The Morning Mix

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Big Monday delivered last night. There were only 15 games on the schedule, but the marquee games delivered. Kansas and Iowa State played in the game of the night. Elijah Johnson went for 39 points, and scored 12-straight points down the stretch. Some will say Iowa State got jobbed. Others will say that last night belonged to Elijah Johnson. Neither group is wrong.

Let’s hit the links.

Tuesday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 1 Indiana @ Minnesota
7:00 p.m. – No. 19 Memphis @ Xavier
7:00 p.m. – Towson @ George Mason
9:00 p.m. – No. 8 Florida @ Tennessee
9:00 p.m. – Nebraska @ No. 17 Wisconsin

 
 
Read of the Day:
Jabari Parker is the most heralded recruit in the class of 2013. The Chicago Grid details how Nike got the inside track towards obtaining the exclusive rights to Parker’s feet. Read it. (Chicago Grid)

Read of the Day:
Using the two marquee games from this past weekend, Georgetown-Syracuse and New Mexico-Colorado State, Matt Brown explains why over-analyzing certain college basketball games is a futile process. (Sports on Earth)
 
 
Top Stories:
For Elijah Johnson, Monday’s comeback was about more than just one win: Elijah Johnson has had his share of struggles this season. But on Monday night, he had all the confidence in the world and was able to put the Jayhawks on his back and carry them to victory. They will need him to play with confidence more often down the stretch. He’s tough to stop when he’s confident.

Iowa State loses to Kansas, but don’t disregard their three-point shooting: Iowa State may have lost last night, but they provided a lot of entertainment thanks to their wide array of long-range marksmanship.

Syracuse’s back court struggles becoming a major concern: Syracuse lost to Marquette last night 74-71, marking the first time the Orange have lost back-to-back games all season. Syracuse’s backcourt has been the key concern in the two recent defeats.

Marquette gets 26 from Gardner in victory over Syracuse: The Marquette big man had himself a big time performance against Syracuse, scoring from inside and outside.

Andrew Wiggins named Naismith High School Player of the Year: Wiggins is the one of the top three unsigned recruits in the class of 2013 and will choose between Kentucky and Florida State.

The Big East’s new TV deal could include a name change:The Big East signed a television deal with ESPN last week and one of that may be made is to change the name of the conference. I think we can all agree that this is the right decision.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Former-USC basketball player Brandon Martin has been named Athletic Director at Cal State Northridge. (Yahoo Sports)

– The 25 finalists were announced for the Lou Henson Award, given to the top mid-major player of the year. (College Insider)

– Memphis’ Antonio Barton is no longer in a walking boot and may be able to return for the postseason. (College Basketball Talk)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– This is what the NCAA Tournament bracket would look like if teams were seeded based on storylines. (Wilmington Star News)

– You’re probably already aware that March has the potential to be absolutely bonkers, but in case you need more convincing, Mike Lopresti previews what may be in store. (USA Today)

– In case you forgot, the USC Trojans are looking for a new head coach. The opening should command some quality attention when the season ends, and according to Doug Gottleib, who knows the SoCal area very well, believes the hiring could set off a chain reaction of events. (CBS Sports)

– Mississippi State has just six scholarship players available for use and are sitting at the bottom of a weak SEC. But regardless of his teams struggles, head coach Rick Ray doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him. (Clarion Ledger)

– La Salle is one of the more interesting bubble teams to watch for as the regular season comes to a close. They have four good wins and only one bad loss. They have the looks of a team that can solidify their NCAA tournament status with a strong run in the A-10 Tournament. (Hoopville)

– At the beginning of the season, the balance of power in the Mountain West was geared towards UNLV and San Diego State, but as the season has progressed, the balance of power has shifted towards Fort Collins and Albuquerque. (College ChalkTalk)

– Memphis will put two large winning streaks on the line tonight when they face Xavier tonight in a rare late-February non-conference showdown. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)

– Saint Mary’s still has some work to do in order to make the NCAA tournament, but their win over Creighton showed that they deserve to be considered. (Rush The Court)

– Blake Griffin advises college players to not rush their pro career. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Andy Katz provides a bevy of thoughts on the hoops world, including his choice for some conference Player of the Year awards. (ESPN)

– LeBron James, the pride of Akron, OH, returns home during the offseason to reunite with Akron Zips head coach Keith Dambrot, who coached LeBron at St. Vicent-St. Mary’s High School. The Zips are currently riding an 18-game winning streak and are ranked inside the top-25. (USA Today)

– Washington State dismissed Reggie Moore back in September, and well, I think it’s safe to asusme that they really missed his services this season. (Coug Center)

– A month ago, it looked like the Missouri Valley may get three teams into the NCAA Tournament, but with Creighton and Wichita State’s recent struggles, it’s quite possible that The Valley only sends one team to the Big Dance. (Eye on College Basketball)
 
 
Odds & Ends
– Two weeks after snapping at ESPN’s Andy Katz, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was back at it again, barking at CBS’ Jeff Goodman. (Fox Sports Wisconsin)

– Denver mascot sparks controversy. Weirdest headline of the day. (Mile High Mids)

– Your “stat of the day”: Illinois has gone 5-1 since John Groce banned Twitter. (The Big Lead)

– In case you’re in to this sort of thing: Karl Hess has worked more games this season than any other referee. (Run The Floor)

– A bizarre story on Junior College hoops in Iowa. A brawl broke out after a game, one player got arrested. The School President bailed the player out, and the team got punished. Just read it. (Deadspin)

– A top-10 list of the ugliest college basketball uniforms of all time. (Lost Letterman)
 
 
Tweet of the Day:

 
 
Picture of the Day:
No words necessary. (H/T @MattMumISU)

source:
 
 
Video of the Day:
Ball State recruit Franko House drills a 3/4 court buzzer-beater.


 
 
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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.