The Morning Mix

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We got a lot on tap for today. Yesterday was National Signing Day, and the first round of “Feast Week” tournament games take place. Strap in for a fully loaded 24 hours of college hoops.
Thursday’s Top Games:
10:30 a.m. – Oklahoma State vs. Akron
12:30 p.m. – Dayton vs. Colorado
12:30 p.m. – UNC-Asheville vs. Tennessee
3:00 p.m. – No.16 Baylor vs. Boston College
5:00 p.m. – St. John’s @ Charleston
5:00 p.m. – No.6 North Carolina State vs. Penn State
7:00 p.m. – Alabama vs. Oregon State
7:00 p.m. – Illinois State @ Drexel
7:00 p.m. – Sam Houston State @ No.1 Indiana
8:00 p.m. – Auburn vs. Murray State
8:00 p.m. – Tennessee State @ Minnesota
9:30 p.m. – Villanova vs. Purdue
10:00 p.m. – UTEP @ No.12 Arizona
Read of the Day: Brendon Prunty on the memory of former Seton Hall assistant Kenny “Eggman” Williamson. Read it. (New Jersey Star Ledger)

Read of the Day: Did the NCAA prejudge Shabazz Muhammad before making a decision on his eligibility? (L.A. Times)
Top Stories:
Late Night Snacks: Fresno State beat UC-Riverside 39-30….in basketball. Yuck.

Calipari gives tour of new Wildcat Coal Lodge: As if the “Kentucky Effect” wasn’t already strong enough, John Calipari gave a video tour of the new state-of-the-art dorm built specifically for the Wildcats hoops team. This is just many in a long line of powerful weapons Kentucky has at its recruiting disposal.

Champions Classic will serve as a great teaching tool for Bill Self and his young Jayhawks team: The experience gained by the Jayhawks in their 67-64 loss to Michigan State in the Champions Classic will help serve a purpose for Bill Self as he continues to mold a talented but young team.

Saint Louis loss caps a tough week for the Atlantic Ten: The A-10 was expected to be extremely deep this season, but already teams such as VCU, Butler and now Saint Louis, who lost to Santa Clara 74-62, are looking like we may have overrated the conference.
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Eastern Michigan’s James Still plead guilty to felony assault charges stemming from an altercation he had in Rhode Island while a member of the Providence basketball program (Detroit Free-Press)

– Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele fractured his wrist during the Bulldogs’ 78-58 win over Florida Atlantic and will force him to miss the next six weeks (Jackson Clarion Ledger)

– Providence guard Vincent Council will miss the next 4-5 weeks due to a hamstring injury he sustained in the Friars win against NJIT on Friday (Friar Blog)

– highly touted big man Karl Towns will make his college decision on December 4th (New Jersey Hoops Haven)

– UCLA freshman Kyle Anderson suffered a bone contusion on his right wrist during the Bruins’ 80-79 overtime win over Cal Irvine on Wednesday, and his status for Thursday’s game is still uncertain (ESPN LA)
Observations & Analysis:
– The top ten best recruiting classes of the past 25 years (ESPN Insider)

– It was very evident in Wisconsin’s 74-56 loss to Florida that the Badgers really need a point guard to step up and fill the void left by Josh Gasser’s season-ending injury (Backboard Chronicles)

– It does not appear that traditional rivalries will be renewed as part of the SEC/Big-12 series (The Dagger)

– Arizona forward Solomon Hill thinks freshman who worry about eligibility issues should skip college all together (Eye On College Basketball)

– After two impressive performances, its apparent that Maryland’s defense is already making great strides (Washington Post)

– Potential mid-major darling Delaware is hoping to use the Preseason N.I.T Tip-Off as a stage to capture some national attention (The Dagger)

– The Pit at New Mexico is arguably one of the best venues in college hoops. If you weren’t already aware of this, the Lobos home-opener against Davidson as part of the Tip-Off Marathon proved why. (Albuquerque Journal)

– An excellent preview of the surprisingly deep Charleston Classic field (NBA Draft Blog)

– Despite the absence of Otto Porter, who sat out due to concussion-like symptoms, the Georgetown Hoyas were able to stymie the Liberty Flames en route to a 68-59 win (CBS DC Local)
News & Notes:
– The Kansas Jayhawks are eager to get back on the court following their Champions Classic loss to Michigan State (

– A bunch of good quotes from UTEP head coach Tim Floyd on his role in Sean Miller-era at Arizona (Arizona Daily Star)

– UConn coach Kevin Ollie pledged $100,000 towards a new basketball facillity in Storrs, CT (Connecticut Post)

– Some great info on the conferences and teams participating in the annual late-season BracketBusters Week (The Horizon League)

– Did you know that this is the 75th anniversary of the NCAA tournament? (Sporting News)
Odds & Ends:

– Vermont’s Clancy Rugg: Great name, better dunk (Ballin’ is a Habit)

– Former-Michigan State Spartan-turned actor Delvon Roe made an appearance on Tosh.0 (Diehard Sports)

– The Hawaii basketball team wants more fans to attend home games this season (Warriors Insider)

– Some pretty entertaining suggestions  for future gimmick games featuring the Syracuse Orange (Troy Nunes)

– “Free Shabazz” t-shirts are going to be the next hipster trend. I can just see it now. (Deadspin)

– There are no words to describe the picture you are about to see (The UConn Blog)

Video(s) of the Day:
I want to go back to college not for the women or for the fame, but to be able to spend four seasons with Creighton guard Grant Gibbs (You need to follow him on Twitter @DoubleGfor3).

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)

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

rad Horrigan/The Courant via AP
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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.