The Morning Mix

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An interesting-read on why the one-and-done rule is making a mess of basketball in general. Speaking of which, Bobby Knight took the time to blast John Calipari’s method. Typical

Eric Crawford has some great suggestions on how the NCAA tournament experience can improve (The last one is crucial)

– remember when Buzz Williams benched a bunch of players during the late regular season for disciplinary reasons. We found out during the NCAA tournament that it had to do with trying to enter a bar underage. Well it turns out that six players were involved in a bar fight in which 11 squad cars were called to the scene. That’s a lot of squad cars

– Anthony Davis will only spend one season at Kentucky, but does he deserve to have his jersey retired at Rupp Arena?

– Speaking of Davis, he was on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Thursday, and he absolutely killed it. We saw very little character or personality from him during the season, but well he was focused on winning a title. But man, he was hysterical on Kimmel. (Make sure you get a chance to watch the whole segment)

– We indicated last week that Georgia State is looking to leave the CAA and join the Sun Belt, and it looks like the move will happen this week

– When a 50/50 NBA recruit decides to stay in school for an extra year, they are often rewarded with greatness, so says Gary Parrish

– The rosters and schedules for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament has been announced

– The Duquesne coaching search is coming to an end, and Jim Ferry, head coach at LIU-Brooklyn, has entered the race as a darkhorse candidate

– Former-Illinois head coach Bruce Weber took out a full-page ad thanking fans for supporting him when he was head coach in Champaign

– New Mexico State head coach Marvin Menzies is being recruited by Colorado State to be the rams next head coach. But NMSU is looking to sweeten the pot in order to get their head coach to stay

– LSU head coach Trent Johnson is leaving in order to take over the head coaching position at TCU. LSU has now lost two key players from this past seasons team. Where will the tigers go from here?

– Do coaching contracts mean anything to coaches? It seems like coaches are more than willing to opt out of lucrative deals if they see a new situation become available

A solid Q&A with new Illinois head coach John Groce. Make sure you read the part where he talks about trying to recruit in the Chicago-area

– In case you missed it, Florida International fired Isaiah Thomas after three sub-par seasons as the Panthers head coach. Thomas called it “The most surprised he’s ever been in his life regarding a basketball decision”. Dominique Ferguson, the Panther’s star sophomore took to twitter to defend his recently dismissed head coach. A solid-read on why “Zeke” was a failure at FIU

– Kansas’ forward Thomas Robinson will make his NBA decision later today, but it’s being reported that T-Rob will make the leap to the NBA

– Two Houston players, Alandise Harris and Kirk Van Slyke have decided to transfer out of school

– Loyola (MD) sophomore guard Justin Drummond announced that he is transferring. The Greyhounds won the MAAC Tournament and made their first NCAA tournament appearance in over a decade.

– Alabama forward Tony Mitchell, the best dunker in the SEC, is leaving school He was suspended for the two months of the season for disciplinary reasons. But where will T-Mitch land?

– Texas A&M forward Kris Middleton will enter the NBA draft, despite a sub-par season in which he was sidelined with a knee injury. Did the wing forward make the right decision?

– Ohio State got some great news this weekend. Even though Jared Sullinger will leave for the NBA draft, DeShaun Thomas will return for his junior season. The forward played exceptionally well during the tournament and will be the focal point of the Buckeye’s offense next season

– Rodney Hood has decided to transfer out of Mississippi State. This means that new head coach Rick Ray will have to start from scratch, as five of the Bulldog’s top seven scorers are either leaving for the NBA, transferring or graduating

– South Carolina forward Anthony Gill is debating the thought of transferring. Playing for Frank Martin is no easy task, but playing for a hard-nosed coach like Martin is usually good for building mental toughness, discipline and character

– Alex Oriakhi is still trying to decide which school he wants to transfer to. The list is rather long, and if he choses to major in a field of study not offered at UConn, he can enroll at an SEC school. KSR’s Drew Franklin details which majors Oriakhi could get his degree in if he went to Kentucky (This should end up being the funniest thing you read all day). But as the UConn Blog suggests, Oriakhi probably shouldn’t transfer to the same school Nerlens Noel goes to

– Speaking of UConn, we still haven’t heard anything from Jeremy Lamb or Andre Drummond about their NBA early entry statuses

– Connecticut politicians plan on magnifying the” unfair” postseason suspension of UConn’s basketball team next season

– Central Michigan star Trey Zeigler has decided to attend Pittsburgh. The sophomore guard asked for his release after the school fire his father Ernie, the head basketball coach

– it was a bizarre week for the athletic department at Howard, but it seems as though all student-athletes have been reinstated 

The not-top-10 plays from the 2011-2012 college basketball season (How the “Crosstown Brawl” didn’t get a mention is absolutely ridiculous)

PHOTO: Nevada wearing pink jerseys to honor Coaches vs. Cancer this week

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Nevada announced that they’ll be wearing special pink uniforms for the next two games to promote cancer awareness.

