Summit League Conference Tournament Preview

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The Summit League was one of the more exciting conference races to follow throughout the season.

South Dakota State entered the new year as the favorite to win the conference in large part due to the fact that a) they won the automatic bid last season and b) they have a kid by the name of Nate Wolters that everybody was in love with. But the Jackrabbits came out and lost two of their first three games in conference play, digging themselves a hole that needed 12 wins over the course of the next 13 games to get out of.

Western Illinois finished tied with SDSU atop the league, but since SDSU swept WIU this season, the Leathernecks were forced into being the No. 2 seed. North Dakota State looked like they might be the best team in the conference early in the season, but a broken foot sidelined Taylor Braun for a long time, costing them valuable league games. Braun scored 22 in the regular season finale, just his second game back from injury.

Of note: Wolters (53 points) and Oakland’s Travis Bader (47 points) have the two highest scoring totals for one player in any games this season.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Sioux Falls, SD (Sioux Falls Arena)

When: March 9-12

Final: March 12th, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Favorite: South Dakota State

Not only are the Jackrabbits the No. 1 seed, but the tournament is being hosted in Sioux Falls, SD, which is just a quick drive down I-29 from Brookings, where SDSU is located. Throw in that the Jackrabbits are the league champs, they have the league’s Player of the Year and went to the tournament a season ago, I think it’s fair to call them the favorite.

And if they lose?: Here’s the thing to remember about North Dakota State: they went 2-4 against the top four teams in the Summit League they beat SDSU and Oakland in their only games with Braun, a 6-foot-7 wing and their leading scorer, in the lineup and 0-4 without him. They were the best team in the conference before he got injured, and Kenpom likes them to win the tournament with Braun back in the lineup.

Western Illinois is good as well, but they are one of the most boring teams in the country to watch. Think Wisconsin, but without the dunking from Jared Berggren and Sam Dekker. Winning is winning, but I want to see wins with points.

Sleepers: Oakland is a dangerous team. They don’t defend all that much, but they have a talented roster — Travis Bader is as good of a shooter as you’ll find in the country when he gets hot and Duke Mondy is a transfer from Providence — that can put up points in a hurry.

Studs: 

– Travis Bader, Oakland: He scored 47 points in a game and averaged 22.0 points on the season. Do. Not. Let. Him. Get. Hot.

– Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright, North Dakota State: Braun is the guy that gets all the attention for the Bison, but Bjorklund and Wright kept them relevant while he was injured.

– Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Duh.

CBT Prediction: I’m taking North Dakota State. Braun scored 22 in his second game back. He looks healthy, and when he’s healthy, NDSU is the best team in the league.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Miller Time: Indiana coach cashes in with $24 million deal

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New Indiana coach Archie Miller will make $24 million under his seven-year deal — and potentially even more in bonuses.

Miller accepted the job in March, but the athletic department didn’t announce details of the contract until Tuesday.

He will receive a base salary of $550,000 per year and $1 million in deferred income each season. Miller also will receive an additional $1.85 million in outside marketing and promotional income — and will get a $50,000 per year raise each year through March 2024.

Miller can earn a $250,000 bonus for winning a national championship. He can earn an additional $125,000 for a Big Ten regular-season title, reaching the Final Four and producing multiyear Academic Progress Rate scores over 950.

Utah, BYU rivalry back on after one-year hiatus

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The BYU-Utah annual rivalry series will be back on this season after taking a one-year hiatus last year.

For just the second time since 1909, the Utes and the Cougars did not play in 2016-17 after Utah head coach Larry Kyrstkowiak asked for a one-year cooling off period stemming from an intense and emotional game against BYU in 2015-16. In that game, then-freshman Nick Emery was ejected as a result of this punch that he threw:

The last time those two teams did not play was due to World War II.

The game will be played at BYU on Dec. 16th.

Utah will also play Utah State this season, the first time that they have played the Aggies since 2011.

 

California bans state-funded travel to eight states; does it affect college hoops?

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A new California law could end up causing a headache for the sports teams for public universities in the state.

Because of recently-added laws that are perceived as discriminatory against the LGBT community, California has now banned travel to eight states: Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota join a list that already includes Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The law states that contracts that were signed before Jan. 1st, 2017, are exempted and can be fulfilled, but there’s not guarantee that will be the case in the future.

“Moving forward, the athletic department will not schedule future games in states that fail to meet the standards established by the new law,” a UCLA spokesman told the Sacramento Bee. That said, the university does not use state funding for travel sports teams as it currently stands, and the goal of the law to avoid “spending taxpayer dollars in states that discriminate,” according to California’s Attorney General.

On the college basketball side of things, the biggest question mark here is whether or not this law will prevent teams from playing in the NCAA tournament if they are sent to a site in one of those eight states. Next season alone, there are first weekend sites in Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, not to mention the Final Four taking place in San Antonio. The location for many of those events were determined prior to January 1st.

“We are generally not going to deny student-athletes the opportunity to compete in the postseason,” a UCLA spokesman told NBC Sports.

The next question then becomes whether or not regular season travel will be allowed. Earlier this year, Cal dropped out of talks with Kansas about a potential home-and-home series due to this law, and if regular season travel is not allowed, it would mean that Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville and Wichita State, along with Kansas, are not allowed to be visited by California public schools that need state funding to travel. A request for a clarification on the legality of college sports teams traveling to those states has been filed with the Attorney General by Fresno State, whose football team is headed to Alabama for a game this year.

Travel for recruiting is also a question that needs to be answered, but at the highest level of the sport, that is typically funded by boosters.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.