The Morning Mix

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Well, last night sure was interesting. Shabazz Muhammad announced his intentions to attend UCLA, and most of Big Blue Nation cursed him out on Twitter. An hour later, Nerlens Noel verbally committed to Kentucky, and shaved “UK” into his head, and Big Blue Nation welcomed him with open arms. According to many college basketball media members and recruiting experts, there has not been a signing day with this much excitement in quite some time.

– Eamonn Brennan explains what both of these commitments mean to the respective programs

– Jeff Eisenberg isn’t sure if Muhammad with restore UCLA to glory or if it will be a quick fix, but it sure will bring some lost enthusiasm back to Pauley Pavilion 

– Shabazz Muhammad is a superstar, no doubt about it. But can even he save Ben Howland?

– This is John Calipari’s fourth recruiting class at Kentucky, and every year they’ve been ranked No.1 by the recruiting experts. This team could be even more scary good in 2012-2013

Andy Katz details the potential impacts provided  by the upperclassmen who are returning to school

Doug Gottlieb hands out his grades to all the ACC teams for the 2011-2012 season (insiders only)

– Following the firing of head coach Isaiah Thomas, several members of the Florida International basketball team requested releases from the scholarship. Apparently the school denied them

– SMU is in fact in talks with Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus about the school’s head coaching vacancy

– LSU is looking for a coach to replace Trent Johnson, who recently bolted for TCU last week. North Texas coach Johnny Jones is in talks with the Tigers about the opening. It seems as though Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon might also be a candidate for the job

– Yesterday it seemed as though former-Oregon coach Ernie Kent would become the new head coach at Colorado State. But apparently Colorado State administrators vetoed the decision. instead it will be Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Eustachy who becomes the Rams new head coach

– Now this is a question I did not expect to see so early in the off-season: What is next for Butler basketball?

– The 2012-2013 season will begin with no less than 35 new head coaches running the sidelines

Ryan Fagan ranks the top-10 forwards of the expanded bracket era

– You too can own one of the sideline chairs sat in by the Ohio Bobcats during their memorable Sweet-16 run in this past season’s NCAA tournament

– Arizona got a point guard for the future in Duquesne-transfer T.J. McConnell, but they just found out they won’t have a point guard of the present. Why? Because troubled-freshman Josiah Turner has decided to transfer

– Arizona also lost another player, as Ukrainian center Kyryl Natyazhko has decided to leave the program in order to pursue a career overseas. He becomes the sixth program defection in three years

– Former-McDonald’s All-American LeBryan Nash struggled in his first season at Oklahoma State. But the athletic forward knows what he needs to do in order to improve

– After a bizarre week in which he was reportedly both staying and going, Bryce Cotton has decided to stay at Providence instead of transferring

– North Carolina State has one of the best incoming recruiting classes in the country, and should be ranked pretty high in the preseason top-25. But DeShawn Painter and JaQawn Raymond have both announced their decisions to transfer from the school

– Cameron Ridley, a five-star center who verbally announced his intention to sign with Texas, finally put pen to paper

– Sources are indicating that Villanova swing-man Maurice Cheek is leaning towards entering the NBA draft

Florida forward Walter Pitchford has decided to transfer. The silver lining is that his departure will open up a scholarship which the program can use to sign highly touted recruit Anthony Bennett

Baylor placed themselves on three years probation for the improper phone calls and texts made by their men’s and women’s basketball programs. They will not face any punishment from the NCAA

– One of Bernie Fine’s accusers has been sentenced to three years in jail for sexual crimes

Arizona’s Talbott Denny injures knee, out for season

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Arizona senior forward Talbott Denny will miss the season after tearing the ACL and medial meniscus in his left knee.

The school said Wednesday that the 6-foot-5 graduate transfer from Lipscomb will have surgery.

Denny, from Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic High School, missed all of last season at Lipscomb because of a shoulder injury.

Roy Williams: ‘There’s no question’ more ACC games equal no Kentucky in non-conference

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Back in June, when the ACC officially announced that they would be expanding the league schedule to 20 games in 2019, I tried to warn you that it was going to put a dent into the non-conference schedule and the amount of quality, on-campus games that we’ll get prior to January.

Roy Williams essentially confirmed this as fact this week.

The North Carolina head coach hopped on a podcast with ESPN and more or less said that the bigger league schedule is going to lead to an end of some of UNC’s marquee home-and-home series.

“My feeling right now, and it could change by ’19, heck I could be fired by ’19, but my feeling right now is to play our conference schedule, play one exempt event where you have really good teams, and other than that play home games to help out your revenue and help out your budget,” Williams said. “We have the ACC/Big Ten and that’s not going to go away. So it’s 21 games already scheduled.”

When asked specifically if this would put an end to UNC’s series with Kentucky, Williams said, “Oh yeah, there’s no question. Why would I need to do that?”

