Keith Appling, Nnanna Egwu

The Morning Mix

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Thursday was a fun night. A handful of teams threw away games with poor execution down the stretch. Niagara on the other hand, capitalized not one, not two but four times.

Let’s hit the links.

Friday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Yale @ Harvard
7:00 p.m. – Rider @ Fairfield
7:00 p.m. – Manhattan @ Siena
8:05 p.m. – Milwaukee @ Valparaiso
9:00 p.m. – Youngstown State @ Detroit
 
 
Top Stories:
VIDEO: Middle Tennessee State survives on buzzer-beating lob: The Blue Raiders got a big road win at Florida International thanks to a well-executed out-of-bounds play at the buzzer.

Investigator questions Mark Emmert, NCAA’s look into enforcement: The NCAA has completely botched the Nevin Shapiro case at Miami, and NCAA investigators are questioning Mark Emmert’s motives.

Is Georgetown better off without Greg Whittington? Yes and no: Since Georgetown’s Greg Whittington was declared academically ineligible, the Hoyas have bounced back from an 0-2 Big East start and are now 5-3. John Thompson III has made two significant changes that have helped the hows produce without their second leading scorer.

Saint Louis forces 23 turnovers in 75-58 win over No. 9 Butler: A stingy Billiken defense took advantage of the Bulldogs’ sloppy ball control. When Saint Louis’ defense is on their game, there as good as it gets.

Tonight we saw the Keith Appling Michigan State needs every night: The fiery guard led a strong second half comeback at the Breslin Center, to knock off the Illini 80-75. The Spartans used a 24-6 second half run to storm back, and eventually take the lead, which they would not relinquish.

Niagara strengthens grip on first place with wild 93-90 overtime victory over Iona: The game of the night was in the MAAC, as Juan’ya Green hit a three pointer with less than a second left to give the Purple Eagles a thrilling win.

Blessing in disguise: A redshirt season allowed Jahii Carson, Ben McLemore to thrive: Arizona State’s Jahii Carson and Kansas’ Ben McLemore are having two of the best freshman seasons in the country. Both players benefited from having to sit out last year and learn the ropes. Their difficult redshirt years look to be paying off in 2013.

Doug McDermott, Cody Zeller among 12 on Oscar Robertson Award midseason watch list: The United States Basketball Writers Association released their mid-season watch list for the Oscar Roberston Player of the Year Award. All the likely candidates made it, with very few, if any, omissions.

Three UCLA freshmen among 12 on midseason Wayman Tisdale Award watch list: The USBWA also released their mid-season watch list for the Freshman of the Year. The list is headlined by a trio of UCLA rookies, a duo of Wolverines, and a bunch of talented young freshman. There were some notable snubs, such as St. John’s JaKarr Sampson, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon and Xavier’s Semaj Christon.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– New Mexico State forward Tyrone Watson has been suspended indefinitely due to his suspected involvement in a beating of a 19-year old New Mexico State student. (College Basketball Talk)

– Velton Jones, the top player for Robert Morris, went down early with a shoulder injury in the Colonials 71-61 loss to St. Francis. If Jones is out for an extended period of time, RMU could be in a spot of trouble. (Big Apple Buckets)

– UNC guard P.J. Hairston remains doubtful for the Tar Heels game against Virginia Tech this weekend. (Fayetteville Observer)

– Michigan State used a big second half run to secure a victory over Illinois. But the Spartans suffered two injuries in their backcourt. Both Gary HArris and Travis Trice suffered nagging injuries and did not return. (MLive.com)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Sam Dekker is a freshman at Wisconsin. In two years, he is going to be a superstar. You’ve been warned. (Rush The Court)

– This is the first real reporting I’ve seen on this subject, and I had been questioning it months ago. I knew something was askew. But alas, I did nothing. But on Thursday, according to Deadspin (Of course) a lawsuit claims that the former athletic director and assistant basketball coach at Detroit had an ongoing affair. In October, the two resigned from their posts within hours of each other. Then another assistant coach, Carlos Briggs, was fired the next day. If you followed The Morning Mix on November 1st, November 3rd, and December 7th, you’d be all over this. (Deadspin)

– A nice preview on the big Big-5 tilt this weekend between Temple and St. Joe’s, two teams both struggling to find consistency. (PhilaHoops.com)

