The Morning Mix

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Championship Week is here.  By this time next week, five conferences will have handed out auto-bids. But before we can get to that, we there is a lot of news and notes to digest from a busy weekend in college hoops.

The final regular season meeting of the “Border War” was a legendary affair. An Instant Classic. Game-of-the-Year. Why is this rivalry ending again? College basketball needs this game. If this rivalry is going to end, they certainly put on one heckuva finale. Take a gander at a solid photo gallery from the final “Border War”

– Chuck Landon takes Memphis to task. This article doesn’t accomplish much, but it sure is entertaining

–  After beating Vanderbilt on Saturday, Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was quoted as saying “I’m graduating here. I’m not going Anywhere. I’m staying at Kentucky as of now”  and “I’m dead serious. I don’t know why y’all laughing?” But the freshman forward backtracked a bit, saying “I’m going to do whatever is best for me.” It’s a near-guarantee that MKG would be a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman then caused a mini-riot in Lexington when he tweeted that power-broker “World Wide Wes” would factor into MKG’s decision. In Goodman’s defense, it’s not an illogical thought at all. Nor is it an accusation or loaded opinion with hidden agenda

– Speaking of Kentucky, what do the Wildcats need to do before postseason play begins? In case you haven’t watched Kentucky play at all this season, you should probably know that Anthony Davis is an absolute animal. But will a perfect regular season bode well for the ‘Cats come postseason time?

The NCAA handed down it’s (harsh) punishment to former-Radford coach Brad Greenberg, the brother of Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg

Nebraska boosters took out a full-page advertisement  in order to show their support for Doc Sadler, the Huskers head basketball coach

– It was announced very shortly before the tip-off on Sunday that Miami center Reggie Johnson was ruled ineligible to play. The ‘Canes did well without him, beating in-state rivals Florida State

– Missouri State’s Kyle Weems could have left after last season. After all, he had graduated, and with a year of eligibility left, was being pursued by high-major teams. But he decided to finish what he started

– We all saw what Pat Knight said following his team’s loss to Sam Houston State on Wednesday night. If you haven’t already done it, take a look. But maybe Knight was on to something. While the rant was well, “colorful”, it did provide some national spotlight on the small Southland Conference school. Plus, parents of a few of the players were fully supportive of what Knight had to say, and on Saturday his Lamar Cardinals went out and smacked Stephen F. Austin 72-49. So, instead of asking if it was “Rant of the Year“, maybe we should be asking if it was the “savviest Coaching Technique of the Year”?

If you didn’t read this already, make sure you do. Dan Hanner provides an excellent breakdown of the top coaches in the country based on player development and recruiting

– We reached our quota this weekend for “dancing coach videos”. On Friday night, Marquette’s Buzz Williams two-stepped on West Virginia’s court, and on Sunday, Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan did something vaguely resembling a dance move

A nice little preview of the Horizon League Tournament

A nice little tournament tracker to get your week off on the right track

– Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey is in line to possibly receive his fourth “Coach of the Year” award

– Jim Calhoun plans on making his return to the sideline on March 3 when the UConn Huskies take on Pittsburgh in the regular season finale

– A former-Oregon State basketball player was arrested on drug trafficking charges

– Doug Gottlieb wonders if the UConn Huskies can make another remarkable post-season run

– At the beginning of the season, did anyone project Xavier as a bubble team? If you did, you’re lying

A nice write-up on Wisconsin redshirt freshman Evan Anderson and the value of patience

– Just in case you weren’t already aware that message boards breed hate and unnecessary vitriol, read the solid-take from Boiled Sports

– Alabama head coach Anthony Grant is getting the job done this season. Sure, the record might not indicate the success he’s had, but he is getting it done. On and off the court

– Speaking of Alabama, Levi Randolph almost killed ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes during the Crimson Tide’s victory at Arkansas

– Don’t look now, but the Ivy League title race is starting to heat up

– After starting the season 1-11, the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils are looking to finish up an undefeated SWAC season

– Michigan forward Jon Horford is officially done for the year and will take a medical redshirt

– Tennessee might not make the tournament this year, but the team is improving leaps and bounds under new head coach Cuonzo Martin

– Looking for a sleeper pick in the Summit League Tournament? How about IUPUI, the hottest team in the league? What if we were talking about the Big East Tournament? May I suggest St. Johns?

