The Morning Mix

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Did you feel it yesterday? Wednesday had that crisp mid-November buzz to it. Yesterday felt like a real, true, college hoops day. There were media days held, tv specials were aired and the news cycle was in hyper drive.

Time to hit the links.

– The Kentucky Wildcats were the big winners on Wednesday. John Calipari was in Bristol, CT going through the ESPN “Car Wash” and the ESPN All-Access special on Kentucky debuted last night. Unfortunately, coach Calipari struggled to make his free throws. But Calipari did state that Nerlens Noel is eligible to play this season. On top of that, highly touted former-Indiana target Marcus Lee committed to Kentucky on Wednesday afternoon. Oh did I mention that the facilities connected to Rupp Arena got a facelift? Yeah, Kentucky owned Wednesday

– Your #ReadoftheDay comes from Mike Lopresti of The USA Today. He details the triumvirate that he expects to dominate the polls the entire season

– The Big East Conference held their media day yesterday, so strap in for a bunch of notes: Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino exchanged some rather colorful, umm “pleasantries”. Vince Brazeau, the former NBA Vice President of Basketball Operations, has been hired by the Big East to replace Dave Gavvitt as Senior Associate Commissioner for Men’s Basketball. The conference also reached a new multiyear extension with Madison Square Garden in order to keep the Big East Tournament in New York City

– Of course there was much discussion about Syracuse’s impending departure to the ACC, and specifically, the last Big East game ever played by the Orange, against their hated rivals Georgetown

– Louisville was the prohibitive preseason favorite to win the Big East conference this season. The Cardinals have the returning talent, depth and experience needed in order to make a return trip to the Final Four

– Ben Howland wants his team to run the floor this year. But with the status of Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad still undetermined, the Bruins might not be able to run

– Miami big-man Reggie Johnson has been busting his tail this off-season in order to shed some excess weight. The center is currently tipping the scales around 290 pounds, which is significantly less than what he weighted 12 months ago

– A bizarre paperwork oversight will force Xavier’s Isaiah Philmore to miss the Musketeers first three games

– La Salle finds themselves wedged squarely in the middle of an extremely deep Atlantic-10 Conference this season. College Chalk Talk explains what the Explorers can expect from sophomore rising star Jerrell Wright

– The Colonials of Robert Morris have had a very strong last half-decade in the NEC, but with senior team leader and leading scorer Velton Jones set to graduate in May, it will be interesting to see what direction the program heads in

A nice video recap of Maryland’s Midnight Madness event last Friday

– You’d be very intrigued to see which programs have amassed all-time records below .500 (I’m looking at you Clemson and Ole Miss)

– Minnesota Lynx (Yup, I’m going WNBA on all y’all) head coach Cheryl Reeve summoned her inner-Bobby Knight during last night’s WNBA Championship game. Yes, I am telling you to click this link and voluntarily watch a WNBA video

 

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

 

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.