The Morning Mix

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No more college basketball for another seven months. Has it sunk in yet? The game breakdowns and team story lines have been moved to the back-burner, but the off-season news cycle is always busy. The Early Entry deadline is 26 days away and the coaching carousel is always spinning. The Morning Mix will remain your daily destination for the pulse of the college basketball world during the off-season.

– Our very-own Nick Fasulo previews some of the more intriguing teams to keep an eye out for in 2012-2013

– Jeff Eisenberg ranks the eight best games of the 2011-2012 season. No complaints here, well maybe No.5, oh and the fact that we can’t run all these games back again

– Myron Medcalf provides an excellent list of his 2012 All-Tournament Team. Again, no complaints here

– This is the funniest “End-of-Season Awards” list you will read all week. It’s also surprisingly informative

– This summer’s NBA draft might be “one-and-done” because after Anthony Davis, there are a lot of good players, but no elite, great, transcendent players

– Will Kentucky repeat as National Champions? It might be tough if all five starter declare for the draft. Yes, its true, Calipari can reload in a heartbeat, but in 2012-2013 Kyle Wiltjer and Eloy Vargas figure to be the returning players with the most experience. That’s not exactly Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller

Your daily “John Calipari to the Knicks” article. But this one, written by the great Adrian Wojnarowski, has an interesting twist

Lexington nearly went up in flames on Monday night, following the Wildcats National Championship victory. But Jayhawk fans weren”t too far behind, as 14 people were arrested in downtown Lawrence following the heartbreaking loss

– Reserve forward Griffin McKenzie has decided to transfer out of Xavier in hopes of garnering more playing time. The 6-8 sophomore played in just 11 games for the Musketeers this season

– Nebraska center Jorge Brian Diaz will not be returning to Nebraska for his senior season. the oft-injured big-man will instead return home to Puerto Rico

– Weber State’s Damian Lillard, the nation’s top scorer, is forgoing his final year of eligibility in order to enter the NBA Draft. Despite playing in the seldom-seen Big Sky Conference, Lillard is likely to be selected in the mid-to-late first round

– Washington freshman Tony Wroten Jr. has decided to leave school in order to enter the NBA draft. He is the second Husky to enter the draft this off-season, joining fellow underclassmen Terrence Ross

– Off-season arrests continue to pile up. This time, it’s Michigan State behemoth center Derrick Nix, who was arrested  on Monday night for marijuana possession and operating a vehicle in the pressence of drugs. He has been suspended from the team and his future with the program is up in the air

– Georgia State is often considered the odd man out in the CAA. GSU is located seven hours from its closest conference opponent (UNC-Wilmington) and a move to the Sun Belt Conference could be beneficial

– It was just last week that sources indicated that Georgetown would meet San Diego State in the Battle on the Midway aboard the USS Midway next season. Well it looks like the Hoya’s arch-rivals Syracuse have poached their spot on board the aircraft carrier

– With new coach Jim Baron on the way in, and a handful of transfers eligible to play next year, the Canisius Golden Griffins look to be significantly better in 2012-2013

– Word on the street is that a Lebanese basketball player dropped 113 points in a Lebanese Division-A game on Tuesday. The player, Mohammad El-Akkari — also known as Mustpha El-Akkari, played college hoops at BYU-Hawaii until 2007. BYU-Hawaii was the NCAA Division-II runners-up in 2011. They probably could have used a few of El-Akkari’s 113 points in that one

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

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.