The Wolf Pack will wear the jerseys on Wednesday (Jan. 25) on the road against Boise State and at home on Saturday (Jan. 28) against New Mexico.

“We are extremely excited and honored to release our new Pink “Cancer-Awareness” Jerseys. It was apparent very early in our time here, that many members of our Nevada Wolf Pack Basketball Program and in our Pack community have been affected or are currently being affected by cancer,” Nevada head coach Eric Musselman said in the release. “We could not be more proud to help support the cause and unite to fight this horrible and devastating disease.”

 

UCLA is no longer a Final Four contender if their defense doesn’t improve

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s win over No. 8 UCLA was massive for No. 7 Arizona for a number of reasons.

They got Allonzo Trier back into the fold. They remained undefeated atop the Pac-12 standings, keeping pace with an Oregon team that’s dealing with another Dillon Brooks foot injury and getting ready to make the nightmarish trip to the Mountain schools, Utah and Colorado, this weekend. They took a two game lead over the Bruins in the Pac-12 standings.

Perhaps more importantly, the Wildcats certified themselves as a legitimate threat to get to the Final Four. Their 17-2 record entering Saturday was pretty. A win at Pauley finally gave that résumé some substance.

So good for Arizona.

But that wasn’t the biggest story line coming out of Pauley Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

UCLA’s defense, or lack thereof, was.

Ever since the Bruins went into Rupp Arena and knocked off then-No. 1 Kentucky, UCLA has been considered one of the very best teams in the country. Villanova’s up there, too. So is Kansas, and Gonzaga, and those Kentucky Wildcats. North Carolina probably should be in that conversation as well. Maybe Baylor, maaaybe Florida State.

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You get my point. The Bruins, for better or worse, were one of the handful of teams that everyone thought would enter the NCAA tournament as a favorite to win the national title, but it’s time for us to question whether or not that is actually the case. That’s how bad the UCLA defense has been this season, particularly of late.

Against Arizona, the Bruins were a train-wreck. They gave up 96 points on 1.315 points-per-possession, which, for those of you who aren’t into advanced stats, is atrocious. That game was the culmination of a four-game stretch where UCLA’s defense had gone from concerning-but-good-enough to a major red flag. In those four games – road trips to Colorado and Utah and home games against Arizona and Arizona State – the Bruins allowed an abysmal 1.153 PPP. For comparison’s sake, the 2015 Kentucky team that went 38-1, the best defense we’ve seen in the KenPom era, gave up 0.847 PPP. UCLA averages 75 possessions a game, which is a difference of 23 points over 40 minutes.

That’s a big deal.

And on the season, UCLA has fallen the way to 125th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric.

That’s a bigger deal.

For those that don’t know, KenPom.com is a website that ranks teams based on how many points they score and allow per possession, adjusted for schedule strength. It’s widely considered the best way to determine who the best offensive, the best defensive and the best overall teams are.

It’s been around since 2002.

And since 2002, given where UCLA’s defense is today, they would be the second-worst defensive team to ever get to a Final Four.

In 2011, VCU ranked 138th in defensive efficiency as of Selection Sunday*, and they are the only team to ever rank outside the top 80 in defensive efficiency and make it all the way to the Final Four. Only three other teams have ranked outside the top 50 and made it to the final weekend of the season: Marquette in 2003 (76th), Butler in 2011 (72nd) and Michigan in 2013 (66th). Two others ranked outside the top 40 and won at least four games in the Big Dance: Texas in 2003 (46th) and Wisconsin in 2014 (50th):

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*(All of this info is via KenPom.com and as of Selection Sunday in those given seasons. That’s important to note, because winning games against good teams in the tournament changes those stats.)

The precedent is there.

UCLA, unquestionably, has to get better defensively if they want to win a national title.

But all hope is not lost.

The two teams with the lowest defensive efficiency entering the NCAA tournament to win the national title – North Carolina in 2009 and Duke in 2015 – both had top three offenses nationally.

UCLA leads the nation in offensive efficiency.

