BracketBusters

The Morning Mix

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This is the week we put football in the rear-view mirror and focus exclusively on college hoops. Yeah I’m talking to you, Joe Casualfan. The Morning Mix is the place you need to go every morning for the latest news and notes from the CBB world.

Let’s hit the links.

Tuesday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 2 Florida @ Arkansas
7:00 p.m. – Boston College @ No. 8 Miami
7:00 p.m. – Wake Forest @ North Carolina
7:00 p.m. – Villanova @ DePaul
8:00 p.m. – No. 13 Kansas State @ Texas Tech
8:00 p.m. – Wichita State @ Southern Illinois
8:05 p.m. – Illinois-Chicago @ Valparaiso
9:00 p.m. – No. 10 Ohio State @ No. 2 Michigan
9:00 p.m. – Florida State @ Georgia Tech
9:00 p.m. – South Carolina @ Kentucky
 
 
Read of the Day:
A powerful story from Alex Prewitt of the Washington post on Jamar Board, one of the most revered streetball players in the Washington metro-area. Known as “The Silent Assassin”, who was cousins with former-Tennessee guard Bobby Maze and set a Goodman League single game record with a 75-point performance in a 2011 game. Board was found dead on December 29th with a gunshot wound to the head. It has yet to be determined if it was a murder or a suicide. Seriously, read this. (Washington Post)

This one is pretty cut-and-dry. Virginia lost to Georgia Tech this weekend. You rank the ‘Hoos in the top-25, you get skewered in the Poll Attacks. Read It. (Eye on College Basketball)

Top Stories:
The top 10 dunks of the college basketball season: With the football season in the books, College Basketball Talk fills you in on what you’ve missed. Here are the ten best dunks of the college basketball season thus far.

Contenders and Pretenders: College Basketball Talk is helping you get situated now that the football season is over. Here is our list of National Championship contenders and pretenders.

Five sleepers and five upset specials to keep an eye on: College Basketball Talk briefly breaks down five teams that can make deep tournament runs and five teams that may bow out early.

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett leads CBT’s Freshman of the Year rankings: Here’s what you need to know about the top freshman in the country.

Michigan sophomore Trey Burke sits atop CBT’s National Player of the Year rankings: Michigan guard Trey Burke leads our Player of the Year rankings through three months. Doug McDermott and Mason Plumlee aren’t far behind.

Creighton/St. Mary’s highlights ‘BracketBusters’ line-up: ESPN announced the pairings for the final installment of BracketBusters are Monday night. The marquee game features Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova. In other action: Ohio @ Belmont, South Dakota State @ Murray State and Detroit @ Wichita State.

Shabazz Napier is UConn’s closer: Despite not being able to play in any post-season games this season, the UConn Huskies continue to play hard, especially down the stretch. Shabazz Napier has been a big reason why, especially in overtime.

Wyoming’s Luke Martinez has court date set for arraignment:

 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– We got horrible news out of Irvine, Calif., yesterday as it was reported that an assistant coach on the Cal State-Fullerton’s women’s team was murdered on Sunday night. (Orange County Register)

– The North Carolina Tar Heels are really banged up. Three key contributors are questionable for their game tonight against Wake Forest. (ESPN Tar Heel Blog)

– Michigan State guards Gary Harris and Travis Trice are questionable for participation in the Spartan’s game on Wednesday against Minnesota. Harris is still battling back spasms and Trice is recovering from a concussion. (Detroit Free-Press)

– A Detroit-area businessman has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a point-shaving investigation involving the University of Toledo basketball team from 2004-06. (Yahoo Sports)

– Former-Murray State guard Zay Jackson will 60 days in jail as part of the plea deal he reached stemming from his charges of wanton endangerment. (SB Nation)

– The court date for Wyoming guard Luke Martinez has been set. Martinez is facing a felony charge of aggravated assault and battery stemming from a Dec. 30 incident at a bar. (Casper Star-Tribune)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Why does everybody think college basketball sucks this season? (The Big Lead)

– The Towson Tigers got 20 points and 12 rebounds from Jerrelle Benimon en route to a 81-68 win over UNC-Wilmington on Autism Awareness Night. Jeff Goodman tells the story about how Towson head coach Pat Skerry coordinated this tremendous event. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Andy Katz got a bunch of good quotes from coaches regarding the BracketBuster pairings that were announced yesterday. (ESPN)

