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The Morning Mix

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This week has been relatively light on hardwood action. There were only a small sampling of solid games on last night, and even fewer tonight. That being said, the flow of news and information has been as steady as ever, and with the unearthing of a bizarre idea to hold four college basketball games at the same time at “Jerry World”, well, we’ve got a lot to get to before the weekend gets here.

Lets hit the links.
 
Friday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – Harvard @ Connecticut
8:00 p.m. – Iowa State @ Iowa
9:00 p.m. – Virginia Commonwealth @ Old Dominion (NBC Sports Network)
 
 
Read of the Day:
Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts. Not exactly on the same level as Luke Winn’s Power Rankings. But then again, not very many columns are. Just read it, OK? (Sports Illustrated)
 
 
Tweet of the Day:

Nothing says Grant Gibbs like 10 assists, 1 TO, and one scrum where he jumps in a pile and comes out with a loose ball. – @RobDauster

Tweet of the Day:

So this is likely to pick up steam here in the coming days…North Forest beat Lee 76-0 in girls basketball on Wednesday…. – @Ahverdejo

 
 
Top Stories:
Late Night Snacks: There were not a bunch of great games on the tube last night. However, Xavier and Vanderbilt put on a spirited battle at the Cintas Center that extended into free basketball, plus Nebraska and Creighton met up and threw down in a non-conference rivalry game.

Mark Hollis has the right idea, but it needs some tweaks: The Michigan State athletic director wants to stage four college basketball games at once at Cowboys Stadium. There are a list of reasons why four games at once doesn’t and won’t work, but the concept itself isn’t that bad.

Christmas lights synced up to Christian Watford’s buzzer beater: Yup. It’s exactly what you think it is. Christmas lights synced up to Christian Watford’s buzzer beater. Priceless.

Pac-12 isn’t very good, but will get two NCAA tournament bids: For what seems like the tenth consecutive year, Pac-12 teams are struggling to meet expectations as a whole. That being said, Arizona and Colorado both appear to be penciled in to the NCAA tournament.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– Two former-Detroit coaches claim they were wrongfully terminated in an effort by the university “to cover up the misconduct of others in the athletic department. (USA Today)

– Murray State basketball player Zay Jackson was indicted by a  grand jury yesterday on two charges related to a Sept. 9 incident in which he allegedly struck two people with his car. (WPDS Local)

– Creighton’s Josh Jones was hospitalized prior to last night’s game against Nebraska because he collapsed during pregame warm-ups. The guard had undergone heart surgery in 2007. (Detroit Free-Press)

– Highly touted Providence freshman Kris Dunn is expected to make his college debut before Christmas. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Fairfield head coach Sidney Johnson has agreed to an extension until 2019. (Big Apple Buckets)

– The status of UNLV forward Mike Moser remains day-to-day after MRI results on his injured hip came back negative. (Las Vegas Sun)

– Monmouth head coach King Rice has been issued a one game suspension by the university for his actions and comments critical of the officials during the Hawks game against Navy. (Press & Sun-Bulletin)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– This is good news for us basketball traditionalists: Final Four likely to return to arena venues within five years (SNY.tv)

– The new Big East television deal might actually be worth $40-million less than what the conference originally thought. (New Jersey Star-Ledger)

– I love this take from Jeff Eisenberg. He agrees that Kevin Ollie has done a great job, but wants to see more before the university commits to him long-term. (The Dagger)

– The great Ken Pomeroy explains why a team’s 3-point defense should not be defined by their opponent’s 3-point percentage. (KenPom Blog)

– A great read on the continued development of Charleston’s Adjehi Baru. Baru has an interesting back story and was a steal for Charleston. Now in his second year, the big man is making great strides to live up to the hype. (King Kresse)

– Michigan’s Trey Burke reminds ESPN recruiting expert Raggie Rankin of Chris Paul. (ESPN)

– Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is not a fan of conference realignment, in case you didn’t already know. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Many of the top recruiting experts in the country expect Jabari Parker, the top recruit in the nation, to choose Duke. (EPSN)

– Glenn Logan explains why point guard play isn’t the reason Kentucky is struggling, despite the popular opinion that it is in fact the issue. (A Sea of Blue)

– With early season success from Illinois-Chicago and Loyola (Ill.), it looks like Horizon League hoops is returning to relevancy in Chi-Town. (The Horizon League)
 
