The Morning Mix

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Big Monday delivered last night. There were only 15 games on the schedule, but the marquee games delivered. Kansas and Iowa State played in the game of the night. Elijah Johnson went for 39 points, and scored 12-straight points down the stretch. Some will say Iowa State got jobbed. Others will say that last night belonged to Elijah Johnson. Neither group is wrong.

Let’s hit the links.

Tuesday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 1 Indiana @ Minnesota
7:00 p.m. – No. 19 Memphis @ Xavier
7:00 p.m. – Towson @ George Mason
9:00 p.m. – No. 8 Florida @ Tennessee
9:00 p.m. – Nebraska @ No. 17 Wisconsin

 
 
Read of the Day:
Jabari Parker is the most heralded recruit in the class of 2013. The Chicago Grid details how Nike got the inside track towards obtaining the exclusive rights to Parker’s feet. Read it. (Chicago Grid)

Read of the Day:
Using the two marquee games from this past weekend, Georgetown-Syracuse and New Mexico-Colorado State, Matt Brown explains why over-analyzing certain college basketball games is a futile process. (Sports on Earth)
 
 
Top Stories:
For Elijah Johnson, Monday’s comeback was about more than just one win: Elijah Johnson has had his share of struggles this season. But on Monday night, he had all the confidence in the world and was able to put the Jayhawks on his back and carry them to victory. They will need him to play with confidence more often down the stretch. He’s tough to stop when he’s confident.

Iowa State loses to Kansas, but don’t disregard their three-point shooting: Iowa State may have lost last night, but they provided a lot of entertainment thanks to their wide array of long-range marksmanship.

Syracuse’s back court struggles becoming a major concern: Syracuse lost to Marquette last night 74-71, marking the first time the Orange have lost back-to-back games all season. Syracuse’s backcourt has been the key concern in the two recent defeats.

Marquette gets 26 from Gardner in victory over Syracuse: The Marquette big man had himself a big time performance against Syracuse, scoring from inside and outside.

Andrew Wiggins named Naismith High School Player of the Year: Wiggins is the one of the top three unsigned recruits in the class of 2013 and will choose between Kentucky and Florida State.

The Big East’s new TV deal could include a name change:The Big East signed a television deal with ESPN last week and one of that may be made is to change the name of the conference. I think we can all agree that this is the right decision.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Former-USC basketball player Brandon Martin has been named Athletic Director at Cal State Northridge. (Yahoo Sports)

– The 25 finalists were announced for the Lou Henson Award, given to the top mid-major player of the year. (College Insider)

– Memphis’ Antonio Barton is no longer in a walking boot and may be able to return for the postseason. (College Basketball Talk)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– This is what the NCAA Tournament bracket would look like if teams were seeded based on storylines. (Wilmington Star News)

– You’re probably already aware that March has the potential to be absolutely bonkers, but in case you need more convincing, Mike Lopresti previews what may be in store. (USA Today)

– In case you forgot, the USC Trojans are looking for a new head coach. The opening should command some quality attention when the season ends, and according to Doug Gottleib, who knows the SoCal area very well, believes the hiring could set off a chain reaction of events. (CBS Sports)

– Mississippi State has just six scholarship players available for use and are sitting at the bottom of a weak SEC. But regardless of his teams struggles, head coach Rick Ray doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him. (Clarion Ledger)

– La Salle is one of the more interesting bubble teams to watch for as the regular season comes to a close. They have four good wins and only one bad loss. They have the looks of a team that can solidify their NCAA tournament status with a strong run in the A-10 Tournament. (Hoopville)

– At the beginning of the season, the balance of power in the Mountain West was geared towards UNLV and San Diego State, but as the season has progressed, the balance of power has shifted towards Fort Collins and Albuquerque. (College ChalkTalk)

– Memphis will put two large winning streaks on the line tonight when they face Xavier tonight in a rare late-February non-conference showdown. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)

– Saint Mary’s still has some work to do in order to make the NCAA tournament, but their win over Creighton showed that they deserve to be considered. (Rush The Court)

– Blake Griffin advises college players to not rush their pro career. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Andy Katz provides a bevy of thoughts on the hoops world, including his choice for some conference Player of the Year awards. (ESPN)

– LeBron James, the pride of Akron, OH, returns home during the offseason to reunite with Akron Zips head coach Keith Dambrot, who coached LeBron at St. Vicent-St. Mary’s High School. The Zips are currently riding an 18-game winning streak and are ranked inside the top-25. (USA Today)

– Washington State dismissed Reggie Moore back in September, and well, I think it’s safe to asusme that they really missed his services this season. (Coug Center)

– A month ago, it looked like the Missouri Valley may get three teams into the NCAA Tournament, but with Creighton and Wichita State’s recent struggles, it’s quite possible that The Valley only sends one team to the Big Dance. (Eye on College Basketball)
 
 
Odds & Ends
– Two weeks after snapping at ESPN’s Andy Katz, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was back at it again, barking at CBS’ Jeff Goodman. (Fox Sports Wisconsin)

– Denver mascot sparks controversy. Weirdest headline of the day. (Mile High Mids)

– Your “stat of the day”: Illinois has gone 5-1 since John Groce banned Twitter. (The Big Lead)

– In case you’re in to this sort of thing: Karl Hess has worked more games this season than any other referee. (Run The Floor)

– A bizarre story on Junior College hoops in Iowa. A brawl broke out after a game, one player got arrested. The School President bailed the player out, and the team got punished. Just read it. (Deadspin)

– A top-10 list of the ugliest college basketball uniforms of all time. (Lost Letterman)
 
 
Tweet of the Day:

 
 
Picture of the Day:
No words necessary. (H/T @MattMumISU)

source:
 
 
Video of the Day:
Ball State recruit Franko House drills a 3/4 court buzzer-beater.


 
 
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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.