The NCAA is Developing a Free Agent Market… Potentially

Transfers May Not Have to be Sidelined Much Longer

Earlier this week, it was announced that the NCAA was making serious strides towards allowing transfers to be eligible to play for their new programs immediately. This is obviously still a rough idea that comes with many stipulations, but I, for  one, still love it. Let’s be honest, we are not exactly at a point in professional sports where team loyalty is at an all time high, especially for basketball. The move perfectly coincides with the nature of the game today, and whether you like it or not, it will give us more headlines and more stories to talk about.

This is a move that makes coaches across the country cringe, but the reality is that every player’s goal is to play at the highest level possible. For some it’s the NBA. Others are just trying to compete at the highest collegiate level they can before attempting an overseas career or leaving the game behind. In order to do so, transfers must happen sometimes.

NCAA athletes transferring is not necessarily a common practice for big time players, however a development like this may make it so. Let’s look at someone like Michael Porter for a second. Everyone knows Michael Porter deserves to play for a team far better than a below average SEC team. However, what if at the end of the season, Porter is faced with the option of choosing between the NBA, or another solid NCAA program like Duke or Kentucky?  This would allow the number one recruit to actually compete for something meaningful at the collegiate level instead of just counting down the days until he can hear the Brooklyn Nets or some other abysmal pro team call his name on draft day.

Porter is an NBA ready talent right now. He will not pass up the NBA to play another year in college, but that doesn’t apply to all five-star recruits. Malik Newman is another example of this. Only time will tell if Newman’s decision to transfer to Kansas, over going pro, benefited his career or not. If a professional athlete can rejuvenate his career with a new team, why can’t the same theory apply to a collegiate player?

This is the closest thing that the NCAA will ever develop to free agency, and where there are free agents, there is drama. With drama comes attention and attention brings interest. The transfer rate in the NCAA is out of control, but some players truly do need a change of scenery to help them reach their highest playing potential. This new development would undoubtedly create more buzz around college hoops, so if you’re a fan of the NCAA, you should be a fan of this idea.

Why The NCAA Should Stop Expanding the Tournament

The NCAA Tournament is Fine the Way it is

March Madness is widely regarded as the best and most exciting playoff system in sports. That being said, why would anyone want to change it?

Two of the reasons I have seen are: it will help save coaches’ jobs, and allow more Division 1 athletes to get the full NCAA experience while increasing revenue for the NCAA. Frankly, both of these reasons seems to be, in my opinion, a cop-out.

Let’s start with the coaches. If you’re expected to lead your team to the NCAA tournament and fail to make the cut for several years, you are right to lose your job. Furthermore, simply expanding upon the field does not truly make you a better coach or improve your team. It simply makes you the beneficiary of a more advantageous system.

As for players getting the “full experience,” I would argue that not all players are created equal. It seems too utopian that the NCAA wants to reward more players by giving out bids. But when you start handing out more bids, what does that say about the meaningfulness of those bids? I think the quality of the tournament is already compromised by guaranteeing every team who wins their conference a bid. However, this is where all the great upsets in March come from so it is a trade-off that is well worth it. Adding more average-to-below-average competitors will do nothing but water down the competition.

What it’s really about is the money. You cannot argue that adding teams to the tournament would be more lucrative for the NCAA. More teams equals more games; more games equals more money. It’s simple math. Yet as sports fans, there is nothing we hate more than seeing teams and leagues sell out. It brings down the quality of the product 99% of the time and detracts from the entire reason we watch the sport to begin with. The NCAA is supposed to be a non-profit, so if they’re driven by the bottom line, isn’t that an indictment of the character of those in charge? We all love the NCAA Tournament, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Teams and Players to Watch in the BIG Ten

big ten

The Big Ten showed up in a big way last year. Even while perennial powerhouse Michigan State struggled, the Big 10 was one of the most solid conferences through and through. This year should be more of the same as we preview some of the best teams and some of the best players you should watch this season.

Talented Teams

michigan state, big ten

Michigan State

The Spartans had an uncharacteristically average season last year, finishing 10-8 in conference play, placing them directly in the middle of the pack at 7th place. Much of MSU’s struggles can be chalked up to inexperience. The Spartans were loaded with underclassmen last year and even a coach like Tom Izzo cannot be expected to do much with such a green roster. However, since Izzo is one of the best to ever do it, one year of growth for his young squad will be all they need. Look for the Spartans to be back on top of the Big 10 this year.

Minnesota

While a first round exit in the NCAA tournament was not what Minnesota was hoping for, the Golden Gophers will return a bunch of key players that carried them to the postseason. Minnesota is returning 4 of their 5 starters. Nate Mason, last year’s leading scorer and floor general, will return for his senior season Look for the Golden Gophers to be one of the most complete teams in the country, as they will exhibit strong guard play paired with 2 veteran big men.

