The Morning Mix

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We got a lot on tap for today. Yesterday was National Signing Day, and the first round of “Feast Week” tournament games take place. Strap in for a fully loaded 24 hours of college hoops.
 
 
Thursday’s Top Games:
10:30 a.m. – Oklahoma State vs. Akron
12:30 p.m. – Dayton vs. Colorado
12:30 p.m. – UNC-Asheville vs. Tennessee
3:00 p.m. – No.16 Baylor vs. Boston College
5:00 p.m. – St. John’s @ Charleston
5:00 p.m. – No.6 North Carolina State vs. Penn State
7:00 p.m. – Alabama vs. Oregon State
7:00 p.m. – Illinois State @ Drexel
7:00 p.m. – Sam Houston State @ No.1 Indiana
8:00 p.m. – Auburn vs. Murray State
8:00 p.m. – Tennessee State @ Minnesota
9:30 p.m. – Villanova vs. Purdue
10:00 p.m. – UTEP @ No.12 Arizona
 
 
Read of the Day: Brendon Prunty on the memory of former Seton Hall assistant Kenny “Eggman” Williamson. Read it. (New Jersey Star Ledger)

Read of the Day: Did the NCAA prejudge Shabazz Muhammad before making a decision on his eligibility? (L.A. Times)
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Top Stories:
Late Night Snacks: Fresno State beat UC-Riverside 39-30….in basketball. Yuck.

Calipari gives tour of new Wildcat Coal Lodge: As if the “Kentucky Effect” wasn’t already strong enough, John Calipari gave a video tour of the new state-of-the-art dorm built specifically for the Wildcats hoops team. This is just many in a long line of powerful weapons Kentucky has at its recruiting disposal.

Champions Classic will serve as a great teaching tool for Bill Self and his young Jayhawks team: The experience gained by the Jayhawks in their 67-64 loss to Michigan State in the Champions Classic will help serve a purpose for Bill Self as he continues to mold a talented but young team.

Saint Louis loss caps a tough week for the Atlantic Ten: The A-10 was expected to be extremely deep this season, but already teams such as VCU, Butler and now Saint Louis, who lost to Santa Clara 74-62, are looking like we may have overrated the conference.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Eastern Michigan’s James Still plead guilty to felony assault charges stemming from an altercation he had in Rhode Island while a member of the Providence basketball program (Detroit Free-Press)

– Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele fractured his wrist during the Bulldogs’ 78-58 win over Florida Atlantic and will force him to miss the next six weeks (Jackson Clarion Ledger)

– Providence guard Vincent Council will miss the next 4-5 weeks due to a hamstring injury he sustained in the Friars win against NJIT on Friday (Friar Blog)

– highly touted big man Karl Towns will make his college decision on December 4th (New Jersey Hoops Haven)

– UCLA freshman Kyle Anderson suffered a bone contusion on his right wrist during the Bruins’ 80-79 overtime win over Cal Irvine on Wednesday, and his status for Thursday’s game is still uncertain (ESPN LA)
 
 
Observations & Analysis:
– The top ten best recruiting classes of the past 25 years (ESPN Insider)

– It was very evident in Wisconsin’s 74-56 loss to Florida that the Badgers really need a point guard to step up and fill the void left by Josh Gasser’s season-ending injury (Backboard Chronicles)

– It does not appear that traditional rivalries will be renewed as part of the SEC/Big-12 series (The Dagger)

– Arizona forward Solomon Hill thinks freshman who worry about eligibility issues should skip college all together (Eye On College Basketball)

– After two impressive performances, its apparent that Maryland’s defense is already making great strides (Washington Post)

– Potential mid-major darling Delaware is hoping to use the Preseason N.I.T Tip-Off as a stage to capture some national attention (The Dagger)

– The Pit at New Mexico is arguably one of the best venues in college hoops. If you weren’t already aware of this, the Lobos home-opener against Davidson as part of the Tip-Off Marathon proved why. (Albuquerque Journal)

– An excellent preview of the surprisingly deep Charleston Classic field (NBA Draft Blog)

– Despite the absence of Otto Porter, who sat out due to concussion-like symptoms, the Georgetown Hoyas were able to stymie the Liberty Flames en route to a 68-59 win (CBS DC Local)
 
 
News & Notes:
– The Kansas Jayhawks are eager to get back on the court following their Champions Classic loss to Michigan State (KUsports.com)

– A bunch of good quotes from UTEP head coach Tim Floyd on his role in Sean Miller-era at Arizona (Arizona Daily Star)

– UConn coach Kevin Ollie pledged $100,000 towards a new basketball facillity in Storrs, CT (Connecticut Post)

– Some great info on the conferences and teams participating in the annual late-season BracketBusters Week (The Horizon League)

– Did you know that this is the 75th anniversary of the NCAA tournament? (Sporting News)
 
 
Odds & Ends:

– Vermont’s Clancy Rugg: Great name, better dunk (Ballin’ is a Habit)

– Former-Michigan State Spartan-turned actor Delvon Roe made an appearance on Tosh.0 (Diehard Sports)

– The Hawaii basketball team wants more fans to attend home games this season (Warriors Insider)

– Some pretty entertaining suggestions  for future gimmick games featuring the Syracuse Orange (Troy Nunes)

– “Free Shabazz” t-shirts are going to be the next hipster trend. I can just see it now. (Deadspin)

– There are no words to describe the picture you are about to see (The UConn Blog)

 
 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
I want to go back to college not for the women or for the fame, but to be able to spend four seasons with Creighton guard Grant Gibbs (You need to follow him on Twitter @DoubleGfor3).


 
 
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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.