We have a new Florida State this year, but will they be improved?

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BROOKLYN – Florida State’s venture into ACC relevancy the last four seasons has centered around their front court. Big bodies; athletic shot-blockers; tough, physical, grind-you-down defense.

You should know the names: Solomon Alabi. Chris Singleton. Ryan Reid. Most recently, Bernard James, a 27 year old veteran who was, quite literally, a man amongst boys. For the past four seasons, every athletic trainer in the ACC has known that a trip to Tallahassee meant packing extra ice packs and advil for the trip home.

The Seminoles are a much different team this season, however, and it’s not necessarily because they lack size. Boris Bojanovsky is 7-foot-3. Michael Ojo is 7-foot-1. Kiel Turpin, who starts at center, is 7-foot. But what all three of those guys have in common is that they are young, raw, and not quite ready to compete at this level. In 61 combined minutes in the first two games, they had a grand total of three rebounds. The seven rebounds they added in Friday’s 88-70 win over BYU wasn’t really an explosion in production.

This season, Florida State’s strength is on their perimeter, and it starts with Michael Snaer.

Snaer isn’t exactly a secret at this point in his career. He was a McDonald’s All-American in high school. He was Florida State’s leading scorer last season. As a senior, he was named an NBCSports.com Preseason First-Team All-American, thanks to his three-point marksmenship, his penchant for clutch buckets and the fact he’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the country.

But Snaer’s got plenty of help this season.

Talented junior Ian Miller is finally ready to play an entire season, and freshman Devin Bookert, who the Florida State coaching staff loves, looks to be recovered from a preseason knee injury that kept him out of action for about three weeks. That trio combined for 45 points, 11 assists and 16 boards in Friday’s Coaches vs. Cancer semifinal matchup, finishing 15-24 from the floor and 9-14 from three. That kind of efficiency isn’t likely to be repeated on a nightly basis, but BYU is a good basketball team; this isn’t a bad indicator of how good that group can be.

“They’re really skilled on the perimeter,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “In the past you see a front line that’s really athletic and dominant, but their guards are really terrific.”

Throw in Montay Brandon — a 6-foot-7 slasher that is versatile enough that Hamilton used him at the point late in the game, although that resulted in BYU making a run down the stretch to cut into a lead that bordered on 30 — and a pair of quality forwards in Okaro White and Terrence Shannon, and the Seminoles have a chance for success with their rebranded roster.

They do have some issues that need fixing. The 20 turnovers they had on Friday are way too many, even if they were augmented by 20 assists. And the 22 offensive rebounds they gave up are unacceptable. But when taken in concert with the increased pace that Florida State is playing at this season — they had 74 possessions in their first two games, one of which was a loss to South Alabama, and 71 in the win on Friday — you can see the shifting tides.

Florida State’s a new breed this season.

They’re running the floor, they’re spreading the court offensively, they’re shooting threes and, perhaps most importantly for their fans, they are scoring a lot of points.

Whether or not that turns into wins and a trip to the NCAA tournament, we are yet to see.

But if they continue to play like they did on Friday, I don’t think it will be much of a problem.

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

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 between $250,000-$275,000.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that will pay players with less than three years of professional basketball experience 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 $250,000 that a two-way contract will 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 chasing 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.