– Indiana State is hoping that a solid BracketBusters opponent will help them boost their ever-growing resume. The Sycamores are hoping to be the third Missouri Valley Conference team to make the tournament. It’s expected that both Creighton and Wichita State will earn automatic bids. (ESPN)

– Jeff Borzello covers a lot of ground in his “Recruiting Rodeo”, including the Class of 2013 players that could end up being “busts”. (Eye on College Basketball)

– ESPN raised a record $1.6 million during Jimmy-V Week back in late November. (Yahoo Sports)

– A psychedelic psychoanalysis of Kentucky’s Alex Poythress, with the soothing sounds of The Alan Parsons Project. (A Sea of Blue)
 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
NC-State sharpshooter Scott Wood hit a pretty nifty trick shot yesterday. But hey buddy, if you want to get famous, you have to do more than one. Nobody wants to watch just one trick shot. (Backing The Pack)


 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
Adreian Payne with a Payneful ally-oop. Payneful. Yeah I know, not somemy best work. (Run The Floor)


 
 
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)

Illinois PG expected to be ready for practice

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Illinois point guards and injuries have been an unfortunate trend over the past two seasons with Tracy Abrams, who missed the past two seasons with a torn ACL followed by a torn Achilles the next year.

On Sunday, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reported some good news for an incoming Fighting Illini floor general. Te’Jon Lucas, a three-star prospect from the Class of 2016, will be fully cleared for the start of practice, according to Rothstein. In February, Lucas had broke his fibula in his right leg in two places during a game.

Lucas had committed to Illinois the previous September.

Abrams received a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in June, and he decided to remain in Champaign for his final season. If healthy, he’ll be the starter. Jaylon Tate is also back for another season. But they are both seniors, which makes Sunday’s report important for John Groce’s program. Lucas will be on the floor Day 1 of practice, being molded for the future by two experienced guards.

The 5-foot-11 Lucas is the only true freshman on the roster.

Illinois begins the 2016-17 season on November 11, hosting Southeast Missouri State.

Xavier adds to class with three-star center

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Xavier added a fourth piece to its 2017 recruiting class on Sunday morning.

Kentravious Jones, a 6-foot-11, three-star recruit, committed to the Musketeers. He announced the decision via Twitter.

Chris Mack’s current recruiting class is headlined by four-star swingman Naji Marshall. The incoming quartet also includes guard Elias Harden and forward Jared Ridder. But Jones’ commitment fits an area that needs to be addressed for the Musketeers moving forward. Xavier isn’t particularly deep when it comes to big men. That frontcourt only gets thinner once RaShid Gaston, a graduate transfer from Norfolk State, exhausts his eligibility after this season.

Jones, along with current freshman forward Tyrique Jones, gives Xavier a young foundation for the future. Jones is an old-school, big-bodied center. He’s got a nice back-to-the-basket game, and had his best stretch of the summer during the UAA Finals. In three games with the Atlanta Xpress, he averaged 15.3 points, shot 59 percent from the field, and grabbed nine boards per game.

Conditioning will be the emphasis for him over the course of the next year. However, we have seen Xavier work well with a big, skilled centers in the past (see: Stainbrook, Matt). According to Shannon Russell of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Jones has dropped 30 pounds.

Sunday morning’s news may not even be Xavier’s last score on the recruiting trail. The Musketeers have one scholarship remaining (two, or three if Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett enter the NBA Draft this spring), and are in play for several coveted prospects like point guards Paul Scruggs, Quade Green and Matt Coleman, as well as forward Kris Wilkes.

Minnesota center to miss a month

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 7: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Illinois State Redbirds and Fred VanVleet #23 of the Wichita State Shockers fight for control of a loose ball during the MVC Basketball Tournament Semifinals at the Scottrade Center on March 7, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Minnesota’s projected starting center is sidelined, but is expected to be ready for the season opener.

Reggie Lynch, the Illinois State transfer, had surgery on his left knee, the program announced on Friday night. According to Marcus R. Fuller of the Star-Tribune, the Golden Gophers are anticipating that Lynch is available for the season opener on Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The 6-foot-10 Lynch has been in the news this offseason prior to his impending debut with Minnesota. In May, he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. On August 1, the Hennepin County attorney’s office was announced he would not face charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Lynch spent two seasons at Illinois State, averaging 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Redbirds as a sophomore. He sat out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Minnesota is coming off a second-to-last place finish in the Big Ten with an 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten) record.

