The Morning Mix

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Big Monday delivered last night. There were only 15 games on the schedule, but the marquee games delivered. Kansas and Iowa State played in the game of the night. Elijah Johnson went for 39 points, and scored 12-straight points down the stretch. Some will say Iowa State got jobbed. Others will say that last night belonged to Elijah Johnson. Neither group is wrong.

Let’s hit the links.

Tuesday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 1 Indiana @ Minnesota
7:00 p.m. – No. 19 Memphis @ Xavier
7:00 p.m. – Towson @ George Mason
9:00 p.m. – No. 8 Florida @ Tennessee
9:00 p.m. – Nebraska @ No. 17 Wisconsin

 
 
Read of the Day:
Jabari Parker is the most heralded recruit in the class of 2013. The Chicago Grid details how Nike got the inside track towards obtaining the exclusive rights to Parker’s feet. Read it. (Chicago Grid)

Read of the Day:
Using the two marquee games from this past weekend, Georgetown-Syracuse and New Mexico-Colorado State, Matt Brown explains why over-analyzing certain college basketball games is a futile process. (Sports on Earth)
 
 
Top Stories:
For Elijah Johnson, Monday’s comeback was about more than just one win: Elijah Johnson has had his share of struggles this season. But on Monday night, he had all the confidence in the world and was able to put the Jayhawks on his back and carry them to victory. They will need him to play with confidence more often down the stretch. He’s tough to stop when he’s confident.

Iowa State loses to Kansas, but don’t disregard their three-point shooting: Iowa State may have lost last night, but they provided a lot of entertainment thanks to their wide array of long-range marksmanship.

Syracuse’s back court struggles becoming a major concern: Syracuse lost to Marquette last night 74-71, marking the first time the Orange have lost back-to-back games all season. Syracuse’s backcourt has been the key concern in the two recent defeats.

Marquette gets 26 from Gardner in victory over Syracuse: The Marquette big man had himself a big time performance against Syracuse, scoring from inside and outside.

Andrew Wiggins named Naismith High School Player of the Year: Wiggins is the one of the top three unsigned recruits in the class of 2013 and will choose between Kentucky and Florida State.

The Big East’s new TV deal could include a name change:The Big East signed a television deal with ESPN last week and one of that may be made is to change the name of the conference. I think we can all agree that this is the right decision.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Former-USC basketball player Brandon Martin has been named Athletic Director at Cal State Northridge. (Yahoo Sports)

– The 25 finalists were announced for the Lou Henson Award, given to the top mid-major player of the year. (College Insider)

– Memphis’ Antonio Barton is no longer in a walking boot and may be able to return for the postseason. (College Basketball Talk)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– This is what the NCAA Tournament bracket would look like if teams were seeded based on storylines. (Wilmington Star News)

– You’re probably already aware that March has the potential to be absolutely bonkers, but in case you need more convincing, Mike Lopresti previews what may be in store. (USA Today)

– In case you forgot, the USC Trojans are looking for a new head coach. The opening should command some quality attention when the season ends, and according to Doug Gottleib, who knows the SoCal area very well, believes the hiring could set off a chain reaction of events. (CBS Sports)

– Mississippi State has just six scholarship players available for use and are sitting at the bottom of a weak SEC. But regardless of his teams struggles, head coach Rick Ray doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him. (Clarion Ledger)

– La Salle is one of the more interesting bubble teams to watch for as the regular season comes to a close. They have four good wins and only one bad loss. They have the looks of a team that can solidify their NCAA tournament status with a strong run in the A-10 Tournament. (Hoopville)

– At the beginning of the season, the balance of power in the Mountain West was geared towards UNLV and San Diego State, but as the season has progressed, the balance of power has shifted towards Fort Collins and Albuquerque. (College ChalkTalk)

– Memphis will put two large winning streaks on the line tonight when they face Xavier tonight in a rare late-February non-conference showdown. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)

– Saint Mary’s still has some work to do in order to make the NCAA tournament, but their win over Creighton showed that they deserve to be considered. (Rush The Court)

– Blake Griffin advises college players to not rush their pro career. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Andy Katz provides a bevy of thoughts on the hoops world, including his choice for some conference Player of the Year awards. (ESPN)

– LeBron James, the pride of Akron, OH, returns home during the offseason to reunite with Akron Zips head coach Keith Dambrot, who coached LeBron at St. Vicent-St. Mary’s High School. The Zips are currently riding an 18-game winning streak and are ranked inside the top-25. (USA Today)

– Washington State dismissed Reggie Moore back in September, and well, I think it’s safe to asusme that they really missed his services this season. (Coug Center)

