The Morning Mix

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Anybody else watch The PuppyBowl last night? It was great. No power outages, no bad commercials, no holding penalties, no Ray Lewis bible verses. Just puppies. And kittens. And baby pigs. Like I said, it was great. But I’m sure you had fun too.

Let’s hit the links.

Monday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Notre Dame @ No. 6 Syracuse
7:00 p.m. – Oklahoma @ Iowa State
7:00 p.m. – George Mason @ Old Dominion (NBC Sports)
9:00 p.m. – Seton Hall @ Pittsburgh
9:00 p.m. – Texas @ West Virginia
 
 
Read of the Day:
John Feinstein on how Northern Illinois head coach Mark Montgomery has found positives in the wake of the Huskies’ 4-point first half performance against Eastern Michigan. Read it. (Washington Post)

Top Stories:
Should we be concerned No. 2 Kansas losing to Oklahoma State? For the first time in 33 games, the Kansas Jayhawks walked off the court at Allen Fieldhouse on the wrong side of the ledger, falling to Oklahoma State 85-80. But With how strong Kansas has been all season, how concerned should we really be about their loss on Saturday.

Cody Zeller, the nation’s best role player, lifts Indiana to 1st in Big Ten: Cody Zeller entered the season as the most heralded player in the country. Although he’s had a fine season, he hasn’t been his team’s best player. But when the Hoosiers to make big plays, Zeller is the guy they go to.

Report: Sun Belt may raid SoCon to add two new members: Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson sent out an email containing a new map of the Sun Belt Conference that included both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. This is pretty interesting stuff.

Air Force moves into 2nd place in MWC by beating No. 22 San Diego State: Michael Lyons finished with 20 points, five boards and four assists as Air Force held serve on their home floor, knocking off No. 22 San Diego State 70-67. The win is the fifth in a row for the Falcons, and puts them in sole possession of second place in the Mountain West.

No. 14 Miami outlasts No. 19 NC State with a tip-in at the buzzer: Reggie Johnson tipped-in a missed runner from Shane Larkin with 0.8 seconds left to give No. 14 Miami a 78-77 win over No. 19 NC State in Raleigh on Saturday afternoon. NC State played great for 37 minutes, but struggled to execute down the stretch without guard Lorenzo Brown, who did not play due to injury.

No. 15 Wichita State loses second straight conference game, falls to Northern Iowa: Four days after falling to a pesky Indiana State team, the Shockers lost on the road to unranked Northern Iowa, 57-52. Carl Hall was the lone bright spot for Wichita State Saturday, going 8-of-13 from the field for 20 points and five rebounds.

No Dominic Artis makes Oregon worst ball-handling nationally? Having missed a win over Washington and losses in the Bay Area to Stanford and now Cal, The Ducks fall to 1-2 without the services of freshman point guard Dominic Artis. In those three games, the Ducks have committed 65 turnovers and rank 286th in the nation in turnover percentage, giving the ball away on 22.6% of their possessions.

Keith Dambrot’s Akron Zips nation’s hottest team with 13 straight wins: Heading in to the weekend, the Kansas Jayhawks had the nation’s longest active winning streak, having won 18 straight. But with the loss to Oklahoma State at home, the red-hot Akron Zips become the new leaders, having won 13 in a row, including a 8-72 win over reigning MAC champions Ohio.

No. 4 Florida continues their SEC domination with win over Ole Miss: Marshall Henderson had one of his best games of the season, and Ole Miss still came up 14 points short against Florida. The Gators are not beating SEC teams. They are destroying them. It is hard to see this team losing a conference game this season.

VIDEO: Eastern Kentucky’s Marcus Lewis alley-oop is Saturday’s best dunk: College hoops fans were treated to an excellent Saturday on the hardwood. The top play from a fully loaded slate of games came from Eastern Kentucky’s Marcus Lewis, who torched one defender before posterizing another.

