The Morning Mix

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Where to begin, where to begin?

You know what? forget the introduction this morning, there’s way too much to touch on today.

We might only be three weeks in, but we’re already in full spin-cycle mode. Today, Monday, November 19 could end up being one of the most news-packed days of college hoops all season. Major stories, breaking news, scandals, injuries, big non-conference games. Today has it all.

Whoops. Look liked I started to ramble again. My bad. But seriously, that’s how jam-packed today is.

Monday’s Top Games:
3:30 p.m. – Marquette vs. Butler
5:00 p.m. – Illinois-Chicago vs. Iona
5:30 p.m. – No. 1 Indiana vs. Georgia
6:00 p.m. – No. 11 North Carolina State vs. Mississippi State
7:30 p.m. – Texas A&M vs. Saint Louis
8:00 p.m. – No. 13 UCLA vs. Georgetown
8:30 p.m. – Fairfield @ Lehigh
9:00 p.m. – Long Beach State @ No. 12 Arizona
9:30 p.m. – Texas @ Chaminade
10:00 p.m. – No. 7 Kansas vs. Washington State
12:00 a.m. – USC vs. Illinois

Read of the Day:
All of them. Seriously. Thanksgiving it in a few days. You know (and I know) you ain’t taking this week seriously. Mail it in early and get caught up. This is going to be a BUSY (Yet wildly entertaining) week.

Top Stories:
What’s next for the Big East if they lose more members? With Rutgers reportedly in talks with the Big-10 conference, and rumors of more ACC defections, the future looks relatively uncertain, even with the addition of Temple, Memphis, SMU and Navy.

Oklahoma State provides first real stunner of the season, throttles No.6 North Carolina State by 20: We know how good Le’Bryan Nash is and we knew freshman Marcus Smart was the real deal, but this? Travis Ford’s thin roster now sits 4-0 with wins over Akron, Tennessee and NC-State.

Illinois is now 3-0, thanks to a late-night D.J. Richardson buzzer-beater: Illinois prepared for their upcoming appearance in the Maui Invitational by taking on Hawaii at the Stan Sheriff center over the weekend. D.J. Richardson won the game on a three-pointer with one one-hundredth of a second remaining. John Groce, who led Ohio to the Sweet-16 a season ago, is now 3-0 at Illinois.

Drexel earns first win of the season, losses key contributor Chris Fouchs to injury: The Dragons entered the season as the favorites to win the CAA, but dropped the first two games of the season. They were able to defeat Penn on Sunday, but saw senior guard Chris Fouchs, who missed part of last season with an injury, leave the Palestra on crutches.

Ohio State’s season will depend on the emergeance of a third main scorer: The Buckeyes feature DeShaun Thomas and Aaron Craft, but will not be able to carry the entire load by themselves. Thad Matta has a small yet talented squad filled with players ready to prove their worth. Now is the time for one of them to step up.

Adbul Gaddy is the key to Washington’s season: The Washington Huskies don’t have the star power they once had, but Adbul Gaddy, a former McDonald’s All-American, can reclaim his former status as “elite” by carrying the load this season. The Huskies struggled mightily against Sacramento State, but Gaddy was strong in the Huskies overtime win over Seton Hall in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

Shabazz Muhammad will play tonight, but what impact will his season-long impact be?: The UCLA freshman phenom will finally be able to suit up tonight when the Bruins face the Georgetown Hoyas now that his bizarre ordeal with the NCAA is over with. But are we certain that Muhammad’s court presence alone with propel the Bruins to greatness this season?

