The Morning Mix

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How can we really begin to describe this past weekend? A bat got loose at the Bradley Center. Northern Illinois scored 4 points in a single half. Marshall Henderson almost got bum-rushed by the Auburn student section. North Carolina got trounced. UCLA got trounced. Syracuse lost, Louisville lost. Heck, Lehigh lost at home to Lafayette by 21 points.

Were the games great? Ehh, not really.

But was it another entertaining weekend of hoops?

Unequivocally yes.

Let’s hit the links.

Monday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Pittsburgh @ No. 5 Louisville
7:00 p.m. – Delaware @ Drexel
9:00 p.m. – No.3 Kansas @ West Virginia
9:00 p.m. – South Florida @ Marquette

Top Stories:
Ryan Arcidiacono’s heroics help Villanova beat No. 3 Syracuse in overtime thriller: No team had a better week than the Villanova Wildcats. They defeated No. 5 Louisville on Tuesday and followed it up with a thrilling 75-71 overtime victory over No. 3 Syracuse on Saturday. Jim Boeheim decided to against fouling up three, and Villanova freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono hit a big 3-pointer to send the game in overtime.

Georgetown’s improvement showing in upset win over No. 5 Louisville: Georgetown finished up a strong week of work with a 53-51 win over No. 5 Louisville. The Hoyas are one of the most puzzling teams in the country, having lost to Pittsburgh by 28 points just 18 days ago. But the Hoyas continue to improve, and it showed.

Louisville benches Russ Smith, but offensive issues persist in third straight loss: It’s been a tough week for the Cardinals. Rick Pitino tried to provide a spark by having Russ Smith come off the bench on Saturday against Georgetown. But nothing seemed to work offensively for the Cardinals. The teams offense has been off of late and will need to be addressed if they hope to recapture their top-5 ranking.

Loose bat at Bradley Center delays Marquette-Providence: A bat got loose in the Bradley Center on Saturday and disrupted the Providence vs. Marquette game. Seriously. A Bat caused havoc during a basketball game. Check it out.

What was Jordan Adams thinking with steal at end of UCLA’s loss to Arizona St.? UCLA’s Jordan Adams wouldn’t let Arizona State dribble out the clock despite the Sun Devils 18-point lead. Unfortunately for the freshman, his fast-break layup was cut short thanks to a ferocious block from Carrick Felix. This is how you close out a game.

No. 12 Minnesota loses fourth straight game, falls at Wisconsin 45-44: The Gophers have not won since smacking Illinois on the road 17 days ago, and many believed Minnesota was ready to contend with Michigan and Indiana for the Big-10 Championship. But in just 17 days the Gophers have slid back to the middle of the pack thanks to turnovers, shooting woes and a lack of depth.

VIDEO: No. 15 New Mexico loses their first Mountain West game to SDSU: No. 15 New Mexico entered Saturday’s at San Diego State as the only undefeated team remaining in the Mountain West. 34 points later, the Lobos left with a 55-34 loss to the Aztecs in a game that should give you a sense of just how tough that conference is going to be this year.

Rotnei Clarke scores 24 to help beat Temple in first game back from neck injury: After missing the Bulldogs last three games due to injury, Rotnei Clarke returned to action and outdueled Temples Khalif Wyatt as Butler got a bounce-back win over the Owls.

Observations & Insight:
– What you are about to read is not an error a mistake. Northern Illinois scored 4 points in the first half of their game on Saturday against Eastern Michigan. Final score was 42-25. Yuck. (The Dagger)

– The legendary “Blue II” Butler bulldog will be retiring at the end of the season and will turn his collar over to his protege “Trip”. (The IndyChannel.com)

– Teams from the Big-5 had been struggling this year. Temple is inconsistent, Saint Joseph’s hasn’t lived up to expectations and Drexel has been plagued with injuries. but thanks to the huge weeks from La Salle and Villanova, Philly is back on the hoops map. (USA Today)

– Mike DeCourcy’s “Full Court Press” covers a lot of topics, including whether or not a coach should foul when his team up three. (The Sporting News)

– No one does a “Weekend Stock Report” as good as Jeff Eisenberg. No team saw their stock skyrocket as much as La Salle. OK, maybe Villanova. (The Dagger)

– Eammon Brennan’s observations from the weekend are spot on: Keep an eye on Arizona State, Kentucky isn’t a tournament team, Minnesota’s losses are starting to accumulate and much more. (ESPN)

– John Gasaway has some solid thoughts as well: North Carolina is firmly on the bubble and there’s a reason why VCU has to play HAVOC on defense. (ESPN Insider)

– Seth Davis breaks down the best of the week in his “Fast Break”. Nice to see Stony Brook’s Tommy Brenton get a shoutout. the do-everything wing logged the first triple-doulbe in program history over the weekend. (Sports Illustrated)

