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The Morning Mix

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Thursday’s Rivalry Week selection provides an interesting sampling of big time showdowns and compelling mid-major match-ups. Arizona-Colorado has some good story lines and Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s writes itself. But Davidson-Charleston is the premier game on the SoCon schedule. The same goes for The Summit League’s Western Illinois-North Dakota State tilt and the Big Sky’s Montana-Weber State battle.

Thursday should be fun.

Let’s hit the links.

Thursday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Northwestern @ No. 13 Ohio State
7:00 p.m. – No. 20 Wisconsin @ Minnesota
7:00 p.m. – Belmont @ Tennessee State
7:30 p.m. – Davidson @ Charleston
7:30 p.m. – Canisius @ Loyola (Md.)
8:00 p.m. – Western Illinois @ North Dakota State
8:05 p.m. – Arkansas-Little Rock @ Arkansas State
8:15 p.m. – Northwestern State @ Southeast Louisiana
9:00 p.m. – St. John’s @ No. 12 Louisville
9:00 p.m. – UCLA @ California
9:00 p.m. – UMass @ VCU
9:05 p.m. – Denver @ Utah State
9:05 p.m. – Montana @ Weber State
10:00 p.m. -No. 9 Arizona @ Colorado
11:00 p.m. – No. 5 Gonzaga @ Saint Mary’s
11:00 p.m. – USC @ Stanford

Read of the Day:
This is the most succinct, poignant and accurate take I’ve read regarding Nerlens Noel’s ACL injury and the one-and-done rule. Deadspin of course. Read it. (Deadspin)

Read of the Day:

Top Stories:
North Carolina loses to Duke, but it’s not all bad news for the Tar Heels: The Tar Heels finished on the wrong side of the ledger last night, and while Chapel Hill residents probably don’t like the idea of a “moral victory”, not all was lost at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Should Syracuse be concerned after loss to UConn? James Southerland scored 14 points in his second game back from an academic suspension, but the rest of the Orange struggled on the road and lost to UConn 66-58. What does this mean for ‘Cuse?

Ole Miss sees tourney profile take a hit with loss at Texas A&M: Ole Miss, once the hottest team in America, is starting to flame out. Marshall Henderson and the Rebels couldn’t afford to lose to Texas A&M last night. But they did, and now their already-thin resume is aided by a mediocre 7-4 record in the SEC.

Creighton loses 3rd straight, tough Missouri Valley could hurt chances of multiple NCAA tournament bids: The Bluejays fell on the road at Northern Iowa, their third loss in a row. But that’s just kinda how things go in the Valley.

CBT Podcast: Breaking down the NCAA Tournament Bubble: Troy Machir (That would be I) is joined by Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner, master of “The Bubble Watch” and loyal Fulham FC supporter. We talk about bubble teams. Luckily no soccer is discussed. Best 30 minutes in college hoops.

Tennessee self-reports three violations committed by men’s basketball program: The Tennessee basketball program accounted for three of the ten self-reported violations within the Volunteers athletic department. The violations aren’t that major, but good on Tennessee I guess. I’m not actually sure if what they did wrong was actually that wrong.

UMass Lowell will reportedly join Division I, become member of America East: The River Hawks will reportedly join Division I in all sports beginning in the fall of 2013-2014. The current Division-II program will join the America East, which will lose Boston to the Patriot League at year’s end.

Monroe College’s Stephane Manga throws down a Dunk of the Year nominee (VIDEO): There’s not much to say here. Just watch the video to see somebody take off from the foul line and posterize some poor bloke.

St. Louis’ No. 1 fan will not be bribed by Butler: A pretty neat story that everybody will enjoy. Just trust me on this one.

