The Morning Mix

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If you are reading this right now, it means we beat the Mayans last night. If you aren’t reading this right now, then it looks like I spent my last seconds on earth blogging about the daily rundown of college hoops. And you know what? I’m kinda OK with that.

The slate of game was rather light last night. Friday is going to be light as well. I guess today is kinda the prime “Ugly Sweater Party” day of the season, right?

You know what? Lets just hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – Florida Atlantic @ No. 6 Indiana
7:00 p.m. – Niagara @ No. 22 Notre Dame
9:00 p.m. – Stanford @ Northwestern
9:00 p.m. – BYU @ Baylor
9:00 p.m. – Middle Tennessee @ Vanderbilt
9:00 p.m. – UC-Santa Barbara @ Wyoming
 
 
Read(s) of the Day:
A fantastic-read from Deadspin original Will Leitch, who believes that college hoops needs to stand up for itself. I couldn’t agree more. I love articles like this one. It’s exactly what I’m thinking, but written in a much better fashion. Read this. (Sports on Earth)

Read(s) of the Day:
High profile college announcements have always felt like movie premieres to me. It’s all flare without real substance. But all the good stuff lies in the inter workings of the production. This behind-the-scenes look at the build up to Jabari Parker’s decision is a must read. Read it. (Sports Illustrated)

Read(s) of the Day:
Seth Davis looks back at his favorite college hoops stories of 2012. Definitely worth your time. Read it. (Sports Illustrated)
 
 
Top Stories:
With Jabari Parker, will Duke be better next year than this year? The Blue Devils are the best team in the country and have the best resume in the country. What is the possibility that next year’s team, headlined by Jabari Parker, will be better than what we’ve seen froM Duke thus far in 2012.

According to report, NCAA fired lead investigator in Shabazz Muhammad’s case: Abigail Grantstein was the NCAA’s lead investigator on the Shabazz Muhammad case. She was also the women whose boyfriend allegedly was heard bragging about the investigation to a passenger on an airplane. She no longer has a job.

According to a report, Ben Howland’s job is in jeopardy at UCLA: According to Tracy Pierson of BruinsReportOnline.com, who is as dialed in to UCLA sports as they come, Ben Howland is not exactly guaranteed his job next year out in Westwood.

Suspension of Myck Kabongo means Texas needs Javan Felix to make it ‘his team’: If Texas is to entertain any thoughts of staying afloat when Big 12 play rolls around, they will need to rely heavily on the production of standout freshman guard Javan Felix, who has started all 11 games at the point and is averaging nearly 36 minutes per game.

Myck Kabongo’s suspension under expedited appeal: Texas could hear back by Friday, which, depending on the results, means the Longhorn’s top player could be reinstated just two days after being suspended for the entire season.

Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame releases 2013 Cousy Award watch list: The annual award is given to the nation’s best point guard, and the list will be narrowed down to 20 in January. The notable omission is LIU-Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman, who is averaging 11.0 points and 8.2 assists per game, a number that ranks fourth in the country.

MAAC to expand to 20 league games in 2013-2014: With the addition of Quinnipiac and Quinnipiac, the MAAC will now have 11 league members (Loyola is leaving for the Patriot League). This is why the MAAC announced on Thursday their intent to play 20 league games next season.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– Marquette reinstated Todd Mayo after missing the first semester due to academics. The Golden Eagles desperately need Mayo’s help, as they have struggled to score both inside and out. (Eye on College Basketball)

– With Jabari Parker making his college decision yesterday, CSN Chicago looks in to just how significant his foot injury could be (CSN Chicago)

– Over 55 scouts and NBA personnel were on hand to see North Texas and Tony Mitchell take on Lehigh and C.J. McCollum. Unfortunately for them, McCollum was ruled out before the game because of a nagging ankle injury. (Lehigh Valley Live)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Seth Davis’ latest edition of “Hoop Thoughts” calls for a change in the way the NCAA operates. He also provides his weekend picks. It’s a weekly must-read. (Sports Illustrated)

