Late Night Snacks: No. 16 Iowa State, N.C. State among Friday’s winners

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Friday’s Bubble Banter

GAME OF THE DAY: Arkansas State 116, Arkansas-Little Rock 114 (4OT)

The wildest game of the day was played at the Sun Belt tournament in New Orleans, with the Red Wolves final beating the Trojans after four overtimes were played and 230 points were scored. Melvin Johnson III’s three-point play with six seconds remaining in the fourth overtime was the difference for Arkansas State, who will face top-seed Georgia State in Saturday’s semifinals. Ed Townsel led five Arkansas State players in double figures with 32 points, and Leroy Isler paced six Trojans in double figures with 25.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 16 Iowa State 94, No. 10 Kansas 83

Not having Joel Embiid in the lineup certainly impacts the way Kansas defends, and that was the case in their loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 semifinals. Iowa State shot 54% from the field and 11-for-19 from beyond the arc, and all five starters scored in double figures with Georges Niang scoring 25 points. Perry Ellis scored 30 points in a losing effort with Andrew Wiggins adding 22 (on 7-for-21 shooting), but the shoddy defense was too much to overcome.

2) N.C. State 66, No. 11 Syracuse 63

The Orange lost for the fifth time in their last seven games Friday night, dropping a three-point decision to N.C. State in Greensboro. T.J. Warren scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Wolfpack, who will play No. 7 Duke in the ACC semifinals, but the issue for Syracuse was their offense. C.J. Fair shot 3-for-16 and Trevor Cooney 1-for-6, and as a team the Orange shot 32.7%. Syracuse has shot 40% or better in just two of their last eight games.

3) No. 24 Ohio State 71, Nebraska 67

With just under 14 minutes remaining the Huskers led 48-30 and looked poised to reach the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament for the first time in their short time as a member of the league. But Ohio State decided to take better shots and not turn the ball over, and the Buckeyes were able to come back and win as a result. LaQuinton Ross scored 26 points and Amedeo Della Valle gave the Buckeyes some really good minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points.

STARRED 

1) Russ Smith (Louisville) 

Smith scored a career-high 42 points (14-for-22 FG) to go along with three rebounds and three assists in the Cardinals’ 94-65 win over Houston in an American semifinal.

2) Ed Townsel (Arkansas State)

Accounted for 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the Red Wolves’ 116-114 quadruple overtime win over UALR in a Sun Belt quarterfinal.

3) LaDontae Henton (Providence) 

Scored 26 points (9-for-13 FG) and grabbed 14 rebounds in Providence’s 80-74 win over Seton Hall in a Big East semifinal.

STRUGGLED

1) Andre Hollins (Minnesota) 

Hollins shot 2-for-14 in Minnesota’s 83-57 loss to No. 12 Wisconsin in a Big Ten quarterfinal.

2) C.J. Fair (Syracuse) 

Fair made just three of his 16 shot attempts in Syracuse’s 66-63 loss to N.C. State in an ACC quarterfinal.

3) Kendall Anthony (Richmond) 

Anthony shot 2-for-15 from the field in the Spiders’ 71-53 loss to VCU in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS 

