Pros and Cons of College Basketball Realignment in the 2014-15 Season

As of July 1, 16 college basketball teams have changed conferences for the 2014-15 season, and we’ve come up with 10 pros and cons from those moves.

Compared to the dozens and dozens of schools that realigned conferences last summer, this set of transitions was barely a drop in the bucket, but there were certainly some major ramifications, nonetheless.

If nothing else, getting used to seeing Maryland in the Big Ten and Louisville in the ACC will take some time.

In case you need a cheat sheet of which teams are moving to and from where, we’re including a full list of moves on the next slide before diving into the pros and cons.

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Pros and Cons of Los Angeles Lakers Re-Signing Nick Young

It’s official: The Swag is back.

On the free-agent market, that is.

The Los Angeles Lakers announced on Wednesday that Nick Young will not be opting into the second year of his contract with the Purple and Gold. “We anticipated and expected that Nick would choose to become a free agent,” GM Mitch Kupchak said in the team’s official statement. “We very much appreciate his contributions to last season’s team, and we will hopefully be able to bring him back. However, he, his agent and the market will dictate his future direction.”

And what a market that might be. Young’s coming off of the finest year of his NBA career and, at 29, should still have years of quality basketball left in the tank. It’ll certainly cost the Lakers—or any other team, for that matter—more than the two years at the veteran’s minimum to which L.A. signed him last summer to keep/bring him aboard.

But would that expense be worth the Lakers’ while, even with all of the cap space they’re due this summer? Let’s consider the pros and cons of Swaggy P’s potential future at Staples Center.

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Jimmy Fallon’s March Madness ‘Pros and Cons’ Are Hilarious and ‘Creigh, Creigh’

Jimmy Fallon has a video that is pure March Madness hilarity. Actually, if one were so bold, they might claim that it’s March “Creigh, Creigh.”

SportsGrid’s Matt Rudnitsky spotted one of the latest videos from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, which takes aim at the “Pros and Cons” of March Madness. 

You know, that thing that has completely dominated all that you care about this month?

Fallon takes shots at President Obama, Duke and wraps it altogether in the kind of delivery that has garnered immense ratings for his budding iteration of the show. 

Of course, the man to take the biggest ribbing during the bit is the president, who gets two jokes tossed his way. The last is, “And finally, Pro: Spending all day at work filling out your brackets. Con: Then going back to your job as President of the United States.”

One of the best lines has to be the jab at Duke: “Pro: A low-seeded team that goes far in the tournament is known as a ‘Cinderella.’ Con: A high-seeded team that loses early is known as a ‘Duke.’”

It’s a new day, and there aren’t nearly as many people sticking around late at night to take in various shows as they used to. 

The name of the game is get as much viral content to float across the transom of the Internet, where a sizable chunk of the audience lives each day. 

With so many hosts and late-night fare to choose from, Fallon has mastered the ability to lead a show and also create bite-sized snacks of comedy. 

Thankfully, his latest is exactly what we needed to sate our hunger for the tournament ahead of what will be a very delightful Sweet 16. 

Pro: Jimmy Fallon leads late-night. Con: We can’t think of any. 

 

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Jimmy Fallon’s March Madness ‘Pros and Cons’ Is Hilarious and ‘Creigh, Creigh’

Jimmy Fallon has a video that is pure March Madness hilarity. Actually, if one were so bold, they might claim that it’s March “Creigh, Creigh.”

SportsGrid’s Matt Rudnitsky spotted one of the latest videos from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, which takes aim at the “Pros and Cons” of March Madness. 

You know, that thing that has completely dominated all that you care about this month?

Fallon takes shots at President Obama, Duke and wraps it altogether in the kind of delivery that has garnered immense ratings for his budding iteration of the show. 

Of course, the man to take the biggest ribbing during the bit is the president, who gets two jokes tossed his way. The last being, “And finally, Pro: Spending all day at work filling out your brackets. Con: Then going back to your job as President of the United States.”

One of the best lines has to be the jab at Duke: “Pro: A low-seeded team that goes far in the tournament is known as a ‘Cinderella.’ Con: A high-seeded team that loses early is known as a ‘Duke.’”

It’s a new day, and there isn’t nearly as many people sticking around late at night to take in various shows as they used to. 

The name of the game is get as much viral content to float across the transom of the Internet, where a sizable chunk of the captivated audience lives each day. 

With so many hosts and late-night fare to choose from, Fallon has mastered the ability to lead a show and also create bite-sized snacks of comedy. 

