Five Thoughts: Illinois vs. Ohio State, Kentucky’s freshmen ‘woes’

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League standings have nothing to do with NCAA tournament seeding: I spent 16 hours over the course of two days last week locked in a room with 19 other writers as we traversed our way through the NCAA tournament selection process. And one thing that I can tell you with utter certainty is that league records don’t mean a single thing to the committee. It’s not just that we don’t mention what the record for a team is in conference play, it’s not even available on the nitty gritty profiles used to compare teams.

Illinois and Ohio State are a perfect example of this. The Illini currently trail the Buckeyes by two games in the Big Ten standings, but if the season were to end today, Illinois may actually have a higher seed in the NCAA tournament than Ohio State.

Why?

Well, Ohio State’s resume is bolstered by the simple fact they have played a lot of good teams. They did beat Michigan and they do have a win over Wisconsin at home, but their best road win is at Nebraska. Illinois has won at Gonzaga and won at Minnesota. They beat Indiana at home and they have wins over Butler and Ohio State, the latter of which was a 19 point victory to kick off Big Ten play.

Sure, those losses to Northwestern and Purdue are ugly, but is that really enough to outweigh the fact they have four wins over the RPI top 20, three of which were away from home? It’s worth arguing, but I’d probably seed Illinois higher.

Kentucky’s struggles should only emphasize just how impressive last year’s team was: This is what a team filled with freshmen and newcomers is supposed to do. They’re supposed to struggle to find their roles and they’re supposed to have issues with leadership and playing consistently. The transition from high school and AAU ball to playing at the highest level of collegiate hoops isn’t supposed to be easy.

And just because it was for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis last season doesn’t mean it will be for any other crop of freshmen that John Calipari brings in.

All things considered, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have had decent freshmen seasons. If they were on any other team or in any other programs, they wouldn’t be considered failures as much as they would be thought of as freshmen that are being freshmen. So Goodwin shoots to much and has a bit of a temper. So Poythress struggles with consistency and gets overwhelmed by the moment. So Willie Cauley-Stein is raw. They’re supposed to be.

Don’t let the fact that Coach Cal landed a series of players that never should have set foot on a college campus blind you to the fact that this year’s freshman class looks an awful lot like what freshmen are supposed to look like.

Eli Carter fractured his fibula, and came away lucky: The Rutgers guard will be out the rest of the season after fracturing his right fibula in an ugly fall against DePaul on Saturday. He isn’t expected to need surgery — and he even tried to convince the Scarlet Knight medical staff to let him back into the game — but the sophomore won’t be suiting up again this season.

But watch how he fell:

source:

He’s lucky that his leg is still attached. That could have been so much worse.

(GIF via @bubbaprog)

NC State played it right, but got robbed by the refs: Up by three with just eight seconds left, NC State decided to foul Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green. Green made the first free throw and missed the second, and Jarell Eddie was there to tip-in the miss and send the game to overtime.

NC State made the right call, because if the officials had made the right call, the game never would have made it to overtime. Watch Eddie’s feet:

He’s well past the three point line before the ball hits the rim. That’s a clear violation. The basket should have been waived off.

The bigger issue is that this was the third last-second bucket that was scored on NC State because of the lack of a box out. It cost them against Maryland, when Richard Howell and CJ Leslie both tried to block Pe’Shon Howard’s shot and no one boxed out Alex Len. It cost them against Miami, when Richard Howell missed a box-out on Reggie Johnson. Luckily for Wolfpack fans, all this shot did was force overtime.

Johnathon Loyd has played well of late: Oregon lost three games in a row because of their point guard play. We noted that fact. So we should also not that that point guard has played much better of late. With Dominic Artis out with a foot injury,  Loyd struggled in his first couple of games running the show. But in the last three, he’s scored 22 points, handed out 11 assists, and, most importantly, turned the ball over just four times. It’s no surprise that Oregon won games at Washington and Washington State this week.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

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Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.

Oakland’s Greg Kampe hosting charity golf event with big-name coaches

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Oakland head coach Greg Kampe hosted a successful charity event for cancer research two years ago by allowing people to bid online to play a round of golf with some of college basketball’s best coaches.

Kampe is back again this year as he’s hoping to eventually raise $1 million for the American Cancer Society.

According to a report from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Kampe has 11 high-profile names that fans can play with this year.

