The Morning Mix

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Marshall Henderson got his first real taste of the big time last night, and while he finished with 21 points, his Ole Miss squad dropped their first SEC game of the season to a Kentucky team that actually looked pretty good. But I guess that will happen when Nerlens Noel blocks 12 shots.

We got a lot to discuss and a lot on tap for today.

This is January basketball for ya, folks.

Let’s hit the links.

Wednesday’s Top games:
6:00 p.m. – Villanova @ Notre Dame
6:30 p.m. – Northwestern @ No. 1 Michigan
7:00 p.m. – Rutgers @ No. 24 Cincinnati
7:00 p.m. – Richmond @ Temple
7:00 p.m. – Oklahoma @ Baylor
8:00 p.m. – No. 17 Missouri @ LSU
8:00 p.m. – No. 5 Duke @ Wake Forest
8:00 p.m. – Texas @ No. 18 Kansas State
8:00 p.m. – Maryland @ Florida State
8:00 p.m. – Iowa State @ Oklahoma State
8:00 p.m. – South Carolina @ No. 4 Florida
8:00 p.m. – Missouri State @ No. 21 Creighton
8:30 p.m. – No. 3 Indiana @ Purdue
9:00 p.m. – No. 14 Miami @ Virginia Tech
9:00 p.m. – No. 20 New Mexico @ Wyoming
9:00 p.m. – Boise State @ Colorado State
9:00 p.m. – Dayton @ Xavier
10:00 p.m. – USC @ UCLA
11:00 p.m. – No. 10 Oregon @ Stanford
Read of the Day:
Some excellent points are made here about the talent drain in college hoops and the lack of shooting acumen. Read it. (Basketball Predictions)

Read of the Day:
Andy Glockner’s “Bubble Watch”, ya’ll. Git some. Read it. (Sports Illustrated)
Top Stories:
Kentucky quites Marshall Henderson, beats No. 16 Ole Miss: We all expected the Ole Miss sharpshooter to put on a performance for the ages, instead we got a glimpse of what Kentucky could look like if they decide to click. Kyle Wiltjer logged a career-high 26 points and Nerlens Noel set the Kentucky single-game record for blocked shots.

Poor shooting sinks No. 15 Wichita State in loss to Indiana State: The Shockers shot 27 percent from the floor and did not score a field goal in the nearly the final nine minutes of the second half, on their way to a 68-55 loss to Indiana State on Tuesday night. This ISU win moves the Sycamores to 7-3 in league play, one game behind Wichita State and half a game behind Creighton.

Road struggles continue for No. 19 NC State, Wolfpack fall to Joe Harris and Virginia: The Virginia Cavaliers, by focusing on a slow half-court offense, outlasted No. 19 NC State late to secure a big 58-55 win. NC State had four straight opportunities in the final three minutes to tie or take the lead and could not capitalize, culminating in a final three-point heave from guard Scott Wood in the final seconds that was off the mark to give Virginia the win.

New Mexico State’s Tyrone Watson lone suspect in gruesome assault case: New Mexico State senior Tyrone Watson is at the center of a police investigation after allegedly beating fellow 19-year-old NMSU student Miguel Rascon, leaving him with facials fractures, a broken nose, and 10 stitches.

Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey reportedly removed from basketball arena after incident with campus police: All-American Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey was ejected from last week’s UCLA-Arizona game after a confrontation with campus police. Amid the confrontation with campus police, the running back dropped the “Do you know who I am” line. Classic.

UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad ‘day-to-day’ with illness: UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad did not practice Tuesday and is listed as “day-to-day” as he battles a gastrointestinal illness. His status for the Bruin’s game tonight against USC is undecided.

Jordan Morgan is somehow not seriously injured: Look at this picture and tell me that you wouldn’t be on the shelf for 4-6 weeks. But some how, some way, Michigan big-man Jordan Morgan is not seriously injured following this ghastly ankle injury.

Erick Green doesn’t need your lousy scoring title: The Virginia Tech wing is one of the top scorers in the country yet gets very little credit or recognition. But that seems to be just fine with him.

Florida grabs No. 1 seed in East in latest bracket: Dave Ommen, College Basketball Talk’s resident bracketologist, is back with another bracket breakdown. He’s got Kansas as the top No.1-seed and Kentucky, Saint Louis, Iowa State, Indiana State, and Arizona State as the last five in.
Hoops Housekeeping:
– North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston was taken off the court on a stretcher last night against Boston College after suffering a pretty nasty concussion. (Sporting News)

– Missouri’s Laurence Bowers is expected to return tonight against LSU. Bowers hasn’t played since injuring his knee against Alabama on January 6. (Eye on College Basketball)

– New Mexico State center Tshilidzi Nephawe was cleared to practice yesterday for the first time since undergoing surgery in December. (Las Cruces Sun-News)
Observations & Insight:
– Nerlens Noel finished with just two points last night against Ole Miss, but was pivotal in the Wildcats’ signature road win, as he set the Wildcats’ single-game record for blocked shots. Murphy Holloway said after the game that Noel was the best shot blocker he has ever played against. (Kentucky Sports Radio)

– A fan at the Ole Miss-Kentucky game threw ice on to the court. As he is one to do, Marshall Henderson picked up the ice and threw it back. This.Guy.Is.Awesome. (The Big Lead)

– Indiana’s use of the 2-3 zone against Michigan State this weekend, a game they won 75-70, was heavily scrutinized by the media. But Dustin Dopriak explains why the zone wasn’t actually that bad. (Hoosier Scoop)

– Virginia’s win over North Carolina State last night will certainly help people forget about the Cavaliers’ loss to 2-17. The Cavaliers are going to be one of the more interesting teams come Selection Sunday. (The Dagger)

– I for one though Washington State’s Brock Motum was going to have a Pac-12 PoY-type year. But the Australia-native has struggled to regain his 2012 form. That has, however, opened up the door for Mike Ladd to emerge as a scoring option. (Coug Center)

– Minnesota got back on track following a four-game losing streak by drubbing Nebraska. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

– Federal Judge Claudia Wilken made a ruling on Tuesday that may allow NCAA athletes to legally pursue TV money. (ESPN)

– Joe Lunardi is starting to pop up more frequently, which means March Madness is just around the corner. The world-class bracketologist provides his list of teams that may or may not be in good shape come Selection Sunday. (ESPN Insider)

– Some good press on Oklahoma State freshman Phil Forte, who is often overshadowed by his high school teammate and current Cowboy teammate Marcus Smart. (The Oklahoman)

– Deshaun Thomas scored 25 points last night in the Buckeye’s 58-49 win over Wisconsin and is playing as well as anybody in the country. (Columbus Dispatch)

– With Indiana State beating Wichita State, a team who beat Creighton, is the Missouri Valley Conference a three-team race? (Catch and Shoot Blog)
Video(s) of the Day:
Just one of the many faces of Marshall Henderson. (The Big Lead)

Dunk(s) of the Day:
Ra’Shad James from Northwood University (D-II) needs to be in the NCAA Dunk Contest. Dude can soar. Somebody book this kid a trip to Atlanta.

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)

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.