Hoops Housekeeping:

Observations & Insight:
– Well this is interesting: The NCAA was sued by a nonprofit group on Wednesday over a new policy that bars felons from coaching NCAA-sanctioned events.
– Saint Mary’s hosts Gonzaga tonight in must-see action. It’s the best rivalry on the west coast, and if Gaels want to defend their WCC title, they will have to beat the No. 5 Bulldogs. (San Jose Mercury-News)

– New NCAA Division I basketball Committee Chairman Mike Bobinski is content with keeping the current field to 68 teams. (USA Today)

– Former-UConn head coach Jim Calhoun doesn’t think that the Huskies will be in the Big East in a year from now. (New Haven Register)

– The La Salle Explorers got a tough hard-fought victory against a scrappy St. Bonaventure team. The Explorers will be an intriguing team to watch down the stretch. They are 7-3 in the Atlantic-10 and hold wins over Butler, VCU, Villanova, and Delaware. (Philahoops.com)

– The Pac-12 is slowly improving as a whole, and their television deal will help to create a better national profile. (ESPN)

– Jeff Eisenberg makes a tremendous opening statement regarding the moxie of this season’s UConn team compared to the one in 2011-2012. (The Dagger)

– With Myck Kanbongo back in the spotlight, Texas’ Sheldon McLelland was able to shine in his natural position and lead the Longhorns to a thrill 89-86 double-overtime victory over Iowa State. (Dallas Star-Telegram)

– Gary Parrish tells an awesome story about why Miami head coach Jim Larranaga values the use of advanced statistics as a teaching aid. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Jarvis Threatt hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to propel Delaware past CAA-leading Northeastern. The Blue Hens are above .500 for the first time this season and are in second place in the league. (City of Basketball Love)

– A blind resume test suggest that a better record against top-50 and top-100 teams might outweigh a strong RPI (USA Today)

– Texas A&M’s Elston Turner went off for 37 last night against Ole Miss, out-gunning Marshall Henderson. If you may remember correctly, Turner dropped 40 on Kentucky at Rupp Arena. (Clarion Ledger)

– Arizona State could not afford a loss to Utah last night if they wanted to remain in the good graces of the NCAA Selection Committee. Naturally, they lost. (House of Sparky)

Odds & Ends:
– The student managers at Duke played the student managers from North Carolina on Tuesday, and in typical fashion, finished with a buzzer-beater. (The Dagger)

– Indiana was rumored to be one of the teams getting special Adidas uniforms for the end of the season. But Indiana AD Mike Glass says that alternate uniforms are highly unlikely. (Inside The Hall)

– The Tobacco Road Rivalry picked up before the game even tipped off last night. Some how, some way, the head of the Duke Blue Devil mascot was found displayed outside the Student Store in Chapel Hill. This is how you do a rivalry. (Tar Heel Blog)

– For one reason or another, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim called ESPN Reporter Andy Katz “an idiot, and a really disloyal person” following their 66-58 loss at UConn. (Troy Nunes)

Photo of the Day:
This is just awesome. A cheer-sheet for the Cameron Crazies battle against North Carolina last night. The scouting report for Bryce Johnson is hilarious. (via Mark Armstrong, ABC TV Durham)

Video of the Day:
I’m not a big fan of the “Harlem Shake” movement, but I do applaud what Georgia did. I’ve seen a lot of bad videos. This ain’t one of them.

Dunk of the Day:
To be fair, this is more of a switch-180, but nonetheless, Keion Bell is able to do this effortlessly.

Dunk of the Day:
The degree of difficulty on this dunk by James Michael McAdoo is off-the-charts high.

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)

Ole Miss’ Brooks taken to hospital after collapse

Mississippi guard Rasheed Brooks (14) is called for charging against Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss. on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. (Bruce Newman/Oxford Eagle via AP)
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Ole Miss senior Rasheed Brooks has been taken to an Oxford area hospital during the Rebels’ game against Tennessee on Tuesday evening, the school announced.

Brooks reportedly was taken by stretcher out of the arena after he collapsed during a timeout.

Obviously, a scary situation, but immediately there were few details. The game did commence following the incident.

VIDEO: Patsos shakes imaginary hands after Rider storms off court

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Jimmy Patsos of the Siena Saints watches on during their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 13, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
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Apparently unhappy with how the game unfolded late, Rider decided against the traditional handshake line Tuesday in its 78-68 loss to Siena.

