A Sweet 16 primer on the teams in Midwest, South

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The quick breakdown of the team playing Thursday is here. Here are the teams playing Friday.

SOUTH

No. 1 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Record
: 34-2
How it got here: Beat No. 16 Western Kentucky 81-66; beat No 8 Iowa State 87-71.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 4 Indiana

Essential info: The tournament favorite played like it in two wins, displaying a knack for elevating its play when challenged by opponents. The defense has been good; the offense has been better. The Wildcats’ performance against Iowa State was similar to what they did at home vs. Florida last month. And now they’re playing one of the two teams to beat them this season. Motivation won’t be a problem.

No. 3 BAYLOR BEARS
Record
: 29-7
How it got here: Beat 14 South Dakota State 68-60; beat No 11 Colorado 80-63.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 10 Xavier

Essential info: Perry Jones III wasn’t much of a factor vs. Colorado, but who needs him when you’ve got a guy who hits 9 3-pointers? The Bars seem poised to reach their second Elite Eight in three years, provided Heslip and guard Pierre Jackson provide a portion of the scoring they did vs. Colorado. The frontcourt can do the rest.

No. 4 INDIANA HOOSIERS
Record
: 27-8
How it got here: Beat 13 New Mexico State 79-66; beat No. 12 VCU 63-61.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2002
Next up: No. 1 Kentucky

Essential info: Thanks to a dramatic rally and clutch jumper vs. VCU, the Hoosiers now face a team they’ve already beaten once this season. But this time, Kentucky gets Indiana at a neutral site. No other Sweet 16 game will receive as much attention as this one. Unless Cody Zeller (15 ppg, 9.5 rpg during the tourney) stays out of foul trouble and has a massive day, it might not live up to the hype.

No. 10 XAVIER MUSKETEERS
Record
: 23-12
How it got here: Beat 7 Notre Dame 67-63; beat No. 15 Lehigh 70-58.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 3 Baylor

Essential info: The Sweet 16 didn’t seem possible three weeks ago. Xavier was inconsistent and wrapping up a third-place finish in the A-10. But thanks to an impressive rally vs. Notre Dame (Tu Holloway, 25 points, the hero) and overpowering Lehigh (Kenny Frease, 25 points), Xavier’s back. But can it contain the Bears? That’s the question.

MIDWEST

No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
Record
: 31-5
How it got here: Beat No. 16 Vermont 77-58; beat No. 8 Creighton 87-75.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 13 Ohio

Essential info: Yes, the Heels rolled into the Sweet 16. But until they know more about how much – if at all – point guard Kendall Marshall can play, everything’s up in the air for their title hopes. They still have plenty of size and talent, but Marshall’s the guy who puts it all together.

No. 2 KANSAS JAYHAWKS
Record
: 29-6
How it got here: Beat No. 15 Detroit 65-50; beat No. 10 Purdue 63-60.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 11 N.C. State, Friday

Essential info: When Thomas Robinson struggled vs. Purdue, junior guard Elijah Johnson delivered his one of his best performances of the year, scoring 18 points and hitting two clutch 3-pointers. KU is the onlyone of two 2 seeds remaining in the field and is one of two Big 12 teams left.

No. 11 NC STATE WOLFPACK
Record
: 24-12
How it got here: Beat No. 6 San Diego St 79-65; beat No. 3 Georgetown 66-63.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2006
Next up: No. 2 Kansas, Friday

Essential info: The Wolfpack are rolling. They’re getting scoring from all positions – C.J. Leslie’s averaging 15.5 ppg in the tourney, with Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown right behind – while the defense has been outstanding. There might not be any other team in the field with better chemistry right now.

No. 13 OHIO BOBCATS
Record
: 29-7
How it got here: Beat 4 Michigan 65-60; beat No. 12 South Florida 62-56.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 1964
Next up: No. 1 UNC, Friday

Essential info: History isn’t with the Bobcats. They’re the seventh team seeded 13 or higher to reach the Sweet 16, but none of those teams ever won their next game. It’s not a big team, but it’s quick, fairly deep and has an offense that’s clicking, scoring at least 1.02 points per possession in 10 of its last 11 games.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

 

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.

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.