The Morning Mix

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The big news of the day is that Big East commissioner John Marinatto is stepping down at the request of the school presidents. He was in charge of the conference for just three years, after being voted in by a unanimous decision, yet spent much of his time dealing with conference realignment. While he wasn’t the primary problem the Big East had to deal with, his reign did symbolize a problematic era. The Big Lead puts it best: He was not a good commissioner. A good person, yes, but not a good commissioner

– The Wall Street Journal reacts to the change. As does Pat Forde

– Matt Norlander is right, the next commissioner has to be of the “basketball-first” mindset

The timeline of Marinatto’s reign as Commissioner of the Big East

– +100 to Voodoo Five for their fantastic “Office Space” reference

– We still don’t know if Jim Calhoun will return to the sidelines for UConn next season, but the school is assuming that he will be. The school also refuses to tag anyone as “coach in waiting”

– A cute baby in Louisville posed for a remake of Anthony Davis’ “wingspan portrait”

– Some terrible news out of Southern California. Former-UCLA Bruin Gavin Smith,  the father if current-USC forwaqrd Evan Smith, has gone missing and has not been seen in a week

Andy Glockner provides a succinct recap of the off-season coaching carousel

– Early Monday afternoon, Jeff Goodman wrote that the Illinois State paper The Pantagraph was reporting that the school would name assistant coach Rob Judson as their new head coach, replacing Tim Jankovich, who left to take the “head coach in-waiting” job at SMU. But late Monday night, news broke that Illinois State would in fact hire Vanderbilt assistant Rob Muller, a former redbird player

– Indian’s Matt Roth, a fifth year senior guard who led the Hoosier’s in 3-point shooting, is without a scholarship for next season. Jerod Morris explains why Roth’s scholarship should not be in question

– I always love it when a school rewards a scholarship to a player for hard work and effort. Montana is doing just that with walk-on forward Nick Emerson

– John Calipari addressed the criticism of his nontraditional scheduling that he is imposing for next season. As you may have already heard, the Wildcats won’t be playing Indiana or North Carolina in non-conference affairs. As Andy Katz explains in “The Daily Word”, Calipari is looking to establish more neutral-site games. Despite the lack of big time games, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhardt is confident that Rupp Arena will host at least one marquee non-conference game

– If there is one thing we can be sure of with Calipari’s fresh squad next season, it’s that they will play great defense

– As discussed in the previous weeks and months, it would make sense for CAA schools like VCU and George Mason to make the leap to the Atlantic-10. But in order to do so, they would have to be willing to spend a lot more money

– Anthony Bennett narrowed down his list to just Oregon and UNLV. Eamonn Brennan details the impact he would provide at the two schools

– The Ivy League is looking to improve its public profile, and will sign a major network deal with the NBC Sports Network. John Templon of Big Apple Buckets wonders what the league’s  next step is

– The Big-XII has verbally agreed to a new ESPN/Fox deal

– Former-Marquette commit Aaron Durley has decided to attend TCU. With Trent Johnson at the helm, the Horned Frogs will look to make an improvement both on the court and on the recruiting trail

– Tulsa-transfer Jordan Clarkson, who was initially given stringent transfer-restrictions, has decided to attend Missouri. He will be the fifth transfer to join the program since Frank Haith took over in 2011

– Former-Ohio State guard Jordan Sibert will transfer to Dayton

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky