The Morning Mix

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There are a grand total of eight games being played tonight between Division-I teams. That should probably tell you what were working with today. But just because the action on the hardwood has dried up momentarily doesn’t mean the news cycle slows down.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games: 
7:00 p.m. – No. 23 Wichita State @ Tennessee
7:00 p.m. – Middle Tennessee @ Belmont
10:00 p.m. – Jackson State @ Washington State
10:00 p.m. – Washington @ Seattle
 
 
Read of the Day:
Mike DeCourcy was tasked with the difficult assignment of ranking the top-35 March Madness moments that were featured in the NCAA’s celebration of the tournament’s 75th anniversary. Read it. (The Sporting News)
 
 
Top Stories:
CBT Podcast discusses whats going on with The Big East: Troy Machir and Daniel Martin discuss the best course of direction for the Catholic-7, the demise of BracketBusters, “Buy or Sell” on Illinois and North Carolina, and a sideline celebration debate for the ages.

Jabari Parker will decide on December 20th: The second ranked player in the class of 2013, The Simeon (Ill.) superstar, who is the second ranked recruit in the class of 2013 will choose between BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford a week from today.

Rodney Williams throws down the first 360-slam of the season: Despite nearly breaking his back on the landing, Minnesota’s resident high-flyer took off with rotation against North Dakota State.

Memphis’ holiday wish list: The Tigers need toughness. Their star players need star power. The list is long for Josh Pastner’s bunch.

Exam week essay on the practicality of advanced statistics: The use of tempo-free and advanced statistics has become more commonplace in recent years thanks to the work of guys like Ken Pomeroy and Dan Hanner. What is your opinion on the use of advanced statistics as analysis aids. What value do these metrics add to post-game evaluation in your opinion?
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– St. Joe’s forward Halil Kanacevic was suspended two games for flipping “the double bird” at the Villanova student section during the finals minutes of “The Holy War” on Tuesday night. (SB Nation Philly)

– Creighton’s Josh Jones, who passed out prior to the Bluejays game last week against Nebraska has been diagnosed with an atrial flutter and will miss the next month of play as he must undergo another open heart surgery. (Omaha World-Herald)

– Missouri and Arizona have agreed to a home-and-home series that will begin in at the McKale Center in 2015. (Kansas City Star)

– Minnesota freshman Wally Ellenson broke his left hand during an October practice. It was thought that the 6-foot-4 combo guard would take a redshirt season, but decided against in and logged his first minutes of the season against North Dakota State. (ESPN 1500 Twin Cities)

– There still is no timetable on when Virginia guard Jontell Evans will return to the starting lineup. (Washington Post)

– Bradley center Will Egolf underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to fix a broken nose he sustained in practice on Tuesday. (Peoria Star Journal)

– Alabama has lost more depth from their already thin frontcourt, as back-up center Carl Engstrom is done for the year with torn knee ligaments. (The Sporting News)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– This broke late last night: Sources indicate that the “Catholic-7” is leaning towards breaking off from the Big East. No word yet if they will form their own hoops conference or will join the A-10. (ESPN)

– Marquette AD Larry Williams had some strong quotes regarding the potential disbanding of the “Catholic-7” from the Big East. (ESPN)

– A great-read on building success, the lure of the A-10, and the basketball brand. (Rumble in the Garden)

– More rumors on MAAC expansion. (Big Apple Buckets)

– Wait a minute? Gonzaga wants to leave the West Coast Conference? I don’t know if I agree with that. (Slipper Still Fits)

– The Bilas Index has returned to rank the top-68 teams in the country (ESPN Insider)

– Did you know that the Boston Terriers have already suffered three losses this year at the hand of buzzer-beaters? (Daily Free-Press)

– Matt Norlander gets a bit wordy at the end, but provides os good numbers about John Calipari’s favorability numbers in the state of Kentucky. (Eye on College Basketball)

– The key for Ohio State this season is getting production out of guys not named Craft or Thomas. Sophomore Sam Thompson is one of those guys who is starting to emerge as a legitimate scoring option for the Buckeyes. (Fox Sports Ohio)

– The shot-blocking numbers being put up by Kansas center Jeff Withey are bordering on “unimaginable”. (Wichita Eagle)

– A “by the numbers” look at UConn’s frontcourt and how they stack up against the competition. (Connecticut Post)

– A solid look at four Big-Ten coaches who have been impressive after a month of hoops. (Rush The Court)
 
 
Odds & Ends:
– West Virginia mascot cited for violation after using uniform’s musket to kill bear. (College Basketball Talk)

– Another yearly rendition of “The six simple rules for storming the court”. (Midwest Sports Fan)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
In case you needed a reminder on how to do a rivalry the right way, Kentucky and Louisville remind us. (Kentucky Sports Radio)
 
source:
 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
I knew Jared Berggren was good, but I did not know he could do this.
 