AP Poll: Villanova, Kansas neck-and-neck for No. 1

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Head coach Jay Wright and Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats congratulate Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second half against the Temple Owls at The Pavilion on December 13, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 78-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova maintained a slim lead over Kansas for the No. 1 spot in this week’s AP poll, with Gonzaga being the only other program to receive any first place votes.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBCSports Top 25

After losing to Arizona at home, UCLA dropped to eighth as the Wildcats vaulted them into No. 7 in the poll.

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1. Villanova (35 first-place votes)
2. Kansas (28)
3. Gonzaga (2)
4. Kentucky
5. Baylor
6. Florida State
7. Arizona
8. UCLA
9. North Carolina
10. Oregon
11. Butler
12. Virginia
13. Louisville
14. Notre Dame
15. Wisconsin
16. Creighton
17. Duke
18. West Virginia
19. Cincinnati
20. Purdue
21. Saint Mary’s
22. Maryland
23. South Carolina
24. Xavier
25. Florida

Coaches Poll: Kansas remains No. 1, Villanova No. 2

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 21: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks drives to the goal against Andrew Jones #1 of the Texas Longhorns in the first half at Allen Field House on January 21, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Kansas remained No. 1 in the Coaches Poll this week, getting 18 of the 32 first-place votes.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBCSports Top 25

Villanova sits at No. 2 in the poll, with Gonzaha in third, the only other team to receive a first-place vote.

After beating UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, Arizona jumped up to No. 9 but still sits two spots behind UCLA at No. 7.

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1. Kansas (18 first-place votes)
2. Villanova (11)
3. Gonzaga (3)
4. Kentucky
5. Baylor
6. North Carolina
7. UCLA
8. Florida State
9. Arizona
10. Oregon
11. Butler
12. Notre Dame
13. Virginia
14. Louisville
15. Wisconsin
16. Creighton
17. Duke
18. West Virginia
19. Cincinnati
20. Purdue
21. Sainy Mary’s
22. Xavier
23. Maryland
24. South Carolina
25. Florida

College Basketball Talk Top 25: It gets muddy after a clear-cut top four

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 03: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in front of Lamarr Kimble #0 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks in the first half at The Pavilion on December 3, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 88-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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This week’s rankings were probably more difficult to put together than any week so far this season.

The top four, frankly, seem pretty obvious. I have Villanova No. 1, but I would have no qualms with ranking any of Kentucky, Kansas or Gonzaga in that No. 1 spot. I expect those to be the four teams that get votes for No. 1 in the AP and Coaches Polls this week.

After that, however, is when it gets difficult. Are you going to rank North Carolina above Florida State? UNC beat the Seminoles when they squared off this season but that was the Seminoles lone loss in a six game run against ranked teams. I went with Carolina over them because, simply, I think UNC is a better team.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the top three teams in the Pac-12. Arizona just won at UCLA and they got Allonzo Trier back. Oregon also owns a win over the Bruins, but there’s came at home on a buzzer-beater from Dillon Brooks, who is dealing with a foot injury again. And while UCLA has consistently proven to be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the country, they are a nightmare defensively right now.

Where does West Virginia slot in after a pair of losses? What about Creighton without Mo Watson Jr.? Butler’s profile looks great but their performance on the floor has been less than stellar since their win over Villanova. Is Duke actually back?

You can find the rankings below. What did I get wrong?

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1. Villanova (19-1, Last Week No. 1)
2. Kentucky (17-2, 2)
3. Kansas (18-1, 4)
4. Gonzaga (19-0, 5)
5. North Carolina (18-3, 5)
6. Baylor (18-1, 7)
7. Florida State (18-2, 8)
8. Arizona (18-2, 16)
9. UCLA (19-2, 3)
10. Oregon (18-2, 10)
11. Louisville (16-4, 11)
12. Wisconsin (16-3, 13)
13. Purdue (16-4, 15)
14. Notre Dame (17-3, 17)
15. Cincinnati (17-2, 18)
16. Duke (15-4, 19)
17. West Virginia (15-4, 10)
18. Butler (17-3, 14)
19. Creighton (18-2, 12)
20. Saint Mary’s (17-2, 20)
21. Virginia (16-3, 22)
22. South Carolina (15-4, 24)
23. Maryland (17-2, 25)
24. Kansas State (15-4, NR)
25. Iowa State (12-6, NR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 21 Xavier, No. 23 Florida
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 Kansas State, No. 25 Iowa State