March College Basketball

March is here. That most wondrous, glorious time in which both the NCAA Tournament and baseball’s Opening Day both happen. This post I’m focusing on the former. It’s been a mixed bag of a season for our area teams. Let’s take a look at where they stand, relative to the tournament.

All records are as of March 4th, 2019

 

The Shoe-ins

 

Kentucky Wildcats (24-5) – John Calipari has these Cats currently projected to be a 2 seed in the dance. Considering everyone outside the bluegrass basically wrote them off after they began the season getting smashed by Duke, Kentucky just proves that losses in November mean very little in March. Keldon Johnson figures to be the highest draft pick from this squad, but this may be one of the most cohesive teams Coach Cal has ever put together. They defend like nobody’s business. KenPom has them rated top-10 (#9) in adjusted defense. They’ve also got Tyler Herro, whose last name says it all. They could very well be a 1 seed with a SEC Tournament victory.

 

Cincinnati Bearcats (25-4) – Yeah, that record is the exact same as Kentucky. Sure, they’ve had different roads to get to where they are, but considering this is technically a rebuilding year, that is amazing. They lost the best player the program has seen since Kenyon Martin, in Gary Clark, another NBA-caliber player in Jacob Evans, and a strong post presence in Kyle Washington. They’ve followed that up by producing the favorite to win conference player of the year, in Jaron Cumberland, ad sticking to the top of the conference standings. Mick Cronin has truly done a great job with his team slotted in as a 7 seed with a possibility, if they win the American Athletic Conference Tournament, of a 6 seed. Like the Wildcats, the Bearcats are a well-knit unit of a team. Mick has these guys rolling like a family who is fighting for each other. They could be a sneaky pick to make it out of the first weekend in the tournament, though I do not expect them to in order for me to be happy with their season.

 

The Bubblers

 

Dayton Flyers (19-10) – The Flyers have had an up-and-down year and may need to just flat out win their conference tourney to make the big dance. Their recent OT loss to Rhode Island at UD Arena has emphasized their desperation. They came really close to signature, non-conference wins in the early season, but couldn’t finish them off. They would have been in a better position had they beaten Virginia Commonwealth once. The NET rankings, the new standard for the tournament, currently has them at 74. Making the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals could sneak them in, but Anthony Grant’s side may have their backs against the wall for an at-large bid.

 

Xavier Musketeers (16-13) – It is an absolute shock that they are in this conversation, but here we are. A few weeks ago they were left for dead. A truly rough January, where they won just two games in seven, had them in dead last for the Big East. Travis Steele was being seen as a bust…in his first year, but whatevs…and then things change. Naji Marshall morphs into the player he was expected to be, coming into the year, and has taken over the Trevon Blueitt role of putting the team on his back when they are in need of a basket. After a loss to DePaul on February 9th, the Musketeers got to work. They beat Creighton in OT, smashed Providence on the road, and then loudly proclaimed their comeback by soundly beating Villanova by a dozen. Now it feels like, if they can finish strong against Butler and St. Johns, followed by a deep Big East tournament run, they could steal an at-large bid. Like Dayton, they may have their backs to the wall and need a Big East Conference tournament title to get in. Unlike Dayton, three weeks ago, this seemed as farfetched as the existence of aliens. Yet, here we are.

 

You must be a Conference Tournament Title Winner to ride the ride

 

Northern Kentucky Norse (23-8) – The Norse hit a speed bump on February 23 when Cleveland State, on NKU’s senior night, left Highland Heights with a win. The second-to-the-bottom Cleveland State Vikings snapped the Norse’s 20-game home winning streak and threw water on any argument they had at an at-large bid, should they not win the Horizon League Tournament. Now Drew McDonald is a special player and broke the school record for most points, but he will need to lead the Norse to a tourney title in order to dance.

 

Wright State Raiders (19-12) – Like the Norse, they split the regular season championship for the Horizon League. Unlike NKU, Wright State never had a whisper of an at-large bid. Cleveland State help them split the regular season with the rival Norse, but now the Raiders need to win the Horizon League tournament to make it in. Led by Sophomore Loudon Love (15 ppg), Wright State’s run to a conference title starts tomorrow night at the Nutter Center against IUPUI.

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, let’s enjoy our area teams finishing up their respective seasons!

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Brilliant Idea from the NBA G League

The NBA has come up with an idea to combat the “one and done” mentality of the NCAA, using the G League, and it is solid. This is an idea that, given proper implementation with its nuances, will be beneficial for players, schools, and NBA teams.

In case you haven’t seen anything about this, yet, here is an in-depth article about the new plan for the G League, courtesy of ESPN. https://es.pn/2P9n29h

In short, for prospects determined to be elite talents that would go to school for no more than one year (John Wall, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, etc.) the NBA developmental league, known as the G League, will offer them a one-year contract for $125k, known as the “professional path” plan. This will free them from the bonds of amateurism as outlined by the NCAA and will open them up to focus on the one thing they want to focus on: basketball.

This is a brilliant plan for the player. Think about it. You’re a blue chip, five-star recruit sitting at home. You just got done talking to John Calipari, Roy Williams, and Mike Krzyzewski about coming to play ball at their schools. You’re star-struck by who you talked to, but then it hits you: a good portion of your time will be spentin class. Not class about basketball. Not a genuine professionally experienced basketball person teaching you the ins and outs of the euro-step. No, someone teaching art history, or ethics, or, God forbid, biology. Is a mitochondria going to help you sink a three-point jumper with a hand in your face? Probably not.

So there you are, wondering about which professor is going to fail you (nobody at North Carolina, from what I hear), when you get another call. “Hey, I know basketball is in your blood. Would you like to focus your skill for a year, concentrate only on improving your draft stock and legally make $125,000.00 bucks in the process?” How can you say no?

Oh sure, the first argument out of the gate is about the exposure. Kentucky basketball is legendary and on national television, playing marquee schools like North Carolina. There are passionate fans whose lives revolve around whether their school wins or loses. You don’t want to be a part of that? I mean, if your ultimate goal is to be a top pick in the NBA draft, then this shouldn’t be a huge factor to you. What NBA general manager says “Well, John Smith wasn’t super popular amongst the fan base of State University, so he’s falling down the draft board?” None, I hope. At least no successful GM would. They’re looking for talent and if a player can fit into their scheme. None of that is derived from whether a fan from their college likes them. It comes from their personal development through practices and games.

Sure, the G League isn’t broadcast far and wide, but that may actually be a good thing. How many kids’ abilities are compromised because they did something silly in a game and that school’s rabid fan base then blows up social media with how that kid is now a joke of a player? I would think that the lesser known exposure of the G League would have a sort of charm to it for a blue chip prospect looking to make a career out of putting the ball through the net, because he can develop his game in relative peace.

Plus, the player can hire an agent, get a shoe deal, and do all that marketing stuff outside the game, because he isn’t bound by the NCAA’s silly rules regarding amateurism. That is a huge deal, in my opinion.

In my next post, I’m going to tell you why This is terrific for NBA Teams. Stay tuned, and stay classy.