The Morning Mix

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With Hurricane Sandy making landfall late last night, today’s Morning Mix is going to be quick. Hope you all are safe.

– The John Groce era at Illinois got started off on the right path with a 79–47 exhibition victory over Lewis College

– Gonzaga dominated Northwest Nazarene 93-45, but learned that Kelly Olynk will miss the next three games due to a violation of university’s code of student conduct

– The Duke Blue Devils defeated Western Washington, the 2012 Division-II  National Champions, 105-87 on Friday. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon had a strong showing, and senior forward Mason Plumlee scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds

– Wisconsin got some terrible news on Friday, as Josh Gasser, who was named starting point guard earlier in the week, tore his ACL in practice and will miss the entire 2012-2013 season. The loss of Gasser means that freshman phenom Sam Dekkar will be counted on to do much more in his freshman season

– Shabazz Muhammad, who is still waiting to hear from the NCAA on his eligibility, will miss 2-4 weeks because a shoulder injury he sustained in practice last week

– Specific accounts of the injury are scarce, but Southern Illinois’ Dantiel Daniels, a member of the MVC All-Freshman team a season ago, will be sidelined for a significant amount of time with a fairly serious injury. But again, specifics aren’t clear yet. Check back soon

– Southeast Missouri State was chosen to finish second in the Western Division of the highly competitive Ohio Valley Conference. But the Redhawks got some bad news this weekend, as 6-foot-6 forward Michael Porter will be sidelined for the next six weeks with a broken foot. With the addition of Belmont to the OVC and the improvement of teams like Tennessee State, the Redhawks cannot afford any more setbacks

– Is Jamari Taylor the next Thomas Robinson or does he just look like him?

– Make sure you read this Atlantic-10 preview from Ryan Fagan. The A-10 is going to be loaded this season, so it’s worth your time to study up

– Indiana got a huge commitment over the weekend from top-50 class of 2013 recruit Troy Williams. The 6-foot-7 forward from Oak Hill Academy is the No.32 ranked player in the class of 2013

– The Kentucky Wildcats are the overwhelming favorites to once again win the Southeastern Conference. Realistically, there are four teams that should be able to pose somewhat of a threat to the reigning national champions

– Kentucky and Florida State seem to be the two finalists for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes, who just recently reclassified to the class of 2013. Run the Floor explains what landing Wiggins would do to each program

Western Carolina is a team you should watch for in the SoCon this season. The Catamounts return some important peices from last season, and will challenge Davidson for league supremecy

– Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. Fair should probably just stick to their day jobs

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.