Expanisionocalypse:
– In case you haven’t already heard the news, Maryland and Rutgers are in serious talks with the Big-10, Maryland seems close to making the move. (ESPN)

– All good points made here from John Feinstein about why Maryland will more than likely make the move. (Washington Post)

– Former-Terrapin and current ESPN broadcaster Len Elmore spoke out against the change, calling it “sad” and a “bad move”. (Washington Post)

– Former Terrapin head coach Gary Williams spoke out as well, but believes the move make sense for the university. (Sporting News)

– Pete Thamel chimes in on the situation, if you’re in to that sorta thing. (Sports Illustrated)

– The Maryland Board of Regents (will vote later today on the direction the school will head in regarding conference affiliation. (ESPN)

– Back in September, the ACC exit fee was raised to $50-million, and is going into effect immediately. (Washington Post)

– If Maryland does in fact go to the Big-10, Syracuse will probably benefit from it. (Troy Nunes)

– Speaking of the Big East, it appears that there are reports surfacing that indicate St. John’s and Georgetown may be interested in joining the ACC depending on the results of the Maryland/Rutgers shake-up. (New York Daily News)

– UConn is going to be one of the last Big East members standing (For now), and regardless of the outcome it’s probably going to get ugly. (The UConn Blog)

Hoops Housekeeping:
– Ohio State picked up a solid commitment from class of 2014 swingman Keita Bates-Diop. (Columbus Dispatch)

– Penn State’s “Mr. Everything” Tim Fazier injured his ankle just six minutes into the Nittany Lion’s Sunday win over Akron. The long-term diagnosis does indicate a quick recovery. (State College News)

Observations and Insight:
– a North Carolina insider (See: Whistleblower) is claiming that the university tolerated cheating from its student-athletes. Yeah, this little “scandal” thing isn’t over at all. (News-Observer)

– The people sure do love Nate Wolters. They must. Luke Winn doesn’t just pen 1,000-plus words about anybody. (Sports Illustrated)

– Minnesota and Duke will square-off on Thanksgiving, and the showdown could be pivotal towards recruiting success. (Pioneer Press)

– North Carolina State’s 20-loss to Oklahoma should provide a wake-up call for the talented Wolfpack. (State Fans Nation)

– Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart was highly touted coming out of high school, and he has proven exactly why, as he was the difference maker in the Cowboys dominant win. (The Dagger)

– Most of us pundits really liked the hiring of King Rice as the head coach of Monmouth before last season (and still to today). The Former-Tar Heel is starting to get this program back on track, and will do so through hard work and not accepting moral victories. (Big Apple Buckets)

– Notre Dame’s Scott Martin has been through six years of hard work and his current level of play shows just how much he has been able to endure. (Fox Sports)

– It’s one thing to have great shooters. It’s a completely difference thing to be able to get them in a position to be most successful. (Indianapolis Star)

News & Notes:
– Dan Monson once again built a loaded non-conference schedule for the Long Beach State 49ers, and face their third striaght ranked opponent tonight. (Arizona Daily Star)

– Syracuse drubbed Wagner on Sunday 88-57 en route to their 23rd consecutive home win. (Inside The Loud House)

– Florida guard Kenny Boynton surpassed the eccentric Dwayne Schintzius on Florida’s all-time leading scorers list thanks to his 20-point performance on Sunday against Middle Tennessee. (Gainesville Sun)

Odd & Ends:
– Did UW-Milwaukee have to practice in the dark at Arkansas-Little Rock while preparing for the Trojans? (Burn The Horse)

– Baylor’s Brittany Griner broke the all-time records for dunks by a women. (Fox Sports)

– Super-conferences are great for Goliath, not so good for Davis. (Upon Further Review)

– Will somebody please help Ryan Boatright pick up his broken ankles please? Quinnipiac’s Dave Johnson left them for him just behind the 3-point line. Ouch. (The Mock Session)

Dunk of the Day: Archie Goodwin nearly through down a “Dunk of the Year”. Well, he did, except it didn’t count. (Ballin’ is a Habit)

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)

Weekend Preview: Villanova tested by Notre Dame, bounce-backs for Xavier, Butler

Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia (32), Bonzie Colson (35) and V.J. Beachem (3) talk during the second half of a first-round men's college basketball game against Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 18, 2016, in New York. Notre Dame won 70-63. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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SATURDAY’S SHOWDOWNS

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 23 Notre Dame, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: This is a fascinating matchup for a couple of reasons. For starters, this is the first real test that undefeated Notre Dame is going to be getting this season. We honestly have no idea how good the Irish actually are, and you wouldn’t be alone in needing to see a team starting Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson prove it before buying in.

