What would Team USA look like if it only used college players?

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By now, everyone has heard about — if not seenthe brutal injury that Indiana Pacers star Paul George suffered in a Team USA scrimmage that was played to help Mike Krzyzewski figure out who will be on the squad that will play in the Basketball World Cup later this month.

One of the major talking points after that injury was whether or not professionals should be allowed to play in major international basketball competitions, or if we should send our nation’s best collegiate players overseas to participate.

That got us to thinking: If collegiate players were to make up our national team, what would that team look like? Three notes: Karl Towns plays with the Dominican team so he was not considered; Buddy Hield is Bahamian so he was eliminated as well; and Emmanuel Mudiay’s eligibility for our team was erased when he decided against playing college basketball. Otherwise, he would have likely been our starting point guard.

Here is the roster that we came up with:

G Marcus Paige, North Carolina: Paige is a lock to make this team — he might be the NCAA Preseason Player of the Year — but I do have my reservations when it comes Paige playing as a full-time point guard. He’s a scorer at heart. But it’s impossible to ignore what Paige did late last season, as he would run UNC’s offense until the moment they needed him to take the game over. Few can score like Paige can when he gets into a rhythm.

G Caris LeVert, Michigan: To think that LeVert is even in a position to be considered for this spot is nuts given where he came from, but he’s earned it. LeVert is a 6-foot-6 guard that can hit threes and is capable of creating in ball-screen situations. He’s not as complete of a player as Ron Baker is, but he’s a better scorer and individual creator.

F Stanley Johnson, Arizona: Johnson is just such a complete player. He can defend anywhere on the floor, he can run an offense if he needs to, he can hit a three and score in the post, he’ll rebound the ball. Johnson may be our small forward in this situation, and he’s may only be a freshman, but he’s strong enough and physical enough to hold his own against the pros at his position.

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F Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: We decided to go a bit smaller with our starting lineup for a couple reasons. On the one hand, Johnson is physical enough that he can help make up for some of Dekker’s deficiencies. But Dekker has also grown this summer, and the now-6-foot-9 forward can play the kind of stretch four role you see in European hoops. What he lacks in post strength he can make up for by creating a mismatch on the offensive end.

C Jahlil Okafor, Duke: Okafor is probably the best low post scorer in college basketball, and he’s not even in college basketball yet. He’s also got the size and strength to help the USA matchup with the massive Spanish front line that includes both Gasol brothers. Given that we will be using Dekker as a stretch four, Okafor gets the initial start over Kaminsky as he is the more physically imposing presence in the paint.

BENCH

  • Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State: I’m not sure there is a better point guard in the country than Van Vleet. He’s a calming presence and a leader that doesn’t get rattled. He’d likely push for a starting spot if this was the real world.
  • Ron Baker, Wichita State: We had a long debate over whether to include Baker or Chasson Randle and I made the decision to go with Baker. He can shoot the three and he can play both guard positions, but more importantly, he’s 6-foot-4 and can defend either guard position.
  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State: We wanted to make sure that we had a sharpshooter somewhere on our roster, and I’m not sure there is a better pure shooter in the country than Hunter.
  • Georges Niang, Iowa State: Niang is a matchup nightmare given his ability to handle the ball and score in the high-post and mid-post. He’s the perfect four-man for the European game.
  • Perry Ellis, Kansas: I’m not sure just how much playing time Ellis would get in this scenario. He’s not as big as Okafor or Kaminsky, he’s not as versatile offensively as Niang, he’s not the rebounder or defender Harrell is. But Ellis can flat out play, and that was enough for him to make the cut.
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: We needed an overpowering athlete on the roster and we decided to go with Harrell over Cliff Alexander. Harrell just plays so damn hard, and he’s added a better post and face-up game than he gets credit for.
  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: I’ve wondered just how much of Kaminsky’s success is a result of his actual ability and how much of it is a product of Bo Ryan’s ability to get the most out of his big men. The answer is irrelevant, however, as Kaminsky is a good fit as a big man in Europe. He can shoot, he can put the ball on the floor, and he’s got some back to the basket moves. He may end up beating Okafor out for a starting spot, but Kaminsky will be a major factor for this team.

Preaching patience, new Pitt AD says hoops program “a complete rebuild”

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Things did not go particularly well for Kevin Stallings in his first year at Pitt. The program, which essentially pushed Jamie Dixon out the door for being consistently good but not often enough great, struggled, going 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC, just two games out of the cellar.

