The Morning Mix

Leave a comment

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.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.