– Former-Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese put college presidents “on blast”

– When a game-winner is outdone by a full-court buzzer-beater

Roach scores 20 as Texas beats No. 8 Texas Tech 67-58

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AUSTIN, Texas — Kerwin Roach II scored 20 points in a surprise return to the lineup and Texas got another home win over a Top 25 opponent in a week, beating No. 8 Texas Tech 67-58 Wednesday night.

Roach, who had missed the previous two games with a fracture in his left, non-shooting hand, was expected to miss a few more. But he suited up for pregame warmups and was cleared to play right before tipoff.

Roach gave the Longhorns a new threat both inside and out with his 3-point shooting and aggressive drives to the basket. The Longhorns — who beat then-No. 16 TCU 99-98 in double-overtime last Wednesday — also played their best defense in weeks, anchored by freshman center Mo Bamba under the basket. Bamba had 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

Texas (12-6, 2/3 Big 12) led by 13 early in the second half before the Red Raiders rallied to get within four. But the Longhorns got two big 3-pointers by Eric Davis, Jr., including one with 3:28 left that pushed the lead back to 10.

Jarrett Culver scored 16 points to lead Texas Tech (15-3, 4-2).

BIG PICTURE

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are having their best season in years and second-year coach Chris Beard has the program contending for the Big 12 title. But they missed a chance to pick up an important road win and dropped their 22nd consecutive game in Austin. The Red Raiders haven’t beaten Texas in Austin since 1996, when both programs were in the old Southwest Conference.

Texas: The Longhorns will get a shot of confidence in an inconsistent season with another big win. Most of all the Longhorns showed they can protect a big lead, even if just barely. Texas let a double-digit second half lead get away in a crushing road loss at Oklahoma State last week.

UP NEXT

Texas Tech plays at Iowa State

Texas plays at No. 6 West Virginia

SMU lands massive résumé win at No. 7 Wichita State

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It’s too strong to say that SMU saved their season on Wednesday night.

The Mustangs already own a neutral court win over No. 14 Arizona. They also knocked off USC, Boise State and UCF, all of which will be varying degrees of “good win” come Selection Sunday. That loss to Northern Iowa doesn’t look good today, and it’s hard to imagine losses to Tulane and Temple – the latter of which came at home – are going to age gracefully, but in a year where it seems like everyone is mediocre at best, a marquee win combined with a stable of solid résumé wins could end up being enough.

That said, on Wednesday, SMU sure went a long way towards making sure they won’t have to sweat out the bracket reveal, as the Mustangs went into Koch Arena and knocked off No. 7 Wichita State, 83-78. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for SMU.

The star of the show was Shake Milton. A player that has had NBA hype for what seems like the better part of a decade, Milton had a career-high 33 points on Wednesday night, the best game of his career in what has been a breakout junior season. He did it on 11-for-14 shooting, making 5-for-6 from three and outdueling fellow NBA Draft prospect Landry Shamet, who finished with 20 points and 10 assists.

SMU now has two elite wins to pin at the top of the tournament profile – both of which came away from home – and it affords them a bit of breathing room as they matriculate through American play.

This win isn’t just a big deal for SMU.

It matters for the American has a whole as well.

Heading into today, it looked like the conference was trending towards getting just two bids to the Big Dance – Wichita State and Cincinnati – and that, in turn, created a problem for everyone else in the conference. If there are only two good teams in the league then there are only two teams that American bubble dwellers can beat and improve their résumé. We won’t know how much this affects SMU’s computer numbers until they update, but it is safe to assume that a win over a team that is top 20 in both the RPI and KenPom will help significantly. Entering Tuesday, SMU was rated 83rd in the RPI.

Assuming that Jarrey Foster’s knee sprain doesn’t turn out to be serious – he left the game after six minutes and did not return – than this day could not have possibly gone better for the Mustangs.

On the other hand, it does raise some questions about this Wichita State team.

Specifically defensively.

As we noted earlier today, Wichita’s defense hasn’t exactly been great this season. They entered today ranked outside the top 25 in defensive efficiency, and the return of Markis McDuffie, who has yet to return to the starting lineup, has not exactly helped matters.

But it really came to a head on Wednesday night. SMU scored 83 points on 60 possessions, or 1.383 points-per-possession, which is the worst ass-kicking that the Shockers have received under Gregg Marshall, who has been employed by the school for a decade. The only time anyone came close to that involved Doug McDermott going for 41 points and shooting 15-for-18 from the floor.

And that game came on the road.

I wrote a column earlier this season wondering whether or not we could start discussing Wichita State as potentially the best team in the country. That column was predicated on the idea that the Shockers were going to be one of the nation’s best defensive teams.

