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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)

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

AP
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File
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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
AP Photo/Nati Harnik
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.