The Morning Mix

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There are a grand total of eight games being played tonight between Division-I teams. That should probably tell you what were working with today. But just because the action on the hardwood has dried up momentarily doesn’t mean the news cycle slows down.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games: 
7:00 p.m. – No. 23 Wichita State @ Tennessee
7:00 p.m. – Middle Tennessee @ Belmont
10:00 p.m. – Jackson State @ Washington State
10:00 p.m. – Washington @ Seattle
 
 
Read of the Day:
Mike DeCourcy was tasked with the difficult assignment of ranking the top-35 March Madness moments that were featured in the NCAA’s celebration of the tournament’s 75th anniversary. Read it. (The Sporting News)
 
 
Top Stories:
CBT Podcast discusses whats going on with The Big East: Troy Machir and Daniel Martin discuss the best course of direction for the Catholic-7, the demise of BracketBusters, “Buy or Sell” on Illinois and North Carolina, and a sideline celebration debate for the ages.

Jabari Parker will decide on December 20th: The second ranked player in the class of 2013, The Simeon (Ill.) superstar, who is the second ranked recruit in the class of 2013 will choose between BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford a week from today.

Rodney Williams throws down the first 360-slam of the season: Despite nearly breaking his back on the landing, Minnesota’s resident high-flyer took off with rotation against North Dakota State.

Memphis’ holiday wish list: The Tigers need toughness. Their star players need star power. The list is long for Josh Pastner’s bunch.

Exam week essay on the practicality of advanced statistics: The use of tempo-free and advanced statistics has become more commonplace in recent years thanks to the work of guys like Ken Pomeroy and Dan Hanner. What is your opinion on the use of advanced statistics as analysis aids. What value do these metrics add to post-game evaluation in your opinion?
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– St. Joe’s forward Halil Kanacevic was suspended two games for flipping “the double bird” at the Villanova student section during the finals minutes of “The Holy War” on Tuesday night. (SB Nation Philly)

– Creighton’s Josh Jones, who passed out prior to the Bluejays game last week against Nebraska has been diagnosed with an atrial flutter and will miss the next month of play as he must undergo another open heart surgery. (Omaha World-Herald)

– Missouri and Arizona have agreed to a home-and-home series that will begin in at the McKale Center in 2015. (Kansas City Star)

– Minnesota freshman Wally Ellenson broke his left hand during an October practice. It was thought that the 6-foot-4 combo guard would take a redshirt season, but decided against in and logged his first minutes of the season against North Dakota State. (ESPN 1500 Twin Cities)

– There still is no timetable on when Virginia guard Jontell Evans will return to the starting lineup. (Washington Post)

– Bradley center Will Egolf underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to fix a broken nose he sustained in practice on Tuesday. (Peoria Star Journal)

– Alabama has lost more depth from their already thin frontcourt, as back-up center Carl Engstrom is done for the year with torn knee ligaments. (The Sporting News)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– This broke late last night: Sources indicate that the “Catholic-7” is leaning towards breaking off from the Big East. No word yet if they will form their own hoops conference or will join the A-10. (ESPN)

– Marquette AD Larry Williams had some strong quotes regarding the potential disbanding of the “Catholic-7” from the Big East. (ESPN)

– A great-read on building success, the lure of the A-10, and the basketball brand. (Rumble in the Garden)

– More rumors on MAAC expansion. (Big Apple Buckets)

– Wait a minute? Gonzaga wants to leave the West Coast Conference? I don’t know if I agree with that. (Slipper Still Fits)

– The Bilas Index has returned to rank the top-68 teams in the country (ESPN Insider)

– Did you know that the Boston Terriers have already suffered three losses this year at the hand of buzzer-beaters? (Daily Free-Press)

– Matt Norlander gets a bit wordy at the end, but provides os good numbers about John Calipari’s favorability numbers in the state of Kentucky. (Eye on College Basketball)

– The key for Ohio State this season is getting production out of guys not named Craft or Thomas. Sophomore Sam Thompson is one of those guys who is starting to emerge as a legitimate scoring option for the Buckeyes. (Fox Sports Ohio)

– The shot-blocking numbers being put up by Kansas center Jeff Withey are bordering on “unimaginable”. (Wichita Eagle)

– A “by the numbers” look at UConn’s frontcourt and how they stack up against the competition. (Connecticut Post)

– A solid look at four Big-Ten coaches who have been impressive after a month of hoops. (Rush The Court)
 
 
Odds & Ends:
– West Virginia mascot cited for violation after using uniform’s musket to kill bear. (College Basketball Talk)

– Another yearly rendition of “The six simple rules for storming the court”. (Midwest Sports Fan)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
In case you needed a reminder on how to do a rivalry the right way, Kentucky and Louisville remind us. (Kentucky Sports Radio)
 
source:
 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
I knew Jared Berggren was good, but I did not know he could do this.
 

 
 
Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or wanted something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

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.