The Morning Mix

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Championship Week is here.  By this time next week, five conferences will have handed out auto-bids. But before we can get to that, we there is a lot of news and notes to digest from a busy weekend in college hoops.

The final regular season meeting of the “Border War” was a legendary affair. An Instant Classic. Game-of-the-Year. Why is this rivalry ending again? College basketball needs this game. If this rivalry is going to end, they certainly put on one heckuva finale. Take a gander at a solid photo gallery from the final “Border War”

– Chuck Landon takes Memphis to task. This article doesn’t accomplish much, but it sure is entertaining

–  After beating Vanderbilt on Saturday, Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was quoted as saying “I’m graduating here. I’m not going Anywhere. I’m staying at Kentucky as of now”  and “I’m dead serious. I don’t know why y’all laughing?” But the freshman forward backtracked a bit, saying “I’m going to do whatever is best for me.” It’s a near-guarantee that MKG would be a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman then caused a mini-riot in Lexington when he tweeted that power-broker “World Wide Wes” would factor into MKG’s decision. In Goodman’s defense, it’s not an illogical thought at all. Nor is it an accusation or loaded opinion with hidden agenda

– Speaking of Kentucky, what do the Wildcats need to do before postseason play begins? In case you haven’t watched Kentucky play at all this season, you should probably know that Anthony Davis is an absolute animal. But will a perfect regular season bode well for the ‘Cats come postseason time?

The NCAA handed down it’s (harsh) punishment to former-Radford coach Brad Greenberg, the brother of Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg

Nebraska boosters took out a full-page advertisement  in order to show their support for Doc Sadler, the Huskers head basketball coach

– It was announced very shortly before the tip-off on Sunday that Miami center Reggie Johnson was ruled ineligible to play. The ‘Canes did well without him, beating in-state rivals Florida State

– Missouri State’s Kyle Weems could have left after last season. After all, he had graduated, and with a year of eligibility left, was being pursued by high-major teams. But he decided to finish what he started

– We all saw what Pat Knight said following his team’s loss to Sam Houston State on Wednesday night. If you haven’t already done it, take a look. But maybe Knight was on to something. While the rant was well, “colorful”, it did provide some national spotlight on the small Southland Conference school. Plus, parents of a few of the players were fully supportive of what Knight had to say, and on Saturday his Lamar Cardinals went out and smacked Stephen F. Austin 72-49. So, instead of asking if it was “Rant of the Year“, maybe we should be asking if it was the “savviest Coaching Technique of the Year”?

If you didn’t read this already, make sure you do. Dan Hanner provides an excellent breakdown of the top coaches in the country based on player development and recruiting

– We reached our quota this weekend for “dancing coach videos”. On Friday night, Marquette’s Buzz Williams two-stepped on West Virginia’s court, and on Sunday, Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan did something vaguely resembling a dance move

A nice little preview of the Horizon League Tournament

A nice little tournament tracker to get your week off on the right track

– Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey is in line to possibly receive his fourth “Coach of the Year” award

– Jim Calhoun plans on making his return to the sideline on March 3 when the UConn Huskies take on Pittsburgh in the regular season finale

– A former-Oregon State basketball player was arrested on drug trafficking charges

– Doug Gottlieb wonders if the UConn Huskies can make another remarkable post-season run

– At the beginning of the season, did anyone project Xavier as a bubble team? If you did, you’re lying

A nice write-up on Wisconsin redshirt freshman Evan Anderson and the value of patience

– Just in case you weren’t already aware that message boards breed hate and unnecessary vitriol, read the solid-take from Boiled Sports

– Alabama head coach Anthony Grant is getting the job done this season. Sure, the record might not indicate the success he’s had, but he is getting it done. On and off the court

– Speaking of Alabama, Levi Randolph almost killed ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes during the Crimson Tide’s victory at Arkansas

– Don’t look now, but the Ivy League title race is starting to heat up

– After starting the season 1-11, the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils are looking to finish up an undefeated SWAC season

– Michigan forward Jon Horford is officially done for the year and will take a medical redshirt

– Tennessee might not make the tournament this year, but the team is improving leaps and bounds under new head coach Cuonzo Martin

– Looking for a sleeper pick in the Summit League Tournament? How about IUPUI, the hottest team in the league? What if we were talking about the Big East Tournament? May I suggest St. Johns?

– Former-Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese put college presidents “on blast”

– When a game-winner is outdone by a full-court buzzer-beater

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.