Pregame Shootaround: Oklahoma State travels to Kansas during tremendous day of hoops

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 15 Kansas (4 p.m., CBS)

CBT’s own Rob Dauster broke down both of our day’s top games yesterday:

This is going to be a doozy. Let’s start with the obvious: Oklahoma State and Kansas are the two best teams in the Big 12. And while the preseason luster of Marcus Smart vs. Andrew Wiggins (who, at the time, were considered the two favorites to win National Player of the Year) has faded a bit, there is still a bit of animosity there. Marcus Smart called out this year’s freshmen class in the preseason. He also infamously did a back-flip after the Pokes knocked off Kansas in Stillwater last year. Add in the intrigue of Bill Self being a graduate of Oklahoma State and, well, you have your pick of storylines heading into this one.

The basketball should be just as intriguing, although I think that Oklahoma State is going to have some trouble with Kansas for one reason: Joel Embiid. He may actually have the highest ceiling of any prospect in this draft class, and as a 7-footer with a low-post game, he is going to give an Oklahoma State team lacking in post front court depth problems. Travis Ford is really going to feel the loss of Michael Cobbins on Saturday.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 22 Pittsburgh at No. 2 Syracuse (4 p.m., ESPN)

Since having one intriguing game on the docket at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday isn’t enough, why don’t we just go ahead and have the two best teams in the ACC square off at the same time as well. That’s right, I said the “two best teams in the ACC”. Pitt and Syracuse, longtime Big East rivals, are now taking over Tobacco Road. Part of me loves this, part of it breaks my Big East-born-and-raised heart, but what I know for certain is that this matchup doesn’t have any shortage of storylines, either.

As far as the actual game is concerned, I think Pitt actually matches up fairly well with the Orange. Lamar Patterson is the prototype for high-post zone busters given his size and skill, James Robinson isn’t going to be flustered by Syracuse’s length and ability to force turnovers, and the Panthers can get to the offensive glass against the zone. But playing without Durand Johnson, one of their better perimeter shooters, is going to hurt.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 8 Iowa State at Texas (4 p.m., ESPN3)

The Cyclones have lost two straight games after running off 14 straight to begin the season and on Saturday they’ll face a 13-4 Texas team that should be a tough out at home. This would be a great win for the Longhorns and their tournament profile, and Iowa State has been mediocre on the road in Big 12 play the last few seasons. Will there still be hangover from the Kansas loss for Iowa State? How is the health of DeAndre Kane, even with him playing on Monday night?

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Indiana State at No. 5 Wichita State (4 p.m., ESPN2)

Indiana State is 14-3 and winners of seven straight as they travel to face the Shockers on the road in this MVC thriller. Jake Odum is a solid and experienced mid-major guard and the Sycamores have already faced Saint Louis and knocked off Notre Dame this season, so they won’t be intimidated by the Shockers. Wichita State knows its the hunted in the Missouri Valley conference; can they get through the league unscathed?

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) There are going to be two good games on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday. There will be a double-header, with George Mason heading to Rhode Island (12:30 p.m.) and Fordham visiting No. 24 Saint Louis (2:30 p.m.).

2) Casey Prather will return for the No. 7 Florida Gators, as they travel to Auburn. Prather has missed the last two games for the Gators with swelling in his left knee and is the team’s leading scorer.

3) Chris Jones is expected to miss No. 18 Louisville’s game at Connecticut on Saturday with an oblique injury as the junior college transfer also missed the Houston win on Thursday with the same injury. UConn is coming off a huge AAC win over Memphis and will look to build on that momentum.

4) The No. 16 UMass Minutemen have struggled playing consistently — if it doesn’t involve a furious second-half comeback — and they’ll be tested in a non-conference clash with SoCon leaders Elon. Both of these teams can put up points, but will UMass come out with more focus?

5) Tennessee and No. 13 Kentucky will be an interesting clash for both teams looking for good wins in a struggling SEC. Kentucky really needs to bounce back after its loss on the road to Arkansas and Tennessee and use all of the resume-boosting opportunities it can grab at this point in the season.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Michigan at No. 3 Wisconsin, 6:00 p.m., ESPN
  • No. 4 Michigan State at Illinois, 8:00 p.m., BTN
  • DePaul at No. 6 Villanova, 4:00 p.m., FSN
  • UNLV at No. 10 San Diego State, 6:05 p.m., CBSSN
  • Le Moyne-Owen at No. 17 Memphis, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 19 Cincinnati at South Florida, 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • No. 20 Creighton at Providence, 8:00 p.m., FS1
  • USC at No. 21 Colorado, 2:00 p.m., FS1
  • North Carolina State at No. 23 Duke, 2:00 p.m., CBS
  • No. 25 UCLA at Utah, 4:00 p.m., FS1

NOTABLES:

  • Florida State at Virginia, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Seton Hall at Georgetown, 12:00 p.m., FS1/li>
  • West Virginia at Kansas State, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • Alabama at Missouri, 2:00 p.m., ESPN
  • Wake Forest at Clemson, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount, 4:00 p.m., Root Sports
  • New Mexico at Fresno State, 7:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Washington at Stanford, 11:00 p.m., ESPNU

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.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

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Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.

