The Morning Mix

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Non-conference rivalry week continues to roll on. Colorado got all they could handle from a resilient Colorado State team. Gonzaga traveled to Washington State and escaped with a win. Florida won the Sunshine State Showdown against Florida State in embarrassing fashion. We got a lot to get to today, so let;s get right to it.

Time to hit the links.

 

Thursday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – Arkansas-Little Rock @ No. 11 Cincinnati
7:30 p.m. – Vanderbilt @ Xavier
8:00 p.m. – No. 16 Creighton @ Nebraska
8:00 p.m. – Long Beach State @ No. 4 Syracuse
10:00 p.m. – UC-Santa Barbara @ No. 17 San Diego State

 

Picture of the Day:
This is what the history of the WAC looks like. I can’t keep up. (Mid-Major Madness)

source:
Read of the Day:
Eric Prisbell’s story on Gabreille Ludwig, born Robert John Ludwig, is worth your time. Enough said. Read it. (USA Today)

Read of the Day:
Luke Winn’s weekly power rankings. That is all. Read it. (Sports Illustrated)

Read of the Day:
Mike DeCourcy details why Creighton assistant coach Steve Merrifield, who led Hampton to a 2001 NCAA tournament upset victory over, needs to be given a second chance. (Sporting News)

 

Top Stories:
Is Florida an “elite” team? The Gators throttled the Seminoles last night. in fact they’ve throttled every and all teams they’ve faced this season. But should the Gators be mentioned in the same breath as Duke, Indiana, and Louisville?

Chicago State is leaving the Great West, joining the WAC: Conference realignment has hit the lowest level of Division I college hoops, as Chicago State will hope to help revive the WAC by leaving the upstart Great West Conference.

Utah honors Majerus and crushes Boise State: On the night they honored their late head coach, the Utah Ute put on their best performance of the season, defeating a very hot Boise State team.

Inaugural episode of the CBT Podcast: College Basketball Talk has joined the podcasting fray. Listen to host Troy Machir discuss the latest in college hoops with CBT writer Rob Dauster.

 

Hoops Housekeeping
– Danny Berger’s health condition continues to improve since collapsing at a Utah State practice on Tuesday. (CBS Sports)

– Siena players visited two student sin the hospital who had been in injured in a car crash heading home from the Siena vs. Albany game from earlier in the week. (Albany Times-Union)

– Rutgers in filing a lawsuit against the Big East in order to avoid paying the conference’s exit fee. (New York Daily News)

 

Observations & Insight:
– Jason King’s Kings Court is quickly becoming one of my favorite weekly reads. He packs a bunch if interesting insight and analysis into each one. Plus, it’s in list form. Who doesn’t love that? (ESPN)

– We all expected the West Virginia vs. Marshall game to be a physical one. But I don’t think any of us could have predicted the final outcome, that’s to a handful of late ejections. (Deadspin)

– Matt Norlander suggests that the programs once coached by Rick Majerus should get together on an annual basis to honor the late great coach (Eye on College Basketball)

– Florida’s absolute drubbing of Florida State won’t help the Seminoles land super recruit Andrew Wiggins. Luckily for FSU, the co-eds came out in full force to convince Wiggins to return to Tallahassee. (The Dagger)

– Here is how John Calipari’s Kentucky teams have fared through the first eight games of the season. (Kentucky Sports Radio)

– The NBA Draft is months and months away. But if you were to ask the experts who the top choice for the No. 1 overall pick, you would get a lot of different answers. (CBS Sports)

– Raphielle Johnson’s Left Coast Layups post is a weekly must-read that will get you caught up to speed on every from the West Coast. (NBE Basketball Report)

– With ten days off in between games, UMass is hoping to stay focused during exam week. (Hoopville)

– Don’t look now, but the UIC Flames are 6-1 and are turning the corner under head coach Howard Moore thanks to a renewed focus. (ESPN Chicago)

– That is a very good question. What exactly have we learned about the ACC thus far? (College Chalktalk)

– Gary Parrish’s story about Memphis junior Geron Johnson is worth your time. (Eye on College Basketball)