 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Three days after being suspended for a violation of team rules, Evansville junior swingman Jordan Jahr has been kicked off the Purple Aces basketball team. He will complete the spring semester as the university. (ESPN)

– St. John’s guard Jamal Branch sprained his knee on Saturday against Georgetown after Nate Lubick fell on top of it while going for a loose ball underneath the basketball. Branch is expected to miss the next few games. (Rumble in the Garden)

– Jermaine Lawrence, a 5-star forward in the class of 2013 committed to Cincinnati on Sunday. (Sporting News)

– The pairings for the final installment of ESPN BracketBusters will be announced later today. (Courier-Press)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– In his latest “Fast Break” column, Seth Davis has good things to say about Nerlens Noel, Julian Gamble, Marcus Smart and Georgia State freshman R.J. Hunter. (Sports Illustrated)

– Henderson praises Florida defense, Gators praise Henderson’s scoring. Not exactly what I expected from post-game in Gainesville. (Sporting News)

– Myron Medcalf provides his observations from a full Saturday of college hoops. (ESPN)

– Gary Parrish asks a very good question: What ACC team is going to stop Miami? (Eye on College Basketball)

– After watching the Michigan take Indiana to the wire on Saturday night, Dana O’Neil is positive the Hoosiers and Wolverines are the top two teams in the nation. (ESPN)

– Jimmy Burch has a interesting and reasonable explanation as to why he thinks the Big-XII is not done with expansion. (Dallas Star-Telegram)

– John Gasaway thinks that turnover issues could plague Indiana down the road. (ESPN Insider)

– Does Kansas have a point guard? Bill Self doesn’t think his team does. (Sporting News)

– A Bryce Cotton jumper sends Villanova on a two-game losing streak following their back-to-back wins over Syracuse and Louisville. (Friar Basketball)

– Come Selection Sunday, which is less than 1,000 hours away, there may not be a more difficult team to analyze than Xavier. But are they ready for March Madness? It doesn’t look like it. (Roundball Direct)

– Illinois is looking to make major renovations to Assembly Hall and are reaching out to everyone for donations. (Champagne Room)

– Decked out in all pink, the Creighton Bluejays beat Bradley and took position at atop the Missouri Valley Conference. (The Dagger)

– Kevin Parrom was ejected from Arizona’s game on Saturday night again Washington State for intentionally elbowing DeVonte Lacy in the head. (Arizona Daily Star)

– Velton Jones was a game time decision for Robert Morris heading into their NEC Championship game rematch against LIU-Brooklyn on Saturday. The star guard battled through a shoulder injury and hit the game-winning shot with 15 seconds left to revenge last season’s loss for the Colonials. (Pittsburgh Sports Report)
 
 

Video(s) of the Day:
Go to the :18sec.mark to see a guy play the air-bongos on Jay Bilas’ head. (Bacon Sports)

Video(s) of the Day:
Did Nerlens Noel trip a Texas A&M player on purpose? Noel isn’t the type of player that typically does something like that, but it kinda sorta looks like he’s trying to trip him. Will we ever find out? Who knows?


 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
You know if was a good weekend when a a dunk like this wasn’t the best of the lot. (Big Sky BBall)


 
 
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Diallo withdrawing from draft, returning to Kentucky

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It took plenty of time for the news to make its way public, but it was a wait that proved welcome for Kentucky fans.

Wildcat freshman Hamidou Diallo will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Kentucky, the school announced

Diallo’s situation was one of the more interesting in college basketball as he became an incredibly intriguing pro prospect despite being on a college roster and never playing a minute.

The five-star recruit enrolled at Kentucky in January after attending a semester of prep school with the plan to redshirt the season and then play for the Wildcats in 2017-18. There were rumblings and rumors about Diallo potentially playing for John Calipari’s group last year, but ultimately they stuck to the plan to keep him on the bench and preserve his eligibility. Throughout it all, there was always the specter that Diallo could just decide to go the professional route anyway.

That possibility moved fully into the forefront earlier this month when Diallo showed off a 44.5-inch vertical leap at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. The 6-foot-5 guard also recorded a wingspan that nearly measured 7-feet. With those types of physical traits, he makes for an awfully interesting professional prospect, regardless of refinement or experience.

Given Diallo’s lack of high-level experience, though, there was no guarantee he’d be a first-round selection as teams would be wary of drafting solely on potential, rather than the mostly they typically do.

“I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season,” Diallo said in a statement. “Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title.

“I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”

Going back to Lexington to play college basketball gives Diallo a chance to showcase his skills against competition the NBA will be able to evaluate him against. It also makes Kentucky – surprise, surprise – extremely formidable this season as they, once again, restock the roster with potential lottery- and first-round picks. With Diallo officially in the fold, Kentucky is a no-doubt top-five team that will be among the favorites to cut down the nets in April 2018.

“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a statement. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship.
“I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know.  He’s a special player and a special person.”

LaVar Ball selling “Stay In Yo Lane” shirts

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Create controversy. Profit from controversy.

It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.

The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.

Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.

Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.

It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.

This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

A post shared by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (@sviat_10) on

The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Caleb Swanigan to stay in NBA draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.