– In case you aren’t too familiar with the slate of mid-major basketball, here are the rankings for the 13 televised BracketBuster games. (Big Apple Buckets)

– Ten things to know now that college basketball is suddenly relevant. (USA Today)

– Anybody else excited for the Trey Burke-Aaron Craft match-up tonight? Craft got the best of Burke in the first game. Could tonight be Burke’s “Naismith Moment”? (UMHoop.com)

– Michigan will wear all-maize uniforms for the Ohio State game tonight. You might wanna put on sunglasses before you click the link. (The Dagger)

– It took Illinois just one month to plummet from the top-15 to the bubble. That’s impressive. (The Dagger)

– Once a month Matt Norlander puts together a collage of the best college basketball photos. Here are January’s best. (Eye on College Basketball)

– It looks like Jalen Rose had himself a good time in Bloomington for last weekend’s edition of ESPN College GameDay. (Deadspin)
 
 
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)

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.

USC’s Nikola Jovanovic not expected to return to USC

Southern California forward Nikola Jovanovic pauses on the court during an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Nikola Jovanovic’s college career has come to a close.

The USC center will not withdraw his name from NBA Draft consideration by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m., a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Jovanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian, averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 boards as a junior with the Trojans.

Jovanovic is not expected to be drafted, which means that Andy Enfield’s club will be losing two players to the professional ranks with eligibility to spare that likely won’t end up on an NBA roster next season. Julian Jacobs, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 boards, signed with an agent back in April.

The Trojans were a top 25 team last season despite many considering them to still be “a year away”. But with two starters departing, the Trojans will be a borderline preseason top 25 team as opposed to a top 15 team.

Marcus Lee withdrawing from the draft, transferring from Kentucky

Kentucky forward Marcus Lee dunks during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game against Indiana in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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For the second time this season and just the sixth time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are losing a player to transfer.

Marcus Lee announced on Wednesday that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but the 6-foot-9 forward will not be returning to Kentucky. He will be transferring out of the program to a new school.

“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”

Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 boards this season, seeing his first major minutes as a member of the Wildcats. But he seemed destined for a bench role if he had opted to return to Kentucky this season as John Calipari has landed a recruiting class that includes five-star freshmen Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.

The tough part?

It does not appear that Lee will be able to finish his degree and be eligible to play immediately next season. He’ll have to sit a year at whatever school he opts to transfer to.

“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”

Lee joins Charles Matthews as members of last year’s Wildcats that are transferring out of the program. Darnell Dodson (Southern Miss), Stacey Poole (Georgia Tech) , Ryan Harrow (Georgia State) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) are the other four players that have transferred.

Isaiah Briscoe to return to Kentucky

Eric Johnson, Isaiah Briscoe
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Isaiah Briscoe announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-3 guard had one of the more difficult decisions to make for players in this year’s draft class. On the one hand, there was a very real chance that he would go through this draft without getting picked. He was a role-playing guard on last year’s team that isn’t a point guard, isn’t big enough to be a two-guard and was a total liability shooting the ball.

But he’s returning to a team that is as loaded as the group that won their first 38 games two years ago, particularly in the back court. He’ll be playing behind De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who both play essentially the same role that Briscoe does: playmaking guards that thrive with the ball in their hands. And since Briscoe can’t shoot, he may not be the best option at the three, where Derek Willis will likely see minutes.

In other words, Briscoe returning to school is essentially a two-year decision.

Kentucky now awaits an announcement from Marcus Lee on whether or not he will be returning to school.

James Blackmon Jr. to return to Indiana, Troy Williams to remain in draft

James Blackmon Jr.
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
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James Blackmon Jr. will be returning to Indiana for his junior season, the school announced on Wednesday morning.

Blackmon missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season following surgery on his knee in December. As a freshman, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and shot 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Indiana now awaits word on the decision that will be made by Troy Williams. A junior swingman, Williams has a shot to be an early second round pick if he opts to stay in the draft. There is a report from the Indy Star that he will keep his name in the draft, but the program has yet to confirm that news.

Losing Williams would hurt, but it’s a loss that Indiana can overcome. The emergence of O.G. Anunoby as a versatile defender means that the Hoosiers have a guy that can be a defensive stopper and can allow them to play small and fast. Anunoby also has not proven to be prone to bouts of poor decision-making, which arguably may make him a better fit.