The Morning Mix

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Today is the day.

There are 365 days in a year. Today is No. 1 of 365.

Carpe Diem.

Read of the Day:
According to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, Syracuse received a notice of preliminary inquiry from the NCAA. This could be huge. Apparently a probe of the program has been going on for years. (CBS Sports)

Observations & Insight:
– The new Big East became official yesterday. (New Jersey Star-Ledger)

– This is the second year in a row that Syracuse will enter the NCAA tournament under a significant cloud of controversy. (Syracuse Post-Standard)

– A good-read on Cinderella teams and “Survive and Advance” (Fayetteville Observer)

– Drew Cannon has a very unique position with the Butler Bulldogs. The graduate student’s sole responsibility is to track and analyze the Bulldogs’ advanced statistics. It’s fascinating stuff, and Butler is one of the only programs in the country that has a guy like Cannon. That’s because head coach Brad Stevens is a big believer in advanced statistics. Not all coaches are. But then again, not all coaches are Brad Stevens, either. (Sports Illustrated)

– Luke Winn’s Power Rankings for tournament teams ranked No.11-seed and up. (Sports Illustrated)

– Butler is joining the Big East. Think about that for a second. Think back to a decade ago. What did you know about Butler in 2003? Probably not very much. But thanks to kid-genius Brad Stevens, the Butler Bulldogs are joining one of the most prestigious athletic conferences in the country. I’m not sure there is another coach out there that has done as much for his university in the first five years as Stevens has done for Butler. (ESPN)

– UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett is still undecided about his NBA draft future. The Runnin’ Rebels performance in the NCAA tournament should have an impact on his decision. (Mercury News)

– Meet Sim Bhullar. He’s the center for New Mexico State. He’;s 7-foot-5 and weighs 340 pounds. He’s the largest player in D-I hoops, and he’s just a freshman. Oh, and he’s really good too. (The Dagger)

Odds & Ends:
– The 12 biggest reason why everybody hates Duke. Number two is brilliant. (USA Today)

– Yeah, this type of rivalry isn’t exactly something you could plan in advance. (WISH-TV8)

– The bland, monotonous tournament courts need a face lift. A drastic face lift. Matt Norlander has some ideas for change. (Eye on College Basketball)

– A Syracuse fan wants Seth Davis fired because he picked Montana to eliminate the orange. Oh that’s rich. (Syracuse Post-Standard)

– Wichita State forward Carl Hall was known for his trademark dreadlocks. He was supposed to be next in a growing line of dreadlock’d bangers (Kenneth Faried and Jae Crowder his predecessors). But alas, it was not meant to be, as the senior decided to shave his head in advance of the Shockers second round match-up against Pittsburgh. (Wichita Eagle)

– This is probably the best map of NCAA fandom we will ever see, and it’s from Facebook. (Deadspin)

– A Syracuse violation dartboard. Awesome. (The UConn Blog)

– This bares repeating: the wife of FGCU head coach Andy Enfield is really, really, really, really hot. Like, supermodel-hot. (Busted Coverage)

Hoops Housekeeping:
– Julius Randle verbally committed to Kentucky yesterday. If Poythress, Goodwin and Cauley-Stein come back for sophomore seasons, Kentucky is going to be LOADED. (SNY.tv)

– A controversial recruit rule change will be reviewed in May before a final decision is made. (ESPN)

– Steve Alford agreed to a new 10-year contract to remain head coach at New Mexico. (Albuquerque Journal)

– The Mountain West Conference has agreed in principle to a seven-year TV rights deal with ESPN. (ESPN)

– Chattanooga has fired head coach John Schulman after nine years of service. (Eye on College Basketball)

Video of the Day:
This is hysterical. Absolutely hysterical.

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Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.

South Carolina fans raise money to send “Gamecock Jesus” to Final Four

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South Carolina fans are sending one of their most recognizable compatriots to represent them this weekend.

Gamecock Jesus is heading to the Final Four.

South Carolina super fan Carlton Thompson is following the Gamecocks to Glendale as his fellow fans have raised over $7,500 to send the man known as “Gamecock Jesus” to Arizona for the team’s Final Four meeting with Gonzaga on Saturday night.

Thompson’s long hair, beard and presence at South Carolina games, even in lean times, earned him his nickname and apparently a following fervent enough to foot the bill for quite the trip.

“I’ve always dreamed it would be like this,” Thompson said last week about fan support at Gamecock games to the Post and Courier. “For years and years, it was so sparse with the crowds at the games. But once they started winning, the crowds started coming.”

Thompson is a 63-year-old VA hospital nurse, and has been attending South Carolina games for nearly 50 years.

Maryland’s Melo Trimble declares for the NBA Draft

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Melo Trimble’s career as a Maryland Terrapin is coming to an end. The junior guard is declaring for the NBA Draft and will sign with an agent.

“I am confident and excited to pursue an opportunity to play in the NBA,” Trimble said in a release. “I am proud of what my teammates and I were able to accomplish these past three seasons at Maryland. I developed many great relationships and friendships and together we able to create some very special moments for Maryland basketball. I want to thank Coach Turgeon for all of his support. He always believed in me. He challenged me and really helped in the development of my overall game. I am a more complete basketball player because of Coach Turgeon and the coaching staff. To stay at home and attend the University of Maryland is the best decision that I ever made and it was truly special to play in front of my family, friends and our amazing fans. Maryland will always be home.”

There was no better winner in college basketball the last three years than Melo. He changed the trajectory of Mark Turgeon’s program, winning 79 games in three years and ending his career 30-8 in games decided by six points or less. As a junior, Trimble and the Terps earned a No. 6 seed to the NCAA tournament, but they lost in the first round to Xavier. It was the only time in Trimble’s career that he didn’t reach the Sweet 16.

“Melo Trimble is a winner,” Mark Turgeon said on twitter. “Humble, hard-working, dedicated. Words can’t express what he’s done for our program. Always #StayMelo!”