Purdue

The Boilermakers may have lost Caleb Swanigan to the NBA Draft, but almost everyone else from last year is back. Like last year, Purdue’s success will largely come from their dominant inside presence. Issac Hass’ 7-2 frame will be more than enough for Purdue to continue their recent trend of winning by dominating the paint and boards on both ends of the floor.

 

Teams on the Downswing

maryland, big ten

Maryland

The Terrapins had a very underwhelming season last year. Expectations were high and they did not quite meet them. They managed to finish 3rd in the Big 10 but did not necessarily impress en route to doing so. They also got bounced in the first round of the Big Dance by Xavier. Justin Jackson will return, but I doubt this will be enough to cover up for the loss of Melo Trimble, who was the face or Maryland basketball for the past couple of years. Besides Jackson, the only player returning who averages double-digit points per game is Anthony Cowan. So unless some like Kevin Huerter or Jared Nickens can help carry the load, expect a very pedestrian showing from Maryland this year.

Wisconsin

The Badgers are coming off of an incredibly hot ending to the season, in which they went all the way to the Big 10 Championship and kept the momentum going, knocking out the #1 overall seed Villanova. However, like Maryland, the Badgers are also losing two key players in Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig. Ethan Happ is the only returning starter from last year’s squad, as Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown are also gone. With so many question marks and such a high level of competition, I wouldn’t count on the Badgers to be much of a force this year.

Ohio State

The departure of Thad Matta signals a culture shock for the Buckeyes. After a couple of mediocre seasons, change at the top was needed and now Chris Holtmann is leading the charge with 10 toes in. Ohio State returns leading scorer Jae-Sean Tate, but there is a major drop off after that. It could be a tough year in Columbus, but hey, it’s always darkest before the dawn right?

 

Big 10 Player of the Year Candidates

miles bridges, big ten, michigan state

Miles Bridges

You can’t talk about talent in the Big 10 without talking about Miles Bridges. Many are shocked to him return to school after averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds after his freshman year at Michigan State. Bridges is the ideal wing player, as he shoots well inside and beyond the arc. He shot an incredible 55% from inside the arc last year thanks to his pure stroke and magnificent finishing abilities. Pair that with a 39% percentage from deep and add in a year of development under Tom Izzo, the results could be insane. Not only will Bridges be one of the best players in the conference, he will be one of the best players in the nation.

Nate Mason

The senior floor general is coming off a solid 2016-2017 campaign where he averaged 15 points and 5 assists per game. Mason is crafty with the ball and has above average awareness and vision, as he turned the ball over under 2 times per game as well. Mason will also have a strong supporting cast around him, including Amir Coffey, who many think will have a breakout year. Mason is an experienced and proven leader surrounded by a familiar, and talented, team so there is no reason he cannot improve upon his stellar performance from last year.

Moe Wagner

The stretch 4 should have a huge year for the Wolverines, especially with the departure of Derrick Walton. Wagner will be the go-to man for Michigan this year so expect his production to sky-rocket. Wagner perfectly fits the trend we are seeing from contemporary European big men. He is tall, long and can score from inside and out. Many believe that Wagner made the right decision in leaving the NBA Draft, as he will now have another year to prove his worth. He averaged 12 points and 4 rebounds last year, but look for him to pump those numbers up and perform similar to another European of recent memory, Lauri Markkanen.

Early Big East Predictions

An Early Look at What To Expect from the Big East in the 2017-2018 Season

Class may not be in session, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start talking about college hoops. With that in mind, let’s look at how the standings may shape up in the Catholic Conference this year.

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Heat Sign Olynyk and Waiters… Not That It Really Matters

The Heat locked down two above average basketball players and nobody batted an eye. Dion Waiters had a solid season for Miami last year, averaging almost 16 points per game. His production was limited due to injury but he started to show flashes of the potential many saw when he first came into the league. He shot 42% from the field and just under 40% from beyond the arc which is a testament to his growth as a player, as he is no longer just chucking up bricks from the 3 point line like he did with the Cavs and OKC. Resigning Waiters should give the 25 year old an exciting opportunity to finally come into his own in South Beach.

Olynyk is coming off of a stellar playoff run which significantly bolstered his value in the free agent market. The Heat reportedly threw over 50 million to the dual-threat big-man over a 4 year contract. Olynyk will help Miami solidify the depth in their front-court and he will give them a shooting presence they desperately need.

Normally, these signings should be noteworthy, not groundbreaking, but you would think it would get some media coverage. The sad reality of today’s NBA is that if you don’t sign a superstar, it’s not worth mentioning. These are two good basketball players joining a competitive basketball team with a good coach and a good front office. Yet nobody cares because it isn’t going to stop the Cavs (or maybe the Celtics) from waltzing to the Eastern Conference Finals.