The Morning Mix

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This is the last day of a shortened holiday week for The Morning Mix. If you’re like most of us and taking it easy tonight (in order to prepare for NEw Years), then you will have a handful of quality games to watch tonight.

Considering how there was only one major game on last night, we got a lot of news and notes to get to today.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games:
3:00 p.m. – Rider @ Rutgers
7:00 p.m. – Iona @ St. John’s
7:00 p.m. – Providence @ Brown (NBC Sports Network)
7:30 p.m. – Bucknell @ Loyola (Md.)
7:30 p.m. – Southern Miss @ Morehead State
8:00 p.m. – Baylor @ No. 13 Gonzaga
8:00 p.m. – Jacksonville @ No. 5 Indiana
8:00 p.m. – Oral Roberts @ Memphis
10:00 p.m. – No. 7 Missouri @ UCLA
10:00 p.m. – Yale @ Nevada
 
 
Read(s) of the Day:
With the Battle for the Bluegrass taking place this weekend between Louisville and Kentucky, Dana O’Neil’s piece on the great divide is a must-read. Make sure you read it. (ESPN)

Read(s) of the Day:
It is great to see that Bob Valvano is back in good spirits following a cardiac arrest last week. Make sure you read this great piece from Tim Sullivan. Bob is one of the all-time greats and we wish him nothing but the absolute best. (Courier-Journal)

 
 
Top Stories:
Cincinnati needs to find an offensive threat in the paint, and quickly: The Bearcats suffered their first loss of the season last night in a close battle with New Mexico. But throughout the 40 minutes, it was apparent that the Bearcats had no answer for the Lobos’ 7-foot 250-pound Alex Kirk, who dominated the paint and was the main reason why Cincinnati is no longer unbeaten.

Tony Parker’s homesick tweets say more about UCLA than about Parker: The third member of UCLA’s loaded recruiting class hasn’t been very happy riding the pine while the Bruins team struggles on the hardwood. The Georgia-native sent out cryptic tweets indicating he was homesick, but it does not appear as if he intends to transfer.

UNLV forward Mike Moser returns to practice, but will he play Saturday? UNLV’s star forward has been on the shelf the past three weeks due to a dislocated right elbow, but returned to practice for the first time since December 9th. But it is still unknown if Moser will be able to go against North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Saturday.

Coach Cal to the Nets? Despite his remarkable success at Kentucky, John Calipari has been linked to almost every high-profile NBA opening in recent memory. With the firing of Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson yesterday, speculation swirled about Cal’s desire to return to the NBA. But like most rumors, this one has no legs.

 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– Missouri backup forward Tony Criswell will miss tonight’s game against UCLA with a broken finger. (Rock M Nation)

– Providence guard Vincent Council is set to make his return tonight against Brown. The senior guard injured his hamstring just minutes into the Friars season opener against N.J.I.T. (Providence Journal)

– Northern Iowa freshman Chris Olivier has left the program and will transfer. The forward spent last season as a redshirt and played just once this season, in the season-opener against Wartburg (D-III). (Sporting News)

– The game between Temple and Detroit was postponed yesterday because the Titans were unable to get out of the midwest because of the intense winter storms. The game will hopefully be made up later in the season. (Philahoops.com)

– Pittsburgh sophomore center Malcolm Gilbert has decided to leave the program and will transfer elsewhere. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

– Kwamain Mitchell is set to return for the Saint Louis Billikens and should provide the talent and experience the squad needs to propel them to the top of the A-10 leaderboard. (Billiken Report)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Thanks to a big performance from big-man Alex Kirk, the New Mexico Lobos handed Cincinnati their first loss of the season. (Sporting News)

– Gorgui Dieng will in fact play this weekend when Louisville takes on Kentucky, and thanks to an act of generosity, his parents will be able to see him play college hoops in person for the first time. (The Dagger)

– Luke Winn makes some college hoops predictions for 2013. As is the case with most of Mr. Winn’s work, this is must-read stuff. (Sports Illustrated)

– You may not realize it, but tonight’s game between Loyola (Md.) and Bucknell could have possible NCAA Tournament implications. (Baltimore Sun)

– Jeff Goodman’s “Good N’ Plenty” column doesn’t have a lot of direction to it, but it is loaded with news and notes. Which is why I highly recommend you read it every week. (Eye on College Basketball)

– A look back at the top-5 LIU-Brooklyn games of 2012. I was at No. 2, and let me tell you, I haven’t been to many games that had a more electric environment. I’d go back in a heartbeat. (Blackbirds Hoops Journal)

– Remember that crazy idea to have four basketball games take place simultaneously at Cowboy Stadium? Well, it’s not going to happen. Thank God. It would have been a nightmare. (Sporting News)

– Former-Florida State forward Bernard James has always been a favorite of ours. He’s a former-serviceman who went back to school and played hoops the way it should be played: Hard, gritty, tough and with 100% effort. This story from Mike Scotto is just one of the many reasons why James will always be a fan favorite around these parts. (Real GM)

– A top-10 list of the best basketball shoes worn by teams through the first part of the season. (Nice Kicks)

– Seth Greenberg takes a look at four teams that still have a shot to make the tournament despite a slow start. (ESPN Insider)

– Rush The Court released their all-conference non-conference team for the Big-10. (Rush The Court)

– Glen Logan explains how Kentucky can defeat Louisville as an underdog. (A Sea of Blue)

– Speaking of Kentucky, they desperately need a signature win. You know it’s bad when Dick Vitale is writing about it. (ESPN Dick Vitale)

– Portland State’s scoreboard is turning into an eyesore. (Big Sky Bball)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
Cincinnati suffered their first loss of the season last night to a tough New Mexico squad. The Bearcats shot 9-for-28 from inside the 3-point arc. This photo of Mic Cronin says it all. (The Mock Session)

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Video(s) of the Day:

 
 
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Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

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Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.

