The Morning Mix

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–  Harvard’s recruiting efforts might become a bit easier now that “Linsanity” is taking over the nation

– Of course we need to know what Jim Boeheim thinks of “Linsanity”!

– Jim Calhoun will miss UConn’s next two games as he remains sidelined with lingering back issues. Associate Head Coach George Blaney gave some solid quotes following the Huskie’s 26-point win over DePaul last night

– Are the Temple Owls as good as their 20-5 record indicates?

– SMU and UAB provided what may end up being the worst basketball game of the 2011-2012 season

Nick Baumgardner breaks down the four most important players on each of the Big Ten title contenders

– Apparently Jim Larranaga studied the art of Zen in preparation for the Hurricane’s game against North Carolina. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, as the Hurricanes fell 73-64

– NCAA Selection Committee Chair Jeff Hathaway (Former-UConn Athletic Director) discusses the consideration process for at-large teams

– Robert Burke, the head coach at Mount Saint Mary’s, has been placed on administrative leave by the university. The Mountaineers are currently 6-19 and 4-10 in NEC play

– St. John’s Athletic Director has been fired due to a misappropriation of tickets. The news of a possible ticket scandal was mentioned as early as last Friday

– A solid diary entry from VCU assistant coach Will Wade on preparing for BracketBusters and the stretch run

– Even if Kansas doesn’t end up winning the National Championship, the Jayhawks could walk away with a handful of end-of-the-year hardware

– Gerardo Suero, the Albany Danes’ leading scorer, did not play on Wednesday night due to shingles. Don’t know what shingles is? It’s like chickenpox, only more painful

– Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin has suspended high-flying forward Kenny Hall for “conduct detrimental to the team

– Regardless of what Penn State’s final record ends up being, this season has been a success for first-year head coach Pat Chambers. The on-court improvements will come, but he has dominated the off-court proceedings. First-off, he’s an earnest, hardworking class-act. He performed a classy-yet-entertaining salute to “JoePa”, and now, there’s video of him handing out Big Macs at McDonald’s. As the kids would say “He’s ‘Linning’ ”

– Oral Roberts became the second team in the country to clinch a regular season championship thus far. The Golden Eagles defeated IPFW 75-71 to win the Summit League for their final time. They will join the Southland Conference starting in 2012-2013

– More MWC2USA Alliance updates: Charlotte and Appalachian State could become potential additions for the new super-alliance

– This is certainly an interesting take: Does North Carolina lack the ability to close-out games?

It’s anybody’s guess as to what the final standings in the Atlantic-10 will look like

– While this might not be as awesome as “TyBrady MorningReed“, it’s still pretty good (Could I suggest, maybe, “D’Adreian PayneNix” ?)

– The recent trend of massive Non-D1 #POSTERIZED dunks continues on with Northwest Florida JuCo’s Trency Johnson

– Kentucky held an open practice and ONLY 2,000 people showed up….For a practice….in the early afternoon….on a work day….Not a game….Not a game….Not a game….We talkin’ about practice

A sure-fire winner for “Best photo of the 2011-2012 season”

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how it’s dumb to criticize players for entering the NBA Draft without costing themselves their collegiate eligibility when the NCAA’s new NBA Draft rules are specifically designed for said players to be able to do that.

In that column, I mentioned that D-League salaries are on the rise and that the NBA’s new CBA instituted something called “two-way contracts,” and I wanted a chance to elaborate and clarify a couple of the points that I made.

Let’s start with the “two-way contracts,” which NBA teams each get two of. They are essentially a retainer that those teams can place on younger players they want to be the 16th and 17th men on their roster, holding their rights as they bounce between the D-League — where they will likely spend the majority of the year — and the NBA. The catch is that those players have to have less than three years service as a professional, and the point of it is to provide a financial incentive for younger players with the potential to reach the NBA to remain stateside while allowing those NBA teams to develop them.

That financial incentive is fairly large, as well: Two-way players will make $75,000 guaranteed and will be able to make up to $275,000, depending on the amount of time they spend with the NBA team.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that can end up paying players with less than three years of professional basketball experience upwards of a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

That’s not a bad starting salary.

The other point that I wanted to address is the rising D-League salaries which, technically, will not be rising. There are still going to be Tier A and Tier B players, who make $26,000 and $20,000 respectively. But the NBA has something called affiliate players, which each of the now-25 NBA teams with a D-League affiliate can pay up to $50,000 for training camp. NBA teams are allowed a maximum of four affiliate players, who will still make their $26,000 salary from their D-League team.

In other words, that’s 100 more jobs available in the United States where a professional basketball player can make $76,000, and that’s before you consider that the five NBA teams that do not yet have a D-League affiliate will still have to play players to get them into training camp.

That $76,000 is not a life-changing amount of money. Neither is the $275,000 that a two-way contract can pay. But it’s a pretty damn good paycheck to make for an entry-level job into the industry that you always dreamed of being in.

Athletes have an unbelievably small window where they can capitalize monetarily on their gifts.

If a 21-year old sophomore decides that he wants to continue to develop his game and chase his NBA dream by making $76,000 as a D-League player, is that really all that crazy?

After all, 135 of the 450 players, or 30 percent of the roster spots, on NBA’s opening night were taken by guys that had spent time in the D-League.

There’s more than one way to make a dream come true.

A record $439 million was bet on basketball in March in Las Vegas

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The month of March was quite friendly to Las Vegas.

According to ESPN, more money was bet on basketball during the month of March than in any month in the state’s regulated sports betting history.

And while the numbers produced by Las Vegas books don’t separate college and professional basketball betting, the money coming in on college hoops is pretty clear: $439 million was bet on basketball in March, more than double the $213 million bet on the sport in February.

It was profitable, too.

Those Vegas books kept more than $40 million dollars of the money that was gambled on basketball, which shattered the previous record of roughly $28 million in winnings.

Gonzaga lands their first post-Final Four commitment

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Gonzaga capitalized on their run to the national title game by landing a commitment from French point guard Joel Ayayi, who announced the news on twitter.

Ayayi is an interesting long-term prospect, according to Draft Express. He has the size and the frame to eventually be a significant contributor in the college game, but he’s raw. His handle needs work, as does his ability to create off the dribble and find teammates off of the bounce.

That said, he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and if Gonzaga can do anything, it’s develop players that enter their program.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson, top three prospect in 2018, breaks defender’s ankles

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Zion Williamson, one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball, had himself a highlight-worthy moment at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas over the weekend, breaking a defender’s ankles before hitting a three.

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.