Russ Smith: perfect example of why NCAA’s early entry deadline sucks

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On Monday night, Russ Smith won a national title.

He didn’t play his best game — in fact, he played one of his worst — but thanks to Peyton Siva and Luke Hancock, Smith got a ring.

By the time that Smith had finished meeting with the media and celebrating with his team, it was Tuesday, which meant that, according to the NCAA’s rules, he had all of a week to make the biggest decision of his life: whether or not he would enter his name into the NBA Draft.

Now, first things first: the NCAA’s deadline — which always coincides with the start of the spring signing period — means absolutely nothing. It’s a worthless deadline. The NBA’s deadline for entering the draft in April 28th, and since there is no more “testing the waters”, entering the draft means that a player is off to the NBA.

In other words, Smith has about three weeks to make the biggest decision of his life, but the problem is that with the way the system is structured, Smith isn’t going to be getting feedback directly from NBA teams. He has to hear it second had through his head coach, or trust that the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, a panel of executives from 20 NBA teams, is giving them worthwhile information.

But there’s a problem with that process as well. Players aren’t going to be drafted off of a consensus opinion or off of a polling of where they stand on draft boards.

Guys like Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo don’t have much to worry about. They’re getting picked in the first round, the only question ends up being where. The players that are scooped up at the end of the first round, however, do have a reason for concern. If they leave and they do’t get a guaranteed contract, they end up potentially wasting their eligibility for nothing more than a shot to play their way onto a summer league roster.

The guys in that 20-30 range get their guaranteed contract because there is one team that falls in love with their skill set. Or their potential. Or their ability to shoot. It’s not a popularity poll, it’s whether or not a team believes that player is the right fit. And they won’t know whether or not they are the right fit or have a team willing to use a late first pick on them unless they have a chance to work out with the NBA teams and get a feel how certain front offices value them.

But these kids can’t do that.

They can only guess what will happen. And it may be a partially-educated guess, but it won’t be one do with all the information that can be gathered.

Why?

Because these coaches didn’t want to be left in limbo while their stars were out flirting with the NBA. They wanted to know whether or not they had a spot to fill during the late signing period. They didn’t want to have to wait until late June to find out whether or not a player was going pro.

And as a result, it forces kids like Russ Smith to have to make tough, rushed decisions that can have a massive impact on their future.

The NCAA has a lot of dumb rules, but I’m not sure there are any that are worse than this.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 7 South Carolina upends No. 3 Baylor to advance to the Elite 8

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NEW YORK — It was with a whipping and a whimper that Baylor’s season can to an end on Friday night.

The final two minutes of the game wasn’t actually a game. No. 7 seed South Carolina dished out a 70-50 beatdown that wasn’t in doubt after the Gamecocks used an 18-0 run at the end of the first half to turn a rock fight into statement, and for the final two minutes of the game, the Gamecocks and, eventually, Baylor dribbled out the remaining seconds before joining arms at center court for a postgame prater.

It’s the third straight year that Baylor has been bounced from the NCAA tournament by a team seeded lower than them. In 2015, it was R.J. Hunter’s heroics that knocked his dad off of a stool and sent No. 14 seed Georgia State into the second round of the tournament. In 2016, the Bears fell in the first round to No. 12 seed Yale, prompting one of the most memorable press conference moments in NCAA tournament history.

And on Friday night, it was South Carolina that sent the Bears into offseason hibernation.

It was a disheartening end to a season, a loss that will surely provide fodder for the people that traffic in ‘Scott Drew can’t coach’ jokes, the irony being that the 2016-17 season was definitive proof that Scott Drew is almost certainly better at his job than you are at yours.

“When you coach for a while and you make Elite Eights and Sweet 16, you kind of start taking it for granted that you will always be successful in March,” Drew said. “But it’s a good reminder to be here and know how hard it is.”

No. 1 North Carolina handles No. 4 Butler en route to Elite Eight

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North Carolina, the top seed in the South Region, led by as many as 20 en route to a 92-80 win over No. 4 Butler in the Sweet 16 matchup on Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

The Tar Heels were led by 26 points, off 8-of-13 shooting, from junior point guard Joel Berry II. The 6-foot floor general had been hampered by an ankle injury through the first weekend. While he still seemed to favor that same ankle at times, his play was a big improvement on his 3-of-21 shooting through the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds. Justin Jackson nearly matched Berry’s game-high with 24 points.

Andrew Chrabascz, in the final game of his four-year career at Butler, finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

North Carolina, the last of the ACC’s nine tournament bids, advances to the Elite Eight to face the winner of No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky. The Wildcats own a win over North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels, 103-100, on Dec. 17 behind 47 points from Malik Monk.

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.