The Morning Mix

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Barack Obama was re-elected as President of the United States. This is a special day for me not because of any political affiliation but because I got my start in college hoops this very week in 2008. Here’s to four more years of entertaining hoops insight.

For the record, I voted for the  trio of Robert Pack, Calbert Cheney and Rex Chapman for council seats in Maryland.

 

#ReadoftheDay: North Carolina State assistant coach Bobby Lutz provides a phenomenal diary entry about dealing with loss of his father and how his faith and family strengthened his resolve. Read it. (College Chalk Talk)

 

Top Stories:
Battle of the Midway is postponed due to weather: This is exactly why you shouldn’t get overzealous about hosting basketball games outdoors. The first annual event scheduled between San Diego State and Syracuse will be moved from Friday evening to Sunday at 4 p.m. due to an impeding rain storm in Southern California.

Buzz Williams likes taking JuCo transfers and has no qualms about it: The charismatic Marquette head coach defended his philosophy on recruiting JuCo transfers. With guys like Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jimmy Butler and Dwight Buycks all having successful collegiate careers following a stint in the JuCo ranks, the results speak for themselves.

Is Isaiah Canaan the most likely preseason All-American to not meet expectations?: The Murray State superstar made the list of preseason All-Americans most likely to not make the list at the end of the season.

Which preseason All-American snub will make the list at the end of the season?: The talented group of writers here at NBC Sports College Basketball Talk detailed their selections of All-American breakout players.


Hoops Housekeeping:

– Talented Indiana big-men Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin have been suspended for the first nine games of the season due to eligibility issues. The general consensus is that the NCAA got this one wrong. Way wrong. Make sure you read all four of these posts. (Crimson Quarry, Hoosier Scoop, Inside The Hall)

– Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro has suspended sophomores Rakeem Brookins and Trinity Burdine for three games due to unspecified reasons (Albany Times-Union)

– George Mason sophomores Eric Copes and Vaughn Gray have been suspended three games for student-athlete conduct violations (GoMason.com)

– Highly touted Seton Hall commit Aquille Carr has opted against transferring high schools because of his court-issued community service hours (South Orange Juice)

– Florida forward Casey Prather may not participate in the season opener due to receiving his second concussion in seven days (Gator Country)

– Washington sophomore forward Shawn Kemp Jr. will miss 6-8 weeks due to a torn patella tendon (Seattle Times)

 

Observations & Analysis:
– Andy Glockner provides fantastic insight on the mid-major programs on the rise (Sports Illustrated)

– Miami wasn’t the only Division-I program to loss an exhibition game this past weekend. Holy Cross did as well, and while the Crusaders are not at the level of the Miami Hurricanes, an exhibition loss could be a blessing in disguise. (Hoopville)

– College referees are going to make sure that they perfect the block/charge rule this season (Sporting News)

– Last year it was Lehigh, Ohio and Norfolk State. What mid-majors are the most likely to make noise in the NCAA Tournament? (Rush The Court)

– Part two of Rush The Court’s “68 must-see games of 2012-2013” (Rush The Court)

 

Odds & Ends:
– There is a lot to be excited for in the Big Sky Conference this season. (The Upset Blog)

– Where on Earth would you ever need to use baby blue camouflage? Marquette revealed their military-themed uniforms for the Carrier Classic. Personally, I would have gone with midnight blue and gold digital camo. (Fox Sports Wisconsin)

– Georgetown’s camouflage uniforms are much less gaudy and much more realistic. (Casual Hoya)

– ESPN held a fantasy college basketball draft among four hoops experts on Tuesday. They want to know who has the best team. Oh and they drafted coaches and venues too. (ESPN)

– I agree, there is no need to put a lot of stock in preseason lists, polls, and bracketology (Mid-Major Madness)

– I love this. More programs need to follow La Salle’s direction. The Explorers are offering free admission to all veterens for Saturday’s home opener against Delaware. (Pickin’ Splinters)

 

Tweet of the Day:

@DanielJMartin_ NBC News calls election for Obama. For those who wanted a President Romney NCAA tournament bracket, you may never see one

 

Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or wanted something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

A season of highs and lows ends for Kansas in the Elite 8 again

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For the second season in a row, Kansas was one-win shy of a Final Four appearance, falling to Oregon, 74-60, in the Elite Eight on Friday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

This comes a year after Kansas, as the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, fell to eventual national champion Villanova in the Elite 8.

