The Morning Mix

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Marshall Henderson got his first real taste of the big time last night, and while he finished with 21 points, his Ole Miss squad dropped their first SEC game of the season to a Kentucky team that actually looked pretty good. But I guess that will happen when Nerlens Noel blocks 12 shots.

We got a lot to discuss and a lot on tap for today.

This is January basketball for ya, folks.

Let’s hit the links.

Wednesday’s Top games:
6:00 p.m. – Villanova @ Notre Dame
6:30 p.m. – Northwestern @ No. 1 Michigan
7:00 p.m. – Rutgers @ No. 24 Cincinnati
7:00 p.m. – Richmond @ Temple
7:00 p.m. – Oklahoma @ Baylor
8:00 p.m. – No. 17 Missouri @ LSU
8:00 p.m. – No. 5 Duke @ Wake Forest
8:00 p.m. – Texas @ No. 18 Kansas State
8:00 p.m. – Maryland @ Florida State
8:00 p.m. – Iowa State @ Oklahoma State
8:00 p.m. – South Carolina @ No. 4 Florida
8:00 p.m. – Missouri State @ No. 21 Creighton
8:30 p.m. – No. 3 Indiana @ Purdue
9:00 p.m. – No. 14 Miami @ Virginia Tech
9:00 p.m. – No. 20 New Mexico @ Wyoming
9:00 p.m. – Boise State @ Colorado State
9:00 p.m. – Dayton @ Xavier
10:00 p.m. – USC @ UCLA
11:00 p.m. – No. 10 Oregon @ Stanford
 
 
Read of the Day:
Some excellent points are made here about the talent drain in college hoops and the lack of shooting acumen. Read it. (Basketball Predictions)

Read of the Day:
Andy Glockner’s “Bubble Watch”, ya’ll. Git some. Read it. (Sports Illustrated)
 
 
Top Stories:
Kentucky quites Marshall Henderson, beats No. 16 Ole Miss: We all expected the Ole Miss sharpshooter to put on a performance for the ages, instead we got a glimpse of what Kentucky could look like if they decide to click. Kyle Wiltjer logged a career-high 26 points and Nerlens Noel set the Kentucky single-game record for blocked shots.

Poor shooting sinks No. 15 Wichita State in loss to Indiana State: The Shockers shot 27 percent from the floor and did not score a field goal in the nearly the final nine minutes of the second half, on their way to a 68-55 loss to Indiana State on Tuesday night. This ISU win moves the Sycamores to 7-3 in league play, one game behind Wichita State and half a game behind Creighton.

Road struggles continue for No. 19 NC State, Wolfpack fall to Joe Harris and Virginia: The Virginia Cavaliers, by focusing on a slow half-court offense, outlasted No. 19 NC State late to secure a big 58-55 win. NC State had four straight opportunities in the final three minutes to tie or take the lead and could not capitalize, culminating in a final three-point heave from guard Scott Wood in the final seconds that was off the mark to give Virginia the win.

New Mexico State’s Tyrone Watson lone suspect in gruesome assault case: New Mexico State senior Tyrone Watson is at the center of a police investigation after allegedly beating fellow 19-year-old NMSU student Miguel Rascon, leaving him with facials fractures, a broken nose, and 10 stitches.

Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey reportedly removed from basketball arena after incident with campus police: All-American Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey was ejected from last week’s UCLA-Arizona game after a confrontation with campus police. Amid the confrontation with campus police, the running back dropped the “Do you know who I am” line. Classic.

UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad ‘day-to-day’ with illness: UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad did not practice Tuesday and is listed as “day-to-day” as he battles a gastrointestinal illness. His status for the Bruin’s game tonight against USC is undecided.

Jordan Morgan is somehow not seriously injured: Look at this picture and tell me that you wouldn’t be on the shelf for 4-6 weeks. But some how, some way, Michigan big-man Jordan Morgan is not seriously injured following this ghastly ankle injury.

Erick Green doesn’t need your lousy scoring title: The Virginia Tech wing is one of the top scorers in the country yet gets very little credit or recognition. But that seems to be just fine with him.

Florida grabs No. 1 seed in East in latest bracket: Dave Ommen, College Basketball Talk’s resident bracketologist, is back with another bracket breakdown. He’s got Kansas as the top No.1-seed and Kentucky, Saint Louis, Iowa State, Indiana State, and Arizona State as the last five in.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston was taken off the court on a stretcher last night against Boston College after suffering a pretty nasty concussion. (Sporting News)

– Missouri’s Laurence Bowers is expected to return tonight against LSU. Bowers hasn’t played since injuring his knee against Alabama on January 6. (Eye on College Basketball)

– New Mexico State center Tshilidzi Nephawe was cleared to practice yesterday for the first time since undergoing surgery in December. (Las Cruces Sun-News)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Nerlens Noel finished with just two points last night against Ole Miss, but was pivotal in the Wildcats’ signature road win, as he set the Wildcats’ single-game record for blocked shots. Murphy Holloway said after the game that Noel was the best shot blocker he has ever played against. (Kentucky Sports Radio)