 
 
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)

A season of highs and lows ends for Kansas in the Elite 8 again

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For the second season in a row, Kansas was one-win shy of a Final Four appearance, falling to Oregon, 74-60, in the Elite Eight on Friday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

This comes a year after Kansas, as the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, fell to eventual national champion Villanova in the Elite 8.

Just as stars such as Perry Ellis struggled in that regional final, so did KU’s freshman phenom Josh Jackson, whose quick two personal fouls that saddled him on the bench and appeared to take him out of the game mentally. Devonte’ Graham, averaging 20.0 points per game in the tournament, was 0-for-7 from the field. Frank Mason III’s first-half performance assured that Oregon would completely run away with the game before halftime.

The loss put an end to a tumultuous season for the Jayhawks.

Kansas entered the 2016-17 season as one of the favorites to win the national championship. The Jayhawks went on to win the Big 12 regular season title for an unprecedented 13th consecutive season. Frank Mason III, in the eyes of many, was the wire-to-wire national player of the year.

However, for all its accomplishments on the court, Kansas faced more than its share of issues off-the-court. Lagerald Vick, who was under university investigation for allegedly striking a female student. Carlton Bragg was arrested — and subsequently suspended — for drug paraphernalia. There was also the affidavit released a day before the start of the NCAA Tournament for the Jayhawks, detailing the incident outside a Lawerence bar from December involving both Vick and Josh Jackson. Even Devonte Graham’s arrest for an unpaid ticket made headlines during this string of non-basketball related news.

The Jayhawks downplayed talks of distraction before the start of the NCAA Tournament and backed it up by dominating opponents through the first three rounds. The average margin of victory was 30.0, and that includes victories over Michigan State and a 32-point beatdown of a Purdue team that held a massive mismatch on the interior.

It looked like Self was destined to add to his Hall of Fame résumé; a third trip to the Final Four — first since 2012 — was in front of essentially a home crowd. Instead, Oregon handed the Jayhawks their worst tournament defeat in the Bill Self era.

Seven times under Self, KU has made the Elite Eight and was sent home.

Perhaps, all would have been forgiven — or at the very least, overshadowed — had KU cut down the nets in Arizona.

Instead, its season ended in an all too familiar place.

Elite 8 Preview: Sunday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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No. 4 FLORIDA (-3) vs. No. 7 SOUTH CAROLINA, 2:20 p.m., CBS: If you’re a fan of uptempo, wide-open basketball, of teams running beautiful offensive sets, spreading the floor and using the three-point line like it should be used, this game probably is not going to be for you.

This is going to be as physical and as tough as any game you watched all season long. Both the Gamecocks and the Gators are top five teams in defensive efficiency, and both of them get out and pressure defensively, Florida in the full court and South Carolina in the half court. They shun shooters for the toughest athletes on their roster. They pride themselves in being tougher, both mentally and physically, than whoever they end up playing.

And they think that a game played in the 50s is beautiful basketball.

So bet the under if you can.

But the pick I like is Florida here. Their ability to defend is going to make it very difficult for South Carolina’s offensive renaissance to continue, and their guards will be able to make the plays offensively that South Carolina dares you to make.

PREDICTION: Florida (-3)

No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA (-2.5) vs. No. 2 KENTUCKY, 5:05 p.m. CBS: This is the rematch we all wanted, right?

Ever since that day three months ago, when Kentucky got 47 points from Malik Monk in a 103-102 win over North Carolina in Las Vegas, I don’t think there is a soul in the country that would have told you otherwise.

There are two major differences between these two teams now and those two teams then. The biggest is the presence of Theo Pinson, North Carolina’s best perimeter defender. Pinson has dealt foot injuries all season long, and when these two got together in December, he was not yet healthy enough to play. I assume that he will draw the assignment of Malik Monk, chasing around the man that had definitively been Kentucky’s most dangerous scorer. Pinson will make life more difficult for Monk than it was the first time around.

