The Morning Mix

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Thursday’s Rivalry Week selection provides an interesting sampling of big time showdowns and compelling mid-major match-ups. Arizona-Colorado has some good story lines and Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s writes itself. But Davidson-Charleston is the premier game on the SoCon schedule. The same goes for The Summit League’s Western Illinois-North Dakota State tilt and the Big Sky’s Montana-Weber State battle.

Thursday should be fun.

Let’s hit the links.

Thursday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Northwestern @ No. 13 Ohio State
7:00 p.m. – No. 20 Wisconsin @ Minnesota
7:00 p.m. – Belmont @ Tennessee State
7:30 p.m. – Davidson @ Charleston
7:30 p.m. – Canisius @ Loyola (Md.)
8:00 p.m. – Western Illinois @ North Dakota State
8:05 p.m. – Arkansas-Little Rock @ Arkansas State
8:15 p.m. – Northwestern State @ Southeast Louisiana
9:00 p.m. – St. John’s @ No. 12 Louisville
9:00 p.m. – UCLA @ California
9:00 p.m. – UMass @ VCU
9:05 p.m. – Denver @ Utah State
9:05 p.m. – Montana @ Weber State
10:00 p.m. -No. 9 Arizona @ Colorado
11:00 p.m. – No. 5 Gonzaga @ Saint Mary’s
11:00 p.m. – USC @ Stanford

Read of the Day:
This is the most succinct, poignant and accurate take I’ve read regarding Nerlens Noel’s ACL injury and the one-and-done rule. Deadspin of course. Read it. (Deadspin)

Read of the Day:

Top Stories:
North Carolina loses to Duke, but it’s not all bad news for the Tar Heels: The Tar Heels finished on the wrong side of the ledger last night, and while Chapel Hill residents probably don’t like the idea of a “moral victory”, not all was lost at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Should Syracuse be concerned after loss to UConn? James Southerland scored 14 points in his second game back from an academic suspension, but the rest of the Orange struggled on the road and lost to UConn 66-58. What does this mean for ‘Cuse?

Ole Miss sees tourney profile take a hit with loss at Texas A&M: Ole Miss, once the hottest team in America, is starting to flame out. Marshall Henderson and the Rebels couldn’t afford to lose to Texas A&M last night. But they did, and now their already-thin resume is aided by a mediocre 7-4 record in the SEC.

Creighton loses 3rd straight, tough Missouri Valley could hurt chances of multiple NCAA tournament bids: The Bluejays fell on the road at Northern Iowa, their third loss in a row. But that’s just kinda how things go in the Valley.

CBT Podcast: Breaking down the NCAA Tournament Bubble: Troy Machir (That would be I) is joined by Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner, master of “The Bubble Watch” and loyal Fulham FC supporter. We talk about bubble teams. Luckily no soccer is discussed. Best 30 minutes in college hoops.

Tennessee self-reports three violations committed by men’s basketball program: The Tennessee basketball program accounted for three of the ten self-reported violations within the Volunteers athletic department. The violations aren’t that major, but good on Tennessee I guess. I’m not actually sure if what they did wrong was actually that wrong.

UMass Lowell will reportedly join Division I, become member of America East: The River Hawks will reportedly join Division I in all sports beginning in the fall of 2013-2014. The current Division-II program will join the America East, which will lose Boston to the Patriot League at year’s end.

Monroe College’s Stephane Manga throws down a Dunk of the Year nominee (VIDEO): There’s not much to say here. Just watch the video to see somebody take off from the foul line and posterize some poor bloke.

St. Louis’ No. 1 fan will not be bribed by Butler: A pretty neat story that everybody will enjoy. Just trust me on this one.

Hoops Housekeeping:

Observations & Insight:
– Well this is interesting: The NCAA was sued by a nonprofit group on Wednesday over a new policy that bars felons from coaching NCAA-sanctioned events.
– Saint Mary’s hosts Gonzaga tonight in must-see action. It’s the best rivalry on the west coast, and if Gaels want to defend their WCC title, they will have to beat the No. 5 Bulldogs. (San Jose Mercury-News)

– New NCAA Division I basketball Committee Chairman Mike Bobinski is content with keeping the current field to 68 teams. (USA Today)

– Former-UConn head coach Jim Calhoun doesn’t think that the Huskies will be in the Big East in a year from now. (New Haven Register)

– The La Salle Explorers got a tough hard-fought victory against a scrappy St. Bonaventure team. The Explorers will be an intriguing team to watch down the stretch. They are 7-3 in the Atlantic-10 and hold wins over Butler, VCU, Villanova, and Delaware. (Philahoops.com)

– The Pac-12 is slowly improving as a whole, and their television deal will help to create a better national profile. (ESPN)

– Jeff Eisenberg makes a tremendous opening statement regarding the moxie of this season’s UConn team compared to the one in 2011-2012. (The Dagger)