 

Odds & Ends
–  A seat upgrade app that helps fans find empty seats in the lower bowl during games? Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. (Washington Post)

– With the news that Utaha State’s Danny Berger collapsed at practice on Tuesday, it should be noted that a player at Red Bank High School in New Jersey died on Monday after collapsing during a scrimmage. (New Jersey Star-Ledger)

– Club Trillion founder Mark Titus provides his top-12 NCAA power rankings (Grantland)

 

Dunk of the Day:
Kansas’ Ben McLemore and UNLV’s Anthony Bennett are stealing all the freshman dunk headlines, by High Point’s John Brown should not be left out of the discussion.

Devontae Harper throws down a #SCtop10 play for IUPUI

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)

UConn-Syracuse rivalry game brings back memories of the best of the Big East

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Rodney Purvis #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Syracuse Orange during the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2016 in New York City. Connecticut defeated Syracuse 52-50  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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The cliché ‘here, it just means more’ has never rang more true than it did on Monday night in Madison Square Garden.

A bad Syracuse team and a worse UConn team got together in New York City to play an awful basketball game, one where the two teams didn’t crack 100 points combined until there were 2.2 seconds left; where UConn won 52-50 despite shooting 31.4 percent from the floor because the Orange made just 25.9 percent of their field goals; where UConn did everything they could in the final minute to give the game to the Orange, including missing five free throws.

In a game between two teams that entered with a combined 8-6 record, Syracuse and UConn fans packed the Garden and created an environment that was just as rowdy, raucous and bi-partisan as a Big East tournament quarterfinal game that goes to six overtimes.

Businessmen in $5,000 suits were court side, going just as crazy as the UConn fans that packed their student section. Day-traders showed up in Orange t-shirts over their shirt and ties.

It didn’t matter that the Orange entered the game on a two-game losing streak. It didn’t matter UConn, a young team that has already lost two starters to season-ending injury, looks like a team that will be lucky to earn an invite to the NIT.

It never matters when these two former Big East rivals get together in the Basketball Mecca.

“It may be a slap in the face,” said Larry Avitabile, a Connecticut native that now calls Manhattan home, “but I hope UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.”


The rivalry between UConn and Syracuse is unlike any other rivalry in college basketball because of their proximity to New York City and Madison Square Garden, where the Big East has held their conference tournament since 1983.

Both fanbases claim the Big Apple as their own. Both schools consider themselves New York City’s college basketball team. None of the schools that left the Big East and none of the programs still in the conference traveled to the Garden the way that UConn and Syracuse travel to the Garden.

And the result is what you saw on Monday night.

Half of the Garden was blue.

The other half was Orange.

It simply does not get better than that.

Every season, one of the biggest talking points this time of the year is how neutral site games sterilize what makes college basketball special: the energy that comes with playing a game in front of a home crowd. The product on the court is never going to be as good as the product on the floor of any NBA game. That’s a fact of life when the best players at this level are 19 year olds a couple of years away from being able to impact an NBA game or 22 year olds that weren’t quite good enough to be able to make the jump to the pros.

And basketball at any level is never going to be a more popular than the NFL or college football. Unless you live in places like Lexington or Lawrence, college basketball probably isn’t even as important as the MLB or the NHL.

But those big, on-campus games are unparalleled in any sport at any level in this country. The experience of watching, say, UCLA’s visit to Rupp Arena on Saturday or North Carolina’s trip to Assembly Hall last week comes through on the television broadcasts.

When UConn and Syracuse square off in the Garden, it’s like two teams are playing a home game in the building.

“It’s New York City, it’s one of the best venues to play basketball in, it’s on everybody’s bucket list,” said Syracuse guard Andrew White. “Then, given the teams that were here, and the location, you’re dipping into history. This venue and this game is one of the tops all-time.”

White is a fifth-year senior that spent the last four seasons playing for Kansas in the Big 12 and Nebraska in the Big Ten. He’s seen it all. He’s played in the most electric college gyms. He knows what constitutes a great place to play a basketball game.