– North Carolina had a shot at making a comeback against NC-State on Saturday, but Roy Williams got too “cute” with his bench and the Tar Heels could never close the gap. (Busting Brackets)

– Deshaun Thomas has been putting up some big numbers this season. Here’s a statistical breakdown of where he ranks up against other recent Buckeyes. (Eleven Warriors)

– Victor Oladipo propelled the Indiana Hoosiers to a hard-fought victory over Michagan State on Sunday. Following game, Tom Izzo referred to Oladipo as “The Ray Lewis of college basketball”. (Inside the Hall)

– Louisville commit Terry Rozier scored 68 points in a high school game this weekend. Get them out of your system now. The highest single-game total this season is 47, set this week by Oakland’s Ryan Bader. (Card Chronicle)

Video of the Day:
Marshall Henderson is turning in to the most hated player in the country. He’s extremely fun to watch unless you are a fan of his opposition. He’s got some J.J. Reddick in him. (College Basketball Talk)

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Video of the Day:
Aaron Bowen’s circus shot put-back sealed a huge home victory for the Hoyas this weekend over Louisville. (H/T @CasualHoya)

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Dunk of the Day:
James Madison’s A.J. Davis posterized Nick Wright so hard that the Old Dominion forward got knocked out of the game. The Dukes won 56-46. (JMU Sports Blog)

Dunk of the Day:
Are you kidding me Mason Plumlee? We may not see another dunk this season with a degree of difficulty as high as this one. Impressive.

Dunk of the Day:
Ivy League kids know how to dunk too. Wow. That’s a legitimate banger right there.

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)

Texas Tech forward Zach Smith returns to school after withdrawing from NBA Draft

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Texas Tech forward Zach Smith will return for his senior season, the school confirmed on Monday.

The 6-foot-8 forward is one of the most intriguing athletes in college basketball as he’s been a double-figure scorer for the Red Raiders the past two seasons. As a junior, Smith put up 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as he shot 50 percent from the field.

Three-point shooting was something that Smith improved dramatically last season as he increased it to 39 percent in a small sample size. If Smith can continue to show that he’s a perimeter shooting threat then he could be an ideal three-and-d candidate at the pro level.

By returning to Texas Tech, Smith gives head coach Chris Beard a potential all-league candidate who should be counted on to be a double-double threat next season.

 

Missouri lands five-star forward Jontay Porter

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Missouri has another member of the Porter family in the fold as forward Jontay Porter officially committed to the Tigers on Monday night.

Following in the footsteps of older brother Michael Porter Jr., and father Michael Porter Sr., Jontay is currently a member of the Class of 2018 who is rumored to be reclassifying to the Class of 2017.

A 6-foot-10 forward who was recently elevated to five-star status on Rivals.com, Porter is having a monster spring in the Nike EYBL with MoKan Elite. Porter has been one of the best players in the league, as he’s putting up 18.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

If Jontay is able to join Missouri next season then he gives the Tigers another intriguing piece to play alongside his brother Michael, who is good enough to be a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although Jontay isn’t the go-to player that his brother is, he could be a very effective SEC role player early in his career, as his ability to rebound and stretch the floor makes him an extremely intriguing piece on the floor.

Kevin Stallings is a tone-deaf clown

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Pitt guard Cameron Johnson is the most coveted transfer in college basketball this offseason.

The 6-foot-8 Johnson is coming off of a strong campaign with the Panthers in which he put up 11.9 points per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

Not only is Johnson a proven double-figure scorer in a league like the ACC, but he’s eligible to play right away thanks to his graduation from Pitt. Johnson graduating from school in three years and missing one season due to injury also makes him the rare graduate transfer who has two seasons of eligibility remaining. So, not only can Johnson come in and make an immediate impact, but he’s also able to stay for another year after.

This sort of thing almost never happens, let alone with a 6-foot-8 shooter that could sway the national title race.

It’s why blueblood programs like Kentucky and UCLA are in hot pursuit of Johnson. It’s why another ACC school, reigning national champion North Carolina, is also intrigued by Johnson being on the market.

Except Johnson won’t be allowed to attend North Carolina, or any other school in the ACC, without first sitting out a season and losing one season of eligibility. At least that’s how things currently stand thanks to Pitt’s power over Johnson — despite Johnson graduating from the school and having no more formal educational ties to the school.

Here’s what Pitt said on the matter in a release to the News-Observer.

“Cameron Johnson and his father were informed of our policy as well as the appeals process when they elected to seek to transfer. They went through our transfer appeals process and were granted permission to contact ACC schools; however, the committee upheld the policy to limit immediate eligibility within the conference.

