The Morning Mix

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We haven’t had a day like this in some time. No games yesterday, no games today, no games tomorrow. From now until Thursday (Unless something absolutely bonkers happens in the N.I.T) it’s going to be nothing but chatter: News, opinion, insight, analysis, etc. It’s going to be “Media Day” from now til Thursday.

Oh, and there will be plenty of #DunkCity references today. The week belongs to Florida Gulf Coast.

Let’s hit the links.
 
 
Read of the Day:
Phil Mushnick trolls on the NCAA tournament and Florida Gulf Coast. You’ll enjoy hating it. Read this. (New York Post)

Read of the Day:
– Tim Layden unearthed some interesting information regarding the resume of FGCU head coach Andy Enfield. Deadspin thinks this could be end of the eagles 15 minutes of fame. (Sports Illustrated)
 
 
Top Stories:
Is Florida Gulf Coast the most surprising Cinderella of all time? The NCAA tournament is home to some of the greatest Cinderella stories in sports history. But where do the FGCU Eagles stack up? Answer: right near the top.

2013 NCAA Tournament in Pictures: Best of the First Weekend: There were lots of great moments this weekend. We combed through the archives and found the best pictures from the second and third round.

First Weekend Superlatives: The best of the weekend in best-of format. It’s the best.

Breaking Down the Sweet 16: Key matchups in each game: Now that the field has been whittled down to just 16 teams, we breakdown the individual match-ups that could be key in the Sweet Sixteen.

Sweet 16 Power Rankings: How do the title contenders stack up?: With the first weekend out-of-the-way, we re-ranked the 16 teams remaining in terms of national championship potential. Will FGCU surprise us for the second straight week?

This Sweet 16 (mostly) madder than any before: Some solid stats and info regarding the first weekend, in which a No. 15-seed made it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in hoops history.

NCAA tournament’s first week gets highest ratings in 23 years: There we’re no buzzer-beaters per se, but the first weekend still provided drama, suspense and a bit of the unexpected.
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– George Dohrmann tries to pinpoint the moment in which Ben Howland’s tenure at UCLA started to unravel. (Sports Illustrated)

– Well here’s a thought: What about Andy Enfield as the next head coach of UCLA. You know, it’s just crazy enough to work. (Los Angeles Times)

– Why aren’t more people in outrage over the firings of Tubby Smith and Ben Howland. Pat Forde explains. (Yahoo Sports)

– Gregg Doyel has some sage advice for Marshall Henderson. This is good stuff. (CBS Sports)

– Another solid piece of writing on the Ole Miss lightning rod. The slide show at the end is worth the click. (USA Today)

– Want to know more about upstart Florida Gulf Coast? Deadspin provides a comprehensive viewers guide to FGCU. (Deadspin)

– Florida Gulf Coast is taking the nation by storm, but the tournament’s biggest surprise just might be the No. 13-seed La Salle Explorers. (New York Times)

– How does Georgetown solve their string of NCAA tournament early exits? (Washington Post)

– the Big Sky conference re-seeds teams after the first round of their conference tournament. What the NCAA tournament was re-seeded after the first weekend? This is what it might look like. (ESPN)

– Dana O’Neil details all the ways in which the Sweet 16 field has something for everyone. (ESPN)

– Mike Lupica chimes in on the major storylines heading in to the Sweet 16. I’m not a big Lupica fan, but this is good stuff. (New York Daily News)

– It’s no surprise to see the NCAA tournament unravel in this manner, not after the regular season we all saw. (Hoopville)

– 16 interesting stats from March Madness’ first weekend. (Ahtlon Sports)

– A lot of good quotes here on the one-and-done rule from title-winning coaches. (USA Today)
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Georgia State and Appalachian State are leaving the Southern Conference in order to join the Sun Belt. (Mid-Major Madness)

– Idaho and New Mexico State are likely to follow the SoCon schools to the Sun Belt by the end of the week. (CBS Sports)

– George Mason will be forced to pay a $1-million exit fee to the CAA for leaving in order to join the Atlantic 10. (ESPN)

– Siena was once thought to be a potential addition to the Catholic-7 or Atlantic 10, but according to the school president, no contact has been made. (Albany Times-Union)

– Tubby Smith was fired at Minnesota just a day after the Gophers’ NCAA tournament exit. But who does the school think they can get? Shaka Smart? Jay Wright? Whoever it is, it’s going to be a gamble. (The Dagger)

– Butler associate head coach Matt Graves has been named as the new head coach at South Alabama. (AL.com)

– Jackson State has named accomplished high school coach Wayne Brent as the programs new head coach. (Clarion Ledger)

– Cal guard Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, will likely make his NBA draft decision sometime in late-April. (Mercury News)

– Washington sophomore forward Martin Breunig has decided to transfer. (Husky Haul)