 
Lists & Rankings:
– John Gasaway does a brilliant job breaking down the top-25 best freshman in college hoops thus far. My only complaint is that Marcus Smart should be a bit higher than just No. 14. (ESPN Insider)

– An excellent breakdown of the best mid-major players in the month of November. (Mid-Major Madness)

– Jeff Goodman’s Good N’ Plenty column doesn’t have a lot of direction to it, but it’s a weekly must-read because of the information it provides. (Eye on College Basketball)

– The best and worst of the month from Big East newcomers. (Rush The Court)

– This is bound to create a small midwest frenzy: 10 reasons why Marquette has “Badger Envy” (Madtown Badgers)

– A mid-major power rankings update from Myron Medcalf. (ESPN)
 
 
Odds & Ends
– Sir Charles and Dickie-V calling games together? It could happen. (Awful Announcing)

– An excellent read on the common misconception that everyone who wears BYU gear is Mormon. (Vanquish the Foe)

– A solid Q&A with UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, who still sees big things ahead for the Bruins. (Sports Radio Interviews)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
Detroit held a “Star Wars” night on Wednesday against Toledo. This is, in short, the single greatest promotional event in the history of collegiate athletics. #Fact. #LandoFTW. (Detroit Titans Athletics)
 
source:
 
 
Dunk of the Day:
This may the only time all season I get to reference the very athletic conference I played in at college. Widener and Albright representin’ The MAC! #D3MACtion. (That’s Mid-Atlantic Conference to you non D-III folks). Watch the fan reactions. Classic.
 

Fun fact about Albright College. In 2009, the Lions were fortunate enough to have the freshman/senior brother combination of Phil and Derek Hall. Phil, the senior, was 6-foot-11. Derek, the freshman, was 6-foot-10. Tell me the last time you saw that at the mid-major D-III level? Answer: NEVER.
 
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WEEKEND PREVIEW: Kansas-Oklahoma rematch and who gets the No. 1 seeds?

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. steals the ball from Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, night at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan. (Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
(Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 6 Kansas at No. 3 Oklahoma, Sat. 2:30 p.m.

The rematch we’ve all been waiting for will happen on Saturday.

A little more than a month after Buddy Hield burst onto the national scene with 46 points in a triple-overtime thriller — thriller doesn’t do it justice, that was one of the best college basketball games of all time — the Jayhawks will may their return trip to Norman to take of the Sooners. Only the circumstances of Saturday’s showdown will be a little bit different than what they were on that Monday night in January, when the No. 1 team in the AP poll squared off with the No. 1 team in the Coaches poll.

Oklahoma is no longer the No. 1 team in the country, as they’ve gone just 3-2 in their last five games while needing last-second game-winners to hang on against LSU and Texas during that stretch. But Kansas is not longer ranked at the top of the polls either, as the Jayhawks have managed just a 2-3 record in the Big 12 away from Phog Allen Fieldhouse, with those two wins coming against TCU and Texas Tech. They needed to beat West Virginia on Tuesday night just to ensure that this game would feature two teams sitting at the top of the Big 12 standings.

And that, at the end of the day, is going to be the most important takeaway from this game. Kansas plays four of their last seven Big 12 games on the road, and three of those road trips are against top 25 teams. Oklahoma? They have four road trips left as well, but they will be paying visits to Texas Tech and TCU during that stretch. That’s what makes the result of this one so important. Oklahoma, with a win, would put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title race, and with a (road) game left against West Virginia — the third team tied for first in the league — they would control their own title destiny.

Before I move on, there’s one other interesting point that needs to be made here. When these two teams last played, Hield and Kansas guard Wayne Selden both looked like Big 12 Player of the Year candidates. Since then, Hield has emerged as the clear favorite for National Player of the Year, Selden has fallen off the map. It’s been 10 games since these two last faced off. Selden blew up for 33 in the win over Kentucky, but in the other nine games, he’s averaging just 9.9 points; he’s scored a total of 21 points in three games since beating Kentucky.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 24 Texas at No. 14 Iowa State, Sat. 8:30 p.m.

