2012-2013 NBCSports.com Postseason Awards

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PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Trey Burke, Michigan

We wrote about this on Thursday, so I’m not going to go into too much detail about this again. The bottom-line? Burke is averaging 19.1 points and 6.9 assists while posting one of the best individual seasons in the history of the efficiency era. He’s playing on a top ten team that is just as young as Kentucky’s team was when they won the 2012 National Title, and he does everything for them. Oh, and if this shot had fallen to the right instead of to the left, the Wolverines would be co-Big Ten champions.

Otto Porter is phenomenal, but you cannot forget about the way he played early in the season. Victor Oladipo has been great, but he’s a glorified role player (that’s a compliment) on arguably the best team in the country. Burke’s carried one of the youngest teams in the country.

Co-COACH OF THE YEAR: Jim Larranaga, Miami, and Jim Crews, St. Louis

I was glad when our voting ended with Larranaga and Crews tied, because I think that it’s impossible to differentiate between these two.

What Larranaga did at Miami this year was amazing. He took a team that no one expected much out of at a program that’s an afterthought at their own school, let alone in the ACC, and took them to an outright regular season title. He turned Shane Larkin from a kid that was going to DePaul to an ACC Player of the Year candidate as a sophomore. And he did it with the guys that he had; he didn’t need to bring in a dozen McDonald’s All-American and JuCo transfers.

But Crews?

He kept a team together after the coach that recruited all of them left the team in the offseason and passed away on Dec. 1st. Read this story. And now think about the fact that the Billikens are the outright winners of the Atlantic 10 despite playing the first month of the season without their starting point guard, Kwamain Mitchell. What he’s done on the court is incredible. What he’s done with this group off it is probably even more special. He deserves the recognition.

source:  FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Despite losing two key players at the start of the season to injury, the Cowboys surprised much of the country and finished third in the Big 12. The biggest reason for that? Marcus Smart. Yes, Markel Brown turned himself into an excellent and dangerous perimeter scorer and LeBryan Nash took over his fair share of games, but it was Smart’s intangibles — the leadership, the winning attitude, the numerous big plays late in games — to go along with his 15.1 points, 5.7 boards, 4.3 assists and 3.0 steals that made the difference.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga

This was easy. Olynyk went from a seldom-used sophomore to a first-team all-american as a redshirt junior. His emergence is the reason that the Zags went from being a good team to the No. 1 team in the country. Any argument to the contrary is foolish.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jeff Withey, Kansas

Withey’s shot-blocking ability is well-known at this point. He’s sixth-nationally in block percentage, anchoring the defense of a team that is sixth in the country (according to Kenpom), while leading the nation in defensive effective field goal percentage and defensive two-point FG%. And while he didn’t finished the season as the nation’s leading shot-blocker, the biggest reason for that is the way that teams game-planned around him.

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 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

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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.

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

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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.