The Morning Mix

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Thursday was a fun night. A handful of teams threw away games with poor execution down the stretch. Niagara on the other hand, capitalized not one, not two but four times.

Let’s hit the links.

Friday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Yale @ Harvard
7:00 p.m. – Rider @ Fairfield
7:00 p.m. – Manhattan @ Siena
8:05 p.m. – Milwaukee @ Valparaiso
9:00 p.m. – Youngstown State @ Detroit
 
 
Top Stories:
VIDEO: Middle Tennessee State survives on buzzer-beating lob: The Blue Raiders got a big road win at Florida International thanks to a well-executed out-of-bounds play at the buzzer.

Investigator questions Mark Emmert, NCAA’s look into enforcement: The NCAA has completely botched the Nevin Shapiro case at Miami, and NCAA investigators are questioning Mark Emmert’s motives.

Is Georgetown better off without Greg Whittington? Yes and no: Since Georgetown’s Greg Whittington was declared academically ineligible, the Hoyas have bounced back from an 0-2 Big East start and are now 5-3. John Thompson III has made two significant changes that have helped the hows produce without their second leading scorer.

Saint Louis forces 23 turnovers in 75-58 win over No. 9 Butler: A stingy Billiken defense took advantage of the Bulldogs’ sloppy ball control. When Saint Louis’ defense is on their game, there as good as it gets.

Tonight we saw the Keith Appling Michigan State needs every night: The fiery guard led a strong second half comeback at the Breslin Center, to knock off the Illini 80-75. The Spartans used a 24-6 second half run to storm back, and eventually take the lead, which they would not relinquish.

Niagara strengthens grip on first place with wild 93-90 overtime victory over Iona: The game of the night was in the MAAC, as Juan’ya Green hit a three pointer with less than a second left to give the Purple Eagles a thrilling win.

Blessing in disguise: A redshirt season allowed Jahii Carson, Ben McLemore to thrive: Arizona State’s Jahii Carson and Kansas’ Ben McLemore are having two of the best freshman seasons in the country. Both players benefited from having to sit out last year and learn the ropes. Their difficult redshirt years look to be paying off in 2013.

Doug McDermott, Cody Zeller among 12 on Oscar Robertson Award midseason watch list: The United States Basketball Writers Association released their mid-season watch list for the Oscar Roberston Player of the Year Award. All the likely candidates made it, with very few, if any, omissions.

Three UCLA freshmen among 12 on midseason Wayman Tisdale Award watch list: The USBWA also released their mid-season watch list for the Freshman of the Year. The list is headlined by a trio of UCLA rookies, a duo of Wolverines, and a bunch of talented young freshman. There were some notable snubs, such as St. John’s JaKarr Sampson, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon and Xavier’s Semaj Christon.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– New Mexico State forward Tyrone Watson has been suspended indefinitely due to his suspected involvement in a beating of a 19-year old New Mexico State student. (College Basketball Talk)

– Velton Jones, the top player for Robert Morris, went down early with a shoulder injury in the Colonials 71-61 loss to St. Francis. If Jones is out for an extended period of time, RMU could be in a spot of trouble. (Big Apple Buckets)

– UNC guard P.J. Hairston remains doubtful for the Tar Heels game against Virginia Tech this weekend. (Fayetteville Observer)

– Michigan State used a big second half run to secure a victory over Illinois. But the Spartans suffered two injuries in their backcourt. Both Gary HArris and Travis Trice suffered nagging injuries and did not return. (MLive.com)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Sam Dekker is a freshman at Wisconsin. In two years, he is going to be a superstar. You’ve been warned. (Rush The Court)

– This is the first real reporting I’ve seen on this subject, and I had been questioning it months ago. I knew something was askew. But alas, I did nothing. But on Thursday, according to Deadspin (Of course) a lawsuit claims that the former athletic director and assistant basketball coach at Detroit had an ongoing affair. In October, the two resigned from their posts within hours of each other. Then another assistant coach, Carlos Briggs, was fired the next day. If you followed The Morning Mix on November 1st, November 3rd, and December 7th, you’d be all over this. (Deadspin)

– A nice preview on the big Big-5 tilt this weekend between Temple and St. Joe’s, two teams both struggling to find consistency. (PhilaHoops.com)

– Indiana State is hoping that a solid BracketBusters opponent will help them boost their ever-growing resume. The Sycamores are hoping to be the third Missouri Valley Conference team to make the tournament. It’s expected that both Creighton and Wichita State will earn automatic bids. (ESPN)

– Jeff Borzello covers a lot of ground in his “Recruiting Rodeo”, including the Class of 2013 players that could end up being “busts”. (Eye on College Basketball)

– ESPN raised a record $1.6 million during Jimmy-V Week back in late November. (Yahoo Sports)

– A psychedelic psychoanalysis of Kentucky’s Alex Poythress, with the soothing sounds of The Alan Parsons Project. (A Sea of Blue)
 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
NC-State sharpshooter Scott Wood hit a pretty nifty trick shot yesterday. But hey buddy, if you want to get famous, you have to do more than one. Nobody wants to watch just one trick shot. (Backing The Pack)


 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
Adreian Payne with a Payneful ally-oop. Payneful. Yeah I know, not somemy best work. (Run The Floor)


 
 
Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or want 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.