That didn’t stop Saints coach Jimmy Patsos from going through with it anyway.

The animosity apparently extends from the ejections of Siena’s Marquis Wright and Rider’s Anthony Durham following an altercation between the two, according to the Times-Union. Both Patsos and Rider coach Kevin Baggett were also hit with technicals. Baggett, who had to be held back by assistants, apparently had words with Wright.

Theatrics aside, the win was the fourth-straight for Patsos’ Saints after a 1-3 start to MAAC play. Lavon Long had 29 points to lead the way. Rider has now dropped three in a row and is 4-4 in the league.

Creighton’s Mo Watson Jr. has a torn ACL

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 25:  Head coach Greg McDermott of the Creighton Bluejays talks with Maurice Watson Jr. #10 during the team's game against the Massachusetts Minutemen during the championship game of the Men Who Speak Up Main Event basketball tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 25, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Creighton won 97-76.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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Mo Watson Jr.’s Creighton career is over.

The star point guard for the Blue Jays had an MRI on Tuesday to determine the damage suffered in his left knee, and it revealed a torn ACL. Watson entered Monday’s game at Xavier averaging 13.4 points and a nation’s-best 8.8 assists on the season. He was the engine that made Creighton’s high-octane offense work.

“Devastated for [him],” head coach Greg McDermott said. “His impact on our program has been incredible. His leadership will continue to be vital to our success.”

With Watson, who was having an all-american season and was seventh in our Player of the Year Power Rankings as of Tuesday, Creighton was a team with Final Four upside. Their defense was a concern, but their ability to score in transition and to get easy looks from three – both of which were largely due to the ability of Watson – ensured that teams were going to have to score in the 80s to beat them.

Without Watson, Creighton was able to hang on to beat Xavier in Cincinnati, but it’s unclear what the future will hold. Isaiah Zierdan replaced Watson at the point down the stretch, and Greg McDermott does have a number of talented guards on his roster, but that doesn’t do much to mitigate was is a devastating loss for this team.

Watson released a statement on twitter on Tuesday:

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Mason, Hart, Lonzo. Who ya got?

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1. Frank Mason III, Kansas
2. Josh Hart, Villanova
3. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: At this point in the year, I feel pretty comfortable making the guarantee that the National Player of the year is going to be one of these three players for three reasons:

  1. All three of them are not just an important piece but the critical component to their team’s success.
  2. The team’s that they play on could very well be the three best teams in college basketball, and I’ve always been of the mindset that winning matters when it comes to Player of the Year and all-american honors.
  3. Their numbers alone are good enough to get them into the conversation even if they didn’t happen to be the best player on one of the best teams in the country.

Frankly, the more that I think about it, labeling this a two-horse race was probably wrong. I’ve had Lonzo Ball third in these rankings for more or less the entire season, but there’s always been a gap between him and the two guys slotted above. Ball’s numbers are ridiculous – 14.6 points, 8.0 assists, 5.5 boards, 1.8 steals, 2.3 turnovers – but it’s what he’s done to that UCLA team that I’ve under-valued. Ball is a talent, and so is T.J. Leaf, but on paper, the difference between this team and last year’s team shouldn’t be as stark as going from a 15-17 season to a year where they are a buzzer-beating three at Oregon away from being undefeated on Jan. 17th. Ball’s presence did that.

The other difference?

I have Frank Mason III as the current leader for the award. Part of that is because Josh Hart has had a couple of bad games in a row and Mason, in the three games since we last convened here, led comebacks at Oklahoma and against Oklahoma State before guiding Kansas to a win at Iowa State. But there is also an argument to be made that Josh Hart has been somewhat figured out in league play. Teams can key in on him and he isn’t quite to the point where he has a response. Big 12 opponents haven’t been able to do that against Kansas.

That, however, is the definition of picking nits, but that’s what we have to do to differentiate these three at this point.

