Late Night Snacks: Wichita State makes history, Iowa’s defensive setback

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Game of the day: Wichita State 69, Bradley 49
The No. 2 ranked Shockers had little trouble notching their 30th regular season victory, dispatching Bradley summarily and with ease as Ron Baker led all scorers with 15 points and the team converted 48 percent from long-range. Gregg Marshall’s squad is now the first in men’s college basketball history to win that many games before their conference tournament. Next stop is win number 31, which could come Saturday against Missouri State, and then potentially wins 32 through 34 during Arch Madness.


Important outcomes
1) Minnesota 95, Iowa 89
: Not to discount Minnesota’s victory — we saw what the ideal Richard Pitino-Gopher offense, one predicated on constant ball movement, might resemble in tonight’s contest — but Iowa is struggling to get any stops. During the past two Iowa games, both losses, the team has allowed a shocking 1.29 points per possession. Part of the problem is Melsahn Basabe’s absence; the big is suffering from an illness, and played only one minute against Wisconsin (and didn’t take the court versus Minnesota). The Hawkeyes need Basabe as a rim deterrent and also for his defensive rebounding prowess — his defensive rebounding percentage leads the team by a wide margin.

2)Saint Joseph’s 79, Dayton 53: As Rob Dauster detailed in Bubble Banter, Dayton’s tournament hopes took a hit, but since the squad has the hardest remaining A10 schedule — games against UMass, Saint Louis, and Richmond — there are still ample opportunities for the Flyers to earn an at-large bid. This was a crucial win for the Hawks, for sure, one cemented by the play of Chris Wilson and Ronald Roberts Jr.: the duo was 16 of 19 from the field.

3)Xavier 65, St. John’s 53: Xavier’s path to the NCAA tournament got a bit easier while St. John’s route got significantly more problematic. The middle of the Big East, to quote a much better wordsmith than myself, has spent the past several weeks cannibalizing itself. Four teams, a group that includes SJU and XU, are fighting for the Big East’s bid scraps. Up to two teams, and that is a generous estimtion, will make the NCAAs, and even with the Musketeers victory, Chris Mack’s team still needs at least one conference tournament win (this is assuming they win out against Creighton and Villanova).

Starred
1) Charles Buggs: “He can do some things that you are going to go, ‘Wow’, and he shows you tonight.” This was how Pitino addressed the play of his freshman. Buggs, a forward, had scored just five points this season before tonight’s 13 point eruption.

2) Desi Washington: In early January, the Saint Peter’s guard hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to defeat Fairfield, 56-55. Washington must really not like the Stags because he added an encore, knocking down a game-winner with seconds remaining to help boost the Peacocks again, 63-62, over their MAAC opponent.

3) Jalen Reynolds: Even though St. John’s boasted a frontcourt chock full of top 100 recruits and junior college All-Americans, the Red Storm had no answer for Xavier’s redshirt freshman. Reynolds scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, thoroughly dismantling SJU’s interior.

Struggled
1) D’Angelo Harrison: The junior guard isn’t a shooter — he is a volume scorer who will have off games. Unfortunately for Steve Lavin and his staff, Harrison’s down night came at the possibly the worst time. The guard was nearly blanked from the field, making one of his eleven field goal attempts, and his point production was sorely missed in a game SJU needed to win in order to safely dance.

2) KJ McDaniels: Clemson was set to win three in a row, a feat the Tigers hadn’t accomplished since mid-January, but somehow dropped a contest to a struggling Wake Forest team. McDaniels, Clemson’s top offensive threat, could not find any semblance of offensive rhythm, and scored ten points on eleven attempts.

3) Wesley Iwundu: The freshman wing had a solid game — 12 points — and Kansas State won a game they needed to take to keep up with the rest of the Big 12, but Iwundu cracked this list for his Andrew Bogut-like performance from the free throw line, pretending to high-five invisible teammates after a made freebie.

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.