The Morning Mix

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Anybody else starting to get the itch?

Midnight Madness is just around the corner and we’re just a week or so out from “preview madness”. With September practices underway, the season tip-off is finally starting to come into view. Heck, I was actually fired up for weeknight #MACtion college football last week. Seriously.

Speaking of which, this is a great place to start The Morning Mix:

– KSR’s Ally Tucker provides some great stats to prove that it is really difficult for a university to harbor both an elite football and basketball program.In fact, Ohio State and Florida are the only schools that have come close in the past decade. In fact, thru three weeks: Kansas is 1-3, Kentucky is 1-3, Memphis is 0-4, Syracuse is 1-3, UNLV is 1-3 and Vanderbilt is 1-3.

Is anybody else opposed to scrapping the rest of the college football season right now and start the hoops season next week? I know I’m not.

– Mike Rutherford of SB Nation drops the first Top 100 Players of 2012-2013 list. Mid-Major Madness references the “little guys” who show up in the Top-100

– The ACC will not be able to hold its postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden. Matt Norlander makes some preposterous statement about Madison Square Garden not wanting the Big East tournament. Pppfffff. That guy. Sometimes I just don’t know about Norlander, man

– Horrible news for Montana: Star guard Will Cherry is expected to miss 6-8 weeks due to an unspecified injury

– Jason King of ESPN explains why expectations are high at Colorado State, where former-Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Eustachy is set to keep the Rams steady on an incline

– UNC head coach Roy Williams had a tumor removed from his kidney last week. As it turns out, the tumor was benign and will not spread 

– BYU is heading in to their second season as members of the West Coast Conference. Andy Katz briefs us on how Dave Rose and the Cougars plan to approach their sophomore campaign

Another good read on the much improved Michigan State big man Derrick Nix

– Maryland big-man Alex Len has been improving on and off the court this off-season. the Ukrainian seven-footer cites communication as on of the key improvements

– Speaking of Maryland, star guard Pe’Shon Howard should be able to practice at full speed starting this week. The junior missed much of last season due to both foot and ACL injuries. With the departure of Terrell Stoglin, Howard is expected to be the Terrapins offensive leader

– Wayne Seldon, the 23rd ranked playe in the class of 2013, will visit Kansas during their “Late Night at The Phogg” Midnight Madness event

Rob Dauster provides a list of impact players who will be returning from injury

– Ed Isaacson’s latest “Road to the 2013 NBA Draft” entry profiles what guys like Murray State’s Ed Daniel and Creighton’s Gregory Echinique can do during the 2012-2013 season to improve their draft stock

– Memphis landed yet another top-100 recruit this week. Kuran Iverson, the cousin of former Georgetown star Allen Iverson, is a highly touted 6-foot-8 forward from Hartford, CT and was a serious “get” for the Tigers

– South Carolina head coach Frank Martin landed his first commit from the class of 2013

– Sure why not? The top-20 UConn players of the Calhoun-era

– Jason Groves provides a solid Q&A session with New Mexico State head coach Marvin Menzies. In six seasons at NMSU, Menzies has amassed a 102-68 record and guided the Aggies to two NCAA tournament appearances

A final note:

There must be something we can do to help the good people at Unranked America East. You see, UnrankedAE was the best location on the web for any and all news pertaining to the America East Conference and it’s member institutions. But they’ve run into quite the dilemma.

The SB Nation blog network just launched a whole new interface, SB Nation United yesterday. You probably noticed the layout change in some of the above links. But UnrankedAE was left out of the new SB Nation United model. There must be something we can do to make sure these good people get the backing they need.

You gotta just trust me on this one.

Remember, if you find an article that is worthy of being in The Morning Mix, be sure to use the #ReadoftheDay hashtag on Twitter. 

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

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.