– A month ago, it looked like the Missouri Valley may get three teams into the NCAA Tournament, but with Creighton and Wichita State’s recent struggles, it’s quite possible that The Valley only sends one team to the Big Dance. (Eye on College Basketball)
 
 
Odds & Ends
– Two weeks after snapping at ESPN’s Andy Katz, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was back at it again, barking at CBS’ Jeff Goodman. (Fox Sports Wisconsin)

– Denver mascot sparks controversy. Weirdest headline of the day. (Mile High Mids)

– Your “stat of the day”: Illinois has gone 5-1 since John Groce banned Twitter. (The Big Lead)

– In case you’re in to this sort of thing: Karl Hess has worked more games this season than any other referee. (Run The Floor)

– A bizarre story on Junior College hoops in Iowa. A brawl broke out after a game, one player got arrested. The School President bailed the player out, and the team got punished. Just read it. (Deadspin)

– A top-10 list of the ugliest college basketball uniforms of all time. (Lost Letterman)
 
 
Tweet of the Day:

 
 
Picture of the Day:
No words necessary. (H/T @MattMumISU)

source:
 
 
Video of the Day:
Ball State recruit Franko House drills a 3/4 court buzzer-beater.


 
 
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No. 1 Kansas dominates No. 4 Purdue in style

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Kansas, the top-seeded team in Midwest region, didn’t just beat No. 4 Purdue, it did so in style. Fast break after fast break, dunk after dunk, the Jayhawks ran the Boilermakers off the floor, advancing to the Elite Eight with a 98-66 win on Thursday night in Kansas City.

Kansas went on an 11-0 run in the second half, forcing four Purdue turnovers during that stretch. Once the Boilermakers finally got back on the board, the Jayhawks led 69-56. That run broke open the game en route to the 32-point victory.

Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham each had 26 points. Mason added seven rebounds and seven assists. Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan ended his season — and perhaps, his college career — with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Kansas advances to play No. 3 seed Oregon on Saturday in the Elite Eight.

WATCH: LaGerald Vick’s 360 dunk

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It takes a lot of confidence to throw down a dunk better suited for pre-game lay-up lines than the middle of a NCAA Tournament game.

But Kansas sophomore guard LaGerald Vick thought this breakaway opportunity in the second half of a Sweet 16 matchup against No. 4 seed Purdue was the perfect time to throw down a 360 dunk.

Jordan Mathews three sends No. 1 seed Gonzaga past No. 4 West Virginia

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Jordan Mathews hit a three with less than a minute left and West Virginia missed a pair of threes on the final possession of the game as No. 1 seed Gonzaga won a dogfight, 61-58, over No. 4 seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

Mathews, who finished with 13 points on the night, spent 4:30 on the bench before checking into the game right before hitting the eventual game-winning three. It came on a possession fitting of this game, which was the embodiment of the mantra ‘a close game is not always a good game.’ Nigel Williams-Goss, who played arguably his worst game as a member of the Zags, turned the ball over immediately after gathering a defensive rebound. But West Virginia’s Nathan Adrian had a shot blocked at the rim and, after corralling the loose ball, Williams-Goss found Mathews open in the wing for a three that put the Zags up 60-58 with 37 seconds left.

What’s going to be talked about after this game is the final possession for West Virginia.

Jevon Carter, who finished with 21 points and who, prior to that final possession, continued to hit big jumper after big jumper for the Mountaineers, airballed a three and, after West Virginia gathered the rebound, threw up another tough three that bounced off the front rim. West Virginia again got the loose ball, and after Carter dribbled 15 seconds off the block, he gave the ball up to Daxter Miles, who didn’t have enough time to get the shot off:

That possession is going to haunt Carter for a long, long time, and West Virginia was rightfully criticized for the way that they “executed” on that possession — I wonder if Bob Huggins regrets not saving a timeout for the end of the game — but it’s impossible to criticize West Virginia without also mentioning that Gonzaga’s defense was as good as it gets.

Not just just on that possession, either.

The Zags made life difficult for West Virginia all night long, and that should not come as a surprise to anyone that has been paying attention to this Gonzaga team. West Virginia shot 26.7 percent from the floor. They were 5-for-23 from three, and if it wasn’t for the 20 offensive rebounds they grabbed — more than the 16 field goals they made on the night — Gonzaga would have walked out of the SAP Center with a comfortable win. They are, quite literally, the best defensive team in college basketball, according to KenPom, and they made the plays they needed to make down the stretch to get the win. That’s what championship-caliber teams do.

And if you still don’t believe that Gonzaga can win a national title this season, than I’m not sure what else you need to see.

