The Morning Mix

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This is the week we put football in the rear-view mirror and focus exclusively on college hoops. Yeah I’m talking to you, Joe Casualfan. The Morning Mix is the place you need to go every morning for the latest news and notes from the CBB world.

Let’s hit the links.

Tuesday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 2 Florida @ Arkansas
7:00 p.m. – Boston College @ No. 8 Miami
7:00 p.m. – Wake Forest @ North Carolina
7:00 p.m. – Villanova @ DePaul
8:00 p.m. – No. 13 Kansas State @ Texas Tech
8:00 p.m. – Wichita State @ Southern Illinois
8:05 p.m. – Illinois-Chicago @ Valparaiso
9:00 p.m. – No. 10 Ohio State @ No. 2 Michigan
9:00 p.m. – Florida State @ Georgia Tech
9:00 p.m. – South Carolina @ Kentucky
Read of the Day:
A powerful story from Alex Prewitt of the Washington post on Jamar Board, one of the most revered streetball players in the Washington metro-area. Known as “The Silent Assassin”, who was cousins with former-Tennessee guard Bobby Maze and set a Goodman League single game record with a 75-point performance in a 2011 game. Board was found dead on December 29th with a gunshot wound to the head. It has yet to be determined if it was a murder or a suicide. Seriously, read this. (Washington Post)

This one is pretty cut-and-dry. Virginia lost to Georgia Tech this weekend. You rank the ‘Hoos in the top-25, you get skewered in the Poll Attacks. Read It. (Eye on College Basketball)

Top Stories:
The top 10 dunks of the college basketball season: With the football season in the books, College Basketball Talk fills you in on what you’ve missed. Here are the ten best dunks of the college basketball season thus far.

Contenders and Pretenders: College Basketball Talk is helping you get situated now that the football season is over. Here is our list of National Championship contenders and pretenders.

Five sleepers and five upset specials to keep an eye on: College Basketball Talk briefly breaks down five teams that can make deep tournament runs and five teams that may bow out early.

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett leads CBT’s Freshman of the Year rankings: Here’s what you need to know about the top freshman in the country.

Michigan sophomore Trey Burke sits atop CBT’s National Player of the Year rankings: Michigan guard Trey Burke leads our Player of the Year rankings through three months. Doug McDermott and Mason Plumlee aren’t far behind.

Creighton/St. Mary’s highlights ‘BracketBusters’ line-up: ESPN announced the pairings for the final installment of BracketBusters are Monday night. The marquee game features Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova. In other action: Ohio @ Belmont, South Dakota State @ Murray State and Detroit @ Wichita State.

Shabazz Napier is UConn’s closer: Despite not being able to play in any post-season games this season, the UConn Huskies continue to play hard, especially down the stretch. Shabazz Napier has been a big reason why, especially in overtime.

Wyoming’s Luke Martinez has court date set for arraignment:

Hoops Housekeeping:
– We got horrible news out of Irvine, Calif., yesterday as it was reported that an assistant coach on the Cal State-Fullerton’s women’s team was murdered on Sunday night. (Orange County Register)

– The North Carolina Tar Heels are really banged up. Three key contributors are questionable for their game tonight against Wake Forest. (ESPN Tar Heel Blog)

– Michigan State guards Gary Harris and Travis Trice are questionable for participation in the Spartan’s game on Wednesday against Minnesota. Harris is still battling back spasms and Trice is recovering from a concussion. (Detroit Free-Press)

– A Detroit-area businessman has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a point-shaving investigation involving the University of Toledo basketball team from 2004-06. (Yahoo Sports)

– Former-Murray State guard Zay Jackson will 60 days in jail as part of the plea deal he reached stemming from his charges of wanton endangerment. (SB Nation)

– The court date for Wyoming guard Luke Martinez has been set. Martinez is facing a felony charge of aggravated assault and battery stemming from a Dec. 30 incident at a bar. (Casper Star-Tribune)
Observations & Insight:
– Why does everybody think college basketball sucks this season? (The Big Lead)

– The Towson Tigers got 20 points and 12 rebounds from Jerrelle Benimon en route to a 81-68 win over UNC-Wilmington on Autism Awareness Night. Jeff Goodman tells the story about how Towson head coach Pat Skerry coordinated this tremendous event. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Andy Katz got a bunch of good quotes from coaches regarding the BracketBuster pairings that were announced yesterday. (ESPN)

– In case you aren’t too familiar with the slate of mid-major basketball, here are the rankings for the 13 televised BracketBuster games. (Big Apple Buckets)

– Ten things to know now that college basketball is suddenly relevant. (USA Today)

– Anybody else excited for the Trey Burke-Aaron Craft match-up tonight? Craft got the best of Burke in the first game. Could tonight be Burke’s “Naismith Moment”? (

– Michigan will wear all-maize uniforms for the Ohio State game tonight. You might wanna put on sunglasses before you click the link. (The Dagger)

– It took Illinois just one month to plummet from the top-15 to the bubble. That’s impressive. (The Dagger)

– Once a month Matt Norlander puts together a collage of the best college basketball photos. Here are January’s best. (Eye on College Basketball)

– It looks like Jalen Rose had himself a good time in Bloomington for last weekend’s edition of ESPN College GameDay. (Deadspin)
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)

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

rad Horrigan/The Courant via AP
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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.