Late Night Snacks: Butler tackles Gonzaga in nip-tuck Bulldog Battle

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We had an internal argument conversation about whether we should pick one game of the night each night, or leave room for the notion that more than one game might be equal to the honor. My position was that – as with evil rings of power and immortal swordsmen – there can be only one. Tonight, I’m going to stick to my guns, but oh, man was it hard. Lots and lots of great games. And yet, there’s no argument as to which one stood out tonight.

Game of the Night

N0. 13 Butler 64, No. 8 Gonzaga 63: Out of all of the fantastic games tonight, I had to pick the non-conference showdown between two rumored future members of the Catholic 7. The setting – historical Hinkle Fieldhouse – put it on top of the heap already, but then Kevin Schwartz, who was in Hawaii when Rotnei Clarke splashed his miracle shot to beat Marquette earlier this season, emulated his hero by dropping a half-court shot to win $18,000. Schwartz said he’d pay off his trip to the island first during a halftime interview. On top of all that, the game was absolutely dynamite. After a back-and-forth tennis match of a game, Gonzaga had the ball and a one-point lead with just over three seconds left. Kelly Olynyk muffed the inbounds pass, Roosevelt Jones took it to the hoop, and the game was over… or was it? The officials reviewed the play mid-floor-storming to determine if Jones had released the ball in time. They quickly (for once) ruled the play good and Butler had a huge, epic, historical, heart-palpitating win. And they did it without Rotnei Clarke, who was still recovering from a terrifying neck injury. An absolute heavyweight punch-out from beginning to end.

Watch the amazing ending here, courtesy of ESPN:

Meaningful Results

N0. 18 Michigan State 59, N0. 11 Ohio State 56: The Spartans laid claim to the Big Ten lead as Wisconsin fell to Iowa. Keith Appling and Adreian Payne led the Spartans.

No. 21 Oregon 76, No. 24 UCLA 67: Arsalan Kazemi was a starter at Rice, and is the only reason anyone has thought much about Rice basketball over the past five years. Now, after transferring to Oregon to play for Dana Altman, he’s a bench option. A bench option who scored 12 points to go with 11 rebounds to help down surging UCLA and vault the Ducks to 5-0 in the Pac 12. Oregon center Tony Woods led all scorers with 18.

Cincinnati 71, No. 25 Marquette 69 (OT): It’s only fitting that Sean Kilpatrick made the game-winning bucket for the Bearcats, since he did just about everything else before that. Kilpatrick scored 36 points on the evening, aided mightily by Titus Rubles and his ten rebounds.

Wyoming 58, No. 15 San Diego State 45: The Cowboys regulated, shutting down Chase Tapley and holding Jamaal Franklin to 13 points in a huge win that helps keep the MWC as wild as we could ever hope. And that’s without the guy who jacked somebody up in a bar fight.

No. 16 Kansas State 69, Oklahoma 60: Oklahoma, under long-time veteran (and former Kansas State) coach Lon Kruger, was starting to look like a threat in the Big 12 after a 3-0 start. Kansas State under – and I cannot stress this enough – Bruce Weber dished the Sooners their first loss in league play. Rodney McGruder scored 20.

Alabama 50, Texas A&M 49: I wish people would stop saying that Elston Turner was “held to” 13 points in a game like this. The 40 points at Kentucky is the outlier, not the 13. That said, Alabama is now 3-1 in an SEC that looks wide open. With some hideous chili stains on their non-con record, the Tide will have to keep this up all the way into the SEC tournament, but winning is like, you know, better than losing, no matter when it happens.

Starred

Kevin Schwartz: Duh.

Kwamain Mitchell, St. Louis: 29 points, 7 assists, 6 steals in a 82-80 OT loss to Rhode Island.

Ray McCallum, Detroit: 25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block in a 98-47 beatdown of Illinois-Chicago.

Struggled

Phil Pressey, Missouri: Two points and 10 turnovers in a big loss to Florida as the Tigers continue to fall apart without Laurence Bowers in the lineup.

Florida State: Not only did the Seminoles lose a 56-36 laugher to a rather average UVA team, but not a single Seminole player eked into double figures on the night. Worst of all, Terrance Shannon went down with a serious neck injury in the waning minutes of the game and had to be taken to the hospital on an immobilizing backboard.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.