Late Night Snacks: Manhattan, Delaware, and Wofford garner bids

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Game of the night: Delaware 75, William & Mary 74

The Blue Hens were the top seed in the CAA tournament, and despite a furious scoring explosion from William & Mary, replete with a flurry of makes from Marcus Thornton and Omar Prewitt (aka, the Tribe’s offensive core next season), UDee is dancing for the first time in fifteen years. W&M had a chance to earn their inaugural NCAA tournament bid in program history, but a double cut and made two by UD big Carl Baptiste in the final minute provided Monté Ross’ squad with the win.

Important outcomes

1) Manhattan 71, Iona 68

The Jaspers ended Iona’s hegemony on the MAAC, showcasing a stout man defense that chased the Gaels’ shooters from the three-point line and prevented open looks for AJ English, Sean Armand, and Isaiah Williams. An interesting aspect of title game, though, is whether Tim Cluess’ squad will earn an at-large bid; the team’s best win at the moment is a non-conference victory over Wofford.

2) Wofford 56, Western Carolina 53

For the third time in five seasons, Mike Young and his staff are piloting Wofford to the NCAA tournament. Other than the Terriers’ stout defense (more on that later in Late Night Snacks), the title game’s highlight was the play of Karl Cochran. The junior is one of the Southern Conference’s best perimeter shooters, but he somehow found himself open consistently against the Catamounts, making five of his ten three-point attempts.

3) BYU 79, San Francisco 77 (OT)

The Dons were the hottest team in the WCC entering the game, and despite a double-double from senior forward Cole Dickerson, the Cougars were able to outlast San Francisco.

Starred
1) Taylor Braun (North Dakota State)

Recently named Summit League player of the year, Braun manhandled Denver’s defense in a game that was lopsided soon after the opening tip. The senior wing scored 28 points through a combination of efficient shooting (two of four from within the arc, four of five from three) and aggressiveness: his twelve free throw attempts led both teams.

2) Carl Baptiste (Delaware)

Easily the CAA’s most improved player, Baptiste was a defensive mismatch for W&M. There wasn’t a member of the Tribe who could handle Baptiste’s heft, and the forward scored 24 points, including the game-winning shot, and grabbed eight rebounds.

3) David Stockton (Gonzaga)

The senior guard posted his most complete game this season, scoring 21 points, hauling in six rebounds, dishing out four assists, and somehow not recording a turnover in a 70-54 WCC semifinal win over Saint Mary’s.

Struggled

1) Denver’s defense

North Dakota State’s final margin of victory was nearly forty points, and the Bison posted a whopping offensive efficiency rating of 1.55 points per possession. Not only did NDSU make more than 60 percent of their twos, they also converted over 60 percent of their threes.

2) Trey Sumler (Western Carolina)

The senior is one of DI’s all-time feel good stories: a former walk-on who transforms into an all-first team candidate. Wofford was able to silence the prolific scorer, hamstringing Sumler to just nine points — he didn’t make his first field goal until eleven minutes or so remained in the second half.

3) Saint Mary’s offense

Gonzaga’s defense is stout this season, but their stinginess doesn’t entirely explain how Saint Mary’s was able to score just .81 PPP. Other than Brad Waldow, no other Gael made more than three field goals.

Conference tournaments

CAA: Another Phil Martelli assistant is dancing

Ross was a part of the 2003-04 St. Joe’s coaching staff, and like Matt Brady a year ago, his team earned the CAA’s auto bid following a 75-74 win over William & Mary. UDee has the pieces to spring an opening round upset — while their defense can be shaky, their guards are among the most complete and offensively proficient in DI.

MAC: Status quo continues

All the top seeds advanced, a group that includes Ohio (vs. Ball State, 76-64), Miami of Ohio (vs. Kent State, 71-64), Eastern Michigan (vs. Central Michigan, 72-60), and Northern Illinois (vs. Bowling Green, 54-51).

MAAC: After a ten year hiatus, the Jaspers return to the NCAAs

When Manhattan last cracked the tourney field, Bobby Gonzalez was still a head coach, and Luis Flores was spearheading an upset of Florida. This year’s squad is a bit different: a number of players form a cohesive offensive unit that prides itself on defensively manipulating opponents, as evidenced by Manhattan’s 71-68 victory against bitter rival Iona.

MEAC: Can North Carolina Central make the Dance?

LeVelle Moton’s squad doesn’t play until Wednesday, but the opening rounds of the MEAC began Monday night: Norfolk State beat UMES, 78-74, and Savannah State did what they do best — defensively frustrate opponents (vs. South Carolina State, 61-47). Should North Carolina A&T defeat Howard, there will be a rematch of the 2013 MEAC tournament, one in which the Aggies defeated the Eagles.

Southern: Wofford continues to dominate the Southern conference tournament

Despite a wild finish and plenty of missed free throws, Wofford was able to secure a coveted bid, defeating Western Carolina 56-53.

Summit: Path cleared for Taylor Braun and rest of NDSU

North Dakota State seems destined to secure the Summit’s NCAA bid. The team posted what is likely their most efficient offensive rating in a thumping of Denver, and Braun’s personal offensive rating was completely ridiculous: 203. It is unclear how IPFW, which defeated South Dakota State on Monday night (64-60), will be able to defend what appears to be a scoring juggernaut.

WCC: Does BYU need to beat Gonzaga to make the NCAAs?
For the first time since joining the WCC in 2011-12, BYU has made the tournament final, and will be matched up against Gonzaga. The Cougars have a stronger non-conference resume than the Zags, including wins Texas and Stanford, and Dave Rose’s squad has split the two meetings with Gonzaga this year. At the moment, it would seem BYU will crack the field of 68 even if they lose to the Bulldogs, so it will be interesting to see which BYU team emerges on Tuesday: the one that allowed San Francisco to take the lead at half? Or the BYU team that stymied the Dons late in the second half and overtime?

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.