The Morning Mix

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I hope you all had an excellent holiday. The Diamondhead Classic provided a great accompaniment of college hoops to your holiday festivities. While the hardwood action today is sparse, consider this a tune-up for another solid weekend slate of college hoops.

Today’s Morning Mix goes out to Creighton’s Josh Jones (@62JJonsey), whose basketball career was cut short due to heart complications.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – New Mexico @ No. 8 Cincinnati
8:00 p.m. – Oakland @ Western Illinois
10:00 p.m. – Rhode Island @ Saint Mary’s
Read(s) of the Day:
Josh Jones’ career at Creighton has been cut short due to heart troubles. In honor of his accomplishments, the White 7 Blue Review put together an awesome career retrospective. Read it. (White & Blue Review)
Top Stories:
Is Murray State an elite mid-major program, or just a good team? Isaiah Canaan has put Murray State on the map, but much of the Racers success came before Canaan was the featured star. In order to gauge the Murray State program as a whole, we need to see how the Racers do when their current crop of stars departs.

San Diego State’s size, versatility makes them more dangerous than a year ago:
San Diego State lost their second game of the season on Christmas night, but the Aztecs’ versatile frontcourt should actually make them more dangerous than a year ago.

Who is the best college basketball team in the West? While the Pac-12 is way down, west coast hoops is being supported by MWC and WCC teams. It’s clear that Arizona is the best team out west, but which teams are next in line?

10 tidbits to know: Bearcats boarding, Baron scoring and more: NBC Sports’ College Basketball Insider Vin Parise stops by to dish on ten tidbits you need to know heading in to the next week.

Ryan Harrow, as good as any point guard in the country? Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow had a rough start to the season. He was benched in favor of a walk-on, sat out with an illness, and took a leave of absence to deal with personal matters. But in the last three weeks, the Ryan Harrow we all expected to see early in the season has emerged.
Hoops Housekeeping
– The career of Creighton’s Josh Jones has come to halt due to heart conditions. The Senior guard collapsed momentarily prior to a November 9 game against Nebraska. (Omaha World-Herald)

– Nebraska redshirt freshman Deverell Biggs was charged with DUI and leaving the scene following a traffic stop early Sunday morning. (Corn Nation)

– Louisville center Gorgui Dieng has been cleared for practice and got an x-ray on his injured wrist. The Junior won’t play against Kentucky, but should return to action shortly after January 1. (The Cardinal Connect)

– Scratch that, it looks like Gorgui Dieng will give it a go against Kentucky, per Jeff “Two Scoops” Goodman. (Eye on College Basketball)

– UNLV forward Mike Moser returned to practice yesterday but is unlikely to play against North Carolina this weekend. (Las Vegas Sun)

– South Carolina has landed former-Villanova point guard Ty Johnson. (

– The injury bug has turned into an epidemic for the Seton Hall Pirates. This time around, it’s backup forward Kevin Johnson, who will miss 2-3 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery yesterday morning. (Sporting News)
Observations & Insight:
– Miami went to Maui and learned that they will only go as far as Reggie Johnson can take them. (Busting Brackets)

– Jeff Eisenberg provides a conference reset for the ACC. It’s Duke or bust. (The Dagger)

– A good-read on Dyami Starks, the little-known difference maker for the Bryant Bulldogs. (Big Apple Buckets)

– An excellent-read on the development of Kyisean Reed and his new found leadership. (Salt Lake Tribune)
Video(s) of the Day:
Here is Casey Prather performing the single sloppiest in-bounds pass of all time.

Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or want something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
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Throughout Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State the team’s half-court man-to-man defense has been a staple, and the Spartans have generally proven difficult to have a high rate of offensive success against. The reliance on that defense is why Izzo’s conversations earlier this summer about using some token full-court pressure due to the shortening of the shot clock caught some people off-guard.

According to the Detroit Free Press there’s another wrinkle the Spartans may use, and it’s likely that this wrinkle will show up more often than the full-court press. During Friday’s opening practice the Spartans worked on a 2-3 zone, and Izzo wants his assistants to make sure the team works on the defense consistently throughout the season.

That’s also why zone in general isn’t going to get heavy play at MSU, but having it as a tool could be beneficial — especially in games with touch fouls on the perimeter called in droves.

“I told (my assistant coaches): ‘You hold me accountable to working on it every day some’ … I have a tendency to drift off on that, and I don’t want to drift off on it,” Izzo said of the 2-3 zone. “But we will be, rest assured, a 90-some percent man-to-man team still and hopefully take some of those principles to zone.”

As noted in the story one of the risks in using pressure is allowing quality shots, which is why it’s unlikely that Michigan State will go to it. But even with Izzo vowing that his team will work on the zone, that doesn’t mean they’ll be playing it as often as Syracuse does.

Man-to-man has been Michigan State’s staple and it will continue to be. But it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways to keep opponents from getting the looks they want, especially if teams have five fewer seconds to find those shots.

Virginia used 3-on-3 to adjust to new shot clock

Malcolm Brogdon
Associated Press
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When the college basketball rules committee made the decision to trim the shot clock down to 30 second from 35, one reason for the switch was the desire to improve offensive production. With offensive numbers at their lowest point in years, proponents of the move see the shot clock change as a necessary move if scoring is to improve.

Whether or not that winds up being the case will be seen throughout the upcoming season, but teams are still having to make adjustments during the preseason.

Virginia, which has played at a snail’s pace (and with great success, mind you) in recent years, made some adjustments to their summer work in anticipation of playing with a 30-second shot clock. One adjustment was more games of 3-on-3 with a 15-second shot clock, which forced all involved to be more decisive in their offensive decision-making.

While the pack-line defense will always be a staple of Tony Bennett’s teams, the feeling in Charlottesville is that they’ve got the offensive firepower needed to both play faster and be more efficient offensively than they were in 2014-15 (29th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy). One of the players who will lead the way is senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who led the team in scoring and was a first team All-ACC selection, and he discussed the team’s outlook with Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

And even though Anderson’s highlight-reel shot blocking was the thing that frequently fueled fast-breaks for U.Va. last season, Brogdon and [Anthony] Gill said they expect this year’s team to actually push the tempo even more.

“I think we’re going to be a team that gets out and runs more,” Brogdon said. “I think we’ll have three guards on the floor, most of the time, will be able to handle the ball as a point guard and get out in transition. I think we’ll play a lot faster.”

Brogdon and Gill are two of the team’s three returning starters with point guard London Perrantes being the other, and the Cavaliers also return most of their reserves from last year’s rotation. That experience will help them on both ends of the floor as they prepare for a run at a third straight ACC regular season title. And in theory it also allows them to extend themselves a bit more offensively than they did a season ago.