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)

Player Of The Year Power Rankings: Devonte’ Graham, Jock Landale need more attention

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1. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: Trae Young finished with 48 points and eight assists in an overtime loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, and it has sent the internet into a tizzy because Young finished with 39 shots on the night, only making 14 of them.

And that is frustrating to me, mainly because I think that people are getting on Young for all of the wrong things.

Young’s performance last week against Kansas State was problematic because the way he was playing didn’t work. He was forcing offense, he was turning the ball over and he wasn’t making the right reads. That how he ended up with 12 turnovers — the most by a high-major player in this millennium — on a night where the Sooners lost by 18 points. I wrote all about that here.

On Saturday, however, I thought Young looked like himself. The problem was that his teammates didn’t carry the weight. If you’re going to criticize Young for shooting 14-for-39 from the floor, you need to also acknowledge that his teammates shot 14-for-43 from the floor. Many of those were open looks that Young created. We discussed that on the podcast this week:

That happens sometimes. The result was Young going into takeover mode, and it almost worked.

The real issue with his performance had nothing to do with turnovers or tough threes or taking too many shots; it’s that he shot 6-for-19 from inside the arc. Many of those shots he missed were makable floaters or layups that were considered but could — even should — have been finished. It looked a lot like these:

On the season, Young is shooting just 45 percent around the rim and ranks in the 33rd percentile in PPP on those shots.

That is what should concern Oklahoma fans and the people that think Trae Young can be Steph Curry.

Not a night where he had to put the team on his back because his supporting cast had an off-night.

2. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: Brunson’s efficiency is still at an unheard of level, and there’s an argument to be made that what he is doing on his usage is more impressive than what Young is doing with his usage, particularly given how things have gone since league play began. Here is a complete list of players with an offensive rating of better than 130 on KenPom with a usage rate above 22.9 since the 2003-2004 season:

3. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke
4. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona

5. DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas: There were a lot of question marks about whether or not Devonte’ Graham was going to be able to handle taking over for Frank Mason II as the star guard in the Kansas back court. With just over half of the season gone by, Graham is averaging 18.1 points, 7.3 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting 43.5 percent from three on 7.3 attempts per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio that’s clocking in at 2.6:1. He’s shooting a higher percentage from three this year than he did last year while taking more and playing as a point guard, meaning he’s getting fewer catch-and-shoot rhythm threes.

Oh, and should I mention that he is doing this for a Kansas team that is currently sitting all alone in first place by two full games in the loaded Big 12 despite getting exactly zero minutes from Billy Preston this season and needing to enroll a backup big man early just so that they don’t have to play a 6-foot-3 walk-on at center?

Since Big 12 play started, Graham has come off the floor for a grand total of 10 minutes in seven games.

If he isn’t a first-team all-american for you at this point in the season you need to have your voting privileges revoked.

6. JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s: Landale is averaging 22.4 points, 10.2 boards and 2.0 assists for a Saint Mary’s team that is one bad weekend at the Wooden Legacy away from being undefeated with a win at Gonzaga under their belt. Landale is not just a big guy overwhelming mid-majors opponents. All of these highlights come from that win in Spokane as Landale showed the entire arsenal while carrying SMC to a win. It’s worth noting that the guy guarding him here, Johnathan Williams III, is considered an above-average to very good defender, and Landale makes light work of him.

If you love big men with dainty feet and a soft touch, this clip will be basketball porn for you:

7. KEITA BATES-DIOP, Ohio State
8. JEVON CARTER, West Virginia
9. CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
10. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier

ALSO CONSIDERED: MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State; KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech; TRA HOLDER, Arizona State; CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State; CALEB MARTIN, Nevada; YANTE MATEN, Georgia; LUKE MAYE, North Carolina; SHAKE MILTON, SMU; ALLONZO TRIER, Arizona

VIDEO: Buzz Williams forgets when TV timeouts happen

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There was a funny moment in the second half of Virginia Tech’s win over No. 10 North Carolina on Monday night.

With the Hokies leading the Tar Heels and less than 12 minutes left on the clock, VT head coach Buzz Williams strolled on the court to high-five his players after a foul was called. There was just one problem: It wasn’t actually a TV timeout.

Everyone was confused.

The mixups seems to stem from referee Michael Stephens, who apparently told Buzz that the TV timeout would be taking place on that whistle.