– A fan at the Ole Miss-Kentucky game threw ice on to the court. As he is one to do, Marshall Henderson picked up the ice and threw it back. This.Guy.Is.Awesome. (The Big Lead)

– Indiana’s use of the 2-3 zone against Michigan State this weekend, a game they won 75-70, was heavily scrutinized by the media. But Dustin Dopriak explains why the zone wasn’t actually that bad. (Hoosier Scoop)

– Virginia’s win over North Carolina State last night will certainly help people forget about the Cavaliers’ loss to 2-17. The Cavaliers are going to be one of the more interesting teams come Selection Sunday. (The Dagger)

– I for one though Washington State’s Brock Motum was going to have a Pac-12 PoY-type year. But the Australia-native has struggled to regain his 2012 form. That has, however, opened up the door for Mike Ladd to emerge as a scoring option. (Coug Center)

– Minnesota got back on track following a four-game losing streak by drubbing Nebraska. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

– Federal Judge Claudia Wilken made a ruling on Tuesday that may allow NCAA athletes to legally pursue TV money. (ESPN)

– Joe Lunardi is starting to pop up more frequently, which means March Madness is just around the corner. The world-class bracketologist provides his list of teams that may or may not be in good shape come Selection Sunday. (ESPN Insider)

– Some good press on Oklahoma State freshman Phil Forte, who is often overshadowed by his high school teammate and current Cowboy teammate Marcus Smart. (The Oklahoman)

– Deshaun Thomas scored 25 points last night in the Buckeye’s 58-49 win over Wisconsin and is playing as well as anybody in the country. (Columbus Dispatch)

– With Indiana State beating Wichita State, a team who beat Creighton, is the Missouri Valley Conference a three-team race? (Catch and Shoot Blog)
 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
Just one of the many faces of Marshall Henderson. (The Big Lead)

source:
 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
Ra’Shad James from Northwood University (D-II) needs to be in the NCAA Dunk Contest. Dude can soar. Somebody book this kid a trip to Atlanta.


 
 
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Report: Western Kentucky’s Lamonte Bearden staying in 2018 NBA Draft

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Western Kentucky guard Lamonte Bearden will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft after hiring an agent, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-3 Bearden just completed his redshirt junior season with the Hilltoppers as he averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. A slippery guard with good size, Bearden shot 47 percent from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe while also getting in the passing lanes for 1.7 steals per game.

Although Bearden has good size and athleticism at lead guard, his perimeter jumper has been inconsistent during his college career. He was 31 percent from three-point range (a career high) this past season. Starting his college career at Buffalo, Bearden helped lead the Bulls to the NCAA tournament before opting to play in Conference USA for Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers will certainly miss Bearden’s presence in their backcourt as the program has seven new players signed for next season.

USC makes a statement landing Class of 2019 four-star forward Isaiah Mobley

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USC ended a strong week of recruiting with another major statement on Friday afternoon as four-star Class of 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley pledged to the Trojans.

The second major Class of 2019 commitment for USC during the week, the 6-foot-9 power forward joins five-star big man Onyeka Okongwu. The Compton Magic teammates should be able to help replace the loss of Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, with Mobley playing the skilled, floor-spacing Boatwright’s role and Okongwu providing the interior energy of Metu.

Having two highly-touted big men commit in the same week is huge for USC. And it looks like the start of even bigger things in a continually-evolving SoCal recruiting war against Pac-12 rival UCLA.

Landing both Mobley and Okongwu is significant for the Trojans for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, both come from the famous Compton Magic grassroots program that runs on the adidas Gauntlet. While landing AAU teammates from a regional program is common for high-major programs of USC’s stature, the commitments signify that the Trojans are the ones with the biggest pull with the Magic at the current moment.

And the Magic used to get raided by UCLA.

In the past few years, the Bruins signed T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill from the Compton Magic. Now, it’s USC who looks to be in the driver’s seat recruiting the program.

The Trojans aren’t done, either.

Newly-hired USC assistant coach Eric Mobley is the father Isaiah Mobley, as well as five-star Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley. As Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi noted in his story about Isaiah, “Barring something strange happening, look for the younger Mobley to join his brother and father by committing to USC within the next two weeks.”

That would mean the Trojans would have landed three top-30 caliber big men in the span of a few weeks. That allows the USC coaching staff to recruit other positions extremely hard. Outside of Kentucky, USC has arguably the best future recruiting status of any program in the country.

The Trojans have taken full advantage of UCLA letting go popular assistant coach David Grace. The Bruins are still pulling in top-100 prospects, as evidenced by Grant Sherfield and Jaime Jaquez’s commitments in the Class of 2019, but losing two Magic kids in a week to a rival has to sting.

Considering where USC was last fall with the FBI investigation, who saw this type of recruiting swing coming? Other programs involved in the investigation like Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State have landed solid recruits. They also haven’t pulled in nearly the high-level talent that the Trojans currently have committed.

Even amidst the uncertainty surrounding the FBI investigation, USC is still pulling in elite talent while beating local rivals. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Trojans can continue to recruit at this level as they try to fill out the rest of an important recruiting class.

