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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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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.