But we also haven’t see Villanova tested in a while, either. They won at Purdue earlier this season and, since then, have more-or-less coasted to their undefeated mark. This will not only be a nice gauge game for Villanova, but it will also be a chance for them to pad an NCAA tournament résumé that will need to be strong for them to get a No. 1 seed this year.

The other part of this that’s fascinating? Both of these teams play small ball. There are going to be times on Saturday where 6-foot-5 Bonzie Colson is playing center and being guarded by 6-foot-5 Kris Jenkins, who will be at center for the Wildcats.

No. 22 Cincinnati at No. 16 Butler, Sat. 4:30 p.m.: Butler could really use this win. Coming off of a road loss to Indiana State during the week, the Bulldogs will be playing back in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday. But here’s the thing: Cincinnati could really use this win as well, and that Bearcat program already owns a road win over Iowa State.

The matchup here will be intriguing as well. Butler plays a more open, run-and-gun style than they did under Brad Stevens. Tyler Lewis is a show-man in transition, as is Kamar Baldwin, and getting Kelan Martin spotting up or attacking a close out is always a good coaching maneuver. Cincinnati is tough and big and physical. They try to wear you down. They pound the glass. They really, really defend. How does Butler handle it?

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FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH

  • No. 17 Wisconsin at Marquette, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: In one of the more under-appreciated rivalries in college basketball, Marquette will be looking to land a marquee win to bolster the non-conference portion of their NCAA tournament résumé. Will
    Nigel Hayes continue to play like an all-american?
  • Utah at No. 13 Xavier, Sat. 5:30 p.m.: The Musketeers have lost back-to-back games and are really struggling to shoot the ball from the perimeter. Utah has struggled this season as they have a young roster waiting on a pair of transfers to get eligible.
  • Michigan at No. 2 UCLA, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: UCLA is now a week removed from their win over then-No. 1 Kentucky in Rupp Arena. This will be the first time they see the floor since then. Michigan had the look of a tournament team earlier in the season, but they’ve lost a pair of winnable games in recent weeks.
  • Hofstra vs. No. 6 Kentucky, Sun. 3:00 p.m.: The Wildcats will square off with Hofstra on Sunday, a game that is only really notable because it will be played in the Barclays Center.
  • No. 21 Florida at Florida State, Sun. 4:00 p.m.: The Gators looked the part of an NCAA tournament team when they lost to Duke in New York City on Tuesday. Florida State is more talented, however, but it’s difficult to trust them. This will be a big win for whoever gets it.

FIVE STORY LINES TO FOLLOW

1. Kentucky’s perimeter shooting is officially a concern: The Wildcats are currently shooting 32.2 percent from beyond the arc, which is 254th nationally. The only real threat they have from three in their starting lineup is Malik Monk, and he’s streaky. They can play Derek Willis at the four, but Willis is such a step-down on the defensive end of the floor from Wenyen Gabriel that it may not end up being a net-positive to play him, not when the Wildcats rely so heavily on their defense to create offense in transition.

I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m not even sure there is an answer. This is just what Coach Cal has to work with this season. Can they improve? Probably. The great thing about being a bad shooting team is that shooting is the easiest thing to develop. Teams without size can’t get bigger. Teams without athleticism can’t get more athletic. The only problem? There are just four months left of the season. How much better can Kentucky really get?

One thing worth noting here: The 2010 Kentucky team, the one with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, the one that lost in the Elite 8 because of their shooting issues, finished the season making 33.1 percent of their threes.