USF signs Oklahoma State transfer Zack Dawson

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USF landed a major addition on Friday as the school announced the signing of Oklahoma State transfer guard Zack Dawson.

The 6-foot-3 Dawson is a former consensus top-100 prospect coming out of high school as he’ll have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules. A native of the region, Dawson will have three years of eligibility remaining once he’s able to play again.

Dismissed from Oklahoma State on Dec. 14 for violating team rules, Dawson averaged 4.4 points and1.6 assists per contest as he only suited up in five games for the Cowboys. Once Dawson is eligible to play for USF, he gives the Bulls a potentially dynamic backcourt along with rising sophomore guard David Collins.

“We are excited to welcome Zack back home to Florida as a member of the Bulls family,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said in a release. “He is a dynamic and versatile guard who can impact the game in a variety of ways. Zack comes from one of the best high school programs in the state, South Miami High School, so he immediately brings a championship attitude here to the University of South Florida.”

This is a really nice pickup for the Bulls, as they utilized a local transfer to help bolster the roster. Landing top-100 kids out of high school is going to be tough until USF boosts its basketball credibility. But getting a former top-100 player on the transfer market is a solid approach to building the Bulls into a respectable threat.

Michael Porter Jr.: ‘I’m the best player in this draft’

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The more I think about it, the more that Michael Porter Jr. is becoming the most interesting prospect at the top of the 2018 NBA Draft.

As a high school senior, he was considered by many to be the top player in the class, a 6-foot-10 combo-forward with a lethal three-point shot, NBA dunk contest athleticism and the versatility to, one day, be a multi-positional defender that would seamlessly fit into fit into the modern NBA.

But his one and only season at Missouri was derailed by back surgery, and that has allowed the rest of the class of 2017 to shine while we have focused on everything else that comes with drafting Porter. The reputation that he had for the majority of his high school career of being soft. The intel that was coming out of Missouri, that he was cocky and arrogant and something of a bad teammate. Questions about whether or not he is truly a wing or a four, more like a more athletic Lauri Markkanen.

When the only thing that we’ve had a chance to see this season is an out-of-shape Porter struggling in postseason games, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that his hype train has derailed.

“I know without a doubt that I’m the — I played against all these guys, they’re all great players — but I’m the best player in this draft,” Porter told ESPN. “And I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”

And therein lies the conundrum for any team drafting him.

I have little doubt that Porter is going to be able to score and score a lot in the NBA. I think he and Bagley are the safest bets to average 20 points at the NBA level before their rookie contract runs out.

But putting up points and playing on winning basketball teams are not one and the same. For a ten-year stretch after his rookie season, Rudy Gay averaged at least 17.2 points while making the playoffs once during that stretch. Is that what Porter is going to turn into at the next level? Or will be find a way to become the kind of NBA defender his athleticism says he should be and, by the time he signs his first contract extension, end up the player that Paul George is?

The mitigating factor here is that Porter is going to do a fantastic job in every interview he has. He’s an intelligent, charismatic and articulate kid that is going to be able to sell himself. The red flags that he has aren’t going to show when he’s sitting down in front of NBA general managers.

They would have shown up — or been written off — if there was a season’s worth of game-tape available, but there isn’t. What that means is that scouts are going to have to decide whether or not Porter, who by all accounts had a very impressive senior season in high school, is that player or the one that had the reputation for being soft for years before that.

And all of that is going to come after the doctor’s have a chance to examine his back to see if the surgery he underwent fixed what was wrong, or if this is the kind of situation where a recurrence is likely.

The result is the widest range for any player at the top of the draft.

He could sell someone on taking him as a top four pick. He could also slide his way down to the Knicks at No. 9 or the 76ers at No. 10.

Which is what makes him the most interesting prospect at the top of this draft.

P.J. Washington ‘definitely going back to school’ without first round guarantee

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Kentucky forward P.J. Washington is one of the handful of players that currently finds themselves in the tenuous position of having their name in the NBA draft pool without having a clear picture of where, exactly, they are going to end up getting picked.

Will they be a late-first round pick? Will he be an early second round pick? Will he even be drafted at all?

Washington told reporters at the NBA combine this week that, if he’s a first round pick, he’ll be heading to the NBA. If he only gets a second round guarantee, he’ll be returning to school.

As we detailed last week, getting selected in the second round does not mean a player is destined to end up being broke his first year out of school. In the last six drafts, only one college player picked in the top ten picks of the second round (31-40) did not receive a guaranteed contract. In the 2017 NBA Draft, every college player selected in the top 50 received a guaranteed deal of at least one year, and Thomas Bryant was the only player whose one-year guaranteed deal was at the league minimum.

That doesn’t mean that Washington should leave Kentucky if he’s going to be a second round pick. If he returns to school, becomes a 42 percent three-point shooter (and can make free throws) and proves that he’s more versatile defensively than he was his year, then he could move up into the first round in a weaker 2019 draft.

It’s a risk for him, financially, to leave after this year if he doesn’t get that first round guarantee. It’s also a risk to return to school, where the best-case scenario isn’t always what happens.

I don’t envy the decision he has to make, but I am glad that Washington will have every chance in the world to be informed about the decision.