The Morning Mix

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This is the last day of a shortened holiday week for The Morning Mix. If you’re like most of us and taking it easy tonight (in order to prepare for NEw Years), then you will have a handful of quality games to watch tonight.

Considering how there was only one major game on last night, we got a lot of news and notes to get to today.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games:
3:00 p.m. – Rider @ Rutgers
7:00 p.m. – Iona @ St. John’s
7:00 p.m. – Providence @ Brown (NBC Sports Network)
7:30 p.m. – Bucknell @ Loyola (Md.)
7:30 p.m. – Southern Miss @ Morehead State
8:00 p.m. – Baylor @ No. 13 Gonzaga
8:00 p.m. – Jacksonville @ No. 5 Indiana
8:00 p.m. – Oral Roberts @ Memphis
10:00 p.m. – No. 7 Missouri @ UCLA
10:00 p.m. – Yale @ Nevada
 
 
Read(s) of the Day:
With the Battle for the Bluegrass taking place this weekend between Louisville and Kentucky, Dana O’Neil’s piece on the great divide is a must-read. Make sure you read it. (ESPN)

Read(s) of the Day:
It is great to see that Bob Valvano is back in good spirits following a cardiac arrest last week. Make sure you read this great piece from Tim Sullivan. Bob is one of the all-time greats and we wish him nothing but the absolute best. (Courier-Journal)

 
 
Top Stories:
Cincinnati needs to find an offensive threat in the paint, and quickly: The Bearcats suffered their first loss of the season last night in a close battle with New Mexico. But throughout the 40 minutes, it was apparent that the Bearcats had no answer for the Lobos’ 7-foot 250-pound Alex Kirk, who dominated the paint and was the main reason why Cincinnati is no longer unbeaten.

Tony Parker’s homesick tweets say more about UCLA than about Parker: The third member of UCLA’s loaded recruiting class hasn’t been very happy riding the pine while the Bruins team struggles on the hardwood. The Georgia-native sent out cryptic tweets indicating he was homesick, but it does not appear as if he intends to transfer.

UNLV forward Mike Moser returns to practice, but will he play Saturday? UNLV’s star forward has been on the shelf the past three weeks due to a dislocated right elbow, but returned to practice for the first time since December 9th. But it is still unknown if Moser will be able to go against North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Saturday.

Coach Cal to the Nets? Despite his remarkable success at Kentucky, John Calipari has been linked to almost every high-profile NBA opening in recent memory. With the firing of Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson yesterday, speculation swirled about Cal’s desire to return to the NBA. But like most rumors, this one has no legs.

 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– Missouri backup forward Tony Criswell will miss tonight’s game against UCLA with a broken finger. (Rock M Nation)

– Providence guard Vincent Council is set to make his return tonight against Brown. The senior guard injured his hamstring just minutes into the Friars season opener against N.J.I.T. (Providence Journal)

– Northern Iowa freshman Chris Olivier has left the program and will transfer. The forward spent last season as a redshirt and played just once this season, in the season-opener against Wartburg (D-III). (Sporting News)

– The game between Temple and Detroit was postponed yesterday because the Titans were unable to get out of the midwest because of the intense winter storms. The game will hopefully be made up later in the season. (Philahoops.com)

– Pittsburgh sophomore center Malcolm Gilbert has decided to leave the program and will transfer elsewhere. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

– Kwamain Mitchell is set to return for the Saint Louis Billikens and should provide the talent and experience the squad needs to propel them to the top of the A-10 leaderboard. (Billiken Report)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Thanks to a big performance from big-man Alex Kirk, the New Mexico Lobos handed Cincinnati their first loss of the season. (Sporting News)

– Gorgui Dieng will in fact play this weekend when Louisville takes on Kentucky, and thanks to an act of generosity, his parents will be able to see him play college hoops in person for the first time. (The Dagger)

– Luke Winn makes some college hoops predictions for 2013. As is the case with most of Mr. Winn’s work, this is must-read stuff. (Sports Illustrated)

– You may not realize it, but tonight’s game between Loyola (Md.) and Bucknell could have possible NCAA Tournament implications. (Baltimore Sun)

– Jeff Goodman’s “Good N’ Plenty” column doesn’t have a lot of direction to it, but it is loaded with news and notes. Which is why I highly recommend you read it every week. (Eye on College Basketball)

– A look back at the top-5 LIU-Brooklyn games of 2012. I was at No. 2, and let me tell you, I haven’t been to many games that had a more electric environment. I’d go back in a heartbeat. (Blackbirds Hoops Journal)

– Remember that crazy idea to have four basketball games take place simultaneously at Cowboy Stadium? Well, it’s not going to happen. Thank God. It would have been a nightmare. (Sporting News)

– Former-Florida State forward Bernard James has always been a favorite of ours. He’s a former-serviceman who went back to school and played hoops the way it should be played: Hard, gritty, tough and with 100% effort. This story from Mike Scotto is just one of the many reasons why James will always be a fan favorite around these parts. (Real GM)

– A top-10 list of the best basketball shoes worn by teams through the first part of the season. (Nice Kicks)

– Seth Greenberg takes a look at four teams that still have a shot to make the tournament despite a slow start. (ESPN Insider)

– Rush The Court released their all-conference non-conference team for the Big-10. (Rush The Court)

– Glen Logan explains how Kentucky can defeat Louisville as an underdog. (A Sea of Blue)

– Speaking of Kentucky, they desperately need a signature win. You know it’s bad when Dick Vitale is writing about it. (ESPN Dick Vitale)

– Portland State’s scoreboard is turning into an eyesore. (Big Sky Bball)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
Cincinnati suffered their first loss of the season last night to a tough New Mexico squad. The Bearcats shot 9-for-28 from inside the 3-point arc. This photo of Mic Cronin says it all. (The Mock Session)

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Video(s) of the Day:

 
 
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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.