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The Morning Mix

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We had ourselves quite the weekend. While there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of high level hoops on this weekend, there was a lot of action. There was a bevy of highlights, and even more lowlights. The Morning Mix is going to get to them all.

By the way. Today is the beginning of “Exam Week”, which just so happens to be the lightest week of college hoops. If you have stuff to do at night this week, do it. You won’t be missing much.

Lets hit the links.
 
 
Monday’s Top Games: No joke, this is the entire D-I schedule for today
7:00 p.m. – Longwood @ No.15 Georgetown
7:00 p.m. – Mississippi Valley State
7:00 p.m. – Bryant @ Navy
7:30 p.m. – Alabama State @ Detroit
8:00 p.m. – Southeastern Illinois @ Louisiana-Monroe
8:00 p.m. – William Carey (NAIA) @ Southern
9:05 p.m. – Seattle @ Eastern Washington
 
 
Read of the Day:
More intriguing details about the African-American Studies classes at UNC and the participation of college basketball players. Read it. (Raleigh News & Observers)
 
 
Top Stories:
Late Night Snacks: The best recap of Sunday’s action you will find, including why UNLV’s close victory over Cal could potentially cost them a few days in March.

Hollywood Union goes on strike against the Pac-12 Network: The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, one of the largest unions in Hollywood, plans to strike against the newly formed Pac-12 Network, calling it an “unfair employer”.

Noreen breaks out as WVU hands Virginia Tech first loss: The Mountaineers’ sophomore big man had a breakout performance against Virginia Tech, in which the Hokies were handed their first loss of the season.

Appalachian State center Brian Okam shoots worst foul shot ever: This is the worst foul shot you have ever seen. I’m sure there is an explanation as to why this was so bad, but it’s not really necessary.

Illinois no longer “a feel good story”, are now a real threat: Not many believed Illinois would be able to contend this season under John Groce. But thanks to the outstanding efforts of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, the Illini are 10-0 which includes a huge road victory over Gonzaga.

Unexpected challenger emerged in the MAAC this weekend: in a conference many felt had as many as six teams capable of winning the conference, Canisius was discussed as a few in the offseason, sits atop the standings with a 2-0 conference record. Bolstered by the arrival of head coach Jim Baron and son Billy, the Golden Eagles now 6-1 on the season after their 94-82 win over Marist on Sunday afternoon.

Taylor’s “Silent Night Game” is best tradition in hoops: The small NAIA school has gained a reputation for hosting the single best tradition in college hoops, and it took place this past weekend.

Is offense a concern for the Hoyas following ugly 49-40 win over Towson? The No. 15 Georgetown Hoyas are 7-1 with the loss coming against the nation’s top team in overtime. Despite this, the Hoyas are averaging just 49-ppg in their last three games.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– UNLV star Mike Moser dislocated his elbow last night in the Runnin’ Rebels 76-7 win over California. His status remains up in the air, but he could be out for the remainder of the season (Eye on College Basketball)

– A big ol’ hat-tip is in order for Kansas center Jeff Withey, who graduated early this weekend (KUsports.com)

– Indiana sophomore Austin Etherington fractured his patella against Central Connecticut State on Saturday and will miss the remainder of the season (Indianapolis Star)

– Former Murray State guard Zay Jackson will be in court today for his arraignment. If he had taken a previously offered plea deal he could have limited the amount of jail time he gets. But because he turned it down, he may be looking at a lot more (Mid-Major Madness)

– Kentucky center Nerlens Noel is battling through knee soreness (Lexington Herald-Leader)

– Norvelle Pelle has yet to be cleared by the NCAA and is unlikely to play for Iona this season (SNY.tv)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– In its last full year as a basketball power, the Big East Conference is showing its dominance over other BCS conferences. (Cracked Sidewalks)

– Mike DeCourcy provides a thorough look at the week ahead. (Sporting News)

– Some excellent commentary on the Ohio Valley Conference and expansionocalypse (OVC Ball)

– It shouldn’t be too shocking to see that Providence is 7-2. But all things considered, it’s pretty shocking that Providence is 7-2. (Hoopville)

– Jeff Borzello thinks it’s a good thing that Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon isn’t Austin Rivers (Eye on College Basketball)

– Following the Wildcats’ Big-5 victory over Penn on Saturday, Villanova head coach Jay Wright stated he feels optimistic about the future of the Big-5 (Philly.com)

– Mississippi State will travel to Loyola (Ill.) this weekend to face the Ramblers in a rematch of the historic 1963 “Game of Change”. This will be the first time the two programs have faced off since then. (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

– After yet another loss, this time to in-state rivals Marquette, is it time for the Wisconsin Badgers to panic? (Bucky’s 5th Quarter)

– Younger fans are starting to board the Oklahoma State bandwagon, but it’s the older generation that needs to show support (The Oklahoman)
 
 
Odds & Ends:
– Gonzaga bench “Air Guitar” is the new “Hammer of Dill” (Backyard Sports)

– Texas and UCLA played at Reliant Stadium on Saturday. Only 3,000 people showed up. The following video needs to get burried and this game should never get discussed ever again. (Deadspin)

– It needs reiterating. The game between UCLA and Texas was a comedy of errors (Los Angeles Times)

– Mantaque Gill-Cesear: Future #AllNameTeam member (NBE Basketball Report)

– Northern Arizona commit Ako Koluna shatters another backboard. I saw another because he has a history of this (Big Sky Basketball)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
This is what “the worst foul shot ever” looks like prior to launch. (Backyard Sports)
 
source:
 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
Indiana’s Victor Oladipo is you clubhouse leader for “Poster Dunk of the Year”. (Ballin’ is a Habit)
 

 

Dunk(s) of the Day:
Archie Goodwin is in a close second place (Ballin’ is a Habit)
 


 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
Worst. Free throw. Ever.
 

Video(s) of the Day:
Rick Pitino gives one of the better press conferences in the country. Here he is answering a reporters phone during a presser. Improvisation at it’s finest.
 
This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
 
 
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)

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.”