– With Myck Kanbongo back in the spotlight, Texas’ Sheldon McLelland was able to shine in his natural position and lead the Longhorns to a thrill 89-86 double-overtime victory over Iowa State. (Dallas Star-Telegram)

– Gary Parrish tells an awesome story about why Miami head coach Jim Larranaga values the use of advanced statistics as a teaching aid. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Jarvis Threatt hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to propel Delaware past CAA-leading Northeastern. The Blue Hens are above .500 for the first time this season and are in second place in the league. (City of Basketball Love)

– A blind resume test suggest that a better record against top-50 and top-100 teams might outweigh a strong RPI (USA Today)

– Texas A&M’s Elston Turner went off for 37 last night against Ole Miss, out-gunning Marshall Henderson. If you may remember correctly, Turner dropped 40 on Kentucky at Rupp Arena. (Clarion Ledger)

– Arizona State could not afford a loss to Utah last night if they wanted to remain in the good graces of the NCAA Selection Committee. Naturally, they lost. (House of Sparky)

Odds & Ends:
– The student managers at Duke played the student managers from North Carolina on Tuesday, and in typical fashion, finished with a buzzer-beater. (The Dagger)

– Indiana was rumored to be one of the teams getting special Adidas uniforms for the end of the season. But Indiana AD Mike Glass says that alternate uniforms are highly unlikely. (Inside The Hall)

– The Tobacco Road Rivalry picked up before the game even tipped off last night. Some how, some way, the head of the Duke Blue Devil mascot was found displayed outside the Student Store in Chapel Hill. This is how you do a rivalry. (Tar Heel Blog)

– For one reason or another, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim called ESPN Reporter Andy Katz “an idiot, and a really disloyal person” following their 66-58 loss at UConn. (Troy Nunes)

Photo of the Day:
This is just awesome. A cheer-sheet for the Cameron Crazies battle against North Carolina last night. The scouting report for Bryce Johnson is hilarious. (via Mark Armstrong, ABC TV Durham)

Video of the Day:
I’m not a big fan of the “Harlem Shake” movement, but I do applaud what Georgia did. I’ve seen a lot of bad videos. This ain’t one of them.

Dunk of the Day:
To be fair, this is more of a switch-180, but nonetheless, Keion Bell is able to do this effortlessly.

Dunk of the Day:
The degree of difficulty on this dunk by James Michael McAdoo is off-the-charts high.

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)

USC lands four-star 2018 guard Elijah Weaver

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USC landed an important commitment for its future on Monday night as four-star Class of 2018 guard Elijah Weaver.

Regarded as the No. 35 overall prospect in the Rivals’ national Class of 2018 rankings, the 6-foot-5 Weaver gives the Trojans a floor leader to build around for the future as he provides great size in the backcourt. Capable of playing multiple guard spots, Weaver has a lot of upside for a program that has done a very solid job of developing backcourt talent under head coach Andy Enfield.

Weaver’s commitment is also important for the Trojans because it comes despite the looming FBI investigation that the program is dealing with thanks to former assistant coach Tony Bland. USC had recently lost a four-star commitment from forward J’Raan Brooks, so the commitment of Weaver is a huge momentum boost for them as they get right back on track in the Class of 2018.

With Weaver in the mix, USC now owns three four-star pledges in the 2018 class as he joins four-star forward Taeshon Cherry and four-star guard Kevin Porter.

Jim Larranaga believes he’s ‘Coach-3’ in FBI investigation

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Despite losing key contributors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy from last season’s NCAA tournament team, the Miami Hurricanes are expected to be a player both within the ACC and nationally this season. But instead of having the focus solely on the likes of JaQuan Newton, Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker, Jim Larrañaga’s program is also having to deal with the impact of the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball.

While no one connected to the Miami men’s basketball program was arrested last month, the program is referenced in the FBI report. On Monday, Larrañaga stated during a press conference that he believes that he is “Coach-3” in the FBI report. Larrañaga also maintained his innocence, saying that he had done nothing wrong while also being thankful that none of his assistant coaches were involved.

“It’s been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Larrañaga said according to the Palm Beach Post. “It’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players.”

According to the FBI report, “Coach-3” requested that payments totaling $150,000 be funneled to “Player-12” in order to ensure his commitment to their university. It has been reported that “Player-12” was 2018 five-star prospect Nassir Little, who has also stated that he had done nothing wrong. Two of the schools recruiting Little at the time, Arizona and Miami, have been entangled in the FBI investigation to varying degrees.

While Miami has not had anyone connected to its program arrested, Arizona assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was one of the four Division I coaches were were indicted. As a result Little removed both Arizona and Miami from consideration before ultimately committing to North Carolina earlier this month.

