The Morning Mix

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Morning folks. I hope you’re ready for another loaded night of college hoops, because Wednesday is bringing the thunder. Tonight is the first full night of conference play, and there are a handful of sneaky-good match-ups are on the schedule.

Lets hit the links.

Wednesday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – Nebraska @ No. 2 Michigan
7:00 p.m. – No. 3 Louisville @ Seton Hall
7:00 p.m. – Iowa State @ No. 6 Kansas
7:00 p.m. – No. 14 Butler @ Saint Joseph’s
7:00 p.m. – Dayton @ Virginia Commonwealth
8:00 p.m. – Eastern Kentucky @ Murray State
8:00 p.m. – Valparaiso @ Illinois-Chicago
9:00 p.m. – No. 8 Minnesota @ No. 12 Illinois
9:00 p.m. – West Virginia @ Texas
10:00 p.m. – No. 24 UNLV @ No. 25 New Mexico
10:00 p.m. – Boise State @ Wyoming
11:00 p.m. – Washington @ California
11:30 p.m. – No. 16 San Diego State @ Fresno State

Top Stories:
Patsy Sutton, wife of legendary coach Eddie Sutton, has passed away: Patsy Sutton, the wife of legendary coach Eddie Sutton, passed away yesterday at the age of 76. Sutton had been hospitalized since Dec. 28 after suffering a stroke.

John Calipari pleased with the progress of Ryan Harrow: After a dismal start to his Kentucky career, NC-State transfer Ryan Harrow is developing the leadership skills John Calipari demands out of his point guards. How far this team goes in March will ultimately depend on the play of the Kentucky point guard, and Harrow is trending in the right direction.

Deshaun Thomas, No. 15 Ohio State bounce back after loss to Illinois, beat Purdue: Behind 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting from Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State bounced back from a loss over the weekend to beat Purdue on the road, 74-64. The Buckeyes needed a strong performance following a 19-loss against Illinois, and they got it from the guy they needed to get it from.

Wyoming’s Luke Martinez broke finger during bar fight, police say: Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt announced Dec. 31 that senior Luke Martinez would be out indefinitely after breaking his hand in an off-campus incident. Now, according to a police report, it has been revealed that Martinez was involved in a bar fight in Laramie that resulted in a broken right ring finger. The Cowboys are still undefeated and face a stern test from Boise State tonight.

Atlantic-10 Conference Catch-up: While the Big-Ten is the strongest conference in the country, it could be argued that the A-10 is the deepest in the country. Any of the league’s top-5 teams could emerge as conference champions, and the next five best teams are right behind them. This is going to be a fun conference to track.

Hoops Housekeeping
– Duke forward Ryan Kelly injured his surgically-repaired right foot during the Blue Devils’ win against Clemson on Tuesday. This is the third time in 12 months that Kelly has injured his right foot. (Charlotte Observer)

– Missouri forward Laurence Bowers injured his knee in the Tigers’ SEC opener against Alabama. It appears to be a MCL sprain on his left knee. Bowers was sidelined all of last season with an ACL tear in his right knee. (The Dagger)

– California guards Brandon Smith and Ricky Kreklow will not play against Washington tonight due to unrelated injuries. (Bear Talk)

– Louisville forward Chane Behanan sprained his ankle in practice and should be sidelined until the pivotal January 19th showdown with Syracuse. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Iona junior forward Shawn Jackson will not return to the Gaels basketball program this semester. (Yahoo Sports)

– The Drexel Dragons, CAA preseason favorites, continue to struggle, as evident by their overtime loss at Northeastern and their 5-10 record. But much of their struggles come from the fact that much of the Dragons’ firepower has been sidelined with injuries (Philahoops.com)

– Michigan reserve forward Jon Horford is set to return to action soon after sitting out four games due to a dislocated kneecap. (The Sporting News)

Observations & Insight:
– Georgetown suffered its worst Big East defeat in program history and its worst home defeat since 1971 last night against Pittsburgh. (CSN Washington)