The Longhorns are suddenly looking like a legitimate Big 12 contender, which was not exactly expected to happen during Shaka Smart’s first season in Austin. The Cyclones, on the other hand, are trending in the opposite direction. They just lost at Texas Tech, they’re starting center (Jameel McKay) has been suspended for two games stemming from the way he’s behaved in practice and, even with McKay in the lineup, Iowa State is working with, essentially, a six-man rotation. So here’s the question: Will this game be the turning point in Iowa State’s season, or will Texas continue their assault on the top of the conference?

OH, AND HOW ABOUT THIS: No. 23 USC at No. 17 Arizona, Sun. 8:00 p.m.

Oregon is probably still the best team in the Pac-12 despite the loss to Cal last night, but USC and Arizona are the two teams that are the most likely to be able to make a run at unseating the Ducks from the top of the conference. As a matter of fact, the Trojans might be the most talented team in the Pac-12, but we’re basing all of this off of an Arizona team that was without Allonzo Trier for four weeks. Now that he is back and working his way into the rotation, this will be a nice gauge to see just how good the Wildcats really are.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Duke seems to have righted the ship when it comes to their season. The Blue Devils have won three straight and four of their last five, including Monday’s win over No. 13 Louisville. They get a visit from a streaking No. 7 Virginia at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, a team that has gone from being atrocious on the road to blowing out Louisville and Pitt in their own buildings.
  2. Indiana is coming off of a huge win over No. 4 Iowa on Thursday night, but there’s no time for rest as the Hoosiers will be at No. 8 Michigan State, tipping off on Sunday 1:00 p.m. Michigan State just lost to Purdue on Tuesday, dropping them to 7-5 in the league, three games off the pace in the conference.
  3. No. 5 Xavier was mollywhopped by Creighton on the road on Tuesday. Butler? They picked up a critical win for their bubble profile at Seton Hall on Wednesday. The two will square off in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
  4. We’re going to find out a lot about the SEC power structure this weekend. At noon on Saturday, No. 22 Kentucky will travel up to Columbia to take on South Carolina, both of whom are sitting in a tie for first in the league standings. Just an hour later, No. 15 Texas A&M — who was the best team in the SEC but now sits a game out of first place — will trip to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. The Tigers? They’re right there with Kentucky and South Carolina, tied for first in the conference.
  5. The bottom-line is this: Gonzaga will not be receiving an at-large bid to the tournament if they do not win at No. 16 SMU on Saturday. Tip is at 10:00 p.m.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Everyone

Ok, maybe not everyone.

But the easiest way to predict upsets — meaning ranked teams losing to unranked teams, not teams favored to win losing — it to look at which ranked teams are playing on the road and to decide which of those unranked teams are actually good. Well, this weekend, ten ranked teams will be firing up the busses (or chartered jets) and paying a visit to an unranked opponent: No. 5 Xavier, No. 7 Virginia, No. 11 Oregon, No. 12 Miami (FL), No. 13 Louisville, No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 18 Purdue, No. 19 Dayton, No. 22 Kentucky and No. 23 USC. Of those ten teams, only Dayton (at Rhode Island) will be visiting a team that is out of the NCAA tournament picture.

And that’s saying nothing of Gonzaga’s visit to No. 16 SMU. Or UCLA’s visit to No. 17 Arizona. Or Pitt playing at No. 9 UNC. Or Indiana heading to No. 8 Michigan State.

In other words, expect to see quite a few teams with numbers next to their name take a loss in the next three days.

WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT ON MONDAY: You mean other than what’s assured to be another class between Kansas and Oklahoma?

Maybe now it’s time to start discussing No. 1 seeds. Because of just how wide open this season has been, it feels like that part of the bracketology discussion has been somewhat overlooked. Usually, at this point in the year, that’s a dominant part of the conversation. Last season, the big story was whether or not Wisconsin and Kentucky were going to end up being slotted in the same region as a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed, and what the Badgers had to do to break into that No. 1 seed line.

This year?

That talk hasn’t really kicked off yet. So let’s change that, shall we?

Villanova, at this point, feels like the only lock for a No. 1 seed for a couple reasons: 1) Their profile is impressive, and 2) there doesn’t really appear to be anyone in the Big East that’s ready to challenge them. I’m not sure that a loss at Xavier will really be enough to drop them down a seed line.