Oakland’s Greg Kampe hosting charity golf event with big-name coaches

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Oakland head coach Greg Kampe hosted a successful charity event for cancer research two years ago by allowing people to bid online to play a round of golf with some of college basketball’s best coaches.

Kampe is back again this year as he’s hoping to eventually raise $1 million for the American Cancer Society.

According to a report from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Kampe has 11 high-profile names that fans can play with this year.

  • Tom Izzo, Michigan State
  • Frank Martin, South Carolina
  • Rick Barnes, Tennessee
  • Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
  • Chris Holtmann, Butler
  • Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
  • Greg Kampe, Oakland
  • Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons
  • Steve Lavin
  • Fran Fraschilla
  • Bill Raftery

Fans can find more details about the auctions and all of the details here.

The minimum bid is $15,000 per coach. A “buy now” bid of $24,000 is also available.

Each round includes the following, according to the event’s website:

Up for auction will be 11 spectacular packages, featuring a private dinner with elite basketball coaches and VIPs, a one night stay at MotorCity Casino Hotel on Sunday, June 4, and an afternoon of golf on Monday, June 5 at Oakland Hills Country Club on the South Course. The winning bidders and their two guests will round out the foursomes with their selected VIP: Rick Barnes, Mick Cronin, Fran Fraschilla, Chris Holtmann, Tom Izzo, Greg Kampe, Steve Lavin, Frank Martin, Bill Raftery, Stan Van Gundy, or Kevin Willard.

There are a lot of great selections to choose from for this sort of thing, but I can’t imagine a better afternoon than playing golf with Bill Raftery and a few friends. There are some other tempting choices on this list, but that’s the one I would have to jump at.

If you think 137 players declaring for the draft is stupid, you’re probably stupid

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The NBA Draft’s full early entry list came out on Tuesday afternoon, and there were 137 underclassmen listed on it.

137.

For 60 spots in the NBA Draft, only 30 of which guarantee you a contract in the NBA.

And that’s before you factor in the 45 international players that also declared for the NBA Draft, as well as the crop of seniors — Josh Hart, Monte’ Morris, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Peters — that are going to end up hearing their names called. All told, there are going to be roughly 200 players competing to be one of the 60 people that end up getting drafted on June 22nd, and you don’t have to be any good at math to realize that 200 is a much, much bigger number than 60.

This unleashed a torrent of bad takes on the decision of these players.

And bad may not be doing those takes justice.

Because the bottom-line is this: You cannot paint the decision on whether or not to go pro with a broad brush.

For some players, making money of any kind is something they need to do to support their family, whether it’s what they’ll get with a first round guarantee, the $75-100,000 they’ll get for making a training camp roster to subsidize their time in the D-League while teams develop them or the money they can make in the D-League or overseas. You don’t know what their financial situation is. Maximizing their ability to capitalize on every available dollar they can make off of their athletic gifts may be more important than working towards a degree.

And it’s worth noting here that a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way to make a living in professional basketball. To say nothing of the money that can be made overseas or the number of second round picks and undrafted players that make guaranteed money — which is more than you probably realize — it needs to be noted that D-League salaries are getting a bump this year with the new CBA.

The NBA has also instituted something new called a “two-way contract”. Without getting into the legalese, it’s essentially a retainer worth well into the six figures that they will be able to give to two players that will allow them to retain that player under contract while sending them between the D-League and the NBA roster. In a sense, it creates an extra 60 NBA roster spots for players that have 0-3 years worth of professional basketball on their résumé.

Some players are simply declaring without signing with an agent because they want to get feedback directly from NBA personnel on what their professional prospects. Some will hear that they need to return to school to work on their body, or work on their jumper, or mature as a person to be able to handle everything that comes with being a professional. Others will be told they’re going to make a lot of money by staying in the draft, or that they need to go back to school because, frankly, they are not professional basketball players. Not getting invited to the NBA combine is a pretty good indication of where you stand in the eyes of NBA teams.

Still other players are putting their name into the draft to leave their options open should they be recruited over by the program they are a part of. Take Frank Jackson, for example. If he can return to school and thrive as Duke’s point guard, maybe he turns into a top 20 pick. But what happens if Trevon Duval, the best point guard in the Class of 2017 and a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, picks Duke? Would it be in Jackson’s best interest to come back to Duke when he won’t be playing the position that he needs to learn to play to turn himself into a lasting NBA player?

Jackson, like the roughly 100 underclassmen that have declared without an agent, has until May 24th to make his decision on whether or not he will keep his name in the draft. Until then, he can return to school without damaging his eligibility.

The entire reason that the NCAA changed their rules to allow players to test the waters is so that they can make the most important decision of their lives with as much information as humanly possible. This thing exists for the sole purpose of allowing the kids to have as much knowledge about their options as possible.

And that is exactly what these kids are doing.

So the idea that this rule, or players taking advantage of that rule, however high that number may be, is a bad thing is stupid.