Because when the chips are down, those three players, at this point in the season, have all been sensational, and I would have no issue with someone picking either of the three to win the award.

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4. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: In Purdue’s only game last week, Swanigan had “just” 17 points and eight boards, but he had a late turnover, missed a critical, point-black shot with less than a minute left and then watched a ball bounce out of bounds that was ruled – probably incorrectly – to be off of Purdue. It wasn’t the greatest finish we’ve seen out of a player this year.

5. Luke Kennard, Duke: In the first 14 games of the season, Luke Kennard averaged 13.9 shots per night and consistently churned out enough terrific performances that he deservedly has been the only Duke player considered for a spot on all-american teams all season long. In the last four games, however, Kennard is averaging just 9.8 shots, which can be attributed to a couple of different things. I don’t think the issue is defenses being more focused in on stopping him, mainly because I think the issue is Jayson Tatum.

Tatum has led the Blue Devils in field goal attempts in six of the last seven games. His usage rate (the percentage of possessions that end with him while he’s on the floor) is 27.8 on the season despite posting an offensive rating of 105.1, meaning he scores 1.051 points-per-possession. In the last seven games, he’s only had an offensive rating better than 109 in home games against Georgia Tech and Boston College.

Kennard, on the season, has an offensive rating of 133.5, which is third nationally for players that with a usage rate above 20, but his usage rate is stuck at 21.7. In other words, the numbers back up what our eyes have been telling us – that Duke’s offensive isn’t as good when the offense flows through Tatum instead of Kennard.

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 07: De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Valparaiso Crusaders at Rupp Arena on December 7, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
De’Aaron Fox (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

6. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: Fox is the most important player on Kentucky, and I don’t understand people that argue otherwise. Malik Monk can win games with his ability to score, but Fox ‘s ability to defend and to turn defense into offense is why the Wildcats are in a position for Monk to win games with his scoring alone.

7. Mo Watson Jr., Creighton: It looks like Creighton dodged a bullet on Monday. There has yet to be an official diagnosis, but what initially to be a non-contact knee injury for Watson, it appears that there is no ligament damage. A torn meniscus will not be an easy thing to recover from, but a bone bruise would be. Here’s to hoping he’s OK, but Watson is the engine that makes Creighton’s high-powered offense run.

(UPDATE: Watson’s career is over. He tore his ACL.)

8. Joel Berry II, North Carolina: Berry has been fantastic this season, and there’s a very strong argument to be made that he’s the ACC’s Player of the Year as of today. He is everything we wanted Marcus Paige to be over the course of the last two seasons.

9. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: Williams-Goss has been terrific this season, and I’m not sure how many people have noticed. After posting 19 points and six assists in a 23-point win over No. 21 Saint Mary’s, he’s averaging 15.2 points, 5.8 boards, 4.9 assists and 1.7 steals with shooting splits of 49.5/41.1/89.5. This is the best Gonzaga team Mark Few has ever had, and Williams-Goss is the best player on the roster.

10. Lauri Markkanen, Arizona: Luke Kennard is third nationally in offensive rating for players with a usage rate that’s better than 20. No. 1 on that list? Lauri Markkanen, who is quietly having a terrific season for the Wildcats.

JUST MISSED THE CUT

Malik Monk, Kentucky
Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
Markelle Fultz, Washington
Josh Jackson, Kansas
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s
Alec Peters, Valparaiso
Melo Trimble, Maryland

Lauri Markkanen, Arizona Athletics
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona Athletics

CBT Podcast: Luke Winn joins to talk Kansas and their unorthodox backcourt

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrates with Frank Mason III #0 after making a three-pointer during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn, Mr. Power Rankings himself, joined the podcast this week to talk about something other than the Power Rankings.

Luke wrote a long feature on Kansas’ back court of Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, a serendipitous pairing of former mid-major recruits that have turned into arguably the nation’s best pair of guards and the next great two-point guard back court. You can read that story here. You can listen to the podcast below.

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