The Morning Mix

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This is the last day of a shortened holiday week for The Morning Mix. If you’re like most of us and taking it easy tonight (in order to prepare for NEw Years), then you will have a handful of quality games to watch tonight.

Considering how there was only one major game on last night, we got a lot of news and notes to get to today.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games:
3:00 p.m. – Rider @ Rutgers
7:00 p.m. – Iona @ St. John’s
7:00 p.m. – Providence @ Brown (NBC Sports Network)
7:30 p.m. – Bucknell @ Loyola (Md.)
7:30 p.m. – Southern Miss @ Morehead State
8:00 p.m. – Baylor @ No. 13 Gonzaga
8:00 p.m. – Jacksonville @ No. 5 Indiana
8:00 p.m. – Oral Roberts @ Memphis
10:00 p.m. – No. 7 Missouri @ UCLA
10:00 p.m. – Yale @ Nevada
 
 
Read(s) of the Day:
With the Battle for the Bluegrass taking place this weekend between Louisville and Kentucky, Dana O’Neil’s piece on the great divide is a must-read. Make sure you read it. (ESPN)

Read(s) of the Day:
It is great to see that Bob Valvano is back in good spirits following a cardiac arrest last week. Make sure you read this great piece from Tim Sullivan. Bob is one of the all-time greats and we wish him nothing but the absolute best. (Courier-Journal)

 
 
Top Stories:
Cincinnati needs to find an offensive threat in the paint, and quickly: The Bearcats suffered their first loss of the season last night in a close battle with New Mexico. But throughout the 40 minutes, it was apparent that the Bearcats had no answer for the Lobos’ 7-foot 250-pound Alex Kirk, who dominated the paint and was the main reason why Cincinnati is no longer unbeaten.

Tony Parker’s homesick tweets say more about UCLA than about Parker: The third member of UCLA’s loaded recruiting class hasn’t been very happy riding the pine while the Bruins team struggles on the hardwood. The Georgia-native sent out cryptic tweets indicating he was homesick, but it does not appear as if he intends to transfer.

UNLV forward Mike Moser returns to practice, but will he play Saturday? UNLV’s star forward has been on the shelf the past three weeks due to a dislocated right elbow, but returned to practice for the first time since December 9th. But it is still unknown if Moser will be able to go against North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Saturday.

Coach Cal to the Nets? Despite his remarkable success at Kentucky, John Calipari has been linked to almost every high-profile NBA opening in recent memory. With the firing of Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson yesterday, speculation swirled about Cal’s desire to return to the NBA. But like most rumors, this one has no legs.

 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– Missouri backup forward Tony Criswell will miss tonight’s game against UCLA with a broken finger. (Rock M Nation)

– Providence guard Vincent Council is set to make his return tonight against Brown. The senior guard injured his hamstring just minutes into the Friars season opener against N.J.I.T. (Providence Journal)

– Northern Iowa freshman Chris Olivier has left the program and will transfer. The forward spent last season as a redshirt and played just once this season, in the season-opener against Wartburg (D-III). (Sporting News)

– The game between Temple and Detroit was postponed yesterday because the Titans were unable to get out of the midwest because of the intense winter storms. The game will hopefully be made up later in the season. (Philahoops.com)

– Pittsburgh sophomore center Malcolm Gilbert has decided to leave the program and will transfer elsewhere. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

– Kwamain Mitchell is set to return for the Saint Louis Billikens and should provide the talent and experience the squad needs to propel them to the top of the A-10 leaderboard. (Billiken Report)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Thanks to a big performance from big-man Alex Kirk, the New Mexico Lobos handed Cincinnati their first loss of the season. (Sporting News)

– Gorgui Dieng will in fact play this weekend when Louisville takes on Kentucky, and thanks to an act of generosity, his parents will be able to see him play college hoops in person for the first time. (The Dagger)

– Luke Winn makes some college hoops predictions for 2013. As is the case with most of Mr. Winn’s work, this is must-read stuff. (Sports Illustrated)

– You may not realize it, but tonight’s game between Loyola (Md.) and Bucknell could have possible NCAA Tournament implications. (Baltimore Sun)

– Jeff Goodman’s “Good N’ Plenty” column doesn’t have a lot of direction to it, but it is loaded with news and notes. Which is why I highly recommend you read it every week. (Eye on College Basketball)

– A look back at the top-5 LIU-Brooklyn games of 2012. I was at No. 2, and let me tell you, I haven’t been to many games that had a more electric environment. I’d go back in a heartbeat. (Blackbirds Hoops Journal)

– Remember that crazy idea to have four basketball games take place simultaneously at Cowboy Stadium? Well, it’s not going to happen. Thank God. It would have been a nightmare. (Sporting News)

– Former-Florida State forward Bernard James has always been a favorite of ours. He’s a former-serviceman who went back to school and played hoops the way it should be played: Hard, gritty, tough and with 100% effort. This story from Mike Scotto is just one of the many reasons why James will always be a fan favorite around these parts. (Real GM)

– A top-10 list of the best basketball shoes worn by teams through the first part of the season. (Nice Kicks)