There’s two reasons this makes sense. On the one hand, North Carolina needs to fill their home arena a certain number of times to help with the bottom line of the athletic department. They make enough off of ticket sales, merchandise sales, parking fees and food and beverage that they can afford to pay out more than $50,000 to bring a smaller opponent into their arena. More than that, playing a series of weaklings early in the year allows players to gain confidence, it allows Williams to figure out what his rotation will be and who can handle playing at this level, and it gives newcomers a chance to assimilate into his team against players that just aren’t that good.

And when a larger ACC schedule severely limits the number of non-conference games that UNC will be able to play, what’s going to get cut are the contracts that require the Tar Heels to play on the road when they don’t have to.

So buh-bye, Kentucky, it is.

John Calipari helping to raise money for Louisiana flood victims

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It’s easy to be critical of John Calipari.

You don’t have to be a Louisville fan to know all the jokes by now. He cheated at UMass. He cheated at Memphis. He’s had two Final Fours vacated. Teflon John. Yada yada yada.

I get it. Negativity comes with success, particularly for someone who is as brash about his success as Coach Cal is.

But even Cal’s harshest critics cannot begrudge the work he does — can get his players to do — for charity and how well he can harness the power of Big Blue Nation to make a tangible difference. Remember the ‘Hoops for Haiti’ telethon that raised more than $1 million to help earthquake victims back in 2010? Or the hundreds of thousands of dollars he raised for Hurricane Sandy relief? Or when his fantasy camps generated more than $1 million in charitable donations?

And should I mention the amount of times that stories of Kentucky players befriending sick kids or visiting children’s hospitals?

The cynic in me could say that all of this is for branding, helping ensure his players are image-conscious and aware of the sponsorship opportunities that come with being a likable, relatable and humble athlete. There’s probably some truth to that.

But do you think the kids that get visits from their Big Blue heroes care? Do you think it matters to the charities that get seven-figure checks to help with disaster relief?

I say all that to say this: During a press conference on Thursday morning, Cal had this to say, via SEC Country:

Calipari said former UK star Anthony Davis (currently of the New Orleans Pelicans) told Calipari, “Coach, you gotta do something” for Baton Rouge flood victims. Davis is out of the country but will try to get back for Sunday’s softball game to help. His 2012 title teammates, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, were not previously on the celeb list for Sunday but will be there.

Calipari has decided to donate all proceeds from Sunday’s alumni/celebrity softball game will go to the Baton Rouge flood-relief fund, through Red Cross. “So what I’m asking you to do is buy these tickets.” They’re $5 apiece. The previously raised funds will still go to the other designated charities, like each year.

For those so inclined, you can donate to the flooding fund by texting “GIVE” to 859-955-8173.

Vermont women cancels game in North Carolina over HB2

DURHAM, NC - MAY 10:  A unisex sign and the "We Are Not This" slogan are outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use.  (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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The University of Vermont is the latest in a ever-growing line of organizations canceling events in North Carolina due to the controversial HB2 law.

The Catamounts will not be traveling to play the Tar Heels on Dec. 28th as previously scheduled.

“We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued,” the school wrote in a statement. “It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

“This decision was made in consultation with our coaches, the women’s basketball team, and key university officials. We fully understand and sympathize with the impact that this decision may have on the North Carolina women’s basketball schedule. However, we believe this decision is consistent with our values and the conversations with our coaches and student team members. These were the most important considerations.”

Known as the “bathroom bill”, HB2 is the law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom of the sex that they were born not the sex they identify with.

Earlier this year, Albany was forced to cancel a trip to Duke due to legislation in New York regarding visits to North Carolina. The NBA has taken the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, and the NCAA is heavily considering pulling NCAA tournament games from the state.

Interestingly, ACC commissioner John Swofford was very non-committal on the subject when asked yesterday.

Derek Willis won’t be suspended for offseason citiation

Kentucky's Derek Willis (35) hits an uncontested three point shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 80-70. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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John Calipari gave a press conference on Thursday morning and, for the first time since his arrest in June, the Kentucky head coach spoke about Derek Willis.

Willis, if you’ve forgotten, was found passed out in the street outside the open driver’s side door of his car at 4:30 a.m. You can see video of the arrest here. Willis is very lucky he wasn’t killed, and that he didn’t kill anyone else trying to drive in that condition.

Cal said that Willis will not be suspended for any games, but “Derek knows he’s under a different eye now than he was.” He did not elaborate on what kind of punishment Willis will receive beyond that, saying that “I don’t throw people under the bus.”

To be honest, I’m a little surprised that Willis won’t be forced to miss any games, but if we’re being frank, sitting out an exhibition and Kentucky’s opener sounds much more appealing than the kind of, ahem, ‘conditioning drills’ that Willis has likely spent the summer doing.