– The final verdict on North Carolina’s scandal: It’s academic, not athletic. (ESPN)

– The key to Kansas’ success on Saturday against Ohio State will be how well the are able to slow down Deshaun Thomas (KUSports.com)

– I know it’s not fair to compare Nerlens Noel to Anthony Davis. But well, his stats sorta do. (Courier Journal)

– Duke beat Elon last night, their second win in as many days. In doing so, they logged their non-conference home winning streak to 100 games. (The Dagger)

– Central Florida stud Isaiah Sykes logged himself a solid triple-double last night in the Golden Knights 88-63 win over Stetson. The junior guard scored 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out 10 assists. (Orlando Sentinel)

– Tony Mitchell is still going to get drafted very high this summer. But we can forget about North Texas winning the Sun Belt and getting an automatic tournament bid. (Mid-Major Madness)

– The Big East is looking to build up the conference’s western edge, wants to add UNLV, Fresno State, and possibly BYU. (New York Daily News)
 
 
Odds & Ends
– Smart move by Maryland assistants to get tournament incentives added into their contracts heading in to this season. As of right now, it looks like the Terps are a lock for the Big Dance. (Washington Post)

– Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim and CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb have one of the most entertaining on-going feuds. In the latest installment of the ongoing series, Gottlieb stated that despite the 900 wins, Boeheim is not a great coach. he’s a good coach, but he’s not great. (Syracuse Post-Standard)
 
 
 Picture of the Day:
Jabari Parker, one of the nation’s most sought-after recruits, reveals his college choice. (Chicago Tribune)

source:
 
 
Dunks(s) of the Day:
Dunno how I missed this one from Wednesday. But man, North Carolina….Woof. BTW, what is my man in the top left doing there post-dunk? Is that “The Zorro”? (H/T @CamHops)

 
 
Video of the Day:
Future-Oregon Duck Jordan Bell broke a rim at the City of Palms tournament. No joke. Dude’s windmill jam actually broke the rim.

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Notre Dame remaining cautious as Bonzie Colson returns to practice

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Notre Dame senior forward Bonzie Colson is getting closer to returning after being out since early January.

The 6-foot-6 Colson has been out with a fracture in his left foot since Jan. 2 as the Irish have struggled to a below-.500 mark in the ACC. With the Irish likely out of the NCAA tournament picture at this point in the season, head coach Mike Brey told reporters, including Tim Prister of 247 Sports, that he would exercise caution with Colson returning to practice for Notre Dame this week. Colson is slightly ahead of the eight-week projection for his return so far, but he also has a pro future to account for after this season while the Irish don’t have a bright NCAA tournament future.

Colson was hoping to make his season debut on Saturday against Wake Forest but Brey isn’t optimistic about that debut.

“I won’t trust his judgment,” Brey said of Colson, “I’m not going to trust his judgment at all.

“He would have to really show something Thursday and Friday. I’ve got an open mind. Show me. I’ve got an open mind. But I just don’t know if that would be smart.”

Brey is hoping to gradually ease Colson back into the Notre Dame rotation so that he can earn some minutes to close out his senior season. Colson dressed for the Irish’s game against Miami on Monday night and he’s been working hard with Notre Dame’s strength and conditioning coaches.

“It would be energizing for us if Bonzie is back for at least half a practice Thursday,” Brey said. “That’s what we’re going to try. That would probably be energizing for everybody, especially for the seniors, to see him back in practice.

“But I don’t think he’s going to be ready to play (vs. Wake Forest) after two semi-days of practice. Pittsburgh’s realistic, depending upon how he reacts. That’s a positive. We need him back.”

It’s nice to see Brey exercise caution with this situation since Colson has the NBA Draft Combine to prepare for on May 16. Obviously, things haven’t gone as planned for the Irish this season, but they’ve battled a lot of injuries up and down the roster besides for Colson.

Colson does have some incentive to return as well as he’s looking to close out his college career in the best way possible while also showing pro teams that he’s healthy and active following the broken foot.

