Jay Bilas photobomb

The Morning Mix

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What a weekend.

What a season.

Savor these moments folks, because we may never see another college basketball season quite like this one. The regular season comes to an end this week, and if this season has been any indication, Championship Week is going to be bonkers. But that’s seven days away. We got a lot of ball left to be played.

Let’s hit the links.

Monday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Texas Tech @ No. 6 Kansas
7:00 p.m. – Cincinnati @ No. 10 Louisville
9:00 p.m. – Baylor @ Texas
 
 
Read of the Day:
A tremendous story from Geoff Calkins on a JuCo player in Memphis who was accused of crimes he did not commit. But thanks to a strong will and a bond with his public defender, Marshaun Newell is now the star player for Southwest Community College. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)

Read of the Day:
If you have the time, I highly suggest you sit down with this New York Daily News article about Steve Konchalski, known throughout North America as “The Canadian Coach-K”. He’s like Coach-K, only with much better stories. (New York Daily News)
 
 
Top Stories:
Trey Burke leads No. 4 Michigan past No. 9 Michigan State: The Wolverines went 0-12 from beyond the arc, yet were still able to get past the Spartans on Sunday, and it was due in large part to the play of National Player of the Year candidate Trey Burke.

Virginia adds another line to baffling resume with loss at Boston College:The Cavaliers have more good wins and bad losses than any team in the country. Their loss on Sunday to Boston College is one of the many reasons why.

Miami’s loses to Duke by three at Cameron? Meh.: Ryan Kelly had a sensational performance, but shouldn’t we give Miami some credit? Duke needed a somewhat-fluky performance to beat the Hurricanes in Durham.

Ryan Kelly’s career day shows why he makes Duke a title contender:Ryan Kelly scored 36 points in his first game back from a foot injury, and he reminded all of us why Duke was and is still a legitimate national Championship contender.

Let’s keep VCU’s blow-out win over No. 20 Butler in perspective: It’s easy to overreact considering what VCU did to Butler on Saturday. But considering how Butler has made its living this season, a blowout loss to a high-octane team like VCU shouldn’t be too surprising.

Doug McDermott scores season-high 41, Creighton wins first MVC title since 2001: McDermott’s best performance of the season kept him alive in the National Player of the Year debate and helped the Bluejays to their first MVC title in over a decade.

Kentucky loses, but its NCAA tourney hopes aren’t dead yet:Kentucky could have benefited from a road win at Arkansas, but those are hard to come by. The Wildcats are still on the bubble, but that’s better than not being on it at all.

Ben Howland: Shabazz Muhammad headed to the NBA draft after season: It’s no shock at all to hear that Muhammad is going pro. It is a bit bizarre however that their head coach would make that known to the public. The Bruins are in a position to contend for the Pac-12 Regular Season Championship and are a near-lock to make the NCAA tournament. But that’s UCLA for ya.

Towson sets NCAA record, goes from 1-31 to 2nd place in CAA: The Towson Tigers have been the laughing-stock of college hoops for the past two seasons. But led by head coach Pat Skerry and Georgetown-transfer Jerrelle Benimon, the Tigers now own the most impressive turnaround in NCAA history.

Grambling State finishes regular season winless at 0-27:You just hate to see this happen. But at least Towson had provided even the slightest amount of optimism.
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– This is just awesome: The ultimate fantasy college basketball broadcasters draft. (Sports Illustrated)

– Is New Mexico worthy of a no.1-seed in the NCAA Tournament? Their resumes suggest that they are. (The Catch and Shoot Blog)

– Loyola (Md.) head coach Jim Patsos continues to have success because he does things his way. (Baltimore Sun)

– Akron’s 19-game winning streak is now over thanks to a lackluster performance against Buffalo. Louisiana Tech now holds the nation’s longest winning streak with 17 in-a-row. (Hustle Belt)

– The race for the Big-Ten title is still up for grabs. It’s quite possible that a tiebreaker will have to be used to determine a champion. (Columbus Dispatch)

– Northern Kentucky did Senior Night right. The Norse eased a 13-point deficit in the final three minutes of the game and earned a thrilling victory over Jacksonville. (AllKYhoops.com)
 
 
Odds & Ends:
– If only we all could be as strong as 9-year old UCLA superfan Jeffrey Hughes, Jr. (Los Angeles Times)

– Great video footage of Pittsburgh seniors Dante Taylor and Tray Woddhall following Senior Day. This is what it’s all about. (Panther Lair)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
Best.Photobomb.Ever (Twitter)

source:

 
 
Video of the Day:
This is the most incredible buzzer-beater I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of buzzer-beaters.


 
 
Dunk of the Day:
I have very little to say about this dunk because my jaw is currently dropped.

 
 
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PHOTO: Nevada wearing pink jerseys to honor Coaches vs. Cancer this week

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Nevada announced that they’ll be wearing special pink uniforms for the next two games to promote cancer awareness.

The Wolf Pack will wear the jerseys on Wednesday (Jan. 25) on the road against Boise State and at home on Saturday (Jan. 28) against New Mexico.

“We are extremely excited and honored to release our new Pink “Cancer-Awareness” Jerseys. It was apparent very early in our time here, that many members of our Nevada Wolf Pack Basketball Program and in our Pack community have been affected or are currently being affected by cancer,” Nevada head coach Eric Musselman said in the release. “We could not be more proud to help support the cause and unite to fight this horrible and devastating disease.”

 

UCLA is no longer a Final Four contender if their defense doesn’t improve

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s win over No. 8 UCLA was massive for No. 7 Arizona for a number of reasons.

They got Allonzo Trier back into the fold. They remained undefeated atop the Pac-12 standings, keeping pace with an Oregon team that’s dealing with another Dillon Brooks foot injury and getting ready to make the nightmarish trip to the Mountain schools, Utah and Colorado, this weekend. They took a two game lead over the Bruins in the Pac-12 standings.

Perhaps more importantly, the Wildcats certified themselves as a legitimate threat to get to the Final Four. Their 17-2 record entering Saturday was pretty. A win at Pauley finally gave that résumé some substance.

So good for Arizona.

But that wasn’t the biggest story line coming out of Pauley Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

UCLA’s defense, or lack thereof, was.

Ever since the Bruins went into Rupp Arena and knocked off then-No. 1 Kentucky, UCLA has been considered one of the very best teams in the country. Villanova’s up there, too. So is Kansas, and Gonzaga, and those Kentucky Wildcats. North Carolina probably should be in that conversation as well. Maybe Baylor, maaaybe Florida State.

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Things We Learned | Top 25

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You get my point. The Bruins, for better