Brandon Paul, Trevor Mbakwe

The Morning Mix

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Last night was fun, wasn’t it? What’s that? You didn’t watch college hoops all night like I did? You totally missed out. But fear not, because The Morning Mix is here to get you caught up to speed on all the happenings.

But I’m warning you, last night was crazy. Or as the kids say these days “cray”.

Yeah, “ish” got “cray” last night.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 22 Michigan State @ Iowa
7:00 p.m. – Miami (Fl.) @ North Carolina
7:00 p.m. – Old Dominion @ George Mason (NBC Sports Network)
7:00 p.m. – Temple @ Xavier
8:00 p.m. – Southeast Missouri State @ Belmont
9:00 p.m. – No. 4 Arizona @ Oregon
9:00 p.m. – UMass @ Saint Louis
9:30 p.m. – UCLA @ Utah
10:00 p.m. – Santa Clara @ Loyola Marymount
11:00 p.m. – Saint Mary’s @ No. 9 Gonzaga
11:30 p.m. – Arizona State @ Oregon State
 
 
Read of the Day:
I love behind-the-scenes journal entries, and Rush the Court’s Danny Connor’s got an exclusive look at a day in the life of a Drexel Dragon. Sure the team is struggling, but this look at the daily grind is a great way to start your day. (Rush The Court)

Andy Glockner drops his first “Bubble Watch” of the season. I don’t always read bracket predictions, but when I do, I read “Bubble Watch”. (Sports Illustrated)
 
 
Top Stories:
Late Night Snacks: Wednesday proves why conference play is unmatched: Last night may have been the best night of hoops we’ve seen all season. All the scores and summaries can be found in “Late Night Snacks

CBT Podcast: Fighting for attention in the Big East, Pac-12, Big-Ten and A-10: With college football season coming to an end, Rob Dauster and I run through some of the major conferences and discuss which teams on the outside looking in might be able to break out through.

Boise State hands Wyoming their first loss on a buzzer-beater: Think about this. The Broncos defeated an undefeated, top-25 team on the road all while missing four player due to suspension. The win came on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Jeff Elloriaga. This is the same Boise State team that went into Omaha and knocked off a ranked Creighton team in November.

Words cannot describe Jamaal Franklin’s dunk against Fresno State (VIDEO): Early in the second half of a close ball game, Jamaal Franklin finished a fast break by tossing himself an ally-oop from behind the 3-point line. Normal human beings can’t do that. Normal human beings wouldn’t even think of doing that. Jamaal Franklin clearly isn’t normal.

No. 8 Minnesota rolls through No. 12 Illinois, 84-67: The Gophers went into Champaign and smacked the Illini around, winning 84-67 and never looking back after a 17-5 first half run gave them a 28-21 lead. In a loaded Big-Ten, Minnesota has cemented themselves as the clear-cut third best team in the league behind Michigan and Indiana. Not too shabby for a team that was un-ranked in the preseason.

No. 25 New Mexico holds off No. 24 UNLV in tough Mountain West opener:Behind 23 points and eight rebounds from big man Alex Kirk, No. 25 New Mexico fought off a late push from No. 24 UNLV to win, 65-60 in Albuquerque. New Mexico had trouble sealing the game with free throws down the stretch, but Tony Snell sunk two with eight seconds remaining finally put the game out of reach.

Ben McLemore saves Kansas in thrilling overtime win against Iowa State: Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore provided the Jayhawks with their signature moment of the season, a 3-pointer off the glass to tie the game at the end of regulation against Iowa State. The Jayhawks struggled at home against the Cyclones, but were given a boost from the dynamic scoring guard.

Michigan State’s Branden Dawson denies that he punched Purdue’s Travis Carroll: You will have to watch the footage to determine for yourself, but Michigan State sophomore Branden Dawson insists that he did not punch Purdue’s Travis Carroll in the midsection after going for a rebound during their game on Saturday.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– North Carolina’s Leslie McDonald is questionable for their game tonight against Miami because of a knee injury (The Sporting News)

– Duke’s Ryan Kelly injured his right foot on Tuesday against Clemson and no timetable has been set for his return, but he will definitely miss the Blue Devils” showdown with North Carolina State this weekend. (Duke Report)

– Laurence Bowers sprained the MCL in his right knee on Tuesday against Alabama and he will be forced to miss the Tigers’ next two games. (The Missourian)

– Illinois State head coach Dan Muller has suspended his second leading scorer Tyler Brown for “conduct detrimental to the program”. (Bloomington Pantagraph)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– A new team has emerged in the Ohio Valley Conference as a potential contender. The Colonels of Eastern Kentucky sent a strong message with a dominant win on the road at reigning league champions Murray State. (OVC Ball)

– Maryland’s loss to Florida State last night, their first since November 9th should be a reminder that the Terps are yet to officially arrive. (D1scourse.com)

– Dana O’Neil’s title really says it best: New league, same Butler. (ESPN)

– Great stuff from C.J. Moore regarding McLemore’s Miracle, Mario’s Miracle and the breakdown of the 3-point play that has saved Bill Self’s butt on more than one occasion. (Need I Say Moore)

– The ending to the Kansas/Iowa State game is reigniting the debate about fouling when you are up three. (Ames Tribune)

– North Carolina faces Miami tonight in a pivotal game for both teams. Tar Heels’ guard Reggie Bullock called a “players only” meeting on Monday to make sure everyone is on the same page. (ESPN Tarheel Blog)

– Now that the college hoops season is halfway done, Gary Parrish looks ahead to the final three months of play. (Eye on College Basketball)

– A good-read from our very-own David Harten on how Quinn Cook has gone from non-factor to x-factor. (Backboard Chronicles)

– Wake Forest defeated Virginia last night, which re-raises the question about Jeff Bzdelik’s success at Wake Forest. Is he nearing his end or just getting started? (College ChalkTalk)
 
 
Video(s) of the Night:
Ben McLemore banked in a 3-pointer with under five seconds left to send the game into overtime against Iowa State. The Jayhawks prevailed in the extra frame. (The Big Lead)


 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
This is just bizarre. Trevor Mbakwe successfully draws the charge, yet Brandon Paul’s dunk counted. I don’t get it. (The Mock Session)

 
 
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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.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.