No. 21 Michigan a legitimate Big Ten title contender after beating No. 10 Iowa

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Nik Stauskas had 26 points, five boards and five assists while Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III combined for 26 points and 16 boards as N0. 21 Michigan stayed undefeated in the Big Ten with a 75-67 win over No. 10 Iowa on Wednesday evening.

It’s the eighth straight win for the Wolverines. The last six came against Big Ten teams. Two last two came against top ten teams, one of which was on the road at Wisconsin.

I think it’s safe to say that Michigan has worked out their post-Mitch McGary kinks, and the credit has to be given to Nik Stauskas.

I know, I know, I know.

I wrote this exact same post on Saturday, so I won’t rewrite the entire thing but it bears repeating: Stauskas is a stud. He’s thrust himself into the Player of the Year conversation, particularly in the Big Ten, and he’s going to shoot up NBA Draft boards before too long. A 6-foot-6 athlete with unlimited range, Stauskas has proven this season that he’s so much more than that. He’s terrific in the pick-and-roll, having been designated as the guy that Beilein will primarily run his offense through, and he’s showcased a passing ability that few knew he had.

Throw in Robinson’s newfound aggression, Caris LeVert’s continued development offensively and Jordan Morgan’s reincarnation, and the Wolverines legitimately look like a Big Ten contender, although that tends to happen when you knock off two of the three teams that were sitting above you in the pecking order. It may not stop there, either. The Wolverines get No. 3 Michigan State on Saturday. That will be fun.

Back to Wednesday, what might be the most impressive part of Wednesday’s win had little to do with what Michigan did offensively and a lot to do with what they did to Iowa defensively. The Hawkeyes managed just 67 points, which was less noteworthy than the fact that they managed to hold Iowa to just 65 possessions.

Iowa has one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses. They are not only the third-most efficient offense, according to KenPom, they also happen to average 73 possessions per game, No. 12 nationally. What that means is that in addition to being able to score at a highly-efficient rate, they score quickly. They don’t have an issue playing an uptempo game.

Michigan was able to take that away, and it had a lot to do with this win.

If they can continue to control tempo and defend the way they did tonight, they can absolutely win the Big Ten title.

Saturday’s intra-state battle just got REAL.

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 between $250,000-$275,000.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that will pay players with less than three years of professional basketball experience 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 $250,000 that a two-way contract will 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 chasing 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.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson, top three prospect in 2018, breaks defender’s ankles

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Zion Williamson, one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball, had himself a highlight-worthy moment at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas over the weekend, breaking a defender’s ankles before hitting a three.

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.