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 07:  De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Valparaiso Crusaders at Rupp Arena on December 7, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
De’Aaron Fox (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2. Let’s see if Notre Dame is for real: The Fighting Irish are one of nine undefeated teams left in college basketball, but as good as they have been this season, Mike Brey’s club still hasn’t really beaten anyone. The Colorado win looks better after the Buffaloes beat Xavier. Beating Fort Wayne, the team that upset Indiana, is good. Northwestern and Iowa are Big Ten teams.

But none of those four wins – none of Notre Dame’s nine wins – have come against a team we know will be in the NCAA tournament. We know Villanova will be, and the interesting thing about this matchup is how well the two teams matchup, particularly up front. Neither the Irish nor the Wildcats have much size inside. If Notre Dame can pull off the upset, it will be time to start talking about them much more.

3. UCLA’s first action since the win at Kentucky: The last time that we saw the Bruins take the court they put up 97 points on Kentucky in Rupp Arena. That’s pretty good. It’s also an easy way to get a big head, especially for a team that has so many freshmen on the roster. UCLA will face off with Michigan at home on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how they come out early on in this one.

4. Bounce-back chances for Big East programs: No. 13 Xavier has lost two games in a row now, both of them coming on the road. They were felled at No. 4 Baylor before getting dropped at Colorado on Wednesday. The Musketeers will host Utah, a winnable game that could help them find a rhythm shooting the ball.

No. 16 Butler is coming off of a loss of their home, having been upset at Indiana State by the Sycamores. The Bulldogs will have a bigger test than the Musketeers, as they host a top 25 team in No. 22 Cincinnati.

5. Jonathan Isaac’s health, Florida State’s tournament hopes?: Isaac is the forgotten top ten pick. He’s been terrific this season and has a chance to play his way into the top ten if he continues doing what he’s been doing, but he’s missed the last two games with a hip injury. This is an important game for the Seminoles, as they host Florida this weekend. Will Isaac be available?

UT-Arlington dominates, upsets No. 12 St. Mary’s

Texas-Arlington's Kevin Hervey, left, reacts to a 73-68 NCAA college basketball game win as Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate looks on  in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
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UT-Arlington made a statement on Thursday night, completely dominating No. 12 Saint Mary’s in a 65-51 upset win in a true road game in Moraga.

Back in October, I ranked both the Gaels and the Mavericks in the top-5 of my Mid-Major Power Rankings. Saint Mary’s was the obvious top choice, one of the nation’s most efficient offenses that returned Emmett Naar and Jock Landale. UT-Arlington, ranked fifth, served as a dangerous opponent. The Mavs had defeated Ohio State and Memphis in 2015, but their season was derailed once Kevin Hervey, a player with serious pro potential, tore his ACL.

With five starters back, including Hervey, who is just now getting back to 100 percent, UT-Arlington looks every bit the part of a March Cinderella.

The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead by forcing the Gaels to play out of character. Saint Mary’s had already committed a season-high 14 turnovers before the midway point of the second half. The Gaels, who entered shooting 40 percent from three as a team, were held to 8-of-27 (30 percent) from beyond the arc.

UT-Arlington did an incredible job of closing out on shooters. And it didn’t matter the matchup, at times we saw Hervey, a 6-foot-9 junior, come out and run a guard off the 3-point line. While those statistics mentioned above up appear in the box score, the amount of deflections don’t. The Mavericks used its length and athleticism to get their hands everywhere on the defensive end of the floor, making it difficult to find good looks.

In the first half, UT-Arlington controlled the glass. Saint Mary’s found more success in that department after halftime, as Kevin Clark’s offensive putback capped an 11-2 run, which cut the deficit to 52-41. However, the Mavs were able to counter each time the Gaels threatened, never letting the lead get to single digits.