But is he going to spend the entire game on him?

Because after De’Aaron Fox’s 39-point outburst against UCLA on Friday night, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Pinson may be better suited to taking on the task of keeping Fox from getting into the paint. Whatever Roy Williams opts to do, the bottom line is pretty simple — if he needs to find a way to keep Kentucky’s back court in check.

The other difference between now and then is that Bam Adebayo has been playing up to his potential for the past six weeks. He was solid earlier in the year. He can be dominant at times now, and that is going to be critical for the Wildcats, who are going to be outsized by a significant margin by UNC’s front line. The Tar Heels lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, and they are one of the only elite teams that thrives playing two bigs at the same time. In other words, one of Wenyen Gabriel or Derek Willis are going to have to deal with Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley. That’s a matchup that favors UNC, which is why Aebayo is going to have to play up to his size.

In the end, I think Pinson’s presence and North Carolina’s size advantage will be too much.

But if Fox and Monk play their game, they can carry Kentucky a long, long way.

PREDICTION: North Carolina (2.5)

Lawrence Police Department trolls Bill Self following Elite Eight loss

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Kansas had its season ended with a 74-60 loss to No. 3 seed Oregon.

The Jayhawks were the top seed in the South region. They were playing a de facto at the Sprint Center, which is 40 miles away from the school’s campus. As you can imagine, fans in Lawrence were likely unhappy, especially since it’s the second year in a row KU has been bounced one-game shy of the Final Four.

The Lawrence Police Department, while prepping for potential riots, couldn’t help tweeting a joke at the future Hall of Famer’s expense.

Bill Self’s teams have been eliminated seven times in the Elite Eight during his tenure at Kansas. He’s led the Jayhawks to a pair of Final Fours, winning the national championship in 2008.

Kansas finished the season 31-5.

Gonzaga passes the title of best program without a Final Four to Xavier in win

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In 1999, Gonzaga was not yet “Gonzaga”.

A No. 10 seed in just their third NCAA tournament, the Zags won three games against high-major competition, coming within a possession of reaching the Final Four in a loss to No. 1 seed UConn.

UConn, at that point, was one of the best programs in the country under Jim Calhoun, but the knock on the Huskies at that point was that they couldn’t win the big one. They had been to three Elite 8s and three more Sweet 16s in the previous eight seasons, but it wasn’t until they knocked off that Gonzaga team that they finally were playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

For 18 years, Gonzaga tried and failed to get to a Final Four, becoming one of the nation’s premier basketball programs without having the postseason success to legitimize themselves in the eyes of idiots around the country. That ended on Saturday night in San Jose, as No. 1 seed Gonzaga ended No. 11 Xavier’s thrilling run to the Elite 8 and passing on the torch that UConn passed to them.

Xavier can now claim the title of the best basketball program that has yet to make a Final Four, which is both a compliment and a curse.

The Musketeers have been to the NCAA tournament 25 times since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. They’ve been to nine Sweet 16s and three Elite 8s. They had a winning record in NCAA tournament play until Saturday’s loss and now lay claim to the title of the team with the most NCAA tournament wins without an appearance in the Final Four.

Xavier is going to get there eventually. Chris Mack is one of the best coaches in the business. Hell, if Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner both return to school, it could very well be next season that they snap that streak. It’s coming at some point.

I don’t even think it’s an insult to say this about Xavier. I don’t think it’s a shot at the program or the coaches that have come through it. Getting to the Final Four is hard. Bill Self is a lead-pipe lock to be a Hall of Famer, and he’s been to just two Final Fours in his career. He’s 2-7 in the Elite 8, and if Derrick Rose could make his free throws, the discussion of just how good of a coach Self is if he can’t win a title would be raging with the Jayhawks flaming out of the tournament on Saturday night.

But as with Gonzaga and UConn before them, Xavier is going to have that monkey on their back every time they suit up in March.

VIDEO: Tyler Dorsey hits dagger after dagger in upset of Kansas

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Tyler Dorsey is building himself quite the reputation for being a big-shot maker.

He hit the game-winner that got Oregon to the Sweet 16. He hit two threes at the end of the first half to push Oregon’s lead to 11 points over Kansas. And he hit this three, the dagger through the heart of Kansas:

Dorsey finished with 27 points. He’s scored at least 20 points in every game since the NCAA tournament began.