The Morning Mix

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What a weekend.

Five overtimes, half-court buzzer-beaters, more overtime, Miami Heat-approved off-the-backboard dunks, bizarre finishes, and even more overtime.

The only thing the weekend lacked was consistency. We’re just inside five weeks away from Selection Sunday, and I can think of roughly 15 teams that could win the National Championship and about 45 teams that could lose it.

Let’s hit the links.

Monday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 24 Marquette @ No. 20 Georgetown
7:00 p.m. – Old Dominion @ Delaware (NBC Sports Network)
8:00 p.m. – TCU @ Oklahoma
9:00 p.m. – No. 13 Kansas State @ No. 5 Kansas
 
 
Read of the Day:
Greg Bishop of the New York Times wrote a tremendous profile piece on the trials and tribulations of ESPN analyst and former-Naismith Player of the Year Jay Williams. After being drafted by Chicago with the No.2 draft pick in 2002, Williams suffered a career-ending leg injury in a motorcycle accident. Even you Duke-haters will have difficulty rooting against Williams after reading this brilliant story. READ THIS. Seriously, this is the best thing you will read all week. (New York Times)

Read of the Day:
Eamonn Brennan was at the Louisville-Notre Dame five overtime thriller. His take is as good as they come. Read it. (ESPN)
 
 
Top Stories:
Victor Oladipo’s importance shows as No. 1 Indiana rolls over No. 10 Ohio State: The junior guard struggled on Thursday during the Hoosiers buzzer-beating loss at Illinois. But on Sunday and entirely different Oladipo showed up at Ohio State. He scored 26 points on 8-of-10 shooting and was the engine behind Indiana’s offensive attack, as the Hoosiers cruised to an impressive 81-68 win.

Garrick Sherman emerges for 1st time in Big East play to lead Notre Dame in 5 OTs: The Michigan State-transfer did not play a single minute in regulation, but came on and scored 17 points and 6 rebounds and was the driving force behind the Irish’s dramatic 5OT win over Louisville.

Return of Syracuse’s James Southerland changes national picture: With the return of their best shooter from an academic suspension, Syracuse is once again a legitimate contender for the National Championship.

Could Miami take over No. 1 spot in the AP poll after win over UNC? With four top-10 teams losing this week, a long with another dominant performance from the Hurricanes, could Miami take over the No. 1 spot when the new rankings are released later today?

VIDEO: Ben Brust thrusts Wisconsin into B1G title contention: Ben Brust hit two huge shots, one being a half-court buzzer-beater to send the game in to overtime, as Wisconsin got back in to the Big-Ten title discussion with a win over Michigan.

Don’t dismiss Virginia’s NCAA tournament hopes just yet: A week after suffering an ugly loss to Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers earned a quality road victory against Maryland, and are still in the hunt for an at-large bid.

No. 21 Missouri makes a much-needed statement vs. Ole Miss: The Missouri Tigers got a much-needed victory this weekend as they rolled over Ole Miss at home. The Tigers still haven’t won a true road game, but a win against a credible opponent is what they needed, and they got it, despite an ugly altercation towards the end of the game.

Bizarre officiating allows Khalif Wyatt, Temple to escape with road win over Dayton: Saturday finished with a five overtime thriller but began with a bizarre final seven seconds of the game. Temple escaped thanks to a big shot from Khalif Wyatt, but also some luck and some odd officiating.

