The Morning Mix

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College hoops took a back seat last night.

Alabama destroyed Notre Dame en route to their third BCS National Championship in four years, The hapless Washington Wizards beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on a Bradley Beal game-winner and Carmelo Anthony waited outside the Celtics’s team bus in order to start a ruckus with Kevin Garnett.

Before we hit the links I wanted to make you all aware that the CBT Podcast is now available for iTunes subscription and download.

Speaking of the CBT Podcast, it will be back tomorrow afternoon. We are looking for some excellent podcast/mailbag questions, so drop us a line at @CBTonNBC.

But we do have some college hoops-related things to sort out, so lets hit the links.

Tuesday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – Clemson @ No. 1 Duke
7:00 p.m. – Alabama @ No. 7 Missouri
7:00 p.m. – DePaul @ UConn
7:00 p.m. – Baylor @ Texas Tech
8:05 p.m. – Drake @ No. 13 Creighton
9:00 p.m. – Pittsburgh @ No. 19 Georgetown
9:00 p.m. – No. 15 Ohio State @ Purdue
 
 
Read of the Day:
The foot injury suffered by Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum has raised this issue of the value of returning to school. McCollum’s draft stock was at an all-time high following the Mountain Hawks’ NCAA tournament upset victory over Duke. He could have left school and nobody would have blamed him. David Steele puts it best. Read it. (The Sporting News)

Read of the Day:
I don’t really know how to sum this story up, but trust me, it’s great. It has to do with Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, who is one of the most genuine people in college hoops. Read it. (Defiantly Dutch)
 
 
Top Stories:
Trey Burke: National Player of the Year? More likely than you think: Mason Plumlee and Doug McDermott may get all the PoY hype, but Michigan’s Burke is deserving of some love as well. in fact, if you look at the numbers, Burke should be the favorite if the season ended today.

One-on-one with Marcus Paige: how little things hurt the Heels: Our very own Eric Angevine put together a great Q&A session with North Carolina freshman guard Marcus Paige following the Tar Heels tough road loss at Virginia.

Maurice Creek could return soon for Indiana, what could he bring? Prior to Indiana’s road win at Penn State yesterday, the Hoosiers found out that redshirt junior Maurice Creek could return from a right foot injury in just one week. Creek has battled injuries his entire career, and has been on the shelf ever since the 19th of December.

Mountain West Conference catch-up: It’s entirely possible that the MWC is the best conference out west. It’s also entirely possible that the MWC gets four NCAA tournament bids thanks to the hot starts from New Mexico and Wyoming. The battle at the top between San Diego State and UNLV.

Southeastern Conference Catch-up: Outside of Florida, Kentucky and Missouri, the rest of the SEC doesn’t look too hot. Tennessee doesn’t have any firepower, Arkansas is still way too young, Alabama too banged up and Vanderbilt, the reigning SEC Tournament Champions, is just 6-6.

VIDEO: Grinnell gets POSTERIZED!!!: Grinnell College, the home of viral scoring legend Jack Taylor, is back in the news. Unfortunately, it not because somebody scored 138 points. Nope, the Fox Squirrels are back in the news because they were on the wrong end of a nasty posterization. Don’t try to
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– Because of the Saturday primetime playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco Giants, UW-Milwaukee has moved up the start time of their game against Illinois-Chicago from 7:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. That’s smart work up in Green Bay. (UICflames.com)

– Marshall guard kelvin Amayo is leaving the program. Apparently the freshman was under the impression that he would be receiving a scholarship although he’s not currently receiving one. (SNY.tv)

– Akron’s Chauncey Gilliam will miss the next two weeks due to a meniscus tear (Hustle Belt)

– Florida forward Eric Murphy fractured a rib during practice last week and may be unable to play in the Gators’ SEC opener against Georgia on Wednesday (USA Today)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– John Gasaway thinks Minnesota, Gonzaga and are darkhorse candidates to win the national championship. (ESPN Insider)

– Remember how good Anthony Davis was at blocking shots? Well according to the numbers, Jeff Withey is doing a better job than Davis through 13 games. (ESPN)

– Tom Izzo would be shocked if this season’s Big-Ten Champion emerges with only “one or two losses”. (Mlive.com)

– Danny Spewak of Rush The Court does a great job getting to the bottom of why Oklahoma senior Sam Grooms isn’t getting more playing time. (Rush The Court)

– It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for Gary Parrish’s “Poll Attacks”. (Eye on College Basketball)

– I really did enjoy this piece on assists and the types of shots that are most frequently assisted. (Run The Floor)

– Some how some way, Sacramento State managed to missed 26 free throws and still defeat Southern Utah. (Big Sky BBall)
 
 
Photo of the Day:
This is a photo of Cincinnati President Santa J. Ono, who got his head shaved after the Bearcats’ home loss to Notre Dame last night. Ono promised to shave his head if the Bearcats won 10 in a row, and they completed this task by defeating Marshall on December 15th. (Fox-19 Cincinnati)

source: AP
 
 

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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.