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The Morning Mix

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Another night of college hoops, another night of suspect refereeing. But that’s in the past. We got a lot to get to this morning.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – Fairfield @ Loyola (Md.)
8:05 p.m. – No. 13 Creighton @ Missouri State
9:00 p.m. – Wright State @ Loyola (Il.)
9:05 p.m. – San Jose State @ Utah State
 
 
Read of the Day:
An awesome-read on the basketball career of former multi-time MLB all-star Kenny Lofton. This is awesome stuff. Make sure you read this. (Deadspin)
 
 
Top Stories:
Oregon shows qualities of a Pac-12 contender in win over No. 4 Arizona: After a pair of close calls at home last week for No. 4 Arizona many wondered when the Wildcats’ luck would run out. Against Oregon, the Wildcats made another late rally but ultimately came up short on the road. The Ducks look like another quality team out west.

Miami wins at UNC without Reggie Johnson; Canes for real? There was quite a bit of concern about Miami’s season and tournament hopes after their starting center, double-double machine Reggie Johnson, went down with a broken thumb a couple of days before Christmas. But after a disappointing showing out in Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic, the Canes have come on strong.

Iowa’s resume a concern following 62-59 loss to No. 22 Michigan State: The Iowa Hawkeyes have shown to be a tough out at home at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But their non-conference resume may hinder their tournament chances if they continue to come up short against the other talented teams in the Big-Ten.

Towson, Jerrelle Benimon off to hot start in CAA play: Georgetown could really use the services of their former-forward, who is well on his way to grabbing the CAA Player of the Year award. Benimon is now averaging 17.1 points, 11.7 boards and 2.3 blocks. He’s got 10 double-doubles on the season.

Naismith Hall of Fame announces 20 watch list finalists for Bob Cousy Award: A list that began with 80 players has been trimmed down to 20, as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced on Thursday its finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, which is given to the nation’s best point guard.

10 tidbits to know: Cuse FT struggles, Bama’s youth movement: NBC Sports Talk’s College Basketball Insider Vin Parise is back to fill us in one Syracuse’s free throw troubles, An astonishing number about New Mexico coach Steve Alford, and an interesting stats race to track for the rest of the season.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– It’s possible that we’ve seen C.J. McCollum play his last game in a Lehigh uniform. His foot injury will keep him out at least two months, and he may choose to not risk his future and sit out until pre-draft camps. (Eye on College Basketball)

– The country’s favorite D-II scoring machine Jack Taylor broke his wrist this week and is likely done for the season. It is unlikely he will be able to top his 138-point performance from earlier this season. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

– North Carolina State walk-on guard Staats Battle has been charged with driving while impaired, stemming from an incident during the early hours of New Years day. (WRAL.com)

– Campbell University got horrible news on Thursday. Their leading scorer Darren White, who ranks seventh in the country (21.8-ppg) will have knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will miss 4-8 weeks. (Fayetteville Observer)

– Albany has shut down sophomore guard Tanner Gibson for the rest of the season due to foot injury and is unsure about his future (Albany Times-Union)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– The Player of the Year straw poll says Plumlee, Burke and McDermott are the top favorites. ESPN’s Mike Rothstein compiles the top-3 picks from a bunch of different media people. Here is the first edition of the season. (ESPN)

– Utah State is holding a “Beard Out” at their home game against San Jose State. Just another reason why the Spectrum and the Aggies’ student section are one of a kind. (Cache Valley Times)

– Kentucky got only their second win of the season over a team in the RPI top-215 against Vanderbilt. The game was ugly and the Wildcats looked lazy in the second half. But ultimately, a win is a win, and the Wildcats got it. (WDRB-41)

– Did the Naismith Hall of Fame whiff on the Cousy Award by failing to list Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova (SMC Hoops)

– During the controversial ending to the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt game last night, Bob Knight had a rather large “senior moment”. (Deadspin)

– Eamonn Brennan fills us in on the five players left off the Wooden Award midseason list that are worth watching. (ESPN)

– Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski is quietly becoming the Pac-12’s best big-man and game-changer. (Fox Sports Arizona)

– Duke will be able to survive a month or so without Ryan Kelly, but that’s about it. Their National Championship hopes will take a huge hit if Kelly’s reoccurring foot injuries persist. (Busting Brackets)

– North Carolina is now 0-2 in the ACC thanks to a home loss against a Miami team playing without their best player. This not a good sign for the Tar Heels. (The Dagger)
 
 
Picture of the Game:
Penn State bros try to mock Northwestern’s geography. Umm, dudes, you know that when Northwestern was founded, most people considered Illinois to be in the northwest. (Sippin’ on Purple)

source:

 
 
Video(s) of the Night:
New Mexico fan has brain-fart, pushes Anthony Marshall (Holdout Sports)

 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
I think Brandon Davies may have taken an extra step here, but nonetheless, tremendous finish.

Dunk(s) of the Day:
A nice little dunk here from Marshall’s D.D. Scarver.


 
 
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Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

AP
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File
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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
AP Photo/Nati Harnik
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.