How new Division I power structure affects college hoops

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source: AP
Kyle O’Quinn celebrates after Norfolk State upset No. 2 seed Missouri in 2012, AP Photo

The NCAA’s Board of Directors on Thursday voted to change the way that Division I legislation is structured. Put simply, the Power 5 conferences — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — now have autonomy; they can make and change rules that will apply to them as they see fit.

The biggest reason for this change is to allow the schools that can afford to provide their student athletes with more compensation, things like a stipend that will provide these players with a full cost-of-attendance scholarship, loosening the rules regarding contact between athletes and agents, and allowing for the schools to pay for travel for athletes’ families to attend games.

At a time when the movement regarding the rights of student-athletes and the wrongs of the NCAA’s antiquated concept of amateurism has never been stronger, this is a step in the right direction. It will allow the schools that can give their players more the ability to do so.

It means the rich will get richer, so to speak. If schools outside the Power 5 conferences didn’t already have enough trouble recruiting against the best programs in the country, some of the changes that will come as a result of this change will make it even harder. All else equal, if a recruit is picking between two schools he likes equally and one of them can (legally) give him a couple of thousand dollars extra to cover expenses, will fly his parents to and from games, and will let him get advice from an agent while he’s still in college, where do you think he’s going to go?

Will this end up changing college basketball all that much?

Frankly, no. I don’t think it will for a few reasons:

  • 1. The best programs in the country are already going to be landing the best players in the country. Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas and Duke are annually hauling in the nation’s best recruiting classes. McDonalds All-Americans are almost always going to end up at a power conference school because, frankly, that’s where the best basketball gets played.
  • 2. There are a limited number of spots at programs in the Power 5 conferences. Arizona can only have 13 scholarship players, and only five of them can be on the court at once. Not many kids are going to want to sit on the bench just so they have their books paid for.
  • 3. Along those same lines, how many recruits will choose to go to, say, Rutgers over UConn or Mississippi State over Memphis because of a full cost-of-attendance scholarship or some advice from an agent? You don’t think those power programs outside the power conferences have ways of making sure their athletes can get the money they need? You don’t think there are already agents working with a lot of those kids? The real difference is that these rule changes allows them to do those things without having to cover their tracks.
  • 4. How many programs outside the Power 5 conferences legitimately compete with the Power 5 conferences for recruits? How many can consistently land top 50 and top 100 caliber talent? The top half of the American, the top half of the Big East, the top half of the Mountain West, for starters. Toss in VCU, Wichita State, Gonzaga, and BYU as well. That’s, what, 20 schools, max? In other words, Davidson is still going to be getting the same kids. Saint Mary’s is still going to be getting the same kids. Saint Louis, George Washington, Central Florida, Colorado State. Those programs are still going to be looking for the right fit that falls throughs the cracks.
  • 5. If those 20 or so schools that compete for top 100 kids really feel they’re at a disadvantage, they can adopt the rules that the Power 5 conferences put into place. The only thing that San Diego State or UNLV is excluded from is the voting process. They don’t have a say in the matter, but they can pay those stipends if they feel they need to in order to compete.

But here is the most important point: What makes college basketball so popular and so special is the NCAA tournament, the way that a cinderella can appear out of nowhere. Butler and VCU became elite programs because of their tournament success. Florida-Gulf Coast, and to a lesser extent schools like Lehigh and Mercer, were put on the map nationally because they went out and won games as low seeds in the tournament despite the fact that they don’t have a roster stocked with top 100 players.

There’s nothing that we love more than seeing a group of kids destined to be doctors and lawyers and teachers, kids that are too slow or too small or not athletic enough to shoot their way past a handful of first-round picks. And as long as the NCAA tournament remains a single-elimination tournament, those upsets are still going to happen. A stipend wasn’t going to stop George Mason back in 2006. A full cost-of-attendance scholarship wouldn’t have saved Missouri from Norfolk State.

The Magic of March isn’t going anywhere, and as long as it doesn’t, college basketball is going to be just as entertaining and popular as ever.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.

Report: Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all pass on sponsoring Lonzo Ball

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Lonzo Ball will enter his rookie season in the NBA without a sponsorship deal from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, only his family’s Big Baller Brand apparel.

That, according to a report from ESPN, is due to his father LaVar’s insistence that Lonzo not sign with one of the three major apparel companies unless they opted to sign a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand merchandise instead of outfitting Lonzo with their own gear.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

LaVar had been representing his son in the negotiations, and is now expected to reach out to other shoe brands, including Chinese apparel companies like Li-Nang.

Big Baller Brand is a startup apparel company launched by LaVar Ball. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, with most of their products costing at least $50.

Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft after an all-american season that saw him and the UCLA Bruins flame out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. UCLA lost to Kentucky in that game, and Lonzo had a quiet night while his point guard counterpart, De’Aaron Fox, went off for 39 points.

Lonzo is a likely top three pick in the NBA Draft and, potentially, could still end up going No. 1. He has two younger brothers as well. LiAngelo will be a freshman with the Bruins next season while LaMelo just finished his sophomore season in high school. Both will attend UCLA.