The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.

Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.

This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

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Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.

Oakland’s Greg Kampe hosting charity golf event with big-name coaches

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Oakland head coach Greg Kampe hosted a successful charity event for cancer research two years ago by allowing people to bid online to play a round of golf with some of college basketball’s best coaches.

Kampe is back again this year as he’s hoping to eventually raise $1 million for the American Cancer Society.

According to a report from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Kampe has 11 high-profile names that fans can play with this year.

  • Tom Izzo, Michigan State
  • Frank Martin, South Carolina
  • Rick Barnes, Tennessee
  • Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
  • Chris Holtmann, Butler
  • Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
  • Greg Kampe, Oakland
  • Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons
  • Steve Lavin
  • Fran Fraschilla
  • Bill Raftery

Fans can find more details about the auctions and all of the details here.

The minimum bid is $15,000 per coach. A “buy now” bid of $24,000 is also available.

Each round includes the following, according to the event’s website:

Up for auction will be 11 spectacular packages, featuring a private dinner with elite basketball coaches and VIPs, a one night stay at MotorCity Casino Hotel on Sunday, June 4, and an afternoon of golf on Monday, June 5 at Oakland Hills Country Club on the South Course. The winning bidders and their two guests will round out the foursomes with their selected VIP: Rick Barnes, Mick Cronin, Fran Fraschilla, Chris Holtmann, Tom Izzo, Greg Kampe, Steve Lavin, Frank Martin, Bill Raftery, Stan Van Gundy, or Kevin Willard.

There are a lot of great selections to choose from for this sort of thing, but I can’t imagine a better afternoon than playing golf with Bill Raftery and a few friends. There are some other tempting choices on this list, but that’s the one I would have to jump at.

If you think 137 players declaring for the draft is stupid, you’re probably stupid

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The NBA Draft’s full early entry list came out on Tuesday afternoon, and there were 137 underclassmen listed on it.

137.

For 60 spots in the NBA Draft, only 30 of which guarantee you a contract in the NBA.

And that’s before you factor in the 45 international players that also declared for the NBA Draft, as well as the crop of seniors — Josh Hart, Monte’ Morris, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Peters — that are going to end up hearing their names called. All told, there are going to be roughly 200 players competing to be one of the 60 people that end up getting drafted on June 22nd, and you don’t have to be any good at math to realize that 200 is a much, much bigger number than 60.

This unleashed a torrent of bad takes on the decision of these players.

And bad may not be doing those takes justice.

Because the bottom-line is this: You cannot paint the decision on whether or not to go pro with a broad brush.

For some players, making money of any kind is something they need to do to support their family, whether it’s what they’ll get with a first round guarantee, the $75-100,000 they’ll get for making a training camp roster to subsidize their time in the D-League while teams develop them or the money they can make in the D-League or overseas. You don’t know what their financial situation is. Maximizing their ability to capitalize on every available dollar they can make off of their athletic gifts may be more important than working towards a degree.

And it’s worth noting here that a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way to make a living in professional basketball. To say nothing of the money that can be made overseas or the number of second round picks and undrafted players that make guaranteed money — which is more than you probably realize — it needs to be noted that D-League salaries are getting a bump this year with the new CBA.

The NBA has also instituted something new called a “two-way contract”. Without getting into the legalese, it’s essentially a retainer worth well into the six figures that they will be able to give to two players that will allow them to retain that player under contract while sending them between the D-League and the NBA roster. In a sense, it creates an extra 60 NBA roster spots for players that have 0-3 years worth of professional basketball on their résumé.

Some players are simply declaring without signing with an agent because they want to get feedback directly from NBA personnel on what their professional prospects. Some will hear that they need to return to school to work on their body, or work on their jumper, or mature as a person to be able to handle everything that comes with being a professional. Others will be told they’re going to make a lot of money by staying in the draft, or that they need to go back to school because, frankly, they are not professional basketball players. Not getting invited to the NBA combine is a pretty good indication of where you stand in the eyes of NBA teams.

Still other players are putting their name into the draft to leave their options open should they be recruited over by the program they are a part of. Take Frank Jackson, for example. If he can return to school and thrive as Duke’s point guard, maybe he turns into a top 20 pick. But what happens if Trevon Duval, the best point guard in the Class of 2017 and a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, picks Duke? Would it be in Jackson’s best interest to come back to Duke when he won’t be playing the position that he needs to learn to play to turn himself into a lasting NBA player?

Jackson, like the roughly 100 underclassmen that have declared without an agent, has until May 24th to make his decision on whether or not he will keep his name in the draft. Until then, he can return to school without damaging his eligibility.

The entire reason that the NCAA changed their rules to allow players to test the waters is so that they can make the most important decision of their lives with as much information as humanly possible. This thing exists for the sole purpose of allowing the kids to have as much knowledge about their options as possible.

And that is exactly what these kids are doing.

So the idea that this rule, or players taking advantage of that rule, however high that number may be, is a bad thing is stupid.