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)


 
 
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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.