On top of that, six players prematurely left the program this spring.

Not great, especially when you’ve got a new boss that didn’t hire you, as is the case for Stallings with new Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke, who came aboard in March. In her first meeting with Stallings, Lyke asked a rather blunt question.

“Do you want to be here?” according to the Beaver County Times.

Stallings answered that he did, and his new athletic director would appear to be willing to give her predecessor’s hire time to reclaim and rebuild the program.

“It’s a steep climb, if you will,” Lyke said. “It’s not something that’s going to come easy and it takes an incredible amount of work.”

Stallings’ personal reputation took a significant amount of damage this spring when he attempted to block Cameron Johnson from an intra-ACC transfer to North Carolina. NBC Sports’ Scott Phillips called him a “town-deaf clown” in his attempt to keep Johnson from being a Tar Heel, a position he later relinquished, allowing Johnson to head to Chapel Hill.

Losing Johnson certainly won’t help Stallings and the Panthers recover from the difficult first season. Pitt didn’t hit any grand-slams in recruiting but is adding four-star guard Marcus Carr in its 2017 class.

The immediate outlook doesn’t look particularly bright, but Pitt appears to be positioning itself to exhibit some patience.

“If you look at the team, it is a complete rebuild,” Lyke said. “So I do think that (Stallings) is going to need a little time to develop it.

“But, we’ve got to be headed in the right direction. There’s some things that have got to get better and noticeable improvements. I’ve already seen those things start to happen.”

 

Miller Time: Indiana coach cashes in with $24 million deal

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New Indiana coach Archie Miller will make $24 million under his seven-year deal — and potentially even more in bonuses.

Miller accepted the job in March, but the athletic department didn’t announce details of the contract until Tuesday.

He will receive a base salary of $550,000 per year and $1 million in deferred income each season. Miller also will receive an additional $1.85 million in outside marketing and promotional income — and will get a $50,000 per year raise each year through March 2024.

Miller can earn a $250,000 bonus for winning a national championship. He can earn an additional $125,000 for a Big Ten regular-season title, reaching the Final Four and producing multiyear Academic Progress Rate scores over 950.

Utah, BYU rivalry back on after one-year hiatus

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The BYU-Utah annual rivalry series will be back on this season after taking a one-year hiatus last year.

For just the second time since 1909, the Utes and the Cougars did not play in 2016-17 after Utah head coach Larry Kyrstkowiak asked for a one-year cooling off period stemming from an intense and emotional game against BYU in 2015-16. In that game, then-freshman Nick Emery was ejected as a result of this punch that he threw:

The last time those two teams did not play was due to World War II.

The game will be played at BYU on Dec. 16th.

Utah will also play Utah State this season, the first time that they have played the Aggies since 2011.

 

California bans state-funded travel to eight states; does it affect college hoops?

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A new California law could end up causing a headache for the sports teams for public universities in the state.

Because of recently-added laws that are perceived as discriminatory against the LGBT community, California has now banned travel to eight states: Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota join a list that already includes Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The law states that contracts that were signed before Jan. 1st, 2017, are exempted and can be fulfilled, but there’s not guarantee that will be the case in the future.

“Moving forward, the athletic department will not schedule future games in states that fail to meet the standards established by the new law,” a UCLA spokesman told the Sacramento Bee. That said, the university does not use state funding for travel sports teams as it currently stands, and the goal of the law to avoid “spending taxpayer dollars in states that discriminate,” according to California’s Attorney General.

On the college basketball side of things, the biggest question mark here is whether or not this law will prevent teams from playing in the NCAA tournament if they are sent to a site in one of those eight states. Next season alone, there are first weekend sites in Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, not to mention the Final Four taking place in San Antonio. The location for many of those events were determined prior to January 1st.

“We are generally not going to deny student-athletes the opportunity to compete in the postseason,” a UCLA spokesman told NBC Sports.

The next question then becomes whether or not regular season travel will be allowed. Earlier this year, Cal dropped out of talks with Kansas about a potential home-and-home series due to this law, and if regular season travel is not allowed, it would mean that Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville and Wichita State, along with Kansas, are not allowed to be visited by California public schools that need state funding to travel. A request for a clarification on the legality of college sports teams traveling to those states has been filed with the Attorney General by Fresno State, whose football team is headed to Alabama for a game this year.

Travel for recruiting is also a question that needs to be answered, but at the highest level of the sport, that is typically funded by boosters.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.