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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)

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.”