– If you’re in to statistics and that sort of thing, you should be happy to know that the first RPI has been released. (ESPN)

– Tulane’s Josh Davis deserves some praise. The Green Wave forward has been sensational this season and the driving force behind Tulane’s 12-3 start. (Times-Picayune)

– You know, this is a great question. Can Minnesota win a Big-Ten title with no real deep threat? (Rush The Court)

– After two months of action UNLV’s Anthony Bennett is at the top of Jeff Borzello’s Freshman of the Year rankings. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Michigan State’ Branden Dawson was bummed out by the reaction he got froM Purdue fans. Dawson spurned Purdue during the recruitment process in favor of Michigan State. Oh, and he punched Travis Carrol in the stomach on Saturday. (Mlive.com)

– This is absolutely hilarious: .Gifs detailing the feelings of each SEC team heading in to conference play. LSU keeps cracking me up. (Kentucky Sports Radio)

Dunk(s) of the Day:
Plan and simple. #POSTERIZED of the night. Poor A.J. Hammons. (Big Ten Network)

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Player Of The Week: Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s

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Prior to this week, Saint Mary’s season had been defined by a slump at the most inopportune time.

The Gaels lost to both Washington State and Georgia in the Wooden Legacy, the only two non-conference games they played against relevant opponents, and it put the program behind the eight-ball when it came to trying to earn  bid to the NCAA tournament.

What Saint Mary’s needed to do was win at least won – and quite likely two – games against Gonzaga during the WCC regular season. Consider the first step complete. Landale finished with 24 points, 12 boards, three assists and two blocks on Thursday night as Randy Bennett took his team into Spokane and picked off the No. 13 Zags. Saint Mary’s followed that up with a tougher-than-expected win over Pacific where Landale finished with 32 points and seven boards.

All told, Saint Mary’s is now in sole possession of first place in the league and in the midst of a 14 game winning streak, the final four of which all came on the road.

And Landale, who has quietly been one of the most productive and efficient big men in college basketball, led the way once again. He’s now averaging 22.4 points and 10.2 boards for a team that should get ranked in the top 25 this week. He’s very much in consideration for an All-American team now, and I’m not sure that would have been the case without that win on Thursday night.

THE ALL-‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • SHAKE MILTON, SMU: Milton played the best game of his career in the most important game of the season for the Mustangs, putting 33 points on 11-for-14 shooting and five assists on No. 7 Wichita State and Landry Shamet in a road win. He followed that up with 20 points, five boards and five assists in a win against Tulane.
  • JAMES PALMER, Nebraska: Palmer scored 24 points and hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating three against Illinois, following that up with 19 points, four boards and a pair of assists in a blowout win over No. 23 Michigan.
  • DEAN WADE, Kansas State: The Wildcats put themselves firmly in the NCAA tournament picture with a pair of wins over ranked teams this week, beating No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 24 TCU. Wade, in those two games, averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 boards and 6.5 assists with four steals and two blocks.
  • J.P. MACURA, Xavier: Macura scored 16 points on Wednesday night to help Xavier put away St. John’s before leading the Musketeers with 27 points and five boards in a 73-64 win at No. 19 Seton Hall. The Musketeers had lost their previous two games on the road.
  • PARKER JACKSON-CARTWRIGHT, Arizona: Jackson-Cartwright has gotten plenty of stick this season for his issues on the defensive end of the floor, and it’s not necessarily unfair. But in a game at Stanford with first place in the Pac-12 on the line, Jackson-Cartwright made two massive defensive plays down the stretch to help seal the win.

College Basketball Power Rankings: Kentucky drops out of the Top 25

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I’m not sure that this Kentucky season can be considered a worst-case scenario.

Kentucky fans have seen a worst-case scenario.

That came during the 2012-13 season, when a Wildcat team that was trending towards the back end of the top 25 lost their star center Nerlens Noel to a torn ACL in February, dooming them to the NIT, where they lost in the first round to Robert Morris.