Aside from the struggles the typically-efficient Saint Mary’s offense had, the Gaels failed to keep UT-Arlington guards Erick Neal and Kaelon Wilson out of the lane, whether it be on a high ball screen or a handoff. Saint Mary’s never seemed to have a help-side defender there to protect the rim. Neal had 13 points and eight assists (five turnovers), while Wilson had 10 points off the bench. Hervey had a game-high 15 points and seven rebounds.

UT-Arlington is winners of eight straight after losing three straight. One of those wins includes a double-digit win over Texas in Austin. The Mavericks are the clear-cut favorite to win the Sun Belt. Come Selection Sunday, I’d say plenty of at-large teams would not like to be paired with Scott Cross’ team.

Iowa cruises past No. 25 Iowa State

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 20:  Head coach Fran McCaffery of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 20, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Iowa picked up a major win on Thursday night, defeating in-state rival No. 25 Iowa State, 78-64, in a contest the Hawkeyes thoroughly dominated.

Let’s put it this way: the Hawkeyes have played four top-100 teams, according to kenpom. In those games, all losses by the way, their defense has surrendered 91 points to Seton Hall, 74 points to a Virginia team that plays at the slowest tempo in the country, 100 points to Memphis and 92 points to Notre Dame.

On Saturday, on the same floor Iowa demolished the Cyclones, its defense allowed 98 points in a loss to Nebraska Omaha.

This is exactly the sort of win Fran McCaffery and Co. needed to right the ship as we inch closer and closer to conference play.

When the Cyclones went to their bench in the first half, Nick Baer sparked a 10-0 run which helped set the tone for the remainder of the half. Iowa State went without a field goal for more than six minutes during that span.

Iowa kept Iowa State from getting out and running, holding the Cyclones to zero fast break points through the first 20 minutes and limiting them to only 36 percent from the floor as a team. Iowa, on the other hand, shot 47 percent, including 59 percent in the first half, which led to a 15-point halftime lead.

Peter Jok torched Iowa State to the tune of 23 points (4-of-7 from distance).

Monte Morris was held in check with 10 points, while Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas shot a combined 4-of-13 from three (they each hit a three with less than three minutes to play and the outcome all but decided).

Iowa State’s offense is becoming a bigger concern. Just like against Gonzaga, the Cyclones dug a first-half hole they could shoot out their way of. And like last week’s overtime loss to Cincinnati, they struggled from beyond the arc.

Iowa landed a marquee win it needed, while its rival headed home with questions to answer after losing three of four.

 

Alabama wing sidelined due to weight loss

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 29: Head coach Avery Johnson of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at HP Field House on November 29, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Alabama junior wing Nick King will not be with the team for Sunday evening’s matchup against No. 24 Oregon in Eugene.

According to Rainer Sabin of the AL.com, Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said King undergoing a series of tests after losing more than 10 pounds in less than a week and a half.

Johnson told reporters that he is “very concerned” and estimates that as of now King will be sidelined for “a week or two.”

King, who played his first two seasons at Memphis, has appeared in all seven games for the Crimson Tide, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game.

Damonte Dodd out with MCL sprain

COLLEGE PARK, MD - FEBRUARY 13: Melo Trimble #2 and Damonte Dodd #35 of the Maryland Terrapins react to a call as Alex Illikainen #25 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on in the second half at Xfinity Center on February 13, 2016 in College Park, Maryland. Wisconsin won 70-57.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Maryland could be without the services of starting center Damonte Dodd for the remainder of the non-conference slate, the team announced on Wednesday.

Dodd suffered a MCL sprain in his left knee during practice earlier this week. The injury caused him to miss Wednesday’s 76-56 win over Howard. He will not be available for matchups with St. Peter’s and Jacksonville State. The Terrapins then close out the non-conference slate at Charlotte on Dec. 20 before opening up Big Ten play a week later.

Dodd has started in six of seven games he’s appeared in this season. He’s averaging 5.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Michael Cekovsky started in place of Dodd on Wednesday night. Ivan Bender, who returned to the lineup against Howard after missing the previous contest, should also see an increase in minutes with Dodd sidelined.