– Seth Greenberg takes a look at four teams that still have a shot to make the tournament despite a slow start. (ESPN Insider)

– Rush The Court released their all-conference non-conference team for the Big-10. (Rush The Court)

– Glen Logan explains how Kentucky can defeat Louisville as an underdog. (A Sea of Blue)

– Speaking of Kentucky, they desperately need a signature win. You know it’s bad when Dick Vitale is writing about it. (ESPN Dick Vitale)

– Portland State’s scoreboard is turning into an eyesore. (Big Sky Bball)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
Cincinnati suffered their first loss of the season last night to a tough New Mexico squad. The Bearcats shot 9-for-28 from inside the 3-point arc. This photo of Mic Cronin says it all. (The Mock Session)

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Video(s) of the Day:

 
 
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College Basketball Power Rankings: Duke to No. 1, Xavier and Minnesota climb

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At this point, there really is no choice but to put Duke at No. 1 in the Power Rankings this week.

That’s what happens when you’re a consensus top three team in the preseason and, five days into the regular season, you pick off another top three team. Hell, we had Michigan State ranked No. 1 in the NBC Sports Power Rankings last week.

At this point, Michigan State is still No. 2 for me. Their one loss this season came on a night where Grayson Allen went crazy and they gave up 25 offensive rebounds and committed 18 turnovers, and they still were in the game down the stretch. Beyond that, the only teams in the top 25 that have lost so far this season are Kentucky, Northwestern and Providence. The Wildcats fell to Kansas while playing their best game of the season, while Northwestern and Providence both dropped out of the top 25.

But the truth is that, as of today, we still don’t really know anything about these teams. Arizona, Villanova and Wichita State didn’t have to play anywhere near their best basketball to start the season 3-0. The same can be said for anyone that is currently sitting at or near the top of these rankings.

This week is when we start to really find out about them. Arizona is playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina and Florida are in the PK80. Wichita State is out in Maui. There are events in New York City all week. UCLA, Creighton, Baylor and Wisconsin are in Kansas City. There are games in Las Vegas and Orlando and California

And while my opinion on the glut of exempt events still stands, I do think that we learn more about, say, Wichita State seeing them play potentially overmatched opponents in Maui over the course of three straight days than we do seeing them beat the brakes off of mid-major competition in Koch Arena.

Anyway, here is the NBC Sports Top 25 in its entirety:

1. Duke, 4-0 (Last Week: No. 2)
2. Michigan State, 3-1 (1)
3. Arizona, 3-0 (3)
4. Kansas, 3-0 (4)
5. Villanova, 3-0 (5)
6. Wichita State, 2-0 (6)
7. Florida, 3-0 (7)
8. Cincinnati, 3-0 (8)
9. USC, 4-0 (9)
10. Miami, 3-0 (10)
11. Xavier, 3-0 (14)
12. Texas A&M, 2-0 (11)
13. Minnesota, 4-0 (19)
14. Louisville, 2-0 (12)
15. Notre Dame, 3-0 (13)
16. Seton Hall, 4-0 (15)
17. Kentucky, 3-1 (16)
18. North Carolina, 2-0 (17)
19. Saint Mary’s, 4-0 (21)
20. Alabama, 3-0 (22)
21. Purdue, 4-0 (24)
22. Gonzaga, 3-0 (23)
23. UCLA, 3-0 (18)
24. Texas, 3-0 (NR)
25. Texas Tech, 4-0 (NR)

NEW ADDITIONS: 24. Texas, 25. Texas Tech
DROPPED OUT: 20. Northwestern, No. 25 Providence

Texas Tech mollywhops No. 21 Northwestern, stakes claim to second-best in Big 12

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No. 21 Northwestern was, technically, never even tied with Texas Tech on Sunday evening.

The Wildcats were given a technical foul at the start of the game because their players were not in the scorebook, which was more than adequate foreshadowing for what was to come. Keenan Evans made a free throw before the ball was tipped, the Red Raiders would then score the next eight points and jump out to a 23-5 lead that Chris Collins’ club never recovered.

Northwestern never was within single-digits again, let alone close enough to make this a game. They lost 85-49, the worst loss for the Northwestern program in nearly a decade, since Nov. 27th, 2007.

I could recite the stats to you, if you’d like. Northwestern shot 26.7 percent from the floor. They were 6-for-23 from three. Texas Tech forced 17 turnovers, and Northwestern had 12 field goals to 11 steals for the Red Raiders.

It was as bad of a beatdown as you’ll see between two teams in the NCAA tournament discussion.

It’s easy to read into this loss, and the loss that Northwestern suffered at home against Creighton on Wednesday, and think that the Wildcats are not yet cut out for being the hunted, and that might be fair. As cliché as it is, there is something to be said for the way an opponent plays when you are the quality win. At some point, Northwestern is going to have to prove they can handle that.

But Sunday was not about Northwestern.

Sunday was about Texas Tech.

It was about Chris Beard putting the Big 12 on notice.

