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The Morning Mix

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I hope you all had an excellent holiday. The Diamondhead Classic provided a great accompaniment of college hoops to your holiday festivities. While the hardwood action today is sparse, consider this a tune-up for another solid weekend slate of college hoops.

Today’s Morning Mix goes out to Creighton’s Josh Jones (@62JJonsey), whose basketball career was cut short due to heart complications.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – New Mexico @ No. 8 Cincinnati
8:00 p.m. – Oakland @ Western Illinois
10:00 p.m. – Rhode Island @ Saint Mary’s
 
 
Read(s) of the Day:
Josh Jones’ career at Creighton has been cut short due to heart troubles. In honor of his accomplishments, the White 7 Blue Review put together an awesome career retrospective. Read it. (White & Blue Review)
 
 
Top Stories:
Is Murray State an elite mid-major program, or just a good team? Isaiah Canaan has put Murray State on the map, but much of the Racers success came before Canaan was the featured star. In order to gauge the Murray State program as a whole, we need to see how the Racers do when their current crop of stars departs.

San Diego State’s size, versatility makes them more dangerous than a year ago:
San Diego State lost their second game of the season on Christmas night, but the Aztecs’ versatile frontcourt should actually make them more dangerous than a year ago.

Who is the best college basketball team in the West? While the Pac-12 is way down, west coast hoops is being supported by MWC and WCC teams. It’s clear that Arizona is the best team out west, but which teams are next in line?

10 tidbits to know: Bearcats boarding, Baron scoring and more: NBC Sports’ College Basketball Insider Vin Parise stops by to dish on ten tidbits you need to know heading in to the next week.

Ryan Harrow, as good as any point guard in the country? Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow had a rough start to the season. He was benched in favor of a walk-on, sat out with an illness, and took a leave of absence to deal with personal matters. But in the last three weeks, the Ryan Harrow we all expected to see early in the season has emerged.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– The career of Creighton’s Josh Jones has come to halt due to heart conditions. The Senior guard collapsed momentarily prior to a November 9 game against Nebraska. (Omaha World-Herald)

– Nebraska redshirt freshman Deverell Biggs was charged with DUI and leaving the scene following a traffic stop early Sunday morning. (Corn Nation)

– Louisville center Gorgui Dieng has been cleared for practice and got an x-ray on his injured wrist. The Junior won’t play against Kentucky, but should return to action shortly after January 1. (The Cardinal Connect)

– Scratch that, it looks like Gorgui Dieng will give it a go against Kentucky, per Jeff “Two Scoops” Goodman. (Eye on College Basketball)

– UNLV forward Mike Moser returned to practice yesterday but is unlikely to play against North Carolina this weekend. (Las Vegas Sun)

– South Carolina has landed former-Villanova point guard Ty Johnson. (SNY.tv)

– The injury bug has turned into an epidemic for the Seton Hall Pirates. This time around, it’s backup forward Kevin Johnson, who will miss 2-3 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery yesterday morning. (Sporting News)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Miami went to Maui and learned that they will only go as far as Reggie Johnson can take them. (Busting Brackets)

– Jeff Eisenberg provides a conference reset for the ACC. It’s Duke or bust. (The Dagger)

– A good-read on Dyami Starks, the little-known difference maker for the Bryant Bulldogs. (Big Apple Buckets)

– An excellent-read on the development of Kyisean Reed and his new found leadership. (Salt Lake Tribune)
 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
Here is Casey Prather performing the single sloppiest in-bounds pass of all time.


 
 
Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or want something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.