That is a worst-case scenario, and barring something totally unforeseen, this Kentucky team is not going to turn into that Kentucky team.

This group looks much more like the team we saw the following year, the one that featured Julius Randle, James Young, the Harrison twins and Willie Cauley-Stein and entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed with a 24-10 record before making a run to the national title game. That team had plenty of talent, but they never quite gelled until March.

This year’s team does not have that same level of talent, but they are running into some of the same problems.

The question is whether or not this group actually has the potential to come together and make a run like that 2014 team.

RELATED: Kentucky just is not that good

And frankly, I still think they do. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has emerged as a go-to guy while Kevin Knox had seemingly regained his confidence before a poor performance in the home loss to Florida. Quade Green has returned to the lineup, as has Jarred Vanderbilt, who might be the key to unlock the potential on this roster.

In an ideal world, Kentucky’s length and athleticism allows them to be one of the nation’s best defensive teams while the playmaking of Vanderbilt and Green makes their offense fluid enough that they overcome some of their shooting issues. I can still tell myself a story where Kentucky finds a way to put it all together for six straight games in March.

But that’s not who they are right now.

And with each passing game, I grow less and less confident that the elite will ever come out of this group.

Kentucky is not a top 25 basketball team right now. They are nowhere near one of the favorites to win a national title right now. And, at this point, Kentucky fans would do well to adjust their expectations, as a trip out of the Sweet 16 should be considered a success.

Here is the full top 25.

1. Villanova, 18-1 (Last Week: No. 1)
2. Purdue, 19-2 (2)
3. Virginia, 18-1 (5)
4. Kansas, 16-3 (13)
5. Michigan State, 17-3 (7)
6. Duke, 17-2 (10)
7. West Virginia, 16-3 (4)
8. Arizona, 16-4 (8)
9. Xavier, 18-3 (11)
10. Oklahoma, 14-4 (6)
11. North Carolina, 16-4 (17)
12. Texas Tech, 15-4 (3)
13. Cincinnati, 17-2 (19)
14. Ohio State, 17-4 (22)
15. Auburn, 17-2 (18)
16. Tennessee, 13-5 (23)
17. Wichita State, 15-4 (9)
18. Clemson, 16-3 (20)
19. Saint Mary’s, 19-2 (NR)
20. Gonzaga, 17-4 (16)
21. Nevada, 18-3 (NR)
22. Florida, 14-5 (NR)
23. Rhode Island, 15-3 (NR)
24. Arizona State, 15-4 (14)
25. TCU, 14-5 (25)

DROPPED OUT: No. 12 Seton Hall, No. 15 Kentucky, No. 21 Michigan, No. 24 Miami

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Saint Mary’s, No. 21 Nevada, No. 22 Florida, No. 23 Rhode Island

VIDEO: Northern Colorado wins game with halfcourt buzzer beater

Screengrab via @BigSkyMBB
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Northern Colorado knocked off North Dakota on Saturday night thanks to a half court buzzer-beating three from Andre Spight.

Spight is averaging 20.3 points on the season and finished with 34 points and six assists in the 94-91 win.

Clemson’s Grantham tears ACL

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The news on Donte Grantham’s knee was not good.

No. 20 Clemson announced on Sunday morning that Grantham, the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, would miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in a win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

“I’m disappointed that Donte’s career at Clemson had to end this way,” head coach Brad Brownell said. “He was putting together a terrific season statistically, but he really helps this team is so many ways. He’s been a pleasure to coach and it has been fun to watch him mature and grow into the leader of our program.”

Grantham was averaging 14.2 points and 7.1 boards this year.

The Tigers are 16-3 on the season and in line to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid.

VIDEO: West Virginia honored Andrew Jones before game vs. Texas

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The West Virginia basketball team donned burnt orange ‘Big 12 Strong’ warmup shirts with the No. 1 on the back in honor of Texas point guard Andrew Jones.

Jones was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this month.

Texas Tech also honored Jones before a game this week, and Texas has raised more than $100,000 for his medical expenses.