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Emmanuel Mudiay to China makes him even more of a case-study

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We now know where Emmanuel Mudiay is headed to spend his one season in NBA purgatory: China.

The No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2014 signed a contract with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association. The deal he signed is worth $1.2 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, and Mudiay has taken out significant insurance policies to protect himself against injury while he is abroad.

And now all eyes will be on Mudiay, with plenty of high school prospects watching to see how the former SMU signee will fare in the Far East.

From a basketball perspective, China is actually a pretty good landing spot for him. His athleticism is enough that it can overwhelm those players, and since the level of play is lower than that of a place like Italy or Spain, he should have a little more initial success than Brandon Jennings did during his one season with Virtus Roma. That said, moving to China is not going to be an easy thing to do. The cultural change will be massive. It won’t be an easy thing to adjust to for a 19 year old that wanted to stay home to play his college ball.

RELATED: Emmanuel Mudiay is now the most influential recruit in 2014

Regardless, Mudiay is now to new test case that will be used by elite prospects across the country to evaluate whether or not heading abroad is a viable alternative to spending a year playing college ball. Part of the reason that he ended up in China is that there isn’t exactly a market for one-year rentals of high school stars in Europe. Those clubs want to sign a four or five year deal with a kid that age, not operate as a way for him to cash seven-figure checks before heading back stateside.

“If you don’t want to sign a four or five year deal than you don’t get paid as an 18 or 19 year old,” one NBA scout told NBCSports. “European guys are looking and saying, ‘Would I rather be Mario Hezonja, stuck in Barcelona not playing and not able to get to the NBA, or would I rather be in the league like Alex Len?'”

There simply isn’t a market for that kind of contract.

“If you want to play in the NBA,” the scout continued, “which is what a lot of the Europeans and all of the Americans do, than signing a long-term deal with a big European club, which is the only way to get paid over there, is not a good option.”

After the announcement was made that Mudiay would be turning pro instead of heading to college, I said that he will have a lot of elite prospects from the younger high school classes keeping an eye on what he’s able to accomplish abroad. Because of the increased initial eligibility standards that the NCAA imposed, and due to the potential that Adam Silver institutes a two-and-done rule in the NBA, turning pro may be a more attractive option in the future.

Mudiay’s family said that this decision was made with financial stability in mind, and while there may be some truth to that statement, the bottom line is that Mudiay was probably never going to make it through the NCAA’s Clearinghouse after spending two years at Prime Prep. Even if he did, the NCAA was barreling down on him, putting him in a situation where he could end up facing a suspension. With more kids getting ruled ineligible and with the possibility of have to wait two seasons to get to the draft making the allure of a pro contract that much bigger, the pull from abroad will get stronger.

And if there is no market for this kind of contract to be signed in Europe, a successful season from Mudiay in China could end up making that where the elite recruits go to get their seven-figure payday.

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.