College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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Rotnei Clarke’s progression to the point: Butler knocked off Temple in Rotnei Clarke’s return to the court on Saturday night. Clarke was the savior, spurring the Bulldogs on to a win after Temple erased a big second half deficit. Clarke finished with 24 points, but that statline will mislead you, because all-in-all Clarke had an off night after the first couple of minutes. He was 4-14 from the floor and 3-10 from three.

No, the way that Clarke won that game for Butler was through his distribution of the basketball. The most dangerous sharpshooter in the country finished with nine assists on the night, many of which came down the stretch as he was able to draw the attention of the defense and find his open teammates. The biggest concern for Butler heading into the season was whether or not Clarke would be able to succeed as a point guard, and while he’s done a fine job through the first two months of the year, Saturday was the best that he has played the position all year long.

What’s wrong with VCU?: The Rams are 16-5 on the season, but heading into this week they were 16-3 with a top 25 rankings. That’s likely gone, after Shaka Smart’s club lost back-to-back games to Richmond and La Salle this week.

So what happened?

It’s simple, really. VCU’s defense stopped creating turnovers. You see, the Rams run a system called ‘Havoc’ which, more or less, means they are going to press for 40 minutes and try to force as many live-ball turnovers as possible. Those turnovers lead to transition, which gives VCU open layups and good looks from three. They lead the nation in defensive turnover percentage — their opponent’s turn the ball over 29.3% of the time — and steal percentage. VCU is 16-0 when they force at least 15 turnovers.

But they’re 0-5 when they don’t. In fact, in VCU’s five losses, their defensive turnover percentage is 19.0%, which would be good for 250th in the country. That’s not all that havocy.

56% of the Top 25 lost this week: We said this season was going to be a wild ride, and this week may have been the best example of it to date. There were 14 teams in the top 25 that lost this week. Of those 14, ten of those teams lost to unranked opponents while four of them lost to another ranked team. There were also four ranked teams that lost twice this week — No. 5 Louisville, No. 11 Kansas State, No. 12 Minnesota and No. 19 VCU. Three teams earned wins over top five teams — Miami over No. 1 Duke, Villanova over No. 3 Syracuse and No. 5 Louisville, and Georgetown over No. 5 Louisville.

O.D. Anosike’s big day: O.D. Anosike is a name that most hoops heads are going to recognize because of his ability to hit the glass. He led the nation in rebounding last season and is well on his way to doing the same this year. On Sunday, he put together one of the most impressive performances of his career: 20 points, 21 boards, five assists, two steals and two blocks in a win at Marist.

That’s a statline you don’t often see. The last time a player went 20/20/5/2/2 was on February 11th, 2012, when Tony Mitchell of North Texas had 22 points, 21 boards, five assists two steals and six blocks.

Mason Plumlee’s dunk was nicer: Alex Len and Mason Plumlee traded poster dunks in Duke’s 20 point win over Maryland on Saturday. Count me in the Plumlee camp here:

Who you got?

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.

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.