Just as stars such as Perry Ellis struggled in that regional final, so did KU’s freshman phenom Josh Jackson, whose quick two personal fouls that saddled him on the bench and appeared to take him out of the game mentally. Devonte’ Graham, averaging 20.0 points per game in the tournament, was 0-for-7 from the field. Frank Mason III’s first-half performance assured that Oregon would completely run away with the game before halftime.

The loss put an end to a tumultuous season for the Jayhawks.

Kansas entered the 2016-17 season as one of the favorites to win the national championship. The Jayhawks went on to win the Big 12 regular season title for an unprecedented 13th consecutive season. Frank Mason III, in the eyes of many, was the wire-to-wire national player of the year.

However, for all its accomplishments on the court, Kansas faced more than its share of issues off-the-court. Lagerald Vick, who was under university investigation for allegedly striking a female student. Carlton Bragg was arrested — and subsequently suspended — for drug paraphernalia. There was also the affidavit released a day before the start of the NCAA Tournament for the Jayhawks, detailing the incident outside a Lawerence bar from December involving both Vick and Josh Jackson. Even Devonte Graham’s arrest for an unpaid ticket made headlines during this string of non-basketball related news.

The Jayhawks downplayed talks of distraction before the start of the NCAA Tournament and backed it up by dominating opponents through the first three rounds. The average margin of victory was 30.0, and that includes victories over Michigan State and a 32-point beatdown of a Purdue team that held a massive mismatch on the interior.

It looked like Self was destined to add to his Hall of Fame résumé; a third trip to the Final Four — first since 2012 — was in front of essentially a home crowd. Instead, Oregon handed the Jayhawks their worst tournament defeat in the Bill Self era.

Seven times under Self, KU has made the Elite Eight and was sent home.

Perhaps, all would have been forgiven — or at the very least, overshadowed — had KU cut down the nets in Arizona.

Instead, its season ended in an all too familiar place.

Elite 8 Preview: Sunday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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No. 4 FLORIDA (-3) vs. No. 7 SOUTH CAROLINA, 2:20 p.m., CBS: If you’re a fan of uptempo, wide-open basketball, of teams running beautiful offensive sets, spreading the floor and using the three-point line like it should be used, this game probably is not going to be for you.

This is going to be as physical and as tough as any game you watched all season long. Both the Gamecocks and the Gators are top five teams in defensive efficiency, and both of them get out and pressure defensively, Florida in the full court and South Carolina in the half court. They shun shooters for the toughest athletes on their roster. They pride themselves in being tougher, both mentally and physically, than whoever they end up playing.

And they think that a game played in the 50s is beautiful basketball.

So bet the under if you can.

But the pick I like is Florida here. Their ability to defend is going to make it very difficult for South Carolina’s offensive renaissance to continue, and their guards will be able to make the plays offensively that South Carolina dares you to make.

PREDICTION: Florida (-3)

No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA (-2.5) vs. No. 2 KENTUCKY, 5:05 p.m. CBS: This is the rematch we all wanted, right?

Ever since that day three months ago, when Kentucky got 47 points from Malik Monk in a 103-102 win over North Carolina in Las Vegas, I don’t think there is a soul in the country that would have told you otherwise.

There are two major differences between these two teams now and those two teams then. The biggest is the presence of Theo Pinson, North Carolina’s best perimeter defender. Pinson has dealt foot injuries all season long, and when these two got together in December, he was not yet healthy enough to play. I assume that he will draw the assignment of Malik Monk, chasing around the man that had definitively been Kentucky’s most dangerous scorer. Pinson will make life more difficult for Monk than it was the first time around.

But is he going to spend the entire game on him?

Because after De’Aaron Fox’s 39-point outburst against UCLA on Friday night, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Pinson may be better suited to taking on the task of keeping Fox from getting into the paint. Whatever Roy Williams opts to do, the bottom line is pretty simple — if he needs to find a way to keep Kentucky’s back court in check.

