The Morning Mix

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– The big news item of the day deals with Syracuse center Fab Melo, who will be unable to participate in the NCAA tournament due to eligibility issues. This is the second time this year Melo has been ruled ineligible.  He had to sit out three games in January, and the Orange subsequently lost their first game of the season to Notre Dame. Jay Bilas assesses the impact of Melo’s absence.  Since Melo won’t be able to participate for the rest of this season, it seems as though he has decided to declare for the NBA draft

– Speaking of Syracuse, ESPN anchor Ryan Burr, a Syracuse alum, sent out a tweet directed at  highly-touted recruit, and potential replacement for Melo, Nerlens Noel. The tweet has since been deleted, but the NCAA doesn’t usually approve of things like this

– Position Logistics provided a great-read about the makeup of this very blog you are reading

– Richard Deistch provides by-far the best ultimate guide to viewing March Madness. Don’t be fooled by silly imitations. This is all you need

Mascot rankings for all 68 tournament teams

– John Gasaway explains why there will be no 12-5 upsets this year

– Matt Norlander put together a travel mileage chart of all the NCAA Tournament teams. Pretty cool stuff

– Jeff Eisenberg details the three “second round” games that feature lower-seed favorites

– Your obligatory “Who is this year’s VCU?” article

– If Ohio is able to upset Michigan in the second round, don’t be surprised if you see Jon Croce’s name appear on the hot-lists for new coaching hires in the off-season

– UConn’s punishment for low APR scores is a tournament ban in 2013 But if next year’s APR scores were applied now, 13 current tournament teams wouldn’t be dancing

– Oral Roberts and Drexel are two of just 15 teams since 1985 to go undefeated in league play only to lose in their conference tournament by single digits, thus losing out on the March Madness experience

– Andy Staples does a great job at projecting the next breakout tournament star

–  The odds that you pick a perfect second round bracket is 13.46 million-to-1

– Ten tournament truths you must abide by

Five entertaining yet unconventional ways to fill out your brackets

– Five first round upsets to look out for

– Does the lack of tailgating hurt the widespread popularity of college basketball?

– Former-Penn State guard Monroe Brown, who helped lead the Nittany Lions to a 1991 Tournament upset victory over UCLA, died on Friday at the age of 41

– Former NBA assistant coach Dick Harter led Penn to two NCAA tournament appearances and was the Oregon coach when the Ducks ended UCLA’s 98-game home winning streak. He passed away on Monday at the age of 81

Georgia Tech has dismissed Glenn Rice Jr. from the basketball program after he was involved in a shooting incident prior to the ACC Tournament

– With Northwestern in yet another N.I.T., is Bill Carmody’s time up in Evanston?

– Darrin Horn has been fired as head coach at South Carolina after four seasons on the job. Could Wichita State head coach Greg Marshall be in the running?

– Rhode Island fired their coach Jim baron last week after an abysmal season. The school has now gotten permission to interview Dan Hurley, who led Wagner to an impressive 25-6 season in the NEC. Hurley is the brother of former-Duke guard Bobby Hurley, and the son of legendary New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley

UCLA has decided to keep Ben Howland as their head coach despite a tumultuous season

Samford fired head coach Jimmy Tillette after 15 years at the helm

– Charlotte and UT-San Antonio are leading candidates in Sun Belt Conference expansion. This is why expansion stinks. San Antonio and Charlotte are nowhere near each other on a map. Neither is Marquette and South Florida. Or Boston College and Miami.  Or Syracuse and everywhere

– The 2012 Carrier Classic is likely to be held off the coast of Charleston, SC on the deck of the USS Yorktown 

– The Big-XII and ESPN are close to finalizing a blockbuster TV extension

– Georgetown’s mascot Jack the Bulldog, the real JtB, not the fake one, tore his ACL over the weekend. Yes, I know, I’m confused too. But apparently have ACLs and  can tear them. You learn new things every day

– When half-court shots fall short, way short 

 

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.