Viewer’s Guide: Ranking the Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchups

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The Big Ten and the ACC announced the matchups for this year’s Big Ten/ACC challenge, and since we know you like to set your schedule seven months in advance, here is a guide to which of the 12 games you need to watch:

Only miss these games to see the birth of your FIRST child:

1. Michigan at Duke: The Wolverines may be losing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., but they return enough talent — including Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III — that they will be a top ten team when the preseason rankings come out. Duke loses quite a bit of talent as well, but with the recruiting class they have coming in, headlined by Jabari Parker, and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, the Blue Devils have a chance to be scary good. The biggest question: who will guard McGary?

CBT Pick: Duke

2. North Carolina at Michigan State: Michigan State became a serious national title contender when they got word that both Adreian Payne and Gary Harris will be returning to school this season. UNC lost Reggie Bullock to early entry, but with James Michael McAdoo and PJ Hairston back, the Tar Heels still have plenty of weapons. Two legendary coaches heading up two Final Four contenders. A rematch of the 2009 national title game. Yeah, that will be fun.

CBT Pick: Michigan State

3. Indiana at Syracuse: Another rematch, this time from last year’s Sweet 16, when Tom Crean’s high-octane offense couldn’t figure out their way through the Syracuse zone. Let’s see how the Hoosiers will handle it now that their four most dangerous offensive weapons are gone. On another note, Syracuse will host Indiana, Duke and UNC this season. Not a bad home slate for Orange fans.

CBT Pick: Syracuse

You can miss these for a hot date, but they have to be at least a nine and NOT already your significant other:

4. Notre Dame at Iowa: The Hawkeyes are going to be a good team next season. Their front line of Aaron White, Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury is going to sneak up on a lot of people, and Mike Gesell should have a big sophomore year. But the Irish bring back quite a bit as well, including an excellent perimeter attack — Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Patrick Connaughton, and Cameron Biedscheid.

CBT Pick: Iowa

5. Maryland at Ohio State: The Buckeyes are going to be an interesting team to keep an eye on next season. If they can find a guy to step up and be a go-to scorer, they’ll have a chance to compete in the Big Ten. The Terps lose Alex Len, but Mark Turgeon has some talent on his roster, and they’ll finally have a true point guard with Roddy Peters joining the fray.

CBT Pick: Ohio State

6. Wisconsin at Virginia: This will be a classic ‘close games are not always good games.’ Wisconsin and Virginia both like to slow the game down, which doesn’t exactly make for great entertainment. But both teams should be in the mix at the top of their respective leagues, and Wisconsin will be looking for vengeance for the loss they suffered at home last season. Sam Dekker vs. Joe Harris will be fun.

CBT Pick: Wisconsin

You can play bridge with your Grandmother, just make sure you have the game on in the back ground:

7. Penn State at Pitt: Penn State actually will have some quality perimeter play and might be able to give a good Pitt team a fight next season. I wouldn’t complain if the Nittany Lions became relevant and this turned into a rivalry.

CBT Pick: Pitt

8. Florida State at Minnesota: The Gophers should have some good guards on their roster, which should make them an entertaining watch under Richard Pitino. And Florida State? Well, there’s a chance they have Andrew Wiggins.

CBT Pick: Florida State

You know what? Go ahead. Take a nap. Or play FIFA. Or do whatever. I won’t even be mad:

9. Boston College at Purdue: BC is an intriguing team, as some of their young talent will be reaching veteran status this year. Purdue is still going to be in rebuilding mode, but Ryan Anderson vs. AJ Hammons should be fun.

CBT Pick: Boston College

10. Illinois at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech should be better this season while Illinois will likely be in a bit of a rebuilding mode. This is the kind of game the Jackets need to win to start being taken seriously.

CBT Pick: Illinois

11. Northwestern at NC State: The Wildcats have never made the tournament and are dealing with a coaching change this season, while NC State lost a ton this offseason and will chock full of young talent. How well has Gottfried handled young talent in his career?

CBT Pick: NC State

12. Miami at Nebraska: Nebraska is still a couple of years away from Tim Miles making them relevant, and Miami loses everyone from last season and will be in major rebuilding mode, even if Angel Rodriguez gets immediately eligible.

CBT Pick: Miami

Wichita State getting more national respect with non-conference scheduling

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Wichita State is starting to gain more national respect with regards to its non-conference schedule.

Since moving to the American Athletic Conference this spring, the Shockers have not only gained the benefit of being in a multi-bid league every year, but they’re also getting better teams to play them outside of conference play.

According to a report from Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, the Shockers now have non-conference games scheduled with Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season. With Wichita State also playing in the Maui Invitational, it gives the Shockers plenty of opportunities to schedule quality opponents and improve its NCAA tournament seeding. And that’s before Wichita State starts conference play.

Although Wichita State was getting invited regularly to prestigious non-conference tournaments such as Maui or the Battle 4 Atlantis, they were having a tough time getting certain schools to book home-and-home series. The Baylor series signifies a small, but significant, change to how Wichita State might be able to do things now.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

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USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.

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.