“I knew what to expect,” said White, who hails from southern Virginia. “I knew what I was getting into coming into this game. It’s Syracuse and UConn at the Garden. Say no more.”

College basketball needs all the games like this that it can get. It’s why those two programs would be doing a disservice to the sport if they decide to discontinue the series after the 2017 Jimmy V Classic, when they will play in the Garden for the second straight season.

Because UConn has too much talent and Kevin Ollie recruits at too high of a level to be down for that long. The Orange are just a year removed from getting to the Final Four and have plenty of young talent of their own on the roster.

Those programs will return to their rightful spots in the top 25 sooner rather than later.

And if those two fanbases can turn one of the ugliest games of the season into what we experienced in the arena on Monday night, imagine what it will be like in that building when those two teams are actually good.

 

Eastern Kentucky basketball player charged with rape

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RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) Authorities say an Eastern Kentucky basketball player has been arrested on a rape charge.

Records at Kentucky’s Madison County Detention Center show 23-year-old Jaylen Babb-Harrison was arrested Sunday in Richmond and charged with first-degree rape.

A statement from Eastern Kentucky says Babb-Harrison, a redshirt senior guard, has been suspended from the team. It says the school is cooperating with police.

Local media organizations cited an arrest citation in reporting that police were called to a Richmond hospital when a female reported she was at Babb-Harrison’s home and that he had sex with her against her will.

WKYT-TV reports Babb-Harrison declined to be interviewed at a jail. His first court appearance is set for Wednesday.

Online jail records didn’t list an attorney for the player.

Judge dismisses sex charges against ex-Michigan State star

3 Apr 2000: Mateen Cleaves #12 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates on the floor as he holds up the trophy after winning the NCAA Men''s Finals Four Game against the Florida Gators at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Spartans defeated the Gators 89-76.
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FLINT, Mich. (AP) A judge has dismissed all charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a charity golf event.

Judge Cathy Dowd in Flint, Michigan, said Monday there wasn’t enough evidence to send Cleaves to trial. Prosecutors can appeal.

A woman said she twice tried to get away from Cleaves but was pulled back into a motel room and sexually assaulted in September 2015. A witness confirmed that she saw the woman try to escape a room at the Knights Inn near Flint.

But a police officer said the woman never indicated that she was assaulted. Cleaves pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually assaulted. Cleaves led Michigan State to the 2000 national championship.

Coaches Poll: Villanova takes the top spot

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 03: Kris Jenkins #2 of the Villanova Wildcats yells to his team in the first half against the Saint Joseph's Hawks at The Pavilion on December 3, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 88-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova has overtaken Kentucky as the new No. 1 in the Coaches Poll on Monday.

The defending champions also took No. 1 in the new AP poll thanks to an 8-0 start while UCLA beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena this weekend. The Bruins finished at No. 2 while Kansas and Duke are right behind them.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

  1. Villanova (28)
  2. UCLA (1)
  3. Kansas (1)
  4. Duke (2)
  5. North Carolina
  6. Baylor
  7. Kentucky
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Saint Mary’s
  12. Virginia
  13. Louisville
  14. Xavier
  15. Butler
  16. West Virginia
  17. Wisconsin
  18. South Carolina
  19. Purdue
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Notre Dame
  23. Cincinnati
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State

AP Poll: Defending champion Villanova is the new No. 1

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Josh Hart
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The defending national champs are back at No. 1.

Villanova is atop the latest Associated Press top 25 poll this week as the 8-0 Wildcats are off to a hot start. With Kentucky’s loss to UCLA and North Carolina’s loss at Indiana there were some major shakeups in the polls this week.

  1. Villanova (57 first-place votes)
  2. UCLA (2)
  3. Kansas
  4. Baylor
  5. Duke
  6. Kentucky
  7. North Carolina
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Louisville
  12. Saint Mary’s
  13. Xavier
  14. Virginia
  15. West Virginia
  16. Butler
  17. Purdue
  18. Wisconsin
  19. South Carolina
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Cincinnati
  23. Notre Dame
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State