 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Texas’ Myck Kabongo will return to the court for the first time this season on Wednesday when the Longhorns face Iowa State.Kabongo had been serving a NCAA suspension for receiving impermissible benefits. (Sporting News)

– Charlotte guard JT Thompson just can’t catch a break. The Virginia Tech-transfer missed two seasons in Blacksburg because of torn ACLs. On Wednesday against Temple, he tore his right ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. Nobody deserves knees like that. (Pickin’ Splinters)

– Florida forward Erik Murphy left the Gator’s 82-58 win over Mississippi State with an ankle sprain on Saturday. The Gators can ill afford to lose another member of their front court. Late last week it was announced that forward Will Yuguete will miss the rest of the season due to knee surgery. (Alligator Army)

– Jacksonville State head coach James Green has been suspended by the OVC for one game after receiving two technical fouls and an ejection during his team’s loss to Tennessee Tech on Saturday. (ESPN)

– San Jose State’s top scorer James Kinney has been suspended for the remainder of the season. He has sat out the last eight games for the Spartans, all of them losses. (Oakland Tribune)

– On Saturday Mississippi State suspended their most experienced guard Jalen Steele for violating team rules. Things have gone from bad to worse in Starkville. (Clarion-Ledger)

– Memphis junior Antonio Barton injured his foot in the first minute of the Tigers’ road victory over Southern Mississippi on Saturday. He will get X-rays today but early reports indicate that his foot is likely broken. This would be a substantial loss for a Memphis team that has been gelling of late and dominating Conference-USA play. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)

 
 
Observations & Insight:
– The Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball team continues to cope with the loss of assistant coach Monica Quan, who was murdered by former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, who remains at-large. (Sporting News)

– St. Bonaventure’s may have earned the best road win of the season this past weekend, and it’s not because of what happened on the court. (The Dagger)

– NC-State’s Scott Wood, one of the nation’s premiere 3-pointer shooters, hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Clemson to avoid another embarrassing upset for the Wolfpack. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Montana beat North Dakota 78-58 on Saturday for their 28th consecutive conference win, a new Big Sky record. This is a team you need to watch for come March. (Big Sky BBall)

– Fox Sports is interested in the TV rights for the Catholic-7, and has been for a long time. (VU Hoops)

– Mike DeCourcy looks ahead at the top games and match-ups of the upcoming week. (Sporting News)

– Seth Davis recaps a wild week in his latest installment of “Fast Break”. (Sports Illustrated)

– Dana O’Neil on the magnificent job Jim Larranaga is doing with the Miami Hurricanes. Coach of the Year for certain. (ESPN)

– More discussion on why Miami should be the No. 1 team in the country this week. (Wilmington Star News)

– Old Dominion nearly pulled the upset of the weekend against CAA-leading Northeastern. it would have been their second straight victory following the firing of head coach Blaine Taylor. The search for a new head coach is about to get underway and is a high-profile gig for a sharp up-and-commer. (Virginian-Pilot)

– Aaron Craft is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country, but his offensive skills are still somewhat undeveloped. Can a guy like him find a spot in the NBA? (Land-Grant Holy Land)

– John Gasaway dissects some of the nation’s most underutilized players. (ESPN Insider)

Odds & Ends:
– Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, decked out in goofy attire as usual, were in attendance as the MiamI Hurricanes dunked all over North Carolina en route to a 87-61 victory. (The Dagger)

– A solid “Where are they now?” on former Bradley star Patrick O’Bryant. (Peoria Journal-Star)

– The Cameron Crazies lost a bunch of street cred last week, but C’mon, a terrorist organization? This is just silly. (The Blue Zone)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
Butler was in the nation’s capital this weekend and escapes with a 59-56 win over George Washington. But before the game, the Butler mascots, Blue II and Blue III aka Trip, met with their bulldog brethren, Georgetown’s Jack the Bulldog and, Jack Jr. aka J.J. If this isn’t reason enough for Butler to join the Catholic-7, I don’t know what is.

source:
 
 
Video of the Day:
A Notre Dame student made a halfcourt shot on ESPN Gameday and won $18,000. Rece Davis got excited. (The Big Lead)

Video of the Day:
The Wisconsin Badgers celebrated their victory over Michigan by dancing to Ke$ha. Of course they did.

Video of the Day:
Tom Izzo is confused. (H/T @WorldofIsaac)


 
 
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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.