Thankfully, his latest is exactly what we needed to sate our hunger for the tournament ahead of what will be a very delightful Sweet 16. 

Pro: Jimmy Fallon leads late-night. Con: We can’t think of any. 

 

Hit me up on Twitter

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Pros and Cons of Kobe Bryant Sitting out Rest of LA Lakers Season

Kobe Bryant’s injuries might force him to miss the season, an occurrence that comes with positives and negatives.

Bryant rehabbed from an Achilles tear he suffered at the end of 2012-13 and rejoined the Los Angeles Lakers for all of six games this campaign. The former league MVP then fractured the lateral tibial plateau in his knee and is at risk of missing the remainder of the year.

Bryant could still return and play in a few games (give or take 10-15 contests), but it’s entirely possible that the pros outweigh the cons as it pertains to sitting out the year.

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Duke Basketball: Pros and Cons of Blue Devils’ Small-Ball Lineup

With ACC play right around the corner, the Duke basketball team is on the short list for conference title contenders and Final Four threats. However, Mike Krzyzewski still has some decisions to makeespecially when it comes to what to do with the revolving door of big men he has utilized.

The Blue Devils rank an abysmal 225th in the nation in total rebounding heading into play on Dec. 31, so the interior play they have thrown out there thus far has not inspired.

Amile Jefferson has been the most productive “center” Duke has used with 6.2 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, but he has only seen the court for 16 minutes a night.

Josh Hairston is posting 2.3 points and 1.8 rebounds a game, while Marshall Plumlee is averaging 0.7 points and 1.1 rebounds a night. We’re not exactly looking at Wilt Chamberlain or Hakeem Olajuwon down low for the Blue Devils.

This raises the question: What if Krzyzewski decided to go with a small-ball lineup for extended stretches during conference play? Let’s dig into some of the pros and cons of that decision.

The first obvious positive to a small lineup would be that it maximizes Duke’s talent level. If we are naming the Blue Devils’ top five players from a pure ability standpoint, there is no way any of the big men are on that list.

With names such as Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins, Rasheed Sulaimon and even Tyler Thornton, Duke’s best players are not traditional post presences.

Furthermore, with so much athleticism on the court at once, Duke will be able to get out in transition with some of the best finishers in the country. Cook running the floor with Parker and Hood flanking his two sides and Dawkins or Sulaimon spotting up from the corner is a recipe for plenty of points.

The three-point shooting, which has been a strength for the Blue Devils thus far, will open up even more if they can space the floor with five different shooters. That could be critical against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone in what could be the most important matchup on the entire ACC slate.

In addition to creating transition opportunities and opening up the floor for more long-range shooting, a small-ball lineup would lead to a number of different mismatches in half-court sets.

Whichever player the opponent puts on Parker and/or Hood will not have much of a chance to stick with the Blue Devil off the dribble.

Ultimately, a small-ball lineup would do wonders for the Duke offense. There would be transition opportunities, mismatches all over the court and the chance to create serious fatigue in opponents chasing around so many ball-handlers for extended minutes.

However, there are also some concerns and potential cons to this rotation.

For one, the rebounding has been terrible enough as it is with Jefferson, Hairston and Plumlee combining for about 30 minutes a night. If Krzyzewski decides to utilize a small-ball approach in the ACC, Duke’s biggest weakness may become something that is even more crippling in critical conference matches.

This would expose the Blue Devils against any team that is physical in the paint, even if it isn’t until down the road in March.

It also potentially limits Jefferson’s development right when he seems to be turning a corner. The sophomore scored seven points and grabbed an impressive 14 rebounds in the last game against Eastern Michigan after scoring 11 and totaling seven rebounds against UCLA and grabbing 10 rebounds against Gardner-Webb.

Jefferson is Duke’s best chance at a productive and physical post presence, and increasing his minutes instead of limiting them seems like the best option right now.

Furthermore, perimeter defenders such as Cook and Sulaimon are still very questionable on the outside, and if someone blows past them off the dribble, a small-ball lineup wouldn’t have as much help defense down low to clean up the mess at the rim.

If anything, it would put more responsibility on Parker’s shoulders on the defensive endwhich is his one area that needs improvement right nowas a possible enforcer down low and the team’s leading rebounder

As with almost any lineup-altering decision for Coach K, there are numerous pros and cons to utilizing a small-ball rotation in ACC play.

Ultimately, the best route may be to give more minutes to Jefferson and then cut into Hairston’s playing time with a small-ball group. That would give Duke’s best hope at a center time to develop while opening up the window for an offensive run with the small group out there.

