Pregame Shootaround 2.25.13: Cuse visits Marquette, Kansas upset alert?

Leave a comment

Game of the Night: No. 12 Syracuse at No. 22 Marquette (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Thanks to a Syracuse loss to Georgetown and Marquette succumbing at Villanova, this game lost a bit of its luster. It’s no longer for first place in the Big East. That said, it is still a crucial game in the Big East standings. Louisville, Marquette and Syracuse are in a three-way tie for second in the league right now. A loss would drop either the Golden Eagles or the Orange into a tie with Notre Dame for fourth place. The top four teams get a double-bye in the Big East tournament.

Syracuse should have an advantage in this game. DaJuan Coleman is expected to be back in the lineup tonight, and Marquette’s weakness this season is their ability to shoot from the perimeter. Good luck trying to penetrate that Syracuse zone and finish around the basket without having the threat of the three-ball as a deterrent.

More than anything, this is a statement game that both teams need. Losing two in a row at this point in the season is concerning with March right around the corner.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 6 Kansas at Iowa State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This isn’t too difficult to figure out. Iowa State nearly knocked off Kansas in Lawrence earlier this season, and they’ll be getting their rematch in Hilton Coliseum, which is as tough a place to win as there is in the Big 12.

But there’s more to it than that. The Cyclones happen to match up really well with Kansas. Fred Hoiberg has a group of bigs that can step out on the perimeter and shoot, meaning that they are able to pull Jeff Withey away from the basket. That not only opens up lanes of penetration, but by screening actions, it creates open looks for the myriad of three-point shooters that ISU has.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Villanova is on the road against Seton Hall tonight. The Wildcats can all-but lock up a big to the NCAA tournament by knocking off the Pirates. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

2) No. 13 Kansas State will be hosting Texas Tech, a game the Wildcats should cruise in. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

3) Bryant and Sacred Heart had a league game from a month ago postponed due to Nemo. At the time the game was supposed to be played, SHU was threatening to make a run in the NEC. They’ve now lost four straight and are under .500 in conference play. (7:00 p.m. ET)

4) Grambling visits Mississippi Valley State tonight. MVSU has just four wins on the season. Grambling is still winless. This may be their best chance. (8:30 p.m. ET)

5) Central Connecticut is the only team in the country that has had two different players score 40 points in a game this season. The Blue Devils head to Quinnipiac for an intra-state battle tonight. (7:00 p.m. ET)

Top 25

  • No. 6 Kansas at Iowa State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 12 Syracuse at No. 22 Marquette (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Texas Tech at No. 13 Kansas State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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 between $250,000-$275,000.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that will pay players with less than three years of professional basketball experience 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 $250,000 that a two-way contract will 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 chasing 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

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.

Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

2 Comments

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.