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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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No. 3 Gonzaga improves to 20-0 with win over Portland

SPOKANE, WA - DECEMBER 07:  Nigel Williams-Goss #5 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs drives against the Washington Huskies in the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center on December 7, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  Gonzaga defeated Washington 98-71.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Zach Collins had 13 points and No. 3 Gonzaga remained the nation’s only undefeated Division I team with an 83-64 victory over Portland in a game Monday night that was rescheduled because of a winter storm earlier this month.

The Bulldogs have won 20 straight games, their longest streak since winning that many in the 2005-06 and 2003-04 seasons. Gonzaga is now 8-0 in West Coast Conference play.

Silas Melson and Jordan Mathews each added 12 points for the Zags, who led by as many as 33 points and had four players in double-digits.

Rashad Jackson and D’Marques Tyson had 15 points apiece for Portland, which won its first two games in conference but has lost six straight since then. The Pilots (9-11, 2-6 WCC) are playing their first season under former NBA player and coach Terry Porter.

The game was originally scheduled for Jan. 7, but a winter storm in Portland forced it to be postponed. Portland opened up extra seats and Gonzaga’s fans outnumbered the home team’s crowd.

The two teams had met just two days ago in Spokane, with Gonzaga leading from the start to win 73-52. But Portland, playing without top scorer Alec Wintering, out-rebounded the Zags 41-33 and held them to 45 percent shooting.

The Zags fared better on Monday, out-rebounding Portland 41-36 and shooting 42 percent.

Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who left the game against Portland because of a left hip injury with about five minutes left, was questionable against Portland but started.

But freshman forward Killian Tillie appeared to injure his right leg under Portland’s basket with 9:38 to go in the game, and teammates helped him from the floor. The 6-foot-10 Tillie, who is from France, is averaging 4.8 points this season.

Wintering, a senior, was hurt in last Thursday’s game against San Francisco and the Pilots announced this weekend that his college career was over because of a torn left ACL.

Wintering averaged 19.5 points and 5.6 assists a game this season. He was on Portland’s bench in street clothes, but during warmups before the game and at the break he was on the court, offering his teammates advice and encouragement.

Gonzaga jumped out to a 9-0 run but the Pilots closed within 9-8 following Philipp Hartwich’s dunk. Portland was competitive, answering Melson’s 3-pointer for Gonzaga with Jackson’s 3 that got the Pilots within 22-19.

But the Bulldogs responded with an 8-0 run to go up 30-19 and went into halftime with on a 16-4 run for a 38-23 lead. Melson and Jonathan Williams led Gonzaga at the break with eight points apiece. Jackson’s 13 first-half points for Portland were a new career high for a game.

Gonzaga extended the lead to 50-26 on Przemek Karnowski’s layup with just under 16 minutes to go, the Bulldogs were on the way to their 20th straight win.

THE BIG PICTURE:

Gonzaga: The Zags have won eight straight against Portland. … The Bulldogs’ longest winning streak was 22 games, set in the

Portland: Portland Trail Blazers President Neil Olshey was at the game. … The game, originally scheduled to be played over winter break, was sold out. So despite school being back in session, the usual student section wasn’t as large for the televised game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS: Gonzaga rose a spot from No. 4 and only trails No. 1 Villanova (19-1) and No. 2 Kansas (18-1) in the AP rankings released earlier in the day. The Bulldogs were also ranked No. 3 in the Feb. 23, 2015 poll.

VIDEO: Andrew Jones nails deep three to give Texas win over Oklahoma

AUSTIN, TX - DECEMBER 27: James Banks #4 and Andrew Jones #1 of the Texas Longhorns react during the game between the Texas Longhorns and the Kent State Golden Flashesat the Frank Erwin Center on December 27, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Texas freshman Andrew Jones nailed one of the most heroic game-winners of conference play with a dagger against Oklahoma on Monday night.

The Longhorns put together an 84-83 win over the Sooners as Jones took the final possession off of a missed free throw to dribble across the floor and fire an NBA-range bomb over a defender.

This win isn’t going to save a struggling Texas season, but it’s a nice win and a confidence-boosting shot for a McDonald’s All-American who has the potential to be a big-time player with some more seasoning. Jones finished with 16 points in the win as the Longhorns are now 8-12 and 2-6 in the Big 12.

(H/t: Mike Leslie)

VIDEO: Dennis Smith Jr. caps N.C. State win with thunder dunk

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 23:  Dennis Smith Jr. #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drives in for a dunk as time expires during their win against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 84-82.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Dennis Smith Jr. showed why he is a potential top three pick in this year’s draft and why he was the reason many thought that the Wolfpack could be an Elite 8 team coming into the season on Monday, popping off for 32 points and six assists as N.C. State won at No. 17 Duke, 84-82.

