The Morning Mix

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We’ve got a pretty good slate of games on tap tonight, including the much-anticipated Crosstown Classic between Xavier and Cincinnati. The college basketball world continues to show their support to those who were involved in the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting.

Lets hit the links.

Wednesday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – Cornell @ No. 1 Duke
7:00 p.m. – Florida International @ No. 5 Louisville
7:00 p.m. – Xavier vs. No. 11 Cincinnati
7:00 p.m. – Illinois State @ Dayton
7:30 p.m. – Ohio @ Massachusetts
8:05 p.m. – Tulsa @ No. 17 Creighton
8:00 p.m. – South Dakota State @ Belmont
8:00 p.m. – Oregon @ UTEP
9:00 p.m. – No. 23 North Carolina @ Texas
9:00 p.m. – Oakland @ West Virginia
10:00 p.m. – Pacific @ St. Mary’s
10:00 p.m. – Northern Iowa @ No. 21 UNLV
11:00 p.m. – Ole Miss @ Loyola Marymount

Read(s) of the Day:
This is one of the best articles I’ve read all month and potentially all year. Jason King does a masterful job detailing the priceless tutelage provided by John Lucas to troubled players and coaches. If you read only one article today, make sure it’s this. (ESPN)

Top Stories:
Providence honors Newtown victims with jersey, 26 empty seats: Providence played on Tuesday night and their way of honoring the memory of the victims was to wear the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Many schools have done a marvelous job of honoring Sandy Hook and Newtown, but the good people at Providence should be applauded for their swift efforts.

VIDEO: How did Jim Boeheim make it to 900? Vin Parise joined NBC Sports’ SportsTalk to break down exactly how Jim Boeheim made it to this spectacular point in his illustrious coaching career.

Holiday Wish List for Ohio State: In order for the Buckeyes to make consecutive Final-Fours, they will need to ask for more minutes for Shannon Scott and increased consistency from Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross.

Can Miami really be the second best team in the ACC? The Hurricanes have a front line big enough to compete with anyone in the league and has a balanced attack that features five players averaging double figures. Miami picked the right season to peak. With the rest of the ACC down, Jim Larranaga has enough talent to make a push to be the second best team in the league.

Hoops Housekeeping
– We’re less than 48 hours away from finding out where Jabari Parker will attend college, and the father of the nation’s top recruit doesn’t know which school his son will choose. (ESPN Chicago)

– Wichita State’s Ron Baker becomes third Shocker starter to miss time due to injury (Wichita Eagle)

– Louisville center Gorgui Dieng likely to sit out with injury until after New Year’s Day (The Dagger)

– Duke redshirt freshman Marshall Plumlee is set to make his debut tonight when the Blue Devils take on Cornell. The youngest Plumlee brother had been sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot for the last two months (Rant Sports)

– Purdue reserve guard Jay Simpson will miss the rest of the 2012-2013 season due to a foot injury and will be eligible to seek a medical redshirt hardship waiver. (Lafayette Journal Courier)

Observations & Insight:
– A nice-read on Memphis’ dunk machine D.J. Stephens, who has evolved from athletic project to senior leader. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)

– Nicole Auerbach spent some time in the Queen City and profiled the anatomy of a rivalry. (USA Today)

– A miscommunication between Keith Appling and Tom Izzo resulted in Bowling Green players being a little upset with the way the Spartans finished off their ten point victory over the Falcons. (

– Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey spoke out about the Newtown shootings during his teams press conference following their loss to Ohio State last night. (

– Former-Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez has some words of wisdom for currently suspended Rutgers head coach Mike Rice (

– Joe Lunardi has some bracket concerns with the new unnamed Catholic League (ESPN)

– Jeff Borzello updates us on his Freshman of the Year awards. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Four midseason transfers that can provide an instant impact for their new teams. (The Dagger)

Odds & Ends:
– A “where are they now” on a bunch of players who were recruited by Billy Gillispie at Kentucky. (Eye on College Basketball)

– State Fair JuCo star Kenny-Red Chery has committed to Baylor. Future #AllNameTeam member for sure. (Our Daily Bears)

– Ten reasons why Bearcat fans hate Xavier. Don’t hate on the Xavier popes. Those guys are the best. (Bearcats Blog)

– Aaron Craft’s mom explains her son’s trademark rosy red cheeks. (The Dagger)

– Kansas sophomore Naadir Tharpe did “The Robot” on the bench during the Jayhawks destruction of Richmond. (The Mock Session)

 Picture of the Day:
The Providence honored the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting during the Friars game against Colgate last night by memorializing 26 seats at The Dunkin’ Donuts Center. (College Basketball Talk)


Dunks(s) of the Day:
Auburn’s Chris Denson shut it down against Tennessee Tech last night. # GameOver.

Video(s) of the Day:
This is the funniest faux Christmas infomercial you will ever see (The Basketball Jones)

Video(s) of the Day:
Highlights from VCU’s 32-point win over Western Kentucky, as seen on the NBC Sports Network

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No. 2 Duke goes inside to defeat No. 11 Syracuse

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OMAHA, Neb. — Second-seeded Duke made just 5 of its 26 3-point attempts against No. 11 Syracuse on Friday in the two ACC programs’ Sweet 16 matchup.

So the Blue Devils just went inside.

Marvin Bagley III and Wendel Carter, Jr. both had big games to help the Blue Devils outlast the Orange, 69-65, to put themselves in the Elite Eight on Sunday against top-seeded Kansas.

