The Morning Mix

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There are a grand total of eight games being played tonight between Division-I teams. That should probably tell you what were working with today. But just because the action on the hardwood has dried up momentarily doesn’t mean the news cycle slows down.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games: 
7:00 p.m. – No. 23 Wichita State @ Tennessee
7:00 p.m. – Middle Tennessee @ Belmont
10:00 p.m. – Jackson State @ Washington State
10:00 p.m. – Washington @ Seattle
 
 
Read of the Day:
Mike DeCourcy was tasked with the difficult assignment of ranking the top-35 March Madness moments that were featured in the NCAA’s celebration of the tournament’s 75th anniversary. Read it. (The Sporting News)
 
 
Top Stories:
CBT Podcast discusses whats going on with The Big East: Troy Machir and Daniel Martin discuss the best course of direction for the Catholic-7, the demise of BracketBusters, “Buy or Sell” on Illinois and North Carolina, and a sideline celebration debate for the ages.

Jabari Parker will decide on December 20th: The second ranked player in the class of 2013, The Simeon (Ill.) superstar, who is the second ranked recruit in the class of 2013 will choose between BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford a week from today.

Rodney Williams throws down the first 360-slam of the season: Despite nearly breaking his back on the landing, Minnesota’s resident high-flyer took off with rotation against North Dakota State.

Memphis’ holiday wish list: The Tigers need toughness. Their star players need star power. The list is long for Josh Pastner’s bunch.

Exam week essay on the practicality of advanced statistics: The use of tempo-free and advanced statistics has become more commonplace in recent years thanks to the work of guys like Ken Pomeroy and Dan Hanner. What is your opinion on the use of advanced statistics as analysis aids. What value do these metrics add to post-game evaluation in your opinion?
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– St. Joe’s forward Halil Kanacevic was suspended two games for flipping “the double bird” at the Villanova student section during the finals minutes of “The Holy War” on Tuesday night. (SB Nation Philly)

– Creighton’s Josh Jones, who passed out prior to the Bluejays game last week against Nebraska has been diagnosed with an atrial flutter and will miss the next month of play as he must undergo another open heart surgery. (Omaha World-Herald)

– Missouri and Arizona have agreed to a home-and-home series that will begin in at the McKale Center in 2015. (Kansas City Star)

– Minnesota freshman Wally Ellenson broke his left hand during an October practice. It was thought that the 6-foot-4 combo guard would take a redshirt season, but decided against in and logged his first minutes of the season against North Dakota State. (ESPN 1500 Twin Cities)

– There still is no timetable on when Virginia guard Jontell Evans will return to the starting lineup. (Washington Post)

– Bradley center Will Egolf underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to fix a broken nose he sustained in practice on Tuesday. (Peoria Star Journal)

– Alabama has lost more depth from their already thin frontcourt, as back-up center Carl Engstrom is done for the year with torn knee ligaments. (The Sporting News)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– This broke late last night: Sources indicate that the “Catholic-7” is leaning towards breaking off from the Big East. No word yet if they will form their own hoops conference or will join the A-10. (ESPN)

– Marquette AD Larry Williams had some strong quotes regarding the potential disbanding of the “Catholic-7” from the Big East. (ESPN)

– A great-read on building success, the lure of the A-10, and the basketball brand. (Rumble in the Garden)

– More rumors on MAAC expansion. (Big Apple Buckets)

– Wait a minute? Gonzaga wants to leave the West Coast Conference? I don’t know if I agree with that. (Slipper Still Fits)

– The Bilas Index has returned to rank the top-68 teams in the country (ESPN Insider)

– Did you know that the Boston Terriers have already suffered three losses this year at the hand of buzzer-beaters? (Daily Free-Press)

– Matt Norlander gets a bit wordy at the end, but provides os good numbers about John Calipari’s favorability numbers in the state of Kentucky. (Eye on College Basketball)

– The key for Ohio State this season is getting production out of guys not named Craft or Thomas. Sophomore Sam Thompson is one of those guys who is starting to emerge as a legitimate scoring option for the Buckeyes. (Fox Sports Ohio)

– The shot-blocking numbers being put up by Kansas center Jeff Withey are bordering on “unimaginable”. (Wichita Eagle)

– A “by the numbers” look at UConn’s frontcourt and how they stack up against the competition. (Connecticut Post)

– A solid look at four Big-Ten coaches who have been impressive after a month of hoops. (Rush The Court)
 
 
Odds & Ends:
– West Virginia mascot cited for violation after using uniform’s musket to kill bear. (College Basketball Talk)

– Another yearly rendition of “The six simple rules for storming the court”. (Midwest Sports Fan)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
In case you needed a reminder on how to do a rivalry the right way, Kentucky and Louisville remind us. (Kentucky Sports Radio)
 
source:
 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
I knew Jared Berggren was good, but I did not know he could do this.
 

 
 
Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or wanted something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via 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.