There’s no telling what the FBI investigation will ultimately uncover, which for the schools involved could take a heavy toll not only for the 2017-18 season but for future years as well. The FBI case has been comparatively quiet since the first set of indictments, with future moves likely to be influenced by what authorities learn from the ten individuals named in the first announcement.

Miles Bridges discusses being offered money during recruiting process

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With the FBI launching an investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball last month, the entire sport has found itself under the microscope. Ten people, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested and there’s no telling just how long the FBI’s investigation will last or what information it will produce.

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is considered by many to be the leading candidate for national Player of the Yeah honors, and he had the opportunity to turn pro after a good freshman season. But Bridges made the decision to return to East Lansing, and with that comes questions as to why he would do that as opposed to cashing in on his NBA potential as soon as possible.

In an interview with Brendan Quinn of The Athletic (subscription required) Bridges discussed a host of issues, including being offered money by people while going through the recruiting process.

“I mean, if you get caught, that might be the end of your career. I wanted to play in college really bad,” Bridges told Quinn. “I don’t know — materialistic things, they don’t really get to me. So when people were offering me money, I would say no right away, because I wanted to be able to live out my college experience. But really, I don’t know, it is hard, especially because I was so young at the time — 17.”

Given the ongoing investigation, high-profile players and teams will be on the receiving end of increased scrutiny even if they aren’t part of the FBI probe. It’s an unfair situation for a player like Bridges to deal with, as even in the actual cases of alleged wrongdoing the players themselves are essentially commodities whose services are being auctioned as opposed to the main characters looking to cash in.

Unfortunately, due to recent events a decision like the one made by Bridges will result in some questioning whether or not the player received something from the school or another entity/individual. And that’s a tough — and unfair — thing for a young player to have to deal with.

Broken hand sidelines North Carolina PG Joel Berry II

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North Carolina’s defense of its national title will likely begin without its most important player, as it was announced on Monday that senior point guard Joel Berry II will miss approximately four weeks due to a broken bone in his right hand.

Berry started at the point each of the last two seasons, earning Most Outstanding Player honors in April as the Tar Heels defeated Gonzaga to win the national title. As a junior, Berry averaged 14.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and started 37 of the 38 games in which he played. Berry shot 42.6 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three, with the latter percentage being the best on team amongst players who attempted at least two three-pointers per game.

Berry was named an NBC Sports Preseason Third-Team All-American in late September.

With Berry out of the lineup, North Carolina loses its floor general as well as one of their top perimeter shooters. Sophomore Seventh Woods and freshman Jalek Felton become more important options at the point as a result of Berry’s injury, and the team doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters either with Cameron Johnson, Brandon Robinson, Kenny Williams and freshman Andrew Platek all being capable of helping to pick up the slack.

North Carolina opens its regular season on November 10 against Northern Iowa.

Bill Self’s stance on Kansas/Missouri series remains unchanged

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Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, bitter rivals Kansas and Missouri got together on the basketball court for the first time since 2012, with the Showdown for Relief raising $1.75 million for recent hurricane victims. In what was an entertaining game, the Jayhawks won by the final score of 93-87 with point guard Devonté Graham leading the way for the winners with 25 points and ten rebounds.

Kansas finished the game with five players in double figures, including Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman (17 points) and center Udoka Azubuike (16). On the other side freshman Michael Porter Jr. paced four Tigers in double figures with 21 points while younger brother Jontay grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds off the bench.

However despite the excitement for the two rivals being on the same court in any capacity, Sunday’s meeting was different given the circumstances. Following the game Kansas head coach Bill Self was asked about the possibility of the two teams meeting in a regular season game, and he maintained the stance he’s held since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.

“I’m not going to say never, but I don’t think there’s been any change in our position as far as the university goes,” Self said following Sunday’s exhibition. “I’m the spokesman, I guess, on this but trust me, I’m not the only one that feels that way.”

While it would certainly benefit college basketball if Kansas and Missouri were to renew acquaintances down the line, it is understandable that Self — and maybe some others on the Kansas side of things — would have reservations. The programs, even with the arrival of Cuonzo Martin in Columbia and the freshman class led by the aforementioned Michael Porter Jr., are in different places right now.

The Jayhawks have their sights set on a 14th consecutive Big 12 title and a run at their first national title since 2008, Missouri is looking to fast-track a rebuilding process after struggling mightily under former head coach Kim Anderson. Yet with that being said, the state of the two athletic departments during realignment likely has more to do with the teams not playing each other.

Missouri was a school with options earlier this decade before joining the SEC, but that was not the case for Kansas. Had the Big 12 broken up as some believed would be the case, where would the Jayhawks have landed? Fortunately for the school the Big 12 survived the realignment craze, losing four schools (Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, Colorado to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten) and adding TCU and West Virginia to get their membership number to ten.

Given that, the best bet for college basketball fans who want to see this rivalry played during the regular season may be to hope for the programs wind up in the same in-season tournament. Even better, how about the same NCAA tournament region?