Late Night Snacks: Teams do harm to NCAA tournament resumes on Super Bowl Sunday

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Game of the Day: No. 23 Minnesota 62, Iowa 59 

The Golden Gophers found a way to win at home, as Austin Hollins’ three-pointer with 11.6 seconds remaining gave Minnesota a 60-59 lead. Two things that stand out from this one: Iowa allowing a needed resume-building win slip from their grasp and the lack of production from Minnesota’s bench. On the first point, Fran McCaffery’s team is now 3-6 in Big Ten play, and losing contact with the top half of the conference is a major issue for the Hawkeyes in their quest to get into the NCAA tournament discussion. As for Minnesota’s reserves, who didn’t even attempt a shot much less score, someone has to step up this month despite Tubby Smith’s desire to lean on his starters for production if they’re to have a shot at knocking off No. 13 Michigan State on Wednesday night.

Important Outcomes 

1. Georgia Tech 66, Virginia 60 

The Cavaliers have done themselves no favors when it comes to their NCAA tournament resume. While Tony Bennett’s team has some good wins they also have stunning losses that will not help their cause, and this one can be added to the list. Virginia led 57-48 with 8:12 remaining but scored just three points the rest of the way, and the Yellow Jackets took advantage with a game-ending 18-3 run. Mfon Udofia scored 15 points to lead the way with Robert Carter Jr. and Chris Bolden scoring 14 apiece for Georgia Tech. Joe Harris led all scorers with 18 points.

2. Providence 55, Villanova 52

Jay Wright’s team has two wins over Top 5 teams on their resume, and now they’ve also got a season sweep at the hands of Providence. Bryce Cotton’s three-pointer with just over two seconds remaining proved to be the difference, with the Friars avoiding an epic collapse after leading by nine with two minutes remaining. Cotton finished with 18 points and six rebounds and Josh Fortune added 15 on five three-pointers. Darrun Hilliard shot 3-of-13 from the field but still managed to score 17 points (10-of-10 FT) to lead Villanova.

3. Wisconsin 74, Illinois 68

John Groce brought Brandon Paul off the bench today and the move didn’t work, as Illinois’ leading scorer struggled offensively and as a team the Fighting Illini continued to have issues defensively. Wisconsin shot 55.6% in the second half and Ben Brust led three Badgers in double figures with 20 points. Illinois may have shot just 2-of-13 from beyond the arc but if they show the ability to get stops consistently their chances of winning would have improved greatly. Now 2-7 in conference play, Illinois has a lot of work to do if they’re to factor into the NCAA tournament conversation.

Starred

1) F Rhamel Brown (Manhattan) 

Brown posted his fourth double-double of the season in the Jaspers’ 57-49 win over Saint Peter’s, scoring 21 points (8-of-10 FG), grabbing ten rebounds and blocking seven shots.

2) G Shabazz Napier (Connecticut) 

In the Huskies’ 64-59 overtime win over South Florida the junior point guard accounted for 24 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

3) F Josh Huestis (Stanford) 

Huestis finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in Stanford’s 81-73 win over Oregon State.

Struggled

1) G Brandon Paul (Illinois)

Head coach John Groce made the decision to bring Paul off the bench and Illinois’ leading scorer didn’t react well, shooting 3-of-13 from the field in a 74-68 loss to Wisconsin.

2) G Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa)

Marble went scoreless for the first time since his freshman year in the Hawkeyes’ 62-59 loss at No. 23 Minnesota, attempting just two shots in 17 minutes of action.

3) Villanova 

Rough day for the Wildcats, who shot 27.5% from the field and committed 18 turnovers in their 55-52 loss to Providence.

Other Notable Happenings 

1) Stanford picked up its third consecutive victory, beating Oregon State 81-73 in Palo Alto. Chasson Randle scored 20 points and Josh Huestis added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinal, who have been successful in part due to their improved perimeter shooting (14-of-25 3PT on Sunday). Next up for Stanford is a trip to Arizona on Wednesday, and a win there could vault them into the Pac-12 race.

2) No. 12 Louisville closed the first half on a 37-15 run, going on to beat No. 25 Marquette 70-51. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva combined to score 32 points for the Cardinals, and as a result of Louisville’s win the top seven teams in the Big East standings are separated by just one game in the loss column.

3) Mackey McKnight scored 21 points to lead five Lehigh starters in double figures in the Mountain Hawks’ 85-76 win at Army. Lehigh remains in a tie for first place in the Patriot League with Bucknell, and with Lafayette two games back at 4-3 in the standings the two preseason favorites have some separation at the halfway point.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

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.