– Clemson forward Bernard has announced that he will transfer out of the Tigers’ basketball program. (Post and Courier)

– Maryland guard Seth Allen broke a bone in his hand this weekend and will miss the remainder of the Terp’s postseason games. Maryland is participating in the N.I.T. and will face Alabama on Tuesday. (Baltimore Sun)
 
 
Odds & Ends:
– Sweet Sixteen efficiency visualizations. Much cooler than it sounds. (Hoop Vision)

– Florida Gulf Coast is getting 75/1 odds to win the NCAA tournament. Louisville is the betting favorite at 3/1 odds. (Card Chronicle)

– In case this matters, Andy Enfield’s house has bene on the market for over a year. A new job may be on the horizon thanks to the Eagles’ performance in the NCAA tournament. (Busted Coverage)

– A Cinderella edition of “Where are they now?” (USA Today)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
This is from the Duke student newspaper. This is awesome. (College Spun)

source:

Video of the Day:
A cool time-lapse video of the Final Four court being constructed. (MLive.com)

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Sweet 16 Preview: Thursday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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The Sweet 16 kicks off on Thursday night, and the games are going to be terrific.

Oregon-Michigan should be thrilling, Gonzaga-West Virginia is a fascinating contrast of styles and Kansas-Purdue features arguably the two best players in college basketball.

Oh, and then there’s Arizona-Xavier, with Sean Miller and Chris Mack doing battle.

For an in-depth look at each region, check these out:

SWEET 16 PREVIEW: Midwest | West | South | East

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan (-1.5), 7:09 p.m. (CBS): So this run that Michigan on, is it a fluke?

Frankly, I don’t think that it is. Derrick Walton has been awesome for the better part of two months while Michigan’s perimeter shooters have always been shooters and the duo of D.J. Wilson and Mo Wagner are legit. I honestly do not believe that the Wolverines are a team of destiny after the plane crash. They are just really good and a perfect roster for John Beilein to tinker with.

That’s why they’re favored on Thursday night. But here’s the thing … Oregon is pretty good themselves. Dillon Brooks is going to be guarded by a big man, which should be a matchup that Brooks can take advantage of, and Tyler Dorsey has been playing terrific basketball since the start of the Pac-12 tournament.

If you like small-ball, spread-the-court basketball, you’ll love this game.

PREDICTION: Michigan (-1.5)

No. 1 Gonzaga (-3) vs. No. 4 West Virginia, 7:39 p.m. (TBS): On paper, I think Gonzaga should win this game. They have a good back court in Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins, a pair of talented point guards that have won a lot of games in their career. Gonzaga is also the best defensive team in the country. So if they don’t turn the ball over against West Virginia’s press and they make it difficult for West Virginia to score in the half court and get into their press, they should be able to win this thing, right?

Well, maybe not.

My concern with Gonzaga is game-pressure. They didn’t handle it well down the stretch against BYU in their one loss of the season, and I’m not convinced that they win that second round game against Northwestern if the officials don’t blow the goaltending call. How are they going to handle an endless wave of Mountaineers in their face?

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-3)

No. 1 Kansas (-5) vs. No. 4 Purdue, 9:39 p.m. (CBS): More than any other game this weekend, I’m fascinated to see how these two teams decide to try and play each other. Kansas has, essentially, one big man that Bill Self can trust, and he’s going up against a Player of the Year candidate in Caleb Swanigan and one of the best big men in the country at drawing fouls in Isaac Haas. Will Self double-team Swanigan knowing that Purdue may be more effective offensively when Swanigan can find shooters out of the double-team, or will he risk Lucas getting in foul trouble by trying to guard Swanigan one-on-one?

Then, at the other end of the floor, how will Purdue deal with the Kansas back court? Frank Mason III, the NBC Sports National Player of the Year, and Devonte’ Graham are a nightmare for anyone to deal with, let alone a team that struggles against penetrating guards and that lacks rim protection. It should be a fascinating coaching battle.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-5)

No. 2 Arizona (-7.5) vs. No. 11 Xavier, 10:09 p.m. (TBS): On paper, Arizona should be able to handle a Xavier team that doesn’t have Edmond Sumner or Myles Davis. That said, as we all know, Chris Mack and Sean Miller are very close and used to work together. Mack knows everything that Miller is going to do and vice versa. I think this game will be a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair that comes down to the final minutes.

PREDICTION: Xavier (+7.5)

Shayok and Reuter transferring from Virginia

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Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.

Marial Shayok and Jerred Shayok will both transfer out of the program, the school said.

“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”

Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.

Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.

In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”

Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.

His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

Porter, Jr. will ask for Washington release

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There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.

Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”

The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.

Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.

Calipari signs two-year extension with Kentucky

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Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.

The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.

“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.

“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”

Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.

Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.

Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.

“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”

The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.