Key injuries to know

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A hearty welcome to those of you just now joining the rest of us in following college basketball now that football season has ended. We’ll be running a series of posts to get all you football fans caught up on the season at-large. To read through them all, click here.

Injuries can take a season that’s on the verge of becoming special and turn it into a struggle at the drop of the hat, turning contenders into teams lucky to make it out of the first round of the NCAA tournament. Below are some key injuries you need to be aware of as we approach the month of March.

1) F Ryan Kelly (Duke) 

Losing Kelly was a significant blow for the Blue Devils, who were the nation’s top-ranked team when the senior forward went down with a broken right foot. Kelly’s a “stretch 4” with range well out beyond the three-point line, averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game at the time of his injury.

The Blue Devils are 4-2 without Kelly, dropping road games at NC State and Miami with the latter currently in command of the ACC race. Duke has seen a drop in their efficiency numbers on both ends of the floor but they’re still a formidable team, and they’ll be better when he returns to the court. Kelly’s out indefinitely but Duke expects him to return this season. When will that be? That’s anyone’s guess.

2) G C.J. McCollum (Lehigh) 

McCollum was well on his way to All-America status before breaking a bone in his left foot in a loss at VCU on January 5, averaging 23.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Without the services of one of the nation’s best guards Lehigh, preseason favorite to win the Patriot League, saw that status handed over to Bucknell. But Dr. Brett Reed’s Mountain Hawks are tied atop the league standings with a 6-1 record, with one of the wins coming at Bucknell.

McCollum was projected to miss 8-10 weeks, which could (on the short end) put him back on the court in time for the Patriot League tournament. Lehigh can certainly win the conference without McCollum (projected to be a first round pick by many who follow the NBA Draft), and they may have to.

3) Lorenzo Brown (NC State) 

Brown missed the Wolfpack’s 79-78 loss to No. 14 Miami on Saturday with a sprained left ankle, and it’s likely that he will be on the floor when the Wolfpack visit No. 5 Duke on Thursday night. In the first meeting between the two teams Brown dished out 13 assists, and he’s generally regarded as the best point guard in the ACC.

Without him NC State went with freshmen Rodney Purvis and Tyler Lewis at the point against Miami, and while those two performed admirably in a game the Wolfpack led for most of the afternoon this team needs Brown. In spite of their maddening habit of doing “NC State things” in games they’re expected to win, Brown is the kind of point guard capable of taking them a long way in March.

4) G Dominic Artis (Oregon) 

The Ducks were the clear favorites to win the Pac-12…until Artis suffered a foot injury that has sidelined him for the last three games. Oregon’s 1-2 since Artis went down, averaging a staggering 21.7 turnovers per game. Now Dana Altman’s team is in the middle of a serious logjam atop the Pac-12 standings, and the longer their freshman point guard is out the more likely it becomes that Oregon’s Pac-12 title chances dwindle.

Artis is questionable for games this week against Colorado and Utah (Colorado has one of the league’s best perimeter defenders in guard Spencer Dinwiddie), and if he can return at full strength Oregon will be a factor in the league race.

5) F James Southerland (Syracuse) 

It’s an academic issue rather than an injury that has Southerland sidelined for the Orange, and it’s anyone’s guess as to when the senior forward will be able to return to the court. One of the best sixth men in the country, Southerland is also a capable three-point shooter on a team devoid of any other consistent options in that department.

Without him freshman Jerami Grant has received more playing time and taken advantage of it in some spots, most recently scoring 14 points and in a 63-47 win over Notre Dame, but the Orange need Southerland back if they’re to have a shot at getting to the Final Four.

Some other injuries to keep an eye on include:

G P.J. Hairston (North Carolina): Suffered a concussion in a win at Boston College on January 29 and missed Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech.

G Xavier Thames (San Diego State): Starting point guard has dealt with back issues all season long.

F Aaron Jones and G Nick Williams (Ole Miss): Jones (torn ACL) is done for the season while Williams (foot) will miss a significant amount of time for the Rebels.

F Greg Whittington (Georgetown): Academically ineligible so he won’t be back this season; Georgetown is 6-1 in his absence however.

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

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.

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.