Allowing the Crosstown Shootout to continue is the right decision

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It looks like we’ll be saving at least one of college basketball’s best rivalries.

Missouri is leaving the Big 12 on less than ideal terms, meaning that their Border War with Kansas looks to be coming to an end, at least in the near future. Syracuse and Pitt are abandoning the Big East for the ACC, which means that Georgetown and West Virginia, respectively, will not be playing their biggest rivals in league play in the future.

The Crosstown Shootout, however, appears likely to survive.

“Every indication is that we are going to play next year,” University of Cincinnati president Greg Williams told Bill Koch of the Cincinnati Enquirer Monday. “We’re looking at it. (Xavier University president) Father Graham and I have talked about it a number of times.”

“I haven’t changed my thoughts, nor do I believe Xavier has changed our thoughts at all,” Xavier AD Mike Bobinski said. “Absolutely, we would like to see the game continue.”

A final decision has not yet been made — and it likely won’t for at least a month — but if all sides agree that the rivalry should continue, I’m not sure I see how it won’t.

And this, frankly, is a very good thing for both Xavier and Cincinnati, the city itself and college basketball as a whole.

The Crosstown Shootout is one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball. The teams and the fans genuinely dislike each other, which means that every game played between the two schools is is must-see TV. I, for one, circle the date of their annual battle on my calender the minute that the schedules are released. With both programs priding themselves on toughness and physicality, its no wonder that this matchup is always one of the most intense games of the season. Its a guarantee that every single article ever written about the game mentions, in some form, one of those three key words — intensity, physicality and toughness.

That’s why we tune in. That’s what we want to watch. Two teams competing that hard and wanting to win that badly is a rarity in college hoops in December.

And it was only a matter of time until that intensity boiled over. That happened on December 10th, when, with nine seconds left in the game, the jawing between Tu Holloway and Ge’Lawn Guyn erupted into a full-scale, bench-clearing brawl, complete with dozens of haymakers being thrown, a bevy of suspensions and one black and bloody eye, courtesy of a Yancy Gates sucker-punch landed on Kenny Frease.

Every year, at some point during the game, there would be a point in the game where there was some pushing and shoving. Technicals usually come early and often, and trash talk lasts the entire game. That’s what we want to watch. That’s why national writers descend on the city of Cincinnati every time the game is played.

And when you’re dealing with testosterone filled college kids that have their adrenaline pumping and their pride on the line on national television, it was only a matter of time until a fight broke out.

In no way am I trying to justify what happened on that day at the Cintas Center. It was an embarrassment to the sport and a black mark that each of the young men involved will carry with them for a long time. It was unacceptable. But the players aren’t the only ones to blame. The people that let the game and the rivalry get to that point — the referees that called the game too loose, the administrators and the coaches that let their players believe it was acceptable behavior in previous games, the media (myself included) that hyped the game because of its intensity — are also at fault.

In other words, we all want to see battles like that on the basketball court, and we all should have known the risks involved and what would happen if the game ever crossed that metaphorical tipping point.

And after what happened, I think it will be a long time before anyone lets it get to that point again.

So instead of getting rid of what could very well be the highlight of every season for the Xavier and Cincinnati programs and fanbases, the better option is to simply get back on the horse.

But do it right this time.

Call the technical fouls when players stat jawing. Use the bench to reinforce that pushing and shoving in unacceptable. Reinforce to everyone involved that what happened this year is unacceptable and simply cannot happen ever again.

We all make mistakes. We’ve all gotten in fights. Emotions are fickle, and there are times where they get the best of us. All of us.

Its what you learn and how you change afterwards that matters. And the best way to learn is to get right back on that horse.

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

Wichita State getting more national respect with non-conference scheduling

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Wichita State is starting to gain more national respect with regards to its non-conference schedule.

Since moving to the American Athletic Conference this spring, the Shockers have not only gained the benefit of being in a multi-bid league every year, but they’re also getting better teams to play them outside of conference play.

According to a report from Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, the Shockers now have non-conference games scheduled with Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season. With Wichita State also playing in the Maui Invitational, it gives the Shockers plenty of opportunities to schedule quality opponents and improve its NCAA tournament seeding. And that’s before Wichita State starts conference play.

Although Wichita State was getting invited regularly to prestigious non-conference tournaments such as Maui or the Battle 4 Atlantis, they were having a tough time getting certain schools to book home-and-home series. The Baylor series signifies a small, but significant, change to how Wichita State might be able to do things now.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

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USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.

Following decommitment, four-star recruit makes eye-opening remarks about Ohio State

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Ohio State lost a four-star recruit on Wednesday when in-state Class of 2018 wing Darius Bazley opted to open up his recruitment.

As a rising senior who is just finishing his junior season of high school, Bazley’s decommitment isn’t going to immediately hurt the Buckeyes next season. But the 6-foot-7 wing’s comments about why he opted to open up his recruitment are pretty jarring.

In a story with Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, Bazley opened up about why he decommitted from Ohio State. Bazley’s eye-opening remarks include how the Buckeyes might not get him ideal NBA exposure and how Ohio State might miss the NCAA tournament in his freshman year.

“I was excited when I first got the offer,” Bazley said to Jardy. “Ohio State is still a great place. It’s nothing against the school or anything, but my one ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and I just didn’t feel as confident as I did when I first committed that Ohio State was one of those schools that could get me there. At the end of the day I’ve got to perform no matter where I go, but I think there’s other schools out there that could put me on a bigger stage and in a better position to show those NBA scouts when I get to college what I can do.”

Bazley also didn’t appear to be pleased at the recruiting class coming into Ohio State for the Class of 2017, which is the class that is coming in this season. Remember, Bazley is a Class of 2018 recruit who still has to finish his senior season.

“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said to Jardy. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future. So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”

Ohio State was once one of the major destinations for one-and-done players a decade ago so these remarks are very surprising. D’Angelo Russell was a top-five pick in the NBA Draft only two years ago, and while the Buckeyes might not be as successful in recent years as they once were, they still get plenty of national exposure with regards to producing NBA talent.

The NCAA tournament comments might carry some more weight though. The Buckeyes have missed the NCAA tournament in two consecutive seasons and things are also looking difficult for them to reach the Big Dance for next season. If Bazley wants to play in the NCAA tournament, then I could understand him wanting to open things up and explore more options.

Still, you don’t often see a player make comments like this about a school after decommitting–especially a program with as much national exposure as Ohio State. Bazley is likely going to face some heat for his remarks, but if those are his true feelings about a future life decision, then he should explore what else is out there.

Nevada gets transfer commitment from Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman

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Nevada continues to build its roster through transfers as the Wolf Pack added Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman on Thursday.

The 6-foot-7 Thurman will have to sit out one season before playing his senior season but he is coming off of a very good campaign for the Mavericks. The versatile forward put up 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.

One of the Summit League’s better players the last two seasons, Thurman should be a solid rotation forward for Nevada as he has a chance to be a breakout player with one more year of development. If Thurman can improve his 25 percent three-point shooting then he could be a major factor for Nevada.

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.