Whatever Krzyzewski decides to do in an attempt to improve the rebounding and interior defense will have a rippling effect throughout the ACC. Syracuse and North Carolina will certainly be paying attention.

 

Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.

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Cliff Alexander Decision: Pros and Cons of Each Contender for 5-Star Recruit

Cliff Alexander, the No. 3 prospect in the class of 2014 according to 247Sports, will make one college basketball program very happy when he decides where to go to school on Friday.

Alexander is one of the most physically dominating big men in his class. He is a formidable rebounder and shot blocker on the defensive end and has gradually developed a soft touch around the rim with the ball in his hands.

Alexander will decide between Illinois, Kansas, Memphis and DePaul. Read on to get some pros and cons for each possible destination.

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Stanley Johnson Decision: Pros and Cons of Each Contender for 5-Star Recruit

The 2013-14 college basketball schedule may have just begun, but future seasons will be shaped by a number of recruiting decisions on Friday.

One of those decisions will come from Stanley Johnson, who is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the country for the class of 2014 by 247Sports. Johnson is a versatile and athletic wing player who can slash into the lane with ease and is an effective passer.

The California native will decide between Kentucky, Arizona and USC, all three of which he has officially visited. Read on to see some pros and cons for each possible destination.

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Pros and Cons If LA Lakers Actually Let Kobe Bryant Become a Free Agent

The future of Los Angeles Lakers aging star Kobe Bryant has never been more uncertain.

The 35-year-old is still working his way back from the torn Achilles that prematurely ended his 2012-13 campaign. His 2013-14 season, whenever it starts, will be the final contracted year on his current deal with the franchise.

Depending on your source, Bryant’s either definitely headed for free agency or he’ll never come close to getting there.

T.J. Simers of the Orange County Register reported that Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss plans on allowing Bryant to hit the market. Yet just one day later, ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne reported that she heard the exact opposite from Buss and offered the following quote from the executive himself:

want to put an end to any speculation that we would allow Kobe to become a free agent. That’s not going to happen. Kobe is a top priority for us. He’s a Laker legend and always will be. I don’t think we’re done winning championships with him yet.

Clear as mud, isn’t it?

In a season that was already full of so many unknowns for the Lakers, Bryant’s expiring contract is the biggest of all.

Would the Lakers actually consider letting the five-time champion wade out into the free-agent waters next summer? With this many leaks springing from the roster, can L.A. afford not to?

 

Kobe Isn’t Leaving

The final chapter of Bryant’s basketball story is nothing more than blank pages at this point. The 15-time All-Star told Simers he still doesn’t know if he’s headed for “a happy ending, or does it end in a tragedy?”

I can’t fill in those pages for you (or for him), but I can at least construct the setting for this conclusion. It’ll be underneath those same sunny skies he’s enjoyed for the last 17 seasons, with the same franchise he’s already given 1,239 regular-season games and 220 playoff efforts.

Whether he inks his deal now or waits for next summer is irrelevant, at least as far as location is concerned. He might not have his next contract yet, but it sure sounds like it’s coming at some point:

That doesn’t mean these will be drama-free negotiations, though.

Expect Bryant’s agent Rob Pelinka to plant his client’s massive portfolio right in the center of the table. Those five championship rings are a given. A sighting of the Mamba’s two NBA Finals MVP awards or one regular-season MVP would be far from surprising.

They’ll enter these sessions hoping to secure a monetized lifetime achievement award.

The Lakers have next to nothing committed to next season’s payroll$10.6 million to Steve Nash and Robert Sacre, while Nick Young has a $1.2 million player option, via Hoopsworld.com. Bryant told Serena Winters of LakersNation.com he’s hoping for a sizable piece of that cap space:

I’m not taking any [pay cut] at all – that’s the negotiation that you have to have. For me to sit here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just going to take a huge pay cut.’ Nah, I’m going to try to get as much as I possibly can.

Don’t look for Bryant’s stance to change, but whatever number he has in his head could come down if he doesn’t get back close to his pre-injury level.

Maybe his explosiveness just won’t be the same, and his offensive production will suffer. Or maybe his body won’t be able to stand anything close to the 38.6 minutes per game he logged in 2012-13. If he’s a part-time player, or worse, a part-time producer in full-time minutes, his salary should surely reflect that status change.

Clearly, that’s what the Lakers are waiting to find out.

No numbers (dollars or years) have been leaked from these talks. Figures, even ballpark ones, might not have been exchanged yet.