This team is tough and they are old. They have size and athleticism. They have a star in lead guard Keenan Evans and a roster that is more than willing to put in the work on the defensive end of the floor. Most importantly, however, is that Beard has built a team full of guys that all have something to prove. There aren’t any four or five-star freshmen on his roster. The elite recruits that he does have are all transfers, cast-offs from other programs.

That’s just how Beard like it.

Now I don’t think the Red Raiders are going to be winning the Big 12 and ending Kansas’ streak of 14 straight Big 12 titles. But I do think that they’ll be right there in the mix for the title of second-best in the Big 12, and I’m not sure I would have felt that way before the start of the season.

Miles Bridges hurt as No. 2 Michigan State cruises past Stony Brook

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Miles Bridges stayed in school to chase a national championship instead of cashing in on his potential in the NBA.

Three games into his sophomore season, he is hurt.

Bridges scored 20 points before limping off the court after injuring his left ankle, casting a pall over No. 2 Michigan State as it beat Stony Brook 93-71 on Sunday night.

“Thank God it’s not a high-ankle sprain,” coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s just a sprain where he rolled it. He’ll be day to day.”

The Spartans (2-1) bounced back from their loss to top-ranked Duke with a win that will be remembered as being costly if Bridges’ injury lingers.

Bridges was fouled with 8:32 left in the game as he went into the lane with the ball and awkwardly planted his left foot, rolling his ankle. After trying to stay in the game to shoot free throws, the preseason All-America player went back to the bench briefly before walking toward the locker room.

“By Tuesday morning, I’ll know more,” Izzo said. “Miles is tough enough to play through it but we’re not going to take any chances.”

Nick Ward scored a season-high 22 points, Joshua Langford had a career-high 19 points and Cassius Winston scored a season-high 13 points and had six assists for the Spartans.

The Seawolves (0-4) led for much of the first half, holding Bridges to two points as they led 22-15 midway through the first half.

Stony Brook’s Elijah Olaniyi scored 16, Akwasi Yeboah had 15 points, UC Iroegbu scored 12 and Tyrell Sturdivant added 10 points.

“The biggest positive was coming out and competing for 40 minutes,” coach Jeff Boals said. “We kept on fighting. I think we led 12 1/2 minutes in the first half. Our biggest thing was coming out and getting off to a good start, just to build some confidence.”

BIG PICTURE

Stony Brook: The America East Conference team made 13 of 26 3-pointers against one of the top teams in the country. That kind of shooting can help the Seawolves pull off an upset, something they had a chance to do in setbacks against Maryland and Connecticut.

“We’re 0-4 right now and it doesn’t look good on wins and losses, but we’ve competed in every game we’ve played,” Boals said.

Michigan State: Bridges’ health is a key factor for the team, and for himself. Izzo isn’t sure how long Bridges will be out.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Spartans will slip in The Associated Press poll after losing to the top-ranked Blue Devils and perhaps because Bridges is injured.

HUMBLED AT HOME

Michigan State standout freshman Jaren Jackson fouled out in 14 scoreless minutes. He missed his only shot, a 3-pointer, and had a team-high three turnovers.

“This might be the only time in that kid’s career he doesn’t score,” Boals said. “He is an unbelievable talent.”

The 6-foot-11 Jackson, rated as one of the top prospects for the 2018 NBA draft, was averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“Jaren’s a great player, but he is a young player,” Langford said. “He’s way ahead of where I was.”

UP NEXT

Stony Brook: In its home opener on Wednesday night, hosts Brown.

Michigan State: Plays DePaul on Thursday night in Oregon at the Phil Knight Invitational. The Spartans will play the Ducks or Connecticut in the semifinals on Friday and could face No. 9 North Carolina on Sunday.

“It’s not the biggest stage like Duke was, but it’s time to get back to what we lost against Duke,” Langford said.

Donald Trump’s response to LaVar Ball: ‘I should’ve left them in jail!’

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I told you this was going to happen.

After LaVar Ball downplayed Donald Trump’s role in bringing home his son, LiAngelo, and the three other UCLA players that were arrested for shoplifting in China last week, Trump responded by taking to twitter and saying that he should have left American citizens in prison in a non-democratic, authoritarian country because they will not personally acknowledge his efforts enough:

Sigh.

Now we await LaVar’s response.

Five-star 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons could test NBA Draft process

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Five-star Class of 2018 guard Anfernee Simons is interested in potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to a report from Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the former Louisville commit will likely be eligible to jump to the NBA straight out of high school since he graduated high school last year while turning 19 next June. The 6-foot-4 Simons, considered the No. 16 overall prospect in the Rivals’ Class of 2018 national rankings, is playing a post-grad season at IMG Academy for 2017-18 after reclassifying as a sophomore.

If Simons opts to go pro than college basketball loses a potential star as he’s been shooting up the national rankings over the past year. Simons was committed to the Cardinals since the beginning of his junior year but he opened things up once former head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in a fallout from the FBI investigation on college basketball.

Simons started his season at the National Prep Showcase this weekend as six NBA teams sent people to watch him play, according to Givony’s report.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in this situation as Simons hasn’t done much with the recruiting process over the last several months. Now that NBA teams are already watching him play, Simons could follow in Thon Maker’s footsteps and turn pro right away.