While Duke couldn’t beat the zone that took Syracuse from the First Four to the second weekend with its outside shooting, its two big underclassmen provided plenty of production. Bagley had 22 points and eight rebounds while Carter added 14 points and 12 boards.

Tyus Battle had 19 points to lead the Orange.

Syracuse shot 53.8 percent from the floor in the second half while Duke shot 36.4 percent, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Orange’s 16 turnovers or Duke’s 17 second-chance points.

Grayson Allen had 15 points and eight assists for Duke. The Blue Devils had 32 points in the paint.


VIDEO: Allen-to-Bagley oop beats the Syracuse zone

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Usually, you’ve got to shoot a team out of a zone.

Duke might be able to dunk Syracuse out of it.

Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley connected for a beautiful alley-oop Friday in the second half of the Blue Devils’ Sweet 16 contest against the Orange.

That will work as a zone-buster.

VIDEO: Duke slaps the floor on defense…while playing zone

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Slapping the floor on defense has its advocates and its detractors.

Some applaud the old-school, hard-nosed nature of putting hand to floor. For others, its a bit corny.

What everyone agrees on is that you don’t drop a floor slap if you’re playing zone.

Unless you’re Duke, apparently.

Presumably, the whole point of slapping the floor is to psyche yourself and intimidate your opponent with aggressive man-to-man defense. Not sit-back-and-guard-this-spot-whether-there’s-a-guy-there-or-not defense.

C’mon, Duke. You’re making it too easy for your haters.


Late run sparks Villanova past West Virginia, into Elite Eight

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BOSTON — It is always just a matter of time before the avalanche comes.

And when it does, you better hope that lead you have is big enough to withstand what’s coming.

For No. 5-seed West Virginia, it was not. With 11 minutes left on Friday night in Boston’s TD Garden, the Mountaineers led 60-54 and had seemingly wrestled control of the game from the No. 1-seed in the East Region. Less than five minutes later, after the Wildcats hit four of their next five threes, Villanova had taken a 76-66 lead by going on a 22-6 run, and West Virginia was never able to recover.

Jalen Brunson led the way for the top-seeded Wildcats with 27 points and four assists while Omari Spellman finished with 18 points, eight boards and three blocks and Mikal Bridges chipped in with 16 points despite playing relatively poorly — by his standards — on Friday.

With a 90-78 win, Villanova advanced to the Elite Eight and a date with the winner of tonight’s game No. 2 Purdue-No. 3 Texas Tech.

That’s the way that it works with this Villanova team. Armed with the most potent, high-volume three-point shooting attack in college basketball — maybe in the history of college basketball — fans of their opponents are just waiting for the inevitable.

On Friday night, Villanova shot 13-for-24 from three, which is damned-impressive and exactly what we expect at the same time.

But what changed the game was that 22-6 run that eventually turned into a 29-11 surge.

And it all started with a free throw.

Brunson drew a foul on Lamont West — a common theme for the Wildcats in the second half — and got to the foul line with 10:58 left on the clock. After he missed the second free throw, Spellman knocked the rebound out of bounds off of Esa Ahmad. Brunson against drew a foul, this time earning an and-one. A missed jumper from Beetle Bolden led to two Eric Paschall free throws before Jalen Brunson someone managed to find Mikal Bridges for a three that gave the Wildcats the lead and led to what might have been the most important sequence of the game.

Spellman spiked a Bolden shot straight down into the floor and then corralled the loose ball. He found Phil Booth with an outlet, and after a missed layup, Spellman beat everyone else down the floor for a massive tip-dunk that set off the Villanova-favored crowd:

“We expect that of him,” Brunson said of Spellman. “He’s supposed to play at a high level every game.”

After that stretch, Villanova threw it into cruise control. That West Virginia defense that had bothered them so much for the first 30 minutes of the game seemed to be nothing more than a mild annoyance, a little brother batting at the ball as the Wildcats pulled away. First it was Donte Divincenzo — who was flat-out bad, the player that was most-victimized by West Virginia’s pressure — hitting a three to push the lead to six. Then after two West Virginia free throws, Brunson dribbled Jevon Carter into the post before kicking the ball out to Spellman for a three. Paschall would dunk on Sagaba Konate the next time the Wildcats had the ball before Brunson capped the run by drilling a step-back three in the face of Carter.

Once that happened, everyone knew the end result was inevitable.

“We got used to the physicality, we got used to the aggressiveness, and we were executing better,” head coach Jay Wright said. “We thought that was going to be the case. You just can’t simulate that, you know. You got to just get in that game and feel it.”

“I have so much respect for the way West Virginia plays, how physical, how relentless they play, how mentally tough they are. Really, you’ve got guys, they don’t talk any junk. A little with Konate and Omari got into it a little bit, no biggie, but the whole game, they don’t say anything. They just come at you physically, aggressively, and mentally tough. So if you’re not better in those areas, they’re going to get you. And to see our guys come out, more to be able to compete with them physically and mentally, it was really impressive to me.”

Me, too.

VIDEO: Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall with mammoth dunks for Villanova

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Villanova took the lead on West Virginia and turned the tide of momentum with a pair of emphatic dunks in transition.

It started with Omari Spellman, who had an unbelievable sequence, spiking a shot into the floor before throwing down a put-back dunk all over a defender:

A couple of possessions later, Eric Paschall finally did the impossible.

He dunked on Sagaba Konate:

I am having way too much fun at this game.