Because they always are.

During this six-year run of consecutive NCAA tournaments, the Shockers have never finished lower than 26th in defensive efficiency. The last four years they’ve finished in the top 15, and that is despite playing in the Missouri Valley. (KenPom adjusts his efficiency numbers for opponent strength.)

Wichita State was 26th entering today.

They’re now 55th.

Only two teams have ever reached a national title game with a lower defensive efficiency.

This is a problem that badly needs fixing, but if McDuffie wasn’t the answer, is there one?

Texas Tech honors Andrew Jones before game against Texas

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Texas Tech became the latest team to show support towards Texas sophomore Andrew Jones, who was diagnosed with leukemia last week.

The Red Raiders are facing the Longhorns on Wednesday as they wore shooting shirts with Jones’ No. 1 and name on the back, joining Oklahoma State as recent opponents to show support.

So far, over $104,000 has been raised in just over five days for the Andrew Jones and Family Support Fund, which has been started by the University of Texas to help the family pay for medical expenses.

No. 1 Villanova leads by 44, beats Ewing, Georgetown 88-56

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WASHINGTON — Top-ranked Villanova led by as many as 44 points — 44! — and gave Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing a rude welcome back to the schools’ rivalry, handing the Hoyas their worst loss in more than 40 years, 88-56 on Wednesday night.

Jalen Brunson led the way with 18 points and seven assists for Villanova (17-1, 5-1 Big East), which finished 17 for 33 on 3s, while Georgetown went 4 for 15.

Mikal Bridges scored 17 for the Wildcats, winners of seven consecutive games against the Hoyas, Villanova’s longest streak in a series that dates to 1922.

The last time Ewing faced Villanova in any capacity was in the last game of his college playing career at Georgetown, a surprising 66-64 victory for the underdog Wildcats in the 1985 NCAA championship game. It was quite clear, quite quickly, on Wednesday that there would be no such tight outcome —nor any chance of an upset by Georgetown (12-6, 2-5).

This is Ewing’s first season as a head coach at any level, and he opted to go with an easy-as-can-be non-conference schedule to try to build his players’ confidence. Now that league play is underway, especially against a foe like Villanova, the gap between the Hoyas and the best teams is obvious.

It was 42-20 at halftime, and Georgetown to that point had more turnovers (nine) than made baskets, shooting 8 for 26, including 0 for 8 on 3s.

Villanova just kept pushing the margin after the break, going up by 30, then 40, and then reaching the apex at 88-44 on a layup by Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree with about 3½ minutes remaining. Less than a minute later, Villanova coach Jay Wright finally sent on the subs and pulled any remaining starters.

INJURED AND ILL

Villanova: Reserves Tim Delaney and Jermaine Samuels sat out with a virus.

Georgetown: Backup PG Trey Dickerson left in the first half with a back spasm and did not return.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: Since its only loss, 101-93 at Butler on Dec. 30, Villanova has won four games in a row, propelled by an efficient offense that gets a lot of its work done from beyond the arc.

Georgetown: This was the Hoyas’ largest margin of defeat since a 33-point loss to Maryland, 104-71, on Dec. 10, 1974.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Travels to UConn on Saturday in a matchup between former Big East rivals and the Wildcats’ first game at Hartford in five years. Villanova is 12-0 in non-conference games heading into the last one on their schedule.

Georgetown: Hosts St. John’s on Saturday, the teams’ second meeting in less than two weeks. The Hoyas won 69-66 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 9

NCAA pushes up college hoops start date as Champions Classic will open the season

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The NCAA is pushing up the start of the college basketball regular season to begin on the Tuesday before the second Friday in November.

That means the Champions Classic will open the college basketball season in 2018-19 as announced in an official release on Wednesday. So now, we get Duke vs. Kentucky and Michigan State vs. Kansas in Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to open the college basketball regular season?

Yes, please.

This is a very smart move for the NCAA as men’s and women’s basketball can now open the regular season a bit earlier. The made-for-TV, neutral-court spectacle of the Champions Classic is also the perfect programming to get casual sports fans to tune in for the opening night of college basketball.

There will also be a new level of intrigue for the Champions Classic with all four superpowers making their season debuts in the event next season. Instead of getting a regular-season tune-up to begin to campaign, all of these teams will get thrown straight into the fire.

Hopefully, the sport can continue to make moves like this to generate casual interest and develop more intriguing non-conference possibilities. College basketball’s regular season has suffered from too many lulls in the past. At least now the regular season will start with a bang.