The Lakers need to see where Bryant’s body is, and that won’t happen for some time. L.A. has until next summer to decide his future. It doesn’t have to rush.

If Bryant eventually hits the open market, does anyone really think he’ll be donning anything other than purple and gold in 2014-15?

Patience is key, but it doesn’t come without some risk attached.

 

The Nightmare Isn’t Over?

This team was painful to watch last season, Lakers fan or not.

Seeing Pau Gasol banished to the perimeter as a miscast stretch 4 was tragic. My body ached as I watched Steve Nash challenged the bruised and battered limits of his. The Kobe-Dwight Howard relationship looked like an unmitigated disaster and was apparently just as bad as it seemed from the outside.

But this season could be even worse. I’m not sure if the absence of hope is necessarily a worse fate than shattered dreams, but the on-court product could be horrendous.

Nick Young (13.1 points per game) and Xavier Henry (11.9) have been two of L.A.’s most consistent weapons this preseason. Just give that last sentence a minute to soak in.

The mighty Lakersand their $76.6 million payrollneed a perfect combination of health and chemistry just to scratch out one of the final playoff berths in a loaded Western Conference. Scrapping the roster and starting over isn’t an option; L.A. doesn’t have the attractive assets needed to kick-start a rebuild.

Fans might want to embrace a tank, but that won’t happen. Not with so many players, along with coach Mike D’Antoni, having so much to prove this season. It’s a contract year for almost every player on the team.

The last thing L.A. needs is another distraction. The players will already be peppered with questions about Bryant’s health for as long as he’s missing in action; they don’t need a new series of questions about his contract status when he does return.

I might be in the minority here, but I just don’t see Bryant’s pay grade fluctuating this season. This is the same guy who tallied 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game at age 34 last season. Typical physical limitations just don’t seem to apply to him.

So, if he’s going to wind up with the same salary down the road that he currently commands, why not lock him in and remove the suspense? Whatever perceived problems Bryant’s presence will add to negotiations with next summer’s top free agents will exist until the day he’s either joined a different organization or retired from basketball.

Bryant told Melissa Rohlin of the Los Angeles Times earlier this summer that he’s “ready to go for at least another three” seasons, so the retirement thing is out. Those previous loyalty comments, from both Bryant and the Lakers, similarly rule out the chance that he’ll seek out a new basketball home.

So, would the fact that he doesn’t officially have a contract really give the Lakers any more bargaining power in their chase for a top-flight player? Are those same questions of a power struggle that Howard faced really something that this franchise wants to endure again?

 

So, What’s the Right Move?

Neither option is going to be particularly comfortable.

Locking up Bryant now is a gamble. It’s essentially a payment for past production with the hope that his future figures will fall somewhere in line.

It brings a degree of certainty to the locker room, but also the risk of an unfortunate reality. Maybe he’ll never be the same player again. Maybe he will, but his final seasons will be wasted due to an underwhelming supporting cast.

If the Lakers wait, then tension will be mounting all season. L.A. might be lacking in the excitement department, but this won’t be the kind it wants.

Barring some unforeseen turn of events, it ultimately doesn’t force Bryant out the door. But if the Lakers aren’t inclined to put some faith behind his recovery now, Bryant might be a little more demanding when the two sides do decide to talk contract.

If forced to choose, I’d say securing his services now is the preferable plan.

Don’t get crazy with his salary, but give him enough to keep him happy. That should leave enough wiggle room to chase one premier free agent next summer, and pairing that star with a happy, engaged Bryant could create a decent splash for his twilight years.

The last thing the Lakers want to do is back Bryant into a corner. He’s been known to hold some serious grudges in his days, and making him prove his value after all these years could elicit some venom from the Mamba.

 

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Pros and Cons of LA Lakers Re-Signing Pau Gasol This Offseason

Believe it or not, the 2014 offseason won’t be all about Kobe Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers. Pau Gasol will be at the center of a lot of discussion as well. 

Almost the entire roster is coming off the books at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign, one that seems likely to end after just 82 games. And that includes a certain Spanish big man who has played in a purple-and-gold uniform ever since he was traded away from the Memphis Grizzlies

But, should the Lakers re-sign Gasol? 

It’s a question that general manager Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the front office will toy with throughout the upcoming season, evaluating his play as well as how he fits in with the future plans. 

Going into the 2013-14 campaign, there are already a few pros and cons to bringing back the 7-footer who averaged 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game last year.

Let’s take a look at ‘em. 

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