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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)

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.

USC’s Nikola Jovanovic not expected to return to USC

Southern California forward Nikola Jovanovic pauses on the court during an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Nikola Jovanovic’s college career has come to a close.

The USC center will not withdraw his name from NBA Draft consideration by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m., a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Jovanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian, averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 boards as a junior with the Trojans.

Jovanovic is not expected to be drafted, which means that Andy Enfield’s club will be losing two players to the professional ranks with eligibility to spare that likely won’t end up on an NBA roster next season. Julian Jacobs, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 boards, signed with an agent back in April.

The Trojans were a top 25 team last season despite many considering them to still be “a year away”. But with two starters departing, the Trojans will be a borderline preseason top 25 team as opposed to a top 15 team.

Marcus Lee withdrawing from the draft, transferring from Kentucky

Kentucky forward Marcus Lee dunks during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game against Indiana in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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For the second time this season and just the sixth time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are losing a player to transfer.

Marcus Lee announced on Wednesday that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but the 6-foot-9 forward will not be returning to Kentucky. He will be transferring out of the program to a new school.

“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”

Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 boards this season, seeing his first major minutes as a member of the Wildcats. But he seemed destined for a bench role if he had opted to return to Kentucky this season as John Calipari has landed a recruiting class that includes five-star freshmen Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.

The tough part?

It does not appear that Lee will be able to finish his degree and be eligible to play immediately next season. He’ll have to sit a year at whatever school he opts to transfer to.

“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”

Lee joins Charles Matthews as members of last year’s Wildcats that are transferring out of the program. Darnell Dodson (Southern Miss), Stacey Poole (Georgia Tech) , Ryan Harrow (Georgia State) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) are the other four players that have transferred.

Isaiah Briscoe to return to Kentucky

Eric Johnson, Isaiah Briscoe
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Isaiah Briscoe announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-3 guard had one of the more difficult decisions to make for players in this year’s draft class. On the one hand, there was a very real chance that he would go through this draft without getting picked. He was a role-playing guard on last year’s team that isn’t a point guard, isn’t big enough to be a two-guard and was a total liability shooting the ball.

But he’s returning to a team that is as loaded as the group that won their first 38 games two years ago, particularly in the back court. He’ll be playing behind De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who both play essentially the same role that Briscoe does: playmaking guards that thrive with the ball in their hands. And since Briscoe can’t shoot, he may not be the best option at the three, where Derek Willis will likely see minutes.

In other words, Briscoe returning to school is essentially a two-year decision.

Kentucky now awaits an announcement from Marcus Lee on whether or not he will be returning to school.

James Blackmon Jr. to return to Indiana, Troy Williams to remain in draft

James Blackmon Jr.
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
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James Blackmon Jr. will be returning to Indiana for his junior season, the school announced on Wednesday morning.

Blackmon missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season following surgery on his knee in December. As a freshman, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and shot 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Indiana now awaits word on the decision that will be made by Troy Williams. A junior swingman, Williams has a shot to be an early second round pick if he opts to stay in the draft. There is a report from the Indy Star that he will keep his name in the draft, but the program has yet to confirm that news.

Losing Williams would hurt, but it’s a loss that Indiana can overcome. The emergence of O.G. Anunoby as a versatile defender means that the Hoosiers have a guy that can be a defensive stopper and can allow them to play small and fast. Anunoby also has not proven to be prone to bouts of poor decision-making, which arguably may make him a better fit.