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The Morning Mix

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Another night of college hoops, another night of suspect refereeing. But that’s in the past. We got a lot to get to this morning.

Lets hit the links.

Thursday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – Fairfield @ Loyola (Md.)
8:05 p.m. – No. 13 Creighton @ Missouri State
9:00 p.m. – Wright State @ Loyola (Il.)
9:05 p.m. – San Jose State @ Utah State
 
 
Read of the Day:
An awesome-read on the basketball career of former multi-time MLB all-star Kenny Lofton. This is awesome stuff. Make sure you read this. (Deadspin)
 
 
Top Stories:
Oregon shows qualities of a Pac-12 contender in win over No. 4 Arizona: After a pair of close calls at home last week for No. 4 Arizona many wondered when the Wildcats’ luck would run out. Against Oregon, the Wildcats made another late rally but ultimately came up short on the road. The Ducks look like another quality team out west.

Miami wins at UNC without Reggie Johnson; Canes for real? There was quite a bit of concern about Miami’s season and tournament hopes after their starting center, double-double machine Reggie Johnson, went down with a broken thumb a couple of days before Christmas. But after a disappointing showing out in Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic, the Canes have come on strong.

Iowa’s resume a concern following 62-59 loss to No. 22 Michigan State: The Iowa Hawkeyes have shown to be a tough out at home at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But their non-conference resume may hinder their tournament chances if they continue to come up short against the other talented teams in the Big-Ten.

Towson, Jerrelle Benimon off to hot start in CAA play: Georgetown could really use the services of their former-forward, who is well on his way to grabbing the CAA Player of the Year award. Benimon is now averaging 17.1 points, 11.7 boards and 2.3 blocks. He’s got 10 double-doubles on the season.

Naismith Hall of Fame announces 20 watch list finalists for Bob Cousy Award: A list that began with 80 players has been trimmed down to 20, as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced on Thursday its finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, which is given to the nation’s best point guard.

10 tidbits to know: Cuse FT struggles, Bama’s youth movement: NBC Sports Talk’s College Basketball Insider Vin Parise is back to fill us in one Syracuse’s free throw troubles, An astonishing number about New Mexico coach Steve Alford, and an interesting stats race to track for the rest of the season.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– It’s possible that we’ve seen C.J. McCollum play his last game in a Lehigh uniform. His foot injury will keep him out at least two months, and he may choose to not risk his future and sit out until pre-draft camps. (Eye on College Basketball)

– The country’s favorite D-II scoring machine Jack Taylor broke his wrist this week and is likely done for the season. It is unlikely he will be able to top his 138-point performance from earlier this season. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

– North Carolina State walk-on guard Staats Battle has been charged with driving while impaired, stemming from an incident during the early hours of New Years day. (WRAL.com)

– Campbell University got horrible news on Thursday. Their leading scorer Darren White, who ranks seventh in the country (21.8-ppg) will have knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will miss 4-8 weeks. (Fayetteville Observer)

– Albany has shut down sophomore guard Tanner Gibson for the rest of the season due to foot injury and is unsure about his future (Albany Times-Union)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– The Player of the Year straw poll says Plumlee, Burke and McDermott are the top favorites. ESPN’s Mike Rothstein compiles the top-3 picks from a bunch of different media people. Here is the first edition of the season. (ESPN)

– Utah State is holding a “Beard Out” at their home game against San Jose State. Just another reason why the Spectrum and the Aggies’ student section are one of a kind. (Cache Valley Times)

– Kentucky got only their second win of the season over a team in the RPI top-215 against Vanderbilt. The game was ugly and the Wildcats looked lazy in the second half. But ultimately, a win is a win, and the Wildcats got it. (WDRB-41)

– Did the Naismith Hall of Fame whiff on the Cousy Award by failing to list Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova (SMC Hoops)

– During the controversial ending to the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt game last night, Bob Knight had a rather large “senior moment”. (Deadspin)

– Eamonn Brennan fills us in on the five players left off the Wooden Award midseason list that are worth watching. (ESPN)

– Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski is quietly becoming the Pac-12’s best big-man and game-changer. (Fox Sports Arizona)

– Duke will be able to survive a month or so without Ryan Kelly, but that’s about it. Their National Championship hopes will take a huge hit if Kelly’s reoccurring foot injuries persist. (Busting Brackets)

– North Carolina is now 0-2 in the ACC thanks to a home loss against a Miami team playing without their best player. This not a good sign for the Tar Heels. (The Dagger)
 
 
Picture of the Game:
Penn State bros try to mock Northwestern’s geography. Umm, dudes, you know that when Northwestern was founded, most people considered Illinois to be in the northwest. (Sippin’ on Purple)

source:

 
 
Video(s) of the Night:
New Mexico fan has brain-fart, pushes Anthony Marshall (Holdout Sports)

 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
I think Brandon Davies may have taken an extra step here, but nonetheless, tremendous finish.

