No. 19 Syracuse outlasts No. 5 Georgetown in OT to advance to Big East final

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NEW YORK — Like the third edition of title fight between two heavyweight contenders, Syracuse-Georgetown III had the makings of the kind of Big East classic that has defined this conference. It had the venue: Madison Square Garden in New York City. It had the history: one that has been built over the past 30 years in the Big East. And it had the stakes: a chance to advance to conference championship game.

Despite blowing a nine-point halftime lead and allowing No. 5 Georgetown to force overtime, No. 19 Syracuse pulled away in the extra period to win, 58-55, and earn the right to play for Saturday’s Big East championship.

“This was just a great win,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim after the game. “We didn’t shoot that well, we didn’t score that many, but we scored just enough.”

With seven seconds to play, Georgetown’s Otto Porter was fouled on a drive toward the left corner of the court while the Hoyas were in the bonus. He sunk both free throws to tie the game at 51-51. Porter finished with 12 points. On the ensuing possession, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams took a pull-up jumper that missed, sending the game into overtime. Carter-Williams finished with three points on 1-of-7 shooting and had six assists and six turnovers.

Syracuse’s defense locked down in overtime, allowing just one Georgetown basket. The Hoyas were within one basket, 55-53, with 2:07 to play when C.J. Fair drove across the lane and dunked on Porter, igniting the Syracuse-friendly crowd at Madison Square Garden and swinging momentum in favor of the Orange.

Fair had struggled up to that point and finished just 3-of-16 from the floor on the night. He stole a pass from Porter on Georgetown’s potential game-tying possession, but missed two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining that allowed Georgetown to attempt one final half-court heave for the tie, but it was off.

“It’s hard to win three [games against one team in a season], but they’re a really good team,” said Boeheim. “These guys were really gritty and they hung in there and made plays.”

James Southerland continued his impressive three-point shooting run in New York City with 13 points, which included 4-of-10 from three-point range. Through three games in the Big East tournament, Southerland has gone 16-of-25 from behind the arc and has been the one player most consistently able to stretch an opposing defense with his shooting range. He has tied the conference record for three-pointers in a single tournament, also held by current Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara.

“First of all, I just want to apologize to G-Mac. Sorry, man. I didn’t mean to do it,” Southerland said with a laugh.

This is the way many will remember the Big East as it was. With shifts motivated by factors other than what we saw Friday night at Madison Square Garden, something Boeheim acknowledged after the game.

“This has got nothing to do with basketball. This is about football,” Boeheim said. “It’s where everything is going. Just wait a few more years. Everybody will be gone.”

There will still be a Big East and its tournament will still be at Madison Square Garden, but this feels a lot like starting back at the beginning. Syracuse and its football motives will move on, as will Pittsburgh and Notre Dame and the others. Will the same magic be around next season, sans the interlocking rivalries and story lines that the Orange will leave behind in pursuit of the ACC? We’ll see next March.

For now, Syracuse has one last go around in the Big East final Saturday night.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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.