VIDEOS: Tom Izzo gets emotional on Michigan State Senior Night

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Michigan State has one of the best Senior Night traditions in college basketball as its departing players kiss the center floor logo before exiting the floor for the final time.

The Spartans had plenty of time to celebrate during a beatdown of Illinois in its home finale on Tuesday night as the program sent off some notable seniors like Gavin Schilling, Ben Carter and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.

Head coach Tom Izzo could barely keep his composure with Nairn coming off of of the floor.

Although Michigan State celebrated a big win over the Illini, there is plenty of work left to do. The Spartans are hoping to make its first Final Four run since 2015.

(H/t: ESPN and Michigan State on BTN)

VIDEO: Nebraska’s bench mob inspired by Olympics, WWE and NBA dunk contest

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Nebraska’s bench mob has been one of the best parts of a surprising 20-win team this season.

As the Huskers took down Indiana for a Big Ten home win on Tuesday night, the Nebraska bench mob added some new and unique shows on the sideline. Inspired by the Olympics, WWE and the recent NBA dunk contest, the Nebraska bench mob had plenty of new material during the win.

My favorite would probably be the six-man bobsled. Usually run with two- or four-person operations during the Olympics, the Huskers couldn’t keep two members of the group, making it a six-person operation for their routine. The Randy Orton-inspired RKO was also solid and I especially enjoyed the guys who teamed up to form the ropes.

Nebraska’s bench had previously incorporated the Rockettes and the macarena into their bench mob routine, so they’re jumping all over the pop culture spectrum for inspiration this month.

(h/t: ESPN)

Tuesday’s Three Things to Know: URI survives, Kentucky comes back, Michigan State and Ohio State roll

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1. NO. 18 RHODE ISLAND SURVIVES A HERCULEAN EFFORT FROM LA SALLE’S B.J. JOHNSON

The 18th-ranked Rams clinched at least a share of the Atlantic 10 regular season title, but it wasn’t easy as they needed overtime to beat La Salle 95-93 in Philadelphia. The “foul or defend” question came up on multiple occasions late in regulation and overtime, with Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley opting to foul each time. Late in regulation the strategy didn’t work out, as Tony Washington rebounded an intentional miss and scored the basket that forced overtime.

B.J. Johnson was outstanding in a losing effort for La Salle, finishing with 29 points and 23 rebounds. The rebound total was one off of the Atlantic 10’s single-game record, which is held by the late Yinka Dare. As for URI, Jeff Dowtin and Stanford Robinson led the way with 25 and 20 points, apiece, with the former also dishing out seven assists and grabbing five rebounds. With the win Rhode Island can clinch the outright A-10 title by beating Dayton Friday night, and the result also keeps the Rams in the conversation to earn a 4-seed (or possibly better) in the NCAA tournament.

BUBBLE BANTER: Texas A&M and Creighton suffer rough losses

2. KENTUCKY REBOUNDS FROM SLOW START TO WIN AT ARKANSAS

On multiple occasions John Calipari’s young team has produced efforts that led to many wondering if they had turned the corner. But after ending a four-game losing streak on Saturday, the Wildcats trailed Arkansas 11-0 with Darryl Macon and Jalen Barford serving as the sparks for the Razorbacks. But instead of wilting and getting blown out Kentucky fought, pulling even by halftime. And in the second half the Wildcats were even better, controlling the action and picking up an 87-72 victory.

Five Kentucky players scored in double figures, with Kevin Knox accounting for 23 points and seven rebounds and fellow freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander adding 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Three of the five double-figure scorers came off the bench, with Jarred Vanderbilt and Quade Green providing much-needed sparks in the first half. Kentucky’s now won back-to-back games for the first time since late January, and while that may not seem like a big deal it’s certainly a positive development for this group.

ALSO: NO. 21 WEST VIRGINIA GETS BACK TO BASICS IN WIN OVER BAYLOR

3. NO. 2 MICHIGAN STATE AND NO. 16 OHIO STATE HOLD SERVE

Both the Spartans and Buckeyes took care of overmatched foes on their respective senior nights, with Michigan State beating Illinois by 20 and Ohio State whipping Rutgers by 27. With its win Michigan State wrapped up at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title, and the Spartans can wrap up the top seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament with a win over Wisconsin on Sunday. Miles Bridges led the way with 19 points and Joshua Langford added 16 for Michigan State, which shot 47.1 percent from the field and 11-for-27 from three.