Dunk(s) of the Day:
A nice little dunk here from Marshall’s D.D. Scarver.


 
 
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Motley plays big in No. 11 Baylor’s win over No. 10 West Virginia

Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) reacts to a play against Texas in first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 74-64. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP)
Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP
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Even as Baylor has floundered some down the stretch, the Bears have been able to count on Johnathan Motley being a monster. The 6-foot-10 forward has been putting up numbers and shooting up draft boards.

Against No. 10 West Virginia, he showed off all his skills – and it resulted in a win, as the 11th-ranked Bears topped the Mountaineers, 71-62, in Waco on Monday in a much-needed victory.

Motley was superb once again, going for 23 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 35 minutes. He shot it well from the field, going 6 of 12, but was a perfect 11 of 11 from the free-throw line. It was a big-time performance, especially with point guard Manu Lecomte out with an ankle injury.

Monday was nothing particularly special in terms of performance from Motley as he’s been consistently great during Big 12 play. He had 27 and 11 against Iowa State and 21 and 16 against Oklahoma just last week alone. He’s been overshadowed some by Baylor’s early season success – the story was the Bears and coach Scott Drew, not Motley – and that Frank Mason is not only the no-doubt Big 12 player of the year, but maybe the frontrunner for the national award as well.

He’s been really, really good.

Motley is averaging just short of a double-double with 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds along with 1.0 blocks per game. He’s not the double-double machine of Caleb Swanigan, but he’s got nine during Big 12 play. He also put up 32 points and 20 rebounds against Texas. There aren’t many better performances than that around the country.

Against the Mountaineers, Motley struggled some early, going 1 of 5 from the field with just four points in the first half. He made five of his next seven shots, though, and made nine second-half free throws to score 19 after the break to get Baylor in the win column after a three-losses-in-four-games stretch.

Jo Lual-Acuil rightfully gets a ton of credit for being the anchor of Baylor’s defense, but pairing the 7-footer with Motley is what makes the Bears’ defense so stout. Teams have an effective field goal percentage of just 44.8 against the Bears and are making just 43.8 percent of their shots inside the arc. The length of Lual-Acuil and Motley is a huge reason why.

The game was somewhat rare for West Virginia as the Mountaineers forced 18 turnovers, which was at a rate of 26.5 percent (better than their Big 12 average), and still lost. Some of it certainly can be attributed to the absence of forward Esa Ahmad, who was out with a back injury, but 3 of 15 shooting from 3-point range was a killer overall.

West Virginia and Baylor are jockeying with Iowa State for second place in the Big 12, but if everyone holds serve, it’ll be a three-way tie in the country’s toughest conference. If the Cyclones can win in Morgantown on Friday, though, Steve Prohm’s group will claim the spot outright. If West Virginia wins, the most likely scenario (assuming Baylor beats Texas) puts the Mountaineers second, Baylor third and Iowa State fourth for the tournament in Kansas City next week.

No. 23 Virginia holds No. 5 North Carolina to 43 points in statement win

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 27: Kyle Guy #5 of the Virginia Cavaliers shoots the ball during Virginia's game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at John Paul Jones Arena on February 27, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
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What a difference a week makes.

Just eight days ago, down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina handed Virginia the kind of whooping that changes the narrative of a season. The final score was 65-41, but that really doesn’t do it justice. At one point late in the second half, the Wahoos were trailing 63-36.

The story was totally different on Monday night.

Despite digging themselves a 7-0 hole in the first two minutes of the game, No. 23 Virginia knocked off No. 5 North Carolina, 53-43, in a revenge game. The Tar Heels haven’t been held to 43 points or less in a game since Feb. 24th, 1979, and that game came before the shot clock was introduced to college basketball. Dean Smith’s Tar Heels stalled for the entire first half, taking just two shots and heading into half time down 7-0.

They would eventually lose 47-40:

The previous low for points scored by a Roy Williams-coached UNC team was 45 points when they lost 57-45 at Syracuse on Jan. 11th, 2014.

That should give you an idea of just how impressive Virginia’s defense was on Monday night before you factor in that the Tar Heels are one of the nation’s top five offensive teams, according to KenPom. But they just never could get into any kind of a rhythm. Tony Bennett had them scouted to perfection, eliminating Kennedy Meeks from the game with his patented post-doubles and using London Perrantes to harass Justin Jackson for 40 minutes. Jackson never once looked comfortable, not for one possession.