Women’s hoops coaches boycotting recruiting events

DENVER, CO - MARCH 31:  Head coach Muffet McGraw of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish directs her team during practice prior to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four at Pepsi Center on March 31, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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For some high-major women’s basketball programs, the final evaluation period of 2016 is being used as a vacation from the recruiting trail.

According to a report from Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated, are not attending events during this weekend’s recruiting period for a host of reasons.

First, many are fed up with the price of tournament packets, booklets of rosters that college coaches receive upon paying their entry fee. Packets are supposed to be chock-full of contact information for the prospects, but sometimes aren’t accurate or up-to-date. (This has become a well-documented issue on the men’s side of college hoops. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote on it this summer.) Furthermore, there are so many events now that college coaches are often forced to pay obscene amounts of money to watch just one player at a single event, and play recruiting hopscotch around the country, criss-crossing the nation to see so many events and spend thousands of dollars. One Power Five coach said her staff crunched the numbers, and found that in just two years, they’ve spent more than $4,000 more than they did in 2014 on packets alone. Another coach told a story of sending an assistant across the country for one day, to one event, to watch one team. When the assistant arrived, the team had left early for its next event. No refund was available for the college that had paid what turned out to be a useless entry fee. The head coach called it “exasperating.”

Jeff Borzello of ESPN, who spoke to Notre Dame head coach and eventual Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw for his report, estimated that the cost for one of the coaches packets — the ones that include player contact information, rosters, etc. — can cost each school an average of $600 per event.

This era of grassroots basketball has taken off in recent years with Nike, Under Armour and adidas all creating their own sponsored leagues. All three run exceptional events from the staff to the facilities, all the way to the three, free meals a day for coaches. Organizers of these events will argue that there’s a cost to running such high-end events. These packets, some of which are so in-depth they include players’ GPAs, help fund these tournaments (events, paying a staff, etc.).

Coaches, mostly mid to low-major coaches, will argue that these packets aren’t worth the cost, considering that every coach (head and assistant) must purchase them in order to gain entrance. And you will find packets where the information inside is either inaccurate, or missing or both. For elite programs, this isn’t an issue. You show up, you’re seen, you leave, you go to the next event, repeat. For mid to low-major coaches, this really puts a dent in their budget, especially when they have to travel to multiple events (buying packets at each one) because you have to land that “steal,” you have to find that player who is overlooked.

This protest, or boycott (or whatever you want to call it) will hurt those these events are intended to help the most: the players. If coaches continue to avoid these tournaments, that late-bloomer may miss out on a scholarship, or that player with mid-major offers won’t get the chance to play in front of high-major coaches.

According to Schnell, there is a proposal, voted on in April, to eliminate a live recruiting period in April and September. But many coaches in women’s basketball have made it clear this weekend how they feel about the issue.

USC lands commitment from three-star center

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USC added to its 2017 recruiting class with a commitment from a 7-foot big man.

Andy Enfield and the Trojans beat out Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee for the services of Calvary Christian Academy (Florida) center Victor Uyaelunmo. He announced his college decision on Friday afternoon.

“It was the best fit for me academically and athletically,” Uyaelunmo said according to David Furones of the Sun Sentinel. “The basketball coaches really wanted me to come, and I thought it was the best place for me.

“They told me how they were going to use me, and they have a couple of guys leaving this year, so I just fit in right.”

Uyaelunmo is regarded as a three-star prospect by Rivals, however, ESPN rates him a four-star recruit. He joins a two-man class which includes four-star forward Jordan Usher.

The departure of Nikola Jovanovic, the Trojans’ leading rebounder during the 2015-16, was a surprising one, and one that left USC with a hole in the middle. While Uyaelunmo still has one more year before arriving on the Los Angeles campus, the Trojans have a promising piece in the paint for the future; a long, athletic big man who has the potential, in time, to become one of the nation’s top shot blockers.

Uyaelunmo played for Nike South Beach in the EYBL this spring and summer. In 12 appearances, he averaged 5.0 points. 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 block in 17.6 minutes per game.