West Virginia was a terrible matchup for Gonzaga. Their guards, as good as they’ve been all season long, are not cut out for playing against a back court that is that much tougher, that much quicker, that much more aggressive and that much more athletic than them. Williams-Goss, who was a second-team NBC Sports All-American, was exposed. He finished the evening 2-for-10 from the floor with five turnovers and just a single assist before finding Mathews for the game-winning three. As a team, Gonzaga turned the ball over 16 times. Josh Perkins didn’t even get a shot off. Silas Melson was 2-for-7 from the floor. Throw in Zach Collins, who had just a single point, and four of Gonzaga’s top seven players were flat out bad on Thursday night.

That was, unequivocally, a game played the way West Virginia wanted it to be played. The Mountaineers controlled the game.

And yet, Gonzaga is still headed to the Elite 8, one game — against the winner of No. 2 Arizona and No. 11 Xavier — away from the right to go to the Final Four.

The knock on this Gonzaga team was their toughness, both physical and mental. Would they be able to handle a team that plays the way that West Virginia plays? Would they be able to handle the game pressure of playing to the final possession in the Sweet 16?

The answer is yes.

That doesn’t mean Gonzaga is going to win the national title.

But they are certainly good enough to get it done.

No. 3 Oregon advances after thriller with No. 7 Michigan

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Oregon is returning to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season following a thrilling, 69-68, victory over No. 7 Michigan in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City on Thursday night.

In a game in which neither team could fully grasp control of the game, it came down to the wire. Michigan held a 3-point lead with two minutes to play. Jordan Bell, who was unquestionably the deciding factor in this contest, came up with the first of several critical hustle plays down the stretch. He knifed in on a missed free throw, for the second-chance bucket, cutting the deficit to one.

On the ensuing Michigan possession, Bell didn’t block it but affected Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot enough to force the miss. Tyler Dorsey, the other hero for the Ducks, continued his stellar play this month with a go-ahead layup after he spun through the Wolverine defense. Bell’s close out on D.J. Wilson sent his 3-point attempt way off the mark. Bell would corral another offensive rebound on the other end of the floor, and while Dylan Ennis left the door open for Michigan following another missed free throw, Bell, deservedly, rebounded Walton’s miss as time ran out.

“Do whatever you can to win,” Bell told reporters after the game. “Me, get every rebound, offense or defense, help my team out as much as possible.”

Bell had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey poured in 20 points. Walton Jr., who front-rimmed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, ended his collegiate career with stat-line of 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Zak Irvin added 19.

Dillon Brooks is without a doubt the star, but Bell and Dorsey round out a big three that could lead the Ducks to Phoenix.

Before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on March 11, Oregon announced that Chris Boucher would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. How would this effect Oregon’s defense days before it began its quest for a Final Four?

Bell has helped answer those questions on Thursday night. He’s a big reason why Oregon outscored Michigan, 34-16, in points in the paint. But his greatest impact was how he slowed down the two-headed monster of Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson, two forwards whose increased production is a big reason why Michigan’s unlikely run extended into the second weekend of the tournament. The duo scored a combined 19 points off 7-of-20 shooting.

The other for Oregon was the continued offensive tear of Dorsey. In six postseason games, the sophomore two-guard is averaging 23.0 points per game. He went toe-to-toe with Walton, who was playing as good as any guard in the country, in the final minutes and got the better of the battle. Playing at this level, Oregon has another go-to scorer, one who has no issue taking a big shot late in the game. In either matchup in the next round, that should come in handy. Dillon Brooks, one of college’s toughest matchups, will either be busy with Purdue’s massive frontline or locked in an all-out war with Kansas’ Josh Jackson the perimeter.

“I’m really fortunate to have Jordan for three years and Tyler for two and Dillon Brooks,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We’ve just been really fortunate. We’ve got good players and guys that are unselfish. They want to win. They’re competitive. We got down four there and guys could have gave into it. They didn’t. They fought their way back. Shows you what kind of competitive spirit they’ve got.”

The Ducks, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, will face the winner of top-seeded Kansas and No. 4 Purdue on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.

“We know Purdue is really big and Kansas is Kansas,” Altman said.

WATCH: Steve Alford end practice with half-court shot

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford ended practice on Thursday by drilling a half-court shot on the first attempt.

According to the Associated Press, this has been a season-long battle between the UCLA coaching staff and the players.

“Truth be told, we’ve been getting slaughtered. We’ve got guys like Lonzo (Ball) literally takes a jump shot from the timeline. We were just lucky that they only got one shot at it. I think coaches are down about eight on the half-court shots this year. I told them, though, that the coaches are ahead at the Sweet 16. I don’t think they’re buying it.”

No. 3 seed UCLA is set to play No. 2 seed Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in Memphis. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats, 97-92, in a non-conference matchup on Dec. 3.