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.

 

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.