If Cameron were to transfer within the ACC, he would be eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year of competition due to standard NCAA transfer regulations. Throughout this process, we have remained consistent to our department policy and we will continue to do so.”

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings had a peculiar interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was published about two weeks ago. During the interview, of which the full transcript was made public, Stallings went in-depth about Johnson’s transfer and the current state of college basketball. Stallings also made remarks about how the media holds programs accountable for trying to bully certain players.

Here’s a small sample of what Stallings had to say.

“But the unexpected departures are the things that are becoming more common than uncommon in college basketball. You have guys constantly trying to transfer up. You have guys going pro that have never played a minute of college basketball after they’ve sat out a year at a school. You have guys asking out of their letters of intent with frequency. We’re dealing in a landscape in college basketball right now that is as probably as difficult and peculiar as it’s ever been. It used to be if a kid signed his letter of intent and he wanted out of it, you had to play a year of junior-college ball to get out of it.

“The media didn’t basically force institutions to let people break a binding agreement. It’s kind of interesting now the media tries to put so much pressure on programs, whether it be athletic directors or coaches, saying ‘Well, the coaches can move.’ Well, hey, guess what? I’ve got a great big buyout in my deal that prevents me from moving. I’ve got something in my contract saying I can’t go to another league school. It’s not as easy for coaches to go. That’s everyone’s rationale — ‘Well, the coaches can leave.’ We’re dealing in an environment right now that is as fluid as it’s ever been. It’s just where we’re at in the whole thing with the unexpected departures.”

Stallings makes some sound points–particularly about coaches having buyouts and the general perception of coaching changes in basketball.

But Kevin Stallings mostly sounds like a tone-deaf clown here.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for a millionaire coach who willingly makes the decision to change jobs.

Nobody.

Especially if that same millionaire is comparing a choice to change jobs to the transfer decisions of unpaid student-athletes. It’s even more laughable now that Stallings is holding power over an unpaid student-athlete from going to play at another school because of purely basketball reasons.

Pitt and Stallings need to do the right thing and release Johnson to play at any school right away because Johnson has already done everything he needs to do to appease the program.

Things changed dramatically for Johnson during his three years at Pitt. He became one of the ACC’s better players and earned his degree. Johnson held up his end of the bargain when he signed his Letter of Intent.  Now Johnson just wants the chance improve his basketball future by playing with one of the nation’s elite programs.

Stallings can blame the current state of college basketball, the media, or whoever he wants for Johnson’s transfer from Pitt.

But Stallings also has to realize that he’s going to be the one who looks stupid if he continues to leave these restrictions in place for Johnson. Stallings already has a history of this sort of thing when he placed transfer restrictions on former player Sheldon Jeter. If Stallings continues to uphold transfer restrictions on Johnson, then he’s going to gain a permanent reputation in recruiting during a time when players continue to gain more freedom over their basketball futures.

If Johnson does happen to go to an ACC school like North Carolina, it’s not as if Pitt has any sort of competitive roster that is going to be fighting the Tar Heels for league supremacy during the next two seasons.

Stallings and Pitt need to just bite the bullet, let Johnson have his freedom, and hope it doesn’t come back to hurt them for one or two seasons in ACC play.

It surely beats the alternative of being labeled a head coach who limits player freedom after six players left Pitt during a single offseason. That type of burn lasts a lot longer than two years.

Presbyterian hires Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns as new head coach

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Presbyterian finally has its new head coach as the program is set to hire Wofford assistant coach Dustin Kerns, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Kerns has been an assistant at Wofford for the past seven years during his second stint with the program. Also spending six seasons as an assistant coach at Santa Clara, the Tennessee native is getting his first shot at running his own program.

Finishing last in the Big South last season at 5-25 and 1-17 in conference play, Presbyterian is trying to rebuild after head coach Gregg Nibert resigned in April. Nibert was the head coach of the Blue Hens for 28 seasons, so Kerns is going to be a completely fresh start for the program.

Tennessee lands impact graduate transfer James Daniel

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Tennessee and head coach Rick Barnes earned a commitment from one of the top graduate transfers on the market on Monday when Howard guard James Daniel pledged to the Volunteers.

The 6-foot-0 Daniel was the nation’s leading scorer at 27.1 points per game his junior season in 2015-16. Daniel played in only two games last season as a left ankle injury caused him to have surgery.

With nearly 2,000 career points to his name, Daniel gives Tennessee an additional perimeter scorer who should come in and make an immediate impact right away. While Howard has low shooting percentages and a high usage rate during his time at Howard, it’ll be interesting to see how the year off and more talented teammates will alter his game.

If Howard can be a more efficient scorer in his final season, then he has a chance to be one of the better players for the Volunteers this season.