Pregame Shootaround 2.13.13: Two great rivalries highlight loaded slate

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Game of the Day: San Diego State at No. 24 Colorado State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

This is a game that Colorado State really needs to win if they are going to bring home the Mountain West regular season title. While the Rams do get New Mexico at home, they still have road trip to UNLV, Air Force, Boise State and Wyoming. Putting themselves in a one-game hole behind the Lobos with that kind of schedule remaining would be tough.

The Rams also happen to matchup quite well with the Aztecs. Colorado State is big and physical and one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They’ll be going up against an SDSU team that’s perimeter oriented and currently dealing with injuries to their starting back court of Chase Tapley and Xavier Thames.

Part of what makes the MWC so entertaining this season is that the conference is so deep, and that, in turn, means that there really aren’t all that many bad losses to be had. But just because it’s not a bad loss doesn’t mean that the loss won’t hurt.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 6 Syracuse at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This is a rivalry game, and rivalry games are always going to be difficult to predict. But there’s so much more to the story here. UConn, with everything that they’re dealing with as a program, has nothing to play for this season beyond pride and the chance to play spoiler. And there would be nothing that the Huskies would enjoy more than handing a loss to the Orange — the team that helped precipitate the downfall of the Big East, which leaves UConn as a team without a conference — that would knock them out of sole possession of first place in the Big East.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Creighton at Northern Iowa (8:00 p.m. ET)

Creighton needs a win. Badly. They’ve lost two in a row and four of their last seven games. Four of their next five games are on the road, and they close the season with a home game against Wichita State. That’s a long way from an easy schedule, but thanks to some question performances from Indiana State and Wichita State of late, the Bluejays still control their own destiny in the Missouri Valley. Win out, and they’re regular season champs. Sounds easy, but it won’t be. Northern Iowa has had a tough season, but Cedar Rapids is never an easy place to get a win.

Five Things to Watch For

1) North Carolina and Duke play tonight. We gave it the preview treatment here. I think the Blue Devils win easily. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) Butler will be playing without starting center Andrew Smith as they take on one of the A-10’s biggest surprises in Charlotte. The Bulldogs cannot afford to lose a game and fall a game off the pace in the conference standings. (7:00 p.m. ET)

3) No. 22 Memphis has finally made their way back into the top 25, but the question is whether or not this team has really gotten better, or if they are simply feasting on the lesser competition in Conference USA. Want to prove it’s not the latter? Don’t lose league games you should win. (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

4) Believe it or not, a visit to Texas A&M may be the toughest game that Ole Miss has left on their schedule. And considering that they’re anything but a lock for the NCAA tournament at this point, the Rebels probably cannot afford a loss tonight. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

5) Oregon is 2-3 since losing Dominic Artis to a foot injury. Their first game without the freshman point guard was against Washington at home. The Ducks won. (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Top 25

  • Nebraska at No. 1 Indiana (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • North Carolina at No. 2 Duke (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 3 Miami at Florida State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 6 Syracuse at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Charlotte at No. 11 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • No. 17 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • DePaul at No. 21 Notre Dame (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Central Florida at No. 22 Memphis (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • San Diego State at No. 24 Colorado State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • No. 23 Oregon at Washington (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Other Notable Games

  • Delaware at Northeastern (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Akron at Eastern Michigan (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Iowa State at Texas (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Creighton at Northern Iowa (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Purdue at Illinois (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • West Virginia at Baylor (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.

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.