  • ACC: No. 7 Duke withstands furious Clemson rally
    Up 12 in the second half the Blue Devils looked to be on their way to another ACC semifinal appearance, but their taking the air out of the basketball helped get Clemson back into the game. Two Rodney Hood free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining gave Duke the 63-62 win, but they’ll need to be better against N.C. State. The other winners on Friday were top-seed Virginia and five-seed Pittsburgh, with the latter beating North Carolina and adding a quality win to its resume.
  • American: No. 21 UConn eliminates top-seed No. 13 Cincinnati
    Kevin Ollie’s Huskies put forth one of their best defensive efforts of the season, limiting the Bearcats to 37.9% shooting in their 58-56 win. Shabazz Napier scored 15 points and DeAndre Daniels added 14 and nine rebounds, with Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey and Amida Brimah also contributing. UConn will play No. 5 Louisville in the title game, with the Cardinals whipping Houston 94-65 in the other semifinal.
  • Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure upsets top-seed Saint Louis
    The will be a new champion in the Atlantic 10, as Jordan Gathers’ three-pointer as time expired gave the Bonnies a 71-68 win over the 18th-ranked Billikens. Mark Schmidt’s team will face Saint Joseph’s in one semifinal, with Langston Galloway’s three-pointer with 17.9 second remaining giving the Hawks the lead for good in their 70-67 win over Dayton. The other semifinal matches VCU and George Washington, with the Rams beating Richmond and GW holding off UMass.
  • Big 12: Baylor moves to 10-1 in its last 11 games
    Scott Drew’s Bears are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time, with their latest victory being an 86-69 whipping of Texas. Brady Heslip scored 24 points and Cory Jefferson added 20 to go along with 13 rebounds and three blocks. Baylor takes on No. 16 Iowa State in the title game.
  • Big East: Providence, Creighton advance to title game
    Of the two winners Providence, still fighting to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament field, had more to lose. LaDontae Henton scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Friars’ 80-74 win over Seton Hall. As for the Bluejays, they continued their march with an 86-78 win over Xavier and Doug McDermott led the way with 32 points.
  • Big Sky: North Dakota, Weber State move on to Saturday’s final
    Weber State needed five extra minutes in their semifinal, beating Northern Colorado 66-63 in overtime. Their opponent in Saturday’s title game will be North Dakota, which beat Portland State 79-63. Davion Berry (Weber State) and Troy Huff (North Dakota) on the same court should be fun to watch.
  • Big Ten: Did No. 12 Wisconsin punch Minnesota’s ticket to the NIT?
    That’s the question some Minnesota fans may ask themselves in the aftermath of the Badgers’ 83-57 pasting of the Golden Gophers, and that may turn out to be the case. Next up for Wisconsin is No. 22 Michigan State, who took care of Northwestern. The first semifinal matches No. 24 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan, with the Wolverines beating Illinois 64-63 in the first game of the day.
  • Big West: Cal Poly picks off UC Irvine
    One day after eliminating two-seed UCSB the Mustangs were at it again, this time beating top-seed UC Irvine 61-58. The opponent for the seven-seed in Saturday’s title game: five-seed Cal-State Northridge, which beat Long Beach State 82-77 in the nightcap. Given both teams’ records the winner is almost a lock to be headed to Dayton for the First Four.
  • Conference USA: Louisiana Tech rolls over Southern Miss
    The semifinals matched the four teams that finished tied atop the C-USA standings, and the game between Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss wasn’t very close with the Bulldogs winning 88-70. Louisiana Tech will take on Tulsa for the league’s automatic bid, with the Golden Hurricane holding on to beat Middle Tennessee in the other semifinal.
  • MAC: Top two seeds advance to title game
    Western Michigan (beat Akron in overtime) and Toledo (beat Eastern Michigan) took care of business Friday night in Cleveland, meaning that the top two seeds will play for the league’s automatic bid. What it also means is that the West Division will represent the MAC in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004, when Western Michigan beat Kent State in the final.
  • MEAC: North Carolina Central one win away
    Levelle Moton’s North Carolina Central squad moved one step closer to its goal of reaching the NCAA tournament with a 68-45 win over Norfolk State. Next up for the Eagles is Morgan State, which beat Coppin State 79-64 in the other semifinal.
  • Mountain West: Round three set up for Saturday night
    With No. 8 San Diego State and No. 20 New Mexico splitting the regular season series, a third meeting to determine the league’s tournament champ isn’t a bad deal at all. SDSU held off UNLV 58-51, with the Lobos hanging on to beat Boise State 70-67 in the other semifinal.
  • Pac-12: No. 4 Arizona, UCLA roll into title game
    For some reason there was just one regular season meeting scheduled between the Wildcats and Bruins. Luckily fans will get to see a second meeting, as both Arizona and UCLA coasted into the title game with commanding wins Friday night. Arizona clamped down on Colorado in the first game, with UCLA blitzing Stanford right out of the gates in the nightcap.
  • SEC: Top four seeds advance
    Missouri had a chance to enhance its profile with a win over No. 1 Florida, but a 12-0 second half run sparked by Scottie Wilbekin put an end to that drama. The Gators will face Tennessee in one semifinal, with Kentucky and Georgia meeting in the other. Florida/Kentucky, round three? Maybe, but the Volunteers have played well recently.
  • Southland: Stephen F. Austin wins 27th straight game
    It was close down the stretch but the Lumberjacks made the plays they needed to make late in order to hold off Northwestern State, 85-78. Standing in between SFA and a trip to the NCAA tournament is Sam Houston State, which beat two-seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the other semifinal.
  • SWAC: Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M advance to title game
    The best team in the SWAC eligible for postseason play, Mike Davis’ Tigers are one win away from the NCAA tournament after beating Alabama State 73-61. Next up for Aaric Murray and company is eight-seed Prairie View A&M, which upset Alabama A&M 55-49 in the other semifinal.
  • Sun Belt: Xavian Rimmer leads Louisiana past UT Arlington
    Xavian Rimmer scored 24 points and dished out three assists in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 91-85 win over the Mavericks, setting up a semifinal matchup with two-seed Western Kentucky. The other semifinal will match top-seed Georgia State and four-seed Arkansas State, with the Red Wolves coming off of a four-overtime win.
  • WAC: Idaho eliminates top-seed Utah Valley
    Stephen Madison scored 25 points as five-seed Idaho beat the regular season champions 74-69. Idaho will meet preseason favorite New Mexico State in the title game, with the Aggies beating Bakersfield 69-63.

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.