What Michigan State will need to do against Wisconsin will be known by tip-off, as Ohio State completes its regular season schedule Friday night at Indiana. Tuesday night, Chris Holtmann’s team rolled past an overmatched Rutgers squad, with C.J. Jackson scoring a game-high 18 points off the bench. Keita Bates-Diop shot just 3-for-11 from the field and scored six points, but Ohio State received quality efforts from multiple players as it ended a two-game losing streak.

Jarred Vanderbilt’s value coming to the forefront as Kentucky wins second straight game

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Maybe Jarred Vanderbilt was the key that unlocked Kentucky’s potential all along.

The struggles that this team has had this season have been covered ad nauseum at this point in the season. Do they have a go-to guy? Can Kevin Knox become consistent and aggressive enough to be a star? Is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander going to takeover the lead guard role? Just what in the world is going on with Hamidou Diallo?

Hell, that really only scratches the surface, doesn’t it?

We’ve reached the point where the national conversation about Kentucky is … well, it’s almost non-existent. We’ll talk about them when they give us something to talk about.

And they have.

The Wildcats won their second straight game on Tuesday night. But unlike a home win over an Alabama team that isn’t all that much older than Kentucky, the Wildcats went into Bud Walton Arena and beat down a talented, veteran Arkansas team, 87-72.

Knox finished with 23 points. SGA had 18 points, seven assists and five boards. P.J. Washington (13 points, ten boards, three assists, two steals, two blocks) and Quade Green (12 points, six boards, four assists) both had big games coming off of the bench. Those are the kind of performances the Wildcats need out of their four-most talented offensive weapons.

But the x-factor here, the guy that now looks like he could be what sparks a Kentucky run that could salvage their season, is Vanderbilt. He is the one player on this roster that can change a game without needing the ball in his hands. He’s a workhorse on the glass with boundless athleticism and energy. He can block shots. He can play a small-ball five role and he can also get out an defend on the perimeter when needed. He can take a defensive rebound and go coast-to-coast.

No one else on this team can do all of those things. And that is before you get to the simple fact that he has some dog in him. He brings a level of intensity and toughness, both physically and mentally, that Kentucky has lacked at times, and in the last two games he seems to finally be getting up to speed with what it takes to win at this level.

What Vanderbilt’s presence does is allow Kentucky to utilize their best lineup: Green, SGA, Knox, Washington and Vanderbilt.

We’ve been banging the ‘Kentucky needs to go small’ drum for a while. At some point, John Calipari is going to have to accept that this is the five that is going to win him games. I understand why he won’t give up on players. It’s not hard to read into what he said yesterday as, essentially, “we won’t do what Duke did to Marques Bolden to our players.” Diallo may be struggling, Nick Richards and Sacha Killeya-Jones may not be ready to handle SEC basketball just yet, but Cal is not going to give up on them. They’re going to get their chances, and I have no problem with that. Kids can’t develop, can’t learn what it takes to play, if they don’t play.

But when it comes to winning time, when it comes to tournament games where losses mean you are heading home, that five — Green, SGA, Knox, Washington and Vanderbilt — is the five that needs to play the majority of the minutes. It gets their best offensive players on the floor, it gets at least two of their best defenders on the court and it lets them matchup with big and with small lineups.

That is their best five.

Now before anyone overreacts or snitches on me to Old Takes Exposed, this is not me saying that Kentucky Is Back!!!

Beating good but inconsistent teams in the middle of the SEC is not exactly a sign that the Wildcats are destined for the Final Four, not when we’re just a week removed from a four-game losing streak.

But it’s hard to ignore the difference in the way Kentucky played on Tuesday in contrast with the way Kentucky rolled over at Texas A&M two weeks ago.