The other difference between now and then is that Bam Adebayo has been playing up to his potential for the past six weeks. He was solid earlier in the year. He can be dominant at times now, and that is going to be critical for the Wildcats, who are going to be outsized by a significant margin by UNC’s front line. The Tar Heels lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, and they are one of the only elite teams that thrives playing two bigs at the same time. In other words, one of Wenyen Gabriel or Derek Willis are going to have to deal with Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley. That’s a matchup that favors UNC, which is why Aebayo is going to have to play up to his size.

In the end, I think Pinson’s presence and North Carolina’s size advantage will be too much.

But if Fox and Monk play their game, they can carry Kentucky a long, long way.

PREDICTION: North Carolina (2.5)

Lawrence Police Department trolls Bill Self following Elite Eight loss

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Kansas had its season ended with a 74-60 loss to No. 3 seed Oregon.

The Jayhawks were the top seed in the South region. They were playing a de facto at the Sprint Center, which is 40 miles away from the school’s campus. As you can imagine, fans in Lawrence were likely unhappy, especially since it’s the second year in a row KU has been bounced one-game shy of the Final Four.

The Lawrence Police Department, while prepping for potential riots, couldn’t help tweeting a joke at the future Hall of Famer’s expense.

Bill Self’s teams have been eliminated seven times in the Elite Eight during his tenure at Kansas. He’s led the Jayhawks to a pair of Final Fours, winning the national championship in 2008.

Kansas finished the season 31-5.

Gonzaga passes the title of best program without a Final Four to Xavier in win

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In 1999, Gonzaga was not yet “Gonzaga”.

A No. 10 seed in just their third NCAA tournament, the Zags won three games against high-major competition, coming within a possession of reaching the Final Four in a loss to No. 1 seed UConn.

UConn, at that point, was one of the best programs in the country under Jim Calhoun, but the knock on the Huskies at that point was that they couldn’t win the big one. They had been to three Elite 8s and three more Sweet 16s in the previous eight seasons, but it wasn’t until they knocked off that Gonzaga team that they finally were playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

For 18 years, Gonzaga tried and failed to get to a Final Four, becoming one of the nation’s premier basketball programs without having the postseason success to legitimize themselves in the eyes of idiots around the country. That ended on Saturday night in San Jose, as No. 1 seed Gonzaga ended No. 11 Xavier’s thrilling run to the Elite 8 and passing on the torch that UConn passed to them.

Xavier can now claim the title of the best basketball program that has yet to make a Final Four, which is both a compliment and a curse.

The Musketeers have been to the NCAA tournament 25 times since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. They’ve been to nine Sweet 16s and three Elite 8s. They had a winning record in NCAA tournament play until Saturday’s loss and now lay claim to the title of the team with the most NCAA tournament wins without an appearance in the Final Four.

Xavier is going to get there eventually. Chris Mack is one of the best coaches in the business. Hell, if Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner both return to school, it could very well be next season that they snap that streak. It’s coming at some point.

I don’t even think it’s an insult to say this about Xavier. I don’t think it’s a shot at the program or the coaches that have come through it. Getting to the Final Four is hard. Bill Self is a lead-pipe lock to be a Hall of Famer, and he’s been to just two Final Fours in his career. He’s 2-7 in the Elite 8, and if Derrick Rose could make his free throws, the discussion of just how good of a coach Self is if he can’t win a title would be raging with the Jayhawks flaming out of the tournament on Saturday night.

But as with Gonzaga and UConn before them, Xavier is going to have that monkey on their back every time they suit up in March.

VIDEO: Tyler Dorsey hits dagger after dagger in upset of Kansas

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Tyler Dorsey is building himself quite the reputation for being a big-shot maker.

He hit the game-winner that got Oregon to the Sweet 16. He hit two threes at the end of the first half to push Oregon’s lead to 11 points over Kansas. And he hit this three, the dagger through the heart of Kansas:

Dorsey finished with 27 points. He’s scored at least 20 points in every game since the NCAA tournament began.