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)

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.