill Raftery, Stan Van Gundy, or Kevin Willard.

There are a lot of great selections to choose from for this sort of thing, but I can’t imagine a better afternoon than playing golf with Bill Raftery and a few friends. There are some other tempting choices on this list, but that’s the one I would have to jump at.

If you think 137 players declaring for the draft is stupid, you’re probably stupid

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The NBA Draft’s full early entry list came out on Tuesday afternoon, and there were 137 underclassmen listed on it.

137.

For 60 spots in the NBA Draft, only 30 of which guarantee you a contract in the NBA.

And that’s before you factor in the 45 international players that also declared for the NBA Draft, as well as the crop of seniors — Josh Hart, Monte’ Morris, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Peters — that are going to end up hearing their names called. All told, there are going to be roughly 200 players competing to be one of the 60 people that end up getting drafted on June 22nd, and you don’t have to be any good at math to realize that 200 is a much, much bigger number than 60.

This unleashed a torrent of bad takes on the decision of these players.

And bad may not be doing those takes justice.

Because the bottom-line is this: You cannot paint the decision on whether or not to go pro with a broad brush.

For some players, making money of any kind is something they need to do to support their family, whether it’s what they’ll get with a first round guarantee, the $75-100,000 they’ll get for making a training camp roster to subsidize their time in the D-League while teams develop them or the money they can make in the D-League or overseas. You don’t know what their financial situation is. Maximizing their ability to capitalize on every available dollar they can make off of their athletic gifts may be more important than working towards a degree.

And it’s worth noting here that a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way to make a living in professional basketball. To say nothing of the money that can be made overseas or the number of second round picks and undrafted players that make guaranteed money — which is more than you probably realize — it needs to be noted that D-League salaries are getting a bump this year with the new CBA.

The NBA has also instituted something new called a “two-way contract”. Without getting into the legalese, it’s essentially a retainer worth well into the six figures that they will be able to give to two players that will allow them to retain that player under contract while sending them between the D-League and the NBA roster. In a sense, it creates an extra 60 NBA roster spots for players that have 0-3 years worth of professional basketball on their résumé.

Some players are simply declaring without signing with an agent because they want to get feedback directly from NBA personnel on what their professional prospects. Some will hear that they need to return to school to work on their body, or work on their jumper, or mature as a person to be able to handle everything that comes with being a professional. Others will be told they’re going to make a lot of money by staying in the draft, or that they need to go back to school because, frankly, they are not professional basketball players. Not getting invited to the NBA combine is a pretty good indication of where you stand in the eyes of NBA teams.

Still other players are putting their name into the draft to leave their options open should they be recruited over by the program they are a part of. Take Frank Jackson, for example. If he can return to school and thrive as Duke’s point guard, maybe he turns into a top 20 pick. But what happens if Trevon Duval, the best point guard in the Class of 2017 and a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, picks Duke? Would it be in Jackson’s best interest to come back to Duke when he won’t be playing the position that he needs to learn to play to turn himself into a lasting NBA player?

Jackson, like the roughly 100 underclassmen that have declared without an agent, has until May 24th to make his decision on whether or not he will keep his name in the draft. Until then, he can return to school without damaging his eligibility.

The entire reason that the NCAA changed their rules to allow players to test the waters is so that they can make the most important decision of their lives with as much information as humanly possible. This thing exists for the sole purpose of allowing the kids to have as much knowledge about their options as possible.

And that is exactly what these kids are doing.

So the idea that this rule, or players taking advantage of that rule, however high that number may be, is a bad thing is stupid.