  • Tom Izzo, Michigan State
  • Frank Martin, South Carolina
  • Rick Barnes, Tennessee
  • Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
  • Chris Holtmann, Butler
  • Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
  • Greg Kampe, Oakland
  • Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons
  • Steve Lavin
  • Fran Fraschilla
  • Bill Raftery

Fans can find more details about the auctions and all of the details here.

The minimum bid is $15,000 per coach. A “buy now” bid of $24,000 is also available.

Each round includes the following, according to the event’s website:

Up for auction will be 11 spectacular packages, featuring a private dinner with elite basketball coaches and VIPs, a one night stay at MotorCity Casino Hotel on Sunday, June 4, and an afternoon of golf on Monday, June 5 at Oakland Hills Country Club on the South Course. The winning bidders and their two guests will round out the foursomes with their selected VIP: Rick Barnes, Mick Cronin, Fran Fraschilla, Chris Holtmann, Tom Izzo, Greg Kampe, Steve Lavin, Frank Martin, Bill Raftery, Stan Van Gundy, or Kevin Willard.

There are a lot of great selections to choose from for this sort of thing, but I can’t imagine a better afternoon than playing golf with Bill Raftery and a few friends. There are some other tempting choices on this list, but that’s the one I would have to jump at.

If you think 137 players declaring for the draft is stupid, you’re probably stupid

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The NBA Draft’s full early entry list came out on Tuesday afternoon, and there were 137 underclassmen listed on it.

137.

For 60 spots in the NBA Draft, only 30 of which guarantee you a contract in the NBA.

And that’s before you factor in the 45 international players that also declared for the NBA Draft, as well as the crop of seniors — Josh Hart, Monte’ Morris, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Peters — that are going to end up hearing their names called. All told, there are going to be roughly 200 players competing to be one of the 60 people that end up getting drafted on June 22nd, and you don’t have to be any good at math to realize that 200 is a much, much bigger number than 60.

This unleashed a torrent of bad takes on the decision of these players.

And bad may not be doing those takes justice.

Because the bottom-line is this: You cannot paint the decision on whether or not to go pro with a broad brush.

For some players, making money of any kind is something they need to do to support their family, whether it’s what they’ll get with a first round guarantee, the $75-100,000 they’ll get for making a training camp roster to subsidize their time in the D-League while teams develop them or the money they can make in the D-League or overseas. You don’t know what their financial situation is. Maximizing their ability to capitalize on every available dollar they can make off of their athletic gifts may be more important than working towards a degree.

And it’s worth noting here that a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way to make a living in professional basketball. To say nothing of the money that can be made overseas or the number of second round picks and undrafted players that make guaranteed money — which is more than you probably realize — it needs to be noted that D-League salaries are getting a bump this year with the new CBA.

The NBA has also instituted something new called a “two-way contract”. Without getting into the legalese, it’s essentially a retainer worth well into the six figures that they will be able to give to two players that will allow them to retain that player under contract while sending them between the D-League and the NBA roster. In a sense, it creates an extra 60 NBA roster spots for players that have 0-3 years worth of professional basketball on their résumé.

Some players are simply declaring without signing with an agent because they want to get feedback directly from NBA personnel on what their professional prospects. Some will hear that they need to return to school to work on their body, or work on their jumper, or mature as a person to be able to handle everything that comes with being a professional. Others will be told they’re going to make a lot of money by staying in the draft, or that they need to go back to school because, frankly, they are not professional basketball players. Not getting invited to the NBA combine is a pretty good indication of where you stand in the eyes of NBA teams.

Still other players are putting their name into the draft to leave their options open should they be recruited over by the program they are a part of. Take Frank Jackson, for example. If he can return to school and thrive as Duke’s point guard, maybe he turns into a top 20 pick. But what happens if Trevon Duval, the best point guard in the Class of 2017 and a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, picks Duke? Would it be in Jackson’s best interest to come back to Duke when he won’t be playing the position that he needs to learn to play to turn himself into a lasting NBA player?

Jackson, like the roughly 100 underclassmen that have declared without an agent, has until May 24th to make his decision on whether or not he will keep his name in the draft. Until then, he can return to school without damaging his eligibility.

The entire reason that the NCAA changed their rules to allow players to test the waters is so that they can make the most important decision of their lives with as much information as humanly possible. This thing exists for the sole purpose of allowing the kids to have as much knowledge about their options as possible.

And that is exactly what these kids are doing.

So the idea that this rule, or players taking advantage of that rule, however high that number may be, is a bad thing is stupid.