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The Morning Mix

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This is your final regular season Morning Mix of the 2012-2013 season. We’ll be back next week, but man, what a regular season it has been. Here’s to hoping Saturday lives up to the hype.

Let’s hit the links.

Thursday’s Top games:
3:30 p.m. – Indiana State vs. Evansville
7 p.m. – Tennessee State vs. Belmont
8 p.m. – Stetson vs. Florida Gulf Coast
9 p.m. – Eastern Kentucky vs. Murray State
9:30 p.m. – Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa
 
 
Read of the Day:
Last night, Eagle Landing HS (GA) won the Class AAAA State title last night. MTSU recruit Eric Wortham Jr. finished with 12 points and four assists. Just a year ago, he was on the brink of death. This is his story. Read it. (Henry Daily Herald)
 
 
Top Stories:
Believe it or not, Kentucky’s tournament hopes aren’t dead yet: Kentucky lost to Georgia last night, but if they can beat Florida and not lose early in the SEC tournament, the Wildcats could still end up dancing.

Butler doesn’t look for real, not yet at least: The Bulldogs got the bounce back win they desperately needed, but didn’t look like world-beaters doing so. Butler’s three biggest wins of the season have all been won on buzzer-beaters. While entertaining, it’s not exactly how you want to make you living.

Virginia’s NCAA hopes in jeopardy as Michael Snaer hits another game-winner (VIDEO): Michael Snaer hit his sixth game-winner of his career and sent Virginia back to the wrong side of the bubble in the process.

Louisiana Tech is now autobid or bust after losing to New Mexico State: The Bulldogs entered the night hanging onto their bubble hopes by the slimmest of margins, but is now the latest in a long line of bubble teams that suffered painful losses over the last week, as New Mexico State trounced them by 18 points in Las Cruces on Thursday night.

No Roberson, no problem as Colorado blows out No. 19 Oregon: Andre Roberson sat out because of mononucleosis, but that didn’t slow down the Buffs against No. 19 Oregon. Colorado still has work to do, but a win over a ranked team certainly helps.

Wisconsin plays role of slump-buster for Michigan State’s Keith Appling: The Spartans had lost three in a row, and desperately needed a good performance against a quality opponent. That’s exactly what they got from Keith Appling and company.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Akron suspended staring point guard Alvin Abreu after he was arrested on drug trafficking charges on Thursday. (Akron Beacon Journal)

– UConn center Tyler Olander fractured his foot on Wednesday during the Huskies loss to South Florida and will miss the final game of the season. (Hartford Courant)

– Mississippi State junior guard Jalen Steele suffered a torn ACL on Wednesday and will miss the remainder of the season. (Clarion Ledger)

– The game between San Jose State and UT-San Antonio was cancelled because of a roof leak. (ESPN)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Dan Wetzel on the death of the Big East Tournament. He thinks the new Big East/Catholic-7 Tournament could be just as good. (Yahoo Sports)

– A nice, quick read on Jay Bilas, the social media maven who follows nobody. (USA Today)

– Jeff Bzdelik is not very liked in Winston-Salem. Angry Wake Forest fans have now resorted to newspaper advertisements in order to voice their opinion about the Demon Deacon’s head coach. (The Dagger)

– This one of the better and easier-to-read breakdowns of NCAA tournament math I’ve seen in quite some time. (Waiting for Next Year)

– Wichita State head coach Greg Marshall was awarded MVC Coach of the Year for the effort he has put in to excelling in a year when not much was expected from the Shockers. (Peoria Journal Star)

– Rutgers and Seton Hall will play each other next year, despite being in different conferences. (New Jersey Hoops Haven)

– Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski has cut his trademark locks and is inching towards a historic block party. (AZcentral.com)

– Villanova has the best “bench mob” in the country, and I don’t think the race is all that close. (VU Hoops)
 
 
Video of the Day:
Take 15 minutes to reflect on the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry. Great stuff. (Washington Post)


 
 
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

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky

Hartford makes smart decision to allow ‘Pancake’ Thomas transfer

AP Photo
Hartford coach John Gallagher, AP Photo
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Another talented graduate transfer has hit the market.

Cleveland ‘Pancake’ Thomas — that’s a helluva name, isn’t it? — has been granted a release by Hartford and will be allowed to transfer to another program for his fifth season.

“Our biggest priority for Cleveland was that he graduate from the University of Hartford with a valuable degree,” Hartford head coach John Gallagher said in a statement released to ESPN after some speculation that Thomas wasn’t going to be given a release. “That happened. Beyond wishing him the very best, we don’t comment on other program’s players. We are very excited about our group and the upcoming season.”

The term “release” is needed here because Thomas, a 6-foot-3 guard who averaged 18.9 points and shot 42.6 percent from three this past season, spent his first two years of eligibility at New Mexico. A graduate transfer exception is granted to any player making their first transfer after receiving an undergraduate degree. But since Pancake had already transferred once, he was only eligible to apply for a graduate transfer waiver, which the school he is leaving must support.

Remember the saga of Todd O’Brien? He tried to leave St. Joseph’s to spend his fifth-year at UAB but made headlines everywhere when Phil Martelli wouldn’t let it happen? That’s because O’Brien had started his career at Bucknell and needed Martelli to support the waiver.

Gallagher could have done the same to Pancake.

He made the right decision not to — Martelli has enough coaching cache to withstand the onslaught on criticism he received, I’m not sure that is true for Gallagher — even if it will result in Thomas playing elsewhere, hence the cold-hearted nature of that statement.

Anyway, Thomas never averaged more than 3.9 points at New Mexico, so while he’s a tantalizing prospect for programs that are dying for perimeter depth and shooting, this isn’t exactly a kid that’s going to launch himself into the NBA Draft’s first round by jumping up to a higher level.

Shawn Forrest named assistant coach for Jankovich at SMU

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Larry Brown (L) and associate head coach Tim Jankovich of the Southern Methodist Mustangs look on during the team's game against the Kent State Golden Flashes during the 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on December 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Southern Methodist won 90-74. The game marks Brown's return from a nine-game suspension.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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DALLAS (AP) Shawn Forrest has been named an assistant basketball coach at SMU, his third school since the end of last season.

Mustangs coach Tim Jankovich announced Forrest’s hiring Tuesday.

Forrest spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Western Kentucky before head coach Ray Harper resigned. Forrest was named a UTSA assistant in May, but two weeks later left for Louisiana Tech before the unexpected opening at SMU.

Jankovich was SMU’s associate head coach before the abrupt resignation last month of Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. Forrest fills the open assistant spot created on the staff when Jankovich was promoted to head coach.

Before Western Kentucky, Forrest was an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, Arkansas State and Florida A&M.