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)

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.