Next to NIL
So Armando Bacot announced he is going to return to college hoops for what could be his 13th season at UNC. It could be more. Wasn't he Tyler Hansborough's back-up his first year at Chapel Hill?
If Nikola Jokic is the prototypical NBA big man, who is a point center that is a walking triple-double and shoots 40% from distance at 7-feet-plus, Bacot is the prototypical NCAA big man in the NIL era.
Bacot has started 131 games and played in 132 at UNC. Barring injury and UNC pulling another gag season in 2023-24, Bacot will be one of the top-10 all-time NCAA dudes in participation.
How extreme will Bacot's games mark be? If all goes as expected, he will pass John Fulkerson's games played total.
During the regular season.
But now -- in today's college basketball -- Bacot will be the Mandalorian. This is the way.
Bacot made close to a half million bucks in NIL dollars over the last season, even as UNC struggled and underachieved.
The NIL deals across all of college sports are making LSU gymnasts, Miami women's basketball players and dozens and hundreds of college athletes six figures annually.
That number -- and that revenue -- will only grow.
But nowhere will the stars be more rewarded and in turn enticed to keep coming back to school than the front court of major college basketball programs.
A decade or more ago, Armando Bacot would have declared for the draft after the Heels' surprising run to the NCAA championship game 11 months ago.
He would have been a late first-round or even a second-round pick. Dude is 6-foot-10, a very good rebounder who is an above average defender with a low-post/put-back offensive skill set.
That's great in college, and those numbers will move a ton of jerseys -- especially at power programs like UNC and Kentucky and others -- so the money could be better being the BMOC in Lexington or Durham rather than the third-string center in Brooklyn or Denver.
Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe reportedly makes well more than $20,000 a month in jersey sales alone. And considering that a lot of NBA mock drafts do not include Tshiebwe in the first round, why would he not declare to take his COVID-19 year and come back to Lexington.
That's the smart move right? It's also the prudent move, considering Tshiebwe's -- and Bacot's -- high-six-figure, low-seven-figure NIL income is more than they would be guaranteed as a late round one or a any round two pick. It's also more than they could earn playing overseas.
And they are far from alone.
Tshiebwe became the first National Player of the Year to return to the college game since the aforementioned Hansborough returned to UNC back in the late 2000s.
It could happen again this year, since Purdue's Zach Edey is the front runner to win the Naismith Award, and his skill set is more marketable at Purude than it is for say, Portland.
It also could really serve Rick Barnes and the Tennessee Vols quite swimmingly this off season, too.
A deep and uber-experienced Vols roster introduced roughly the population of Sale Creek on senior night in Knoxville earlier this month.
Well, a slew of those dudes have limited NBA projections but serious earning potential to run it back with the Vols.
So enjoy the gloriousness of the middle weekend of the NCAA tournament, and remember the names and games of a lot of the "seniors" you see over the next few days.
Because if "one and done" was the phrase that defined the last 15-plus years of college basketball, for the big guys who are some of the biggest stars in college hoops, the new mantra will be "more than four."
The other side
As Bacot was making his announcement, two of the NCAA's biggest big shots were putting the final strokes on an op-ed for The New York Times.
Notre Dame President John Jenkins and Irish AD Jack Swarbirck penned an opinion piece that without strong guidelines and influence from college sports, professional sports and Congress, the NCAA is in grave jeopardy to break apart.
OK, the hand-wringing over NIL is certainly over-the-top at times. It's hard to complain about athletes getting paid when the NCAA tournament is creating billions for every other person, program or company attached to the Madness.
But, if Notre Dame bigwigs are worried about the fiscal view long term -- considering the bankroll Notre Dame has -- well, paying attention to these concerns seems prudent.
Doug earlier this week scoffed at the "media narrative" of the power leagues breaking away and forming their own version of college sports.
The thought of fans of mid-major athletics is that the power programs would not breakaway because of how great the tournament is.
And that thought is based on logic in that the tournament is great. But it is flawed because it assumes that the power programs care about fairness, sports or great events.
They care about coin. Their leaders and ADs are paid to care about coin and providing it for their programs. Their programs care about coin because more coin gets more five-stars, which means more wins which is great but not the ultimate objective.
Because more coin = more five stars = more wins is really a three-step move to ...
And let's be really clear: All of the ADs and presidents demanding for Congress to intervene or help from other institutions or various professional leagues have next-to-zero concern for fairness to the student athlete either.
This is an attempt to reclaim the seven-figure toothpaste that is being spewed across fields, courts and mats across the college sports landscape.
Are they overstating it? Maybe.
Is NIL going to kill college sports? I don't think so.
Unchecked, will NIL completely overhaul and change college sports as we know it? Absolutely.
Whether that different will be as good, better or as Swarbrick and Jenkins assert, way worse than what we see now, well, that's the billion-dollar question.
The ball will be tipped (thankfully)
Tonight and Friday night will be a bloodbath. This is a round that will be part basketball ballet and part backroom brawl.
Think of it this way: Unders are the lean, and will be a fall back for me in the Thursday/Friday dates of the first two weeks of this three-week sports party.
Opposing teams get four-plus days to prep. Teams are playing in huge arenas where they have never played before. Plus, defensive energy is always ramped and late-game scenarios are more guarded.
Translation = unders.
That could be the same thing tonight.
Of the 16 teams still dribbling basketballs at the highest level of college hoops, 10 are in the top 35 in defensive efficiency, including all of the top four -- UT, Houston, UCLA and Alabama -- in that stat.
Here are the latest numbers for the Sweet 16 games with the offensive efficiency for each team:
-- Michigan State minus-1.5 vs. Kansas State (total -- 137.5); Offensive efficiency: 112/129.
-- UConn minus 4.5 vs. Arkansas (140); OE: 9/128.
-- Tennessee minus-4.5 vs. FAU (130.5); OE: 91/13.
-- UCLA minus-1.5 vs. Gonzaga (145.5); OE: 37/1
-- Alabama minus-7 vs. San Diego State (136.5); OE: 35/107.
-- Houston minus-7.5 vs. Miami (138); OE: 4/8
-- Creighton minus-9.5 vs. Princeton (140); OE: 32/64
-- Texas minus-4 vs. Xavier (149); OE: 40/16
I will pick all of them in today's and tomorrow's Plays of the Day newsletter. Deal? Deal.
This and that
-- So, this may be a political topic -- and it happened in our state -- but I am simply relaying it and not discussing it. Maren Morris welcomed a drag queen on stage at a concert Monday and dared Tennessee authorities to arrest her.
-- We did another podcast on the NCAA tournament for VegasInsider on Wednesday. Here you go. Please give it a listen if you got a minute or 40.
-- You know the rules. Here's Paschall on UT football recruiting.
So, it's anything goes Thursday, and I got this question for the mailbag but I'm going to offer it up for input from all of you smart folks.
Best use of a montage in movie history? Go.
Also, I saw an interesting talking point about which college athletic department has the best football-men's basketball coaching combo. Tennessee and Alabama can each make a strong case right now, no?
As for today, March 23, let's review.
Moses Malone would have been 68 today.
Rushmore of Moses, does he make it? Go and remember the mailbag.