It doesn’t make the moment Buzz realized what was happening any less funny:

Bubble Banter: Kansas State, Virginia Tech add crucial wins to help overcome poor schedules

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Monday night.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 55, KenPom: 37, NBC seed: Play-in): The Wildcats went and added two — potentially three — Quadrant 1 wins in their last three games, beating Oklahoma and TCU at home last week before picking off Baylor (currently 76th in the RPI, but I’d guess they’re top 75 to end the year) on Monday night. A home loss to Tulsa (RPI 112) is going to stick out, as will a non-conference SOS that ranks 344th. Those two things means that the Wildcats have a very small margin for error, but with the way they are playing, I think that they’ll do enough to get in with a seed that seems too low for them.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: , KenPom: 54, NBC seed: Out): The Hokies did quite a bit to change their NCAA tournament chances on Monday by knocking off North Carolina at home. It’s easily the best win on their résumé, and given that their only other Quadrant 1 win came on a neutral against a Washington team ranked 50th in the RPI, it is easily their most important win. A Nov. 16th loss to Saint Louis (RPI 147) looks really bad, but VT still has Miami twice, Duke twice, Virginia, Louisville and Clemson left on their schedule. Those are all potential top 20 wins. They’ll need them to overcome a non-conference schedule that ranked 319th.

TEXAS (RPI: 42, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 9): The Longhorns did what they needed to do against Iowa State at home, picking up a win to help shake off the whooping they took at West Virginia on Saturday. Believe it or not, but Texas currently has four Quadrant 1 wins to their name without anything worse than a high Quadrant 2 loss — at Baylor, at Oklahoma State, Gonzaga on a neutral, Michigan at home.

LOSERS

MARYLAND (RPI: 47, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: Next four out): The Terps picked up their worst loss of the season, falling at Indiana. In a year where Mark Turgeon’s club has already lost Justin Jackson and where it seems like they suffer a new injury just about every week, a tournament berth seems increasingly unlikely. Their next two games are at home against Michigan State and at Purdue. They might beed to win both.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 64, KenPom: 67, NBC seed: Out): The Cornhuskers missed out on a golden opportunity to add a marquee win to their résumé as they lost by five at Ohio State, a top 15 team in the RPI. The Cornhuskers currently do not have a Quadrant 1 win to their name — their best win comes at home against Michigan — and the only chance they’ll have to add one the rest of the regular season comes at Minnesota, who could very well drop off that level. There are only two teams left on Nebraska’s schedule that are in the top 100 of the RPI.

BAYLOR (RPI: 76, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: First four out): Baylor lost at home to Kansas State on Monday night. They’re now lost six of eight to start Big 12 play and their next two games are at Florida and at Oklahoma, both of which would be marquee wins the Bears currently lack.

VIDEO: Kenrich Williams posterizes West Virginia

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I am not sure what was more impressive tonight, Kenrich Williams going for 14 boards and six assists against No. 7 West Virginia, the fact that he played the point for them against that press … or this dunk:

It was the dunk.

Definitely.

Alex Robinson leads TCU past No. 7 West Virginia

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You’d be forgiven if you thought that TCU’s season was done and dusted when starting point guard Jaylen Fisher went down with a knee injury that will cost him the rest of the season.

Fisher was the team’s third-leading scorer at 12.3 points and ranked second in assists. He was shooting 43.9 percent from the floor. More importantly, he was backcourt defensive presence that doesn’t exist elsewhere on the TCU roster.

When the Horned Frogs lost Fisher, they were coming off of their second loss to Oklahoma in the span of two weeks and their fourth loss in the first five games of league play. With two games against both West Virginia and Texas Tech, and a trip to Allen Fieldhouse, left on their schedule, this had all the warning signs of a season in danger of sliding into oblivion.

On Monday night, in TCU’s third game without Fisher, Jame Dixon’s club put together their best performance of the season. They held No. 7 West Virginia to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor and led by as many as 20 points in an 82-73 win in Fort Worth, a win that puts an entirely knew feel on where this season can and will go.

The biggest reason for that may be Alex Robinson.

A 6-foot-1 hometown kid and a redshirt junior that transferred into the program from Texas A&M, Robinson has seemingly always been overlooked in this TCU program. Part of that is because he’s not a great scorer or shooter. Part of that is because he isn’t really a defender. And part of is, frankly, is because he never quite got his chance.

And now, with Fisher out, Robinson is not only getting his chance, but he is making the most of it.

TCU is 2-1 in their three games without Fisher, and Robinson has been the star, averaging 12.3 points, 4.7 boards and 10.7 assists. Against West Virginia, one of the nation’s most difficult defenses to deal with, Robinson finished with 17 points, nine assists and seven boards despite barely stepping foot off of the court. He got some help from Kenrich Williams, TCU’s best player, a 6-foot-7 forward that was a high school point guard and did the heavy-lifting when it came to breaking that press.

But that shouldn’t put a damper on how Robinson played on Monday.

And it shouldn’t take away from what he has been able to do with Fisher out.

Suddenly, TCU looks like a team that found themselves on the wrong side of lucky through the first seven games of Big 12 play. They lost five games during that stretch by an average of 3.3 points. Two of those losses came when the Horned Frogs missed game-winning shots at the buzzer.

They were and have been a top 25 team that found out the hard way how tough it is to win close games in this league.

And at this point it is probably fair to say that hasn’t changed despite having a new player running the point.