The Morning Mix

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– The big news of the day is that Baylor men’s and women’s basketball teams were found to have made several hundred impermissible texts and phone calls to recruits. This all took place on the same day that star forward Perry Jones III decided to enter the NBA draft. But Gary Parrish takes an astonishingly brilliant angle on the possible sanctions: If this is all they get busted for, they should be happy. Quincy Miller will make his NBA decision later today. Rush The Court ponders the age-old question: Do the ends justify the means?

– Members of Florida International’s basketball team walked out of their banquet last night in protest over the school’s firing of head coach Isaiah Thomas

– Eamonn Brennan provides your must-read of the day: A riveting list of all the “what-ifs” from the 2011-2012 season

Jeff Eisenberg provides an interesting take on why Trent Johnson would want to leave LSU for TCU

– Ryan Fagan lists the top-ten first round upsets in tournament history. This past season’s tournament is most certainly represented

– Hey look, another person doesn’t think the new NBA draft deadline is helping the players. Is anybody at the NBA offices reading this?

– Michigan guard Trey Burke will return to Ann Arbor for his sophomore season, despite reports last week that he was expected to declare for the draft. With Burke running the point, and a talented recruiting class on the way in, the Wolverines will be one of the favorites to win the Big-Ten

– Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum, one of the darlings of the NCAA tournament, is staying in school for his senior year. Let him tell you why he decided to come back

– Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler will attend Pittsburgh, but it is still unclear if he will be able to play in 2012-2013 or if he will have to sit out a year

– Vanderbilt star guard John Jenkins will forgo his senior season in order to enter the NBA draft

– Kansas junior Thomas Robinson is officially declaring for the draft, and the issue of his real height should be the topic of many a pre-draft debateMinnesota has granted Chip Armelin his release, meaning the sophomore guard is free to transfer. it also means that the Golden Gophers will have a scholarship available to use on Trevor Mbakwe, who has granted another year of eligibility

– Not all is lost in Arkansas. freshman guard B.J. Young has decided to return for his sophomore season in favor of entering the draft

– North Texas fresh Tony Mitchell, a likely first round draft pick, has decided to return to school for his sophomore year. Mitchell initially committed to Missouri in 2010 but did not qualify academically. With the dominant forward back, the Mean Green are being considered by some as a preseason top-25 team

– After becoming one of the first players to declare for the NBA draft early, South Florida’s Victor Rudd Jr. has made the smart decision and will return to school next year

– Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham will not return for his senior season in Corvalis, opting to head to the NBA instead

– Matt Fultz provides a nice little SEC recap on NBA draft decisions

– In case you missed it, College  Basketball Talk unveiled their “Dunk of the Year” Awards yesterday. The Top-10 Dunks of the Year will be released later today

– You won’t find a more in-depth, detailed season-in-review post on Clemson’s 2011-2012 campaign as the one you will find at Shakin’ in the Southland. You just won’t

– In case you missed it, Georgia State is leaving the CAA and will become a member of the Sun Belt Conference in 2013-2014

– I don’t know if you’ve seen this yet, but if you haven’t make sure you have. It’s post-game locker room video following Kentucky’s national championship victory

– Speaking of Kentucky videos, the Wildcat’s bench mob, dubbed the W.B.A (or White Boy Academy) released a legit music video honoring BBN’s eighth National Championship

– Delaware women’s basketball phenom Elena Della Donne threw out the first pitch at the Philadelphia Phillies home opener. If you watch until the 2:10 mark, you may notice The Philly Phanatic breaking the most sacred of all mascot rules: NO TALKING!

– Speaking of baseball, Kentucky’s Darius Miller is going to throw out the first pitch for a Lexington Legends Class-A game next week. We already know he can’t possibly do any worse than John Wall

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.