The Morning Mix

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– As we noted a few days ago, Creighton’s non-conference schedule next season is looking rather lackluster. No BCS-conference team wants to schedule a home-and-home series with them, and they weren’t given a marquee matchup in the MWC/MVC Showdown. But The White & Blue Review makes a good suggestion: The Blue Jays should try to schedule VCU. A December showdown between the Rams and Blue Jays would be arguably one of the biggest mid-major non-conference games of the season

– But Creighton isn’t the only mid-major power struggling to schedule a strong non-conference slate. Murray State is having issues too. But again, not very many big-time teams want to travel off the beaten path to take on Isiah Canaan and company

– The Colonial Athletic Association continues to crumble as Old Dominion officially announced they will be joining Conference-USA.  What does the demise of the CAA mean for the Dukes of JMU?

– Dana O’Neil says that the CAA needs to do the right thing, which is to help the student-athletes

– So let me get this straight. SMU gains all this PR and media attention for hiring Larry Brown (Who, by the way, already reeled in two quality transfers) then they decide to nuke it all by firing their athletic director? Interesting move to say the least

– Lorie Fine came out swinging against ESPN, and the World Wide Leader does not look to be backing down at all

– Fran Fraschilla ranks the recruiting classes based of instant impact potential

– Myron Medcalf ranks the top incoming freshman based on instant impact potential

– Who are the ten biggest Pac-12 recruiting busts in the past ten years? Pacific Takes has your answers

– More on the NCAA’s new changes to the rule books. More on changes to transfer restrictions. Referees are going back to school in order to get the charge/block call right

– Baylor and Mississippi State have agreed to call off the two remaining non-conference games against each other. Speaking of Mississippi State, Dee Bost continues to befuddle the mind with odd NBA draft activity

– Mike Huguenin continues his preview of BCS-conference newcomers. Today he breaks down the fresh blood in the Big Ten

– CBS blogger Jeff Borzello (who, BTW, looks like he’s in 9th grade in his headshot) compiled a list of the ten best high school players since LeBron James. This list comes on the heels of Sports Illustrated’s recent cover featuring high school star Jabari Parker. The top player in the class of 2013 is Mormon, which may derail some thoughts about the “one and done” possibility

A nice, quick read from the Hartford Courant about 7-foot German import Enosch Wolf, who is looking to see increased playing time with the departure of Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi

– UConn’s Shabazz Napier is never one to mince words. The rising junior spoke out about the exodus from Storrs and the NCAA ban

– With Texas A&M and Missouri entering the SEC, the always entertaining rivalry between Tennessee and Kentucky could see some unwanted changed

– Virginia Tech has finally released Montrezl Harrell from his LOI after a week of back and forth. Kentucky seems to be the clubhouse leader for his services at this point

– Despite popular opinion, the new early entry deadline actually benefited a few schools, like Oregon State, who was able to quickly land a recruit to fill the shoes of Draft-bound Jared Cunningham

– Highly touted point guard recruit Jaquan Lyles is being recruited by Nebraska……for football?

– A high school basketball referee in Kentucky was convicted on two counts of trafficking a controlled substance. For once, the refs were actually getting paid

– Finally, some footage of what Anthony Davis would look like without his trademark “unibrow”

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.