The Morning Mix

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Wednesday night chaos has become a weekly occurrence this season. Penn State shocked the world, getting their first Big-Ten win of the season, beating No.4 Michigan. Georgetown got their first win inside Gampel Pavilion, needing Otto Porter heroics to defeat UConn in double-OT. Texas rallied back from a 22-point deficit to defeat Oklahoma. Arizona lost to USC, and Chane Behanan almost killed Worrel Clahar.

As you can see, we have a lot to get to.

So let’s hit the links.

Thursday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 16 Ohio State @ Northwestern
7:00 p.m. – Detroit @ Temple
8:00 p.m. – Utah State @ No. 25 Louisiana Tech
9:00 p.m. – No. 3 Duke @ Virginia
11:00 p.m. – No. 2 Gonzaga @ BYU
11:00 p.m. – Oregon State @ No. 24 Oregon

Read of the Day:
A phenomenal feature on cardboard big heads. Yep, your read of the day is about cardboard big heads. But seriously, it’s written by George Dohrmann, the author of “Play Their Hearts Out”, so you know it’s good stuff. Read it. (Sports Illustrated)
 
 
Top Stories:
Otto Porter delivers again in 2OT win over UConn (VIDEO):Georgetown trailed Connecticut by seven points in double overtime, 78-71, with 2:03 to play. But Otto Porter scored five of the final seven points, including the game-winning layup with nine seconds remaining.

No. 4 Michigan upset by Penn State, how worrisome is their defense? Teams that struggle with defensive efficiency don’t often survive March Madness very long. Prior to giving up 84 points against then-0-13 Penn State, the Wolverines ranked 42nd in defensive efficiency. That’s not good if you want to contend for a National Championship.

Akron takes control of the MAC with thrilling, OT win over Ohio: The Akron Zips extended their NCAA-leading 19-game win streak last night, defeating the 2012 MAC Champions 88-81 in one of the best seasons of the game. It was high-major #MACtion.

Just how good is New Mexico? Is a No. 1 seed in their future? Potentially: With three games left in regular season play, the Lobos have a stranglehold on the Mountain West Conference championship. But just how good is this New Mexico team? With all the movement within the top-10, a No.1-seed come March isn’t out of the question.

Louisville’s Chane Behanan delivers the most violent dunk of the season (VIDEO): Unquestionably the most violent display of posterization I have ever seen. Just watch.

Bubble Banter: Who helped their tournament chances?Creighton, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Boise State all kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive with wins last night.

Bubble Banter: Who hurt their tournament chances? Oklahoma, Wichita State are all watching tournament bids slip by the wayside.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Fairleigh Dickinson will reportedly fire coach Greg Vetrone at end of season. (College Basketball Talk)

– A proposal to build a statue of Terrapin-great Len Bias at a local high school has been withdrawn because of concerns that it would send the wrong message to students. (Washington Post)

– The status of UNLV forward Anthony Bennett is day-to-day as he continues to deal with shoulder pain. (Las Vegas Sun)

– Florida has dealt with the injury bug all season. On Wednesday, all three banged up Gators, Will Yeguete, Michael Frazier and Casey Prather were cleared to practice again. The Gators will need a healthy squad if they want to contend in March. (Alligator Army)

– Iowa State police are investigating death threats made against Kansas guard Elijah Johnson following his heroic performance against the Cyclones on Monday. (Wichita Eagle)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Oh look, ANOTHER opinion piece about how college basketball sucks. Thanks but no thanks. (Virginia Pilot)

– Coaches want to control the game, which is why we are seeing less possessions and lower scores. (Post and Courier)

– Thanks to the Mountaineers loss to Baylor last night, Bob Huggins is one loss away from securing his first regular season losing record since 1985. (Eye on College Basketball)

– At the beginning of the month, back when TCU defeated Kansas, I broke down the top-ten upsets of the season. Penn State’s upset win over No. 4 Michigan last night is definitely worthy of a top-5 slot. (Eye on College Basketball)

– An updated look at the entertaining race for the Big-Ten Championship. Five teams still have a shot at winning the regular season title. (Inside the Hall)

– C.J. Moore attempts to explain why Kansas’ Ben McLemore has avoided clutch moments on the road. (Bleacher Report)

– Wanna know how I know Wednesday was bonkers? USC beat Arizona. Nobody saw that coming. (CBS Local Los Angeles)

– There is a strong debate forming about whether or not Gonzaga should be a No.1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The last “mid-major” to do so was John Calipari’s Memphis team in 2008. How do the two squads compare? (Eye on College Basketball)

– A day after Coach-K said he was finished coaching Team USA basketball, Jerry Colangelo says that talk will have to wait. (ESPN)

– Maryland guard Seth Allen was almost forced to quit basketball after injuring his elbow in a 2007 bike crash. (Baltimore Sun)

– Oklahoma blew a 22-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Texas. Yeah, the Sooners might have a few issues. (Cream and Crimson Machine)

– According to an AP report, Miami booster Nevin Shapiro gave $170,000 in impermissible benefits to Hurricane players, recruits, coaches and others between 2002 and 2010. (Yahoo Sports)
 
 
Tweet of the Day:
Kentucky sophomore Ryan Harrow, formerly of NC-State, on his senior teammate Julius Mays, also formerly of NC-State AND Wright State. We all kid, but six years of college would have been awesome. (H/T @ThomasBeisner)

 
 
Video of the Day:
Here’s the deal. I’m sick of the Harlem Shake and so are you. But this rendition from the Oakland Golden Grizzlies is just so hilarious, I had to share. The story behind the making of the video is just as funny. Seriously, I wouldn’t do this too you unless it was legit. This is legit. (Oakland Press)


 
 
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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.