Marcus Smart has declared for the 2014 NBA Draft.
Not officially, mind you.
It’s July. We still have more than 11 months until next year’s draft. NBA front office types are more concerned with their summer league rosters, who they’re inviting to training camp and whether or not they need to drop A-Rod off of their fantasy baseball team than worrying about who will and who won’t be in the 2014 NBA Draft.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Smart will be off to the NBA.
“It’s safe to say that if, by the grace of God I’m healthy and everything, this will be my last year at Oklahoma State,” Smart told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports after Team USA’s minicamp in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Smart is one of two collegians partaking in the event, along with Creighton’s Doug McDermott. “Nothing will change my mind on that. [Oklahoma State] understands. They didn’t figure I was coming back this year. They were just as surprised as everyone else.”
Smart is right; is was a massive surprise when he made the decision to return to school. But it was a refreshing decision, one that wasn’t rooted simply in chasing the money and had more to do with the fact that Smart simply wasn’t ready to deal with the rigors of being a professional. He wanted another year of being a college kid before after to deal with the real world.
Remember, a 15 year career will be much more lucrative than earning a couple of million bucks extra on your first contract but flaming out of the league in three years.
“You can only go to college and be a college athlete once,” he told Spears. “College is a great experience. This is where you have fun. This is where you find yourself as a young man and grow up into an adult before you enter the real world.
“The NBA is the real world. Everyone just sees the entertainment part, but there is a business part to it also.”
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.
Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.
They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.
The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.
They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.
West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.
Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.
The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.
The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.
That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.
The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?
The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.
They were going to slip up eventually.
And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.