Pregame Shootaround 2.27.13: Georgetown visits UConn, SDSU-UNM face-off

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Game of the Night: San Diego State at No. 14 New Mexico (10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

New Mexico has taken a two game lead over Colorado State in the Mountain West, all but guaranteeing their MWC regular season title. They are coming off of one of the more impressive victories of the season, as Kendall Williams went for 46 points in a win at Moby Arena on Saturday. But the Aztecs are still quite talented and, when healthy, have the kind of perimeter attack that can cause problems for the Lobos. Here’s the thing about the MWC, however: the top four teams do not lose to the other top four teams at home. It’s happened twice this season. So Steve Fisher and company will have their work cut out for them.

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

It’s the last go-around for the Hoyas and the Huskies, and it comes at a time that both teams are peaking. Georgetown has won nine straight games to take over sole possession of first place in the Big East, but UConn has won seven of their last nine games, which includes wins at home over Syracuse and Cincinnati. The Huskies are a tough team to beat in Connecticut, even if it happens with the sterile XL Center less than full. The Huskies are going to have a tough time dealing with Georgetown’s front line, but I’m not sure if the Hoyas can slow down Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Akron at Ohio (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

The two best teams in the MAC square off again tonight. The Zips won the first meeting at home earlier this month, and you better believe Ohio is looking to get their revenge. Akron is undefeated in the MAC, while Ohio’s only lost once in the league this season.

Five Things to Watch For

1) There are about 100 key bubble games tonight, but the five biggest are:

  • Baylor at West Virginia (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Maryland at Georgia Tech (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Creighton at Bradley (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Texas A&M at Ole Miss (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Arizona State at UCLA (11:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

2) No. 18 St. Louis has taken control of the Atlantic 10 race, and while St. Joe’s has been one of the most disappointing teams in the conference, they are still one of the most talented. The Billikens host the Hawks tonight. (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

3) Besides Georgetown, there are four other ranked teams on the road tonight. The one you’ll want to keep an eye on: No. 11 Arizona at USC. The Trojans have been much-improved since they canned Kevin O’Neill midseason. (9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

4) Virginia Tech is not a good basketball team, but they may have the ACC’s Player of the Year on their roster. Erick Green is one of the best point guards in the country, and he’ll be going head-to-head with another one of the nation’s best point guards in Shane Larkin of No. 5 Miami. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

5) Northeastern has a chance to clinch the CAA regular season title tonight at Georgia State (7:00 p.m. ET), while Bucknell hosts American with a chance to clinch the Patriot League regular season title (7:00 p.m. ET). Belmont has a chance to guarantee themselves a share of the Ohio Valley regular season title if they can knock off SIU-Edwardsville at home (8:00 p.m. ET).

Top 25

  • No. 4 Michigan at Penn State (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • Virginia Tech at No. 5 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 7 Georgetown at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 10 Louisville at DePaul (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • No. 11 Arizona at USC (9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
  • San Diego State at No. 14 New Mexico (10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • No. 15 Oklahoma State at TCU (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • St. Joseph’s at No. 18 St. Louis (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • South Florida at No. 23 Pittsburgh (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Notable Games

  • Davidson at Elon (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Evansville at Wichita State (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Nevada at Boise State (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Mississippi State at Kentucky (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Oklahoma at Texas (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • Colorado at Stanford (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • St. Mary’s at Pepperdine (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.

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.