He capped off the performance with the perfect exclamation point, a dunk contest-worthy throwdown:

Let’s get another angle of that dunk, shall we?:

Three Takeaways from N.C. State’s win over No. 17 Duke

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 23:  Head coach Mark Gottfried talks to Dennis Smith Jr. #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack during their win against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 84-82.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Freshman Dennis Smith Jr. had a monster performance as he scored 32 points and had six assists to lead the Wolfpack past No. 17 Duke for an ACC road win.

Here are three takeaways for an important win for N.C. State.

1. This is the Dennis Smith Jr. (and N.C. State) that we envisioned 

Before this season N.C. State received a lot of hype with some pundits — including NBCSports.com — because people knew that freshman Dennis Smith Jr. was a lottery pick talent and there were other pieces around him that could be productive. Smith has mostly lived up to his top-five hype this season but Monday night’s game saw the North Carolina native go to another level.

Smith comes from a family of N.C. State fans. It is part of the reason he selected the Wolfpack even though they aren’t a one-and-done factory like some other schools. The Wolfpack hadn’t won in Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995 and this year’s N.C. State had lost four of five ACC games entering Monday.

And Smith went completely bonkers. He finished with 32 points and six assists as he was 4-for-6 from three-point range.

At the end of the first half when it looked like Duke might take a double-digit lead into the break, Smith converted a three-point play and followed it up with a tough, contested three to make it a six-point game. The second half saw more of the same from Smith as he nailed pull-up threes, got to the rim and finished through traffic. It was the type of mesmerizing performance that gets casual basketball fans excited about a player before March Madness begins.

Smith wasn’t the only good player for N.C. State on Monday. Freshman big man Ted Kapita gave crucial minutes inside as he registered his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Abdul Malik-Abu was a great secondary option for Smith as he contributed 19 points and nine rebounds. Maverick Rowan (nine points) hit a key late three and some important free throws.

When this team has all of its pieces going you can see why so many people believed N.C. State was capable of the Sweet 16. It feels like this team could be in for a run and the road game at Louisville on Sunday is another major test.

2. Duke is still figuring out its ideal rotation (while getting some answers)

Interim coach Jeff Capel went to some interesting lineup choices on Monday night. Capel started the game by using the lineup that jumpstarted Duke’s second half against Miami. That meant increased minutes for freshman center Marques Bolden as he was paired with Jayson Tatum (16 points) and Frank Jackson.

Seniors Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson were the interchangeable parts who played the most minutes in the first half for the Blue Devils and the second unit included Grayson Allen (13 points), Luke Kennard (20 points) and Harry Giles.

The Blue Devils still have some disjointed sets and scorers are still struggling to play with Tatum at times but there were some promising signs. Giles (eight points, seven rebounds) continues to improve his natural timing and he knocked down a face-up jumper from 17 feet with ease that could help keep defenders honest on him.

There was some good but there was also some bad. Bolden regressed to being a non-factor once again and Allen struggled to find a consistent scoring touch with a 4-for-13 performance.

We still have yet to see the (mostly) full strength Blue Devils that make us believe they are a national title contender. It’ll be interesting to see which lineup ultimately plays the best for Duke but they’re struggling to figure out a consistent rotation.

3. Can N.C. State sustain this kind of effort on a nightly basis?

Monday night was N.C. State’s first road win of the season. So for as big as this win is, the Wolfpack still have a long way to go to becoming a consistent factor in a ridiculously deep ACC. Smith is going to get tested quite a bit by Louisville’s length and athleticism on Sunday and playing in front of that Cardinal crowd is one of the hardest things to do in college basketball.

It doesn’t get any easier for N.C. State and they can’t have a major letdown after the high of a road win like this. That losing stretch of four out of five games included some really bad losses. Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are the kind of losses that tournament teams can’t sustain on a regular basis so the Wolfpack have to take care of  business against teams like that for the rest of the season.

Success on the road will also help N.C. State’s tournament cause. This Duke win is nice but now the Wolfpack get two more cracks at top-15 teams away from home with Louisville and Florida State in the next two weeks. If N.C. State can somehow split those road games and stay strong at home they’ll be in good shape the rest of the way.

PHOTO: Nevada wearing pink jerseys to honor Coaches vs. Cancer this week

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Nevada announced that they’ll be wearing special pink uniforms for the next two games to promote cancer awareness.

The Wolf Pack will wear the jerseys on Wednesday (Jan. 25) on the road against Boise State and at home on Saturday (Jan. 28) against New Mexico.

“We are extremely excited and honored to release our new Pink “Cancer-Awareness” Jerseys. It was apparent very early in our time here, that many members of our Nevada Wolf Pack Basketball Program and in our Pack community have been affected or are currently being affected by cancer,” Nevada head coach Eric Musselman said in the release. “We could not be more proud to help support the cause and unite to fight this horrible and devastating disease.”