With the loss, the Tar Heels now need to beat Duke in the season finale at the Dean Dome to win the outright ACC regular season title.

And while the attention for this win is going to be on UNC and their struggles, the real story here is Virginia.

UVA’s loss to UNC last Saturday was their third loss in a four-game losing streak. They snapped that streak against N.C. State over the weekend, and seemed to find their groove again on Monday. Their issue has never been on the defensive side of the ball; it’s their ability to score, and they may have found their cure: Kyle Guy. The kid with the top-knot that is incorrectly referred to as a man-bun by everyone. (Trust me on that.)

Guy had played just two minutes in the overtime loss to Miami earlier in the week and was just 1-for-10 from the floor in the previous three games, a stretch where UVA scored just 144 points in 125 minutes of basketball. He had 19 points in the win over N.C. State and 17 points on Monday night, hitting five threes and providing UVA with a go-to option offensively. He’s uniquely suited to playing the role that Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris have played because he’s a lights-out shooter with quick feet, a quick release and an ability to read defenses as a runs off of screens. His presence opens up their offense.

As long as he’s good enough defensively, he’ll be able to see the floor.

And if he’s good enough defensively, UVA can be good enough offensively to win games like this.

Prosecutors detail allegations against Creighton’s Watson

OMAHA, NE - JANUARY 21: Maurice Watson Jr. #10 of the Creighton Bluejays receives and ovation before their game against the Marquette Golden Eagles at CenturyLink Center on January 21, 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Former Creighton star Maurice Watson appeared in front of a Douglas County judge Monday after turning himself into authorities Sunday following the issuance of a warrant for his arrest Thursday on the charge of first-degree sexual assault.

Watson’s bail was set at $750,000, which he would have to produce 10 percent of to be released from jail.

Prosecutors also detailed some of the allegations against Watson from the night of Feb. 3, when a 19-year-old woman alleges he raped her. Graphic details of the prosecution’s allegations can found here.

Watson’s attorneys said he denies the allegations.

Creighton said Sunday that Watson is barred from campus and not enrolled as a student, according to the Omaha World-Herald.  The Bluejays announced last week that Watson, who has been sidelined since tearing his ACL last month, had been suspended.

Coaches Poll: Gonzaga drops to fourth

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few (Getty Images)
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Gonzaga feel from first to fourth in the latest Coaches Poll after suffering its first loss of the season over the weekend.

Kansas moves into the top spot with UCLA and Villanova tied at No. 2.

The Bulldogs lost 79-71 to BYU at home after winning the first 29 games of the season.

The Jayhawks have won six-straight heading into Monday’s tilt with Oklahoma.

Here’s the full poll:

1. Kansas (23)

2. UCLA (3)

2. Villanova (5)

4. Gonzaga (1)

5. North Carolina

6. Oregon

7. Louisville

8. Arizona

9. Kentucky

10. West Virginia

11. Baylor

12. Florida

13. Notre Dame

14. Duke

15. Butler

16. Purdue

17. Florida State

18. Saint Mary’s

19. SMU

20. Cincinnati

21. Wisconsin

22. Wichita State

23. Virginia

24. Iowa State

25. Miami

AP Poll: Kansas moves to No. 1, Villanova 2nd, UCLA 3rd

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 14:  Josh Jackson #11 of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts after a foul during the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Allen Fieldhouse on January 14, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Kansas is the new No. 1 in The Associated Press college basketball poll.

The Jayhawks (26-3) moved up two places to the top spot, receiving 58 first-place votes Monday from the 65-member national media panel.

Kansas is the sixth school to be No. 1 this season. The Jayhawks were on top last season for five weeks, including the final three polls of the season.

Villanova (27-3) remained second despite losing to Butler last week. The Wildcats were No. 1 on two ballots. UCLA (26-3), which was No. 1 on three ballots, moved up from fifth to third after its win over Arizona on Saturday.

Gonzaga (29-1) fell to fourth after losing its first game of the season, an upset by BYU on Saturday. The Zags, who had been No. 1 for the last four polls, received two first-place votes.

North Carolina moved from eighth to fifth and was followed by Oregon, Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Here’s the full top 25″

  1. Kansas (58)
  2. Villanova (2)
  3. UCLA (3)
  4. Gonzaga (2)
  5. North Carolina
  6. Oregon
  7. Arizona
  8. Louisville
  9. Kentucky
  10. West Virginia
  11. Baylor
  12. Florida
  13. Butler
  14. SMU
  15. Florida State
  16. Purdue
  17. Duke
  18. Cincinnati
  19. Notre Dame
  20. St. Mary’s
  21. Wichita State
  22. Wisconsin
  23. Virginia
  24. Iowa State
  25. Miami