I’d wager a guess that Oklahoma is probably a favorite to get a No. 1 seed right now as well, particularly if they knock off Kansas on Saturday. Currently, Oklahoma has six top 50 wins, an 11-3 record against the top 100 and three losses that all came in true road games, the worst of which is current bubble team Kansas State. If the Jayhawks win, they’ll be a No. 1 seed in Monday’s bracket projections and they may be on that seed line even with a loss. Kansas has eight top 50 wins, a 12-3 record against the top 100 and four losses that all came away from Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The one black eye? That loss to Oklahoma State.

That fourth No. 1 seed? Even with the loss last night, it’s probably Iowa. Their worst loss is at Indiana and they have six top 50 wins, although none of those wins — at least in the eyes of the RPI, that 19 point drubbing of Michigan State at the Breslin Center was damn impressive — are as good as Virginia’s three best wins. But all four of Virginia’s losses are worse than any of Iowa’s

So I’ll rock with Iowa for now. I’d lean Virginia over North Carolina if the Hawkeyes lose this weekend. Both teams have lost four games, all on the road, and while UNC’s losses are “better”, Virginia has much better wins. Eight in the top 50, to be exact, compared to just three for the Tar Heels. It will be nine top 50 wins for the ‘Hoos if they can take care of Duke this weekend.

I’m not sure Maryland has enough quality wins available on their schedule to be able to play their way up to the No. 1 seed line, while Oregon has too many losses at this point to be thought of as more than a No. 2/3 seed.

THE REST OF THE WEEKEND’S NOTABLE GAMES

UCLA at No. 17 Arizona, Fri. 7:00 p.m.
No. 19 Dayton at Rhode Island, Fri. 7:00 p.m.
No. 23 USC at Arizona State, Fri. 8:00 p.m.
Northern Iowa at No. 25 Wichita State, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
No. 18 Purdue at Michigan, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
No. 11 Oregon at Stanford, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
No. 13 Louisville at Notre Dame, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
Pitt at No. 9 North Carolina, Sun. 1:00 p.m.
No. 12 Miami (FL) at Florida State, Sun. 6:30 p.m.

Indiana upsets No. 4 Iowa, moves into first-place tie in Big Ten

Indiana's Troy Williams (5) and Collin Hartman (30) celebrate after Williams made a shot and was fouled during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Bloomington, Ind. Indiana won 85-78. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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Indiana picked off the No. 4 team in the country on Thursday night, beating Iowa in Assembly Hall, 85-78.

It goes without saying that this was a huge win for the Hoosiers. They had just a single top 50 win on their résumé entering the night. They were on the right side of the bubble entering the day, but for a team that just moved into a tie for first place in the Big Ten with the win, they were no where near as safe as you might think.

You read that right.

Indiana is not exactly safe when it comes to their NCAA tournament standing despite, on February 11th, being tied with Iowa and Maryland for first place in the Big Ten.

So yes, adding a top ten win to that profile is incredibly significant.

Having a realistic shot at winning the Big Ten regular season title is incredibly significant.

But more than anything, how this win came to be matters more than anything.

For starters, it came on a night where Yogi Ferrell was off. He hit his first shot and his last shot of the night, but missed all ten field goal attempts in between. He finished with just one assist compared to two turnovers and four fouls. He was bad. And it didn’t matter. For a team that relies as heavily upon a player as Indiana relies upon Yogi, that’s significant.

As is the fact that the Hoosiers were able to win despite blowing a 16-point lead. Remember, Indiana had lost to Penn State on Saturday. Following that up by blowing a huge lead at home in the most important game of the season is the kind of thing that can obliterate a team’s confidence, and with a brutal stretch run — at Michigan State, Nebraska, Purdue, at Illinois, at Iowa, Maryland — getting into a funk now would be a season-killer.

Six Hoosiers scored at least nine points, led by 14 from Ferrell, while it was the play of Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams, grabbing 10 of Indiana’s 19 offensive rebounds, that really made the difference; the Hoosiers scored 26 second-chance points.

As far as Iowa is concerned, the only real problem coming from this loss was their inability to keep Indiana off of the offensive glass. The Hoosiers had 12 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Iowa had 11 total rebounds. On the season, the Hawkeyes are 225th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. Indiana gets to the offensive glass as well as anyone, but Fran McCaffery is not going to be happy about their numbers — or effort — when he watches this film.