The Morning Mix

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We got a lot on tap for today. Yesterday was National Signing Day, and the first round of “Feast Week” tournament games take place. Strap in for a fully loaded 24 hours of college hoops.
 
 
Thursday’s Top Games:
10:30 a.m. – Oklahoma State vs. Akron
12:30 p.m. – Dayton vs. Colorado
12:30 p.m. – UNC-Asheville vs. Tennessee
3:00 p.m. – No.16 Baylor vs. Boston College
5:00 p.m. – St. John’s @ Charleston
5:00 p.m. – No.6 North Carolina State vs. Penn State
7:00 p.m. – Alabama vs. Oregon State
7:00 p.m. – Illinois State @ Drexel
7:00 p.m. – Sam Houston State @ No.1 Indiana
8:00 p.m. – Auburn vs. Murray State
8:00 p.m. – Tennessee State @ Minnesota
9:30 p.m. – Villanova vs. Purdue
10:00 p.m. – UTEP @ No.12 Arizona
 
 
Read of the Day: Brendon Prunty on the memory of former Seton Hall assistant Kenny “Eggman” Williamson. Read it. (New Jersey Star Ledger)

Read of the Day: Did the NCAA prejudge Shabazz Muhammad before making a decision on his eligibility? (L.A. Times)
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Top Stories:
Late Night Snacks: Fresno State beat UC-Riverside 39-30….in basketball. Yuck.

Calipari gives tour of new Wildcat Coal Lodge: As if the “Kentucky Effect” wasn’t already strong enough, John Calipari gave a video tour of the new state-of-the-art dorm built specifically for the Wildcats hoops team. This is just many in a long line of powerful weapons Kentucky has at its recruiting disposal.

Champions Classic will serve as a great teaching tool for Bill Self and his young Jayhawks team: The experience gained by the Jayhawks in their 67-64 loss to Michigan State in the Champions Classic will help serve a purpose for Bill Self as he continues to mold a talented but young team.

Saint Louis loss caps a tough week for the Atlantic Ten: The A-10 was expected to be extremely deep this season, but already teams such as VCU, Butler and now Saint Louis, who lost to Santa Clara 74-62, are looking like we may have overrated the conference.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Eastern Michigan’s James Still plead guilty to felony assault charges stemming from an altercation he had in Rhode Island while a member of the Providence basketball program (Detroit Free-Press)

– Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele fractured his wrist during the Bulldogs’ 78-58 win over Florida Atlantic and will force him to miss the next six weeks (Jackson Clarion Ledger)

– Providence guard Vincent Council will miss the next 4-5 weeks due to a hamstring injury he sustained in the Friars win against NJIT on Friday (Friar Blog)

– highly touted big man Karl Towns will make his college decision on December 4th (New Jersey Hoops Haven)

– UCLA freshman Kyle Anderson suffered a bone contusion on his right wrist during the Bruins’ 80-79 overtime win over Cal Irvine on Wednesday, and his status for Thursday’s game is still uncertain (ESPN LA)
 
 
Observations & Analysis:
– The top ten best recruiting classes of the past 25 years (ESPN Insider)

– It was very evident in Wisconsin’s 74-56 loss to Florida that the Badgers really need a point guard to step up and fill the void left by Josh Gasser’s season-ending injury (Backboard Chronicles)

– It does not appear that traditional rivalries will be renewed as part of the SEC/Big-12 series (The Dagger)

– Arizona forward Solomon Hill thinks freshman who worry about eligibility issues should skip college all together (Eye On College Basketball)

– After two impressive performances, its apparent that Maryland’s defense is already making great strides (Washington Post)

– Potential mid-major darling Delaware is hoping to use the Preseason N.I.T Tip-Off as a stage to capture some national attention (The Dagger)

– The Pit at New Mexico is arguably one of the best venues in college hoops. If you weren’t already aware of this, the Lobos home-opener against Davidson as part of the Tip-Off Marathon proved why. (Albuquerque Journal)

– An excellent preview of the surprisingly deep Charleston Classic field (NBA Draft Blog)

– Despite the absence of Otto Porter, who sat out due to concussion-like symptoms, the Georgetown Hoyas were able to stymie the Liberty Flames en route to a 68-59 win (CBS DC Local)
 
 
News & Notes:
– The Kansas Jayhawks are eager to get back on the court following their Champions Classic loss to Michigan State (KUsports.com)

– A bunch of good quotes from UTEP head coach Tim Floyd on his role in Sean Miller-era at Arizona (Arizona Daily Star)

– UConn coach Kevin Ollie pledged $100,000 towards a new basketball facillity in Storrs, CT (Connecticut Post)

– Some great info on the conferences and teams participating in the annual late-season BracketBusters Week (The Horizon League)

– Did you know that this is the 75th anniversary of the NCAA tournament? (Sporting News)
 
 
Odds & Ends:

– Vermont’s Clancy Rugg: Great name, better dunk (Ballin’ is a Habit)

– Former-Michigan State Spartan-turned actor Delvon Roe made an appearance on Tosh.0 (Diehard Sports)

– The Hawaii basketball team wants more fans to attend home games this season (Warriors Insider)

– Some pretty entertaining suggestions  for future gimmick games featuring the Syracuse Orange (Troy Nunes)

– “Free Shabazz” t-shirts are going to be the next hipster trend. I can just see it now. (Deadspin)

– There are no words to describe the picture you are about to see (The UConn Blog)

 
 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
I want to go back to college not for the women or for the fame, but to be able to spend four seasons with Creighton guard Grant Gibbs (You need to follow him on Twitter @DoubleGfor3).


 
 
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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.

Four-star wing Romeo Weems commits to DePaul

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DePaul landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2019 Tuesday afternoon, as four-star small forward Romeo Weems announced that he will be a Blue Demon. Weems, who attends New Haven HS in New Haven, Michigan, picked DePaul over Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon and is considered by most major scouting services to be a Top 50 prospect in the 2019 graduating class.

The 6-foot-6 Weems plays his grassroots basketball for The Family on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this spring. Weems also has experience playing for USA Basketball, as he was part of the Under-16 team that won the FIBA Americas U16 title last year. Weems will also be part of the training camp from which the Under-17 team will be selected next month in preparation for this summer’s FIBA Under-17 World Championships.

DePaul managing to land a commitment from a prospect of Weems’ caliber, a versatile wing who can defend multiple positions while also being productive offensively, could be the shot in the arm that Dave Leitao’s program so desperately needs if they’re to improve their standing within the Big East.

Since making the move from Conference USA in 2005, DePaul has finished above .500 in a season just once (20-14 in 2006-07) with that also being the only time in which the Blue Demons finished above .500 in Big East play (9-7). Since Leitao, who led DePaul to its most recent NCAA tournament in 2005, returned for his second stint at the school the Blue Demons have gone 29-65.

Getting out of Allstate Arena and moving to the new Wintrust Arena ahead of last season was an important move for the DePaul program, but it’s been clear that the rebuild won’t be a “quick fix.” Bringing in a talent of Weems’ caliber should help DePaul moving forward, with the key now being to recruit well enough to ensure that the talented wing has ample help when he arrives on campus next year.

Among the players currently on the roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019 are guards Devin Gage and Justin Roberts and wing Darious Hall, who will sit out the 2018-19 season after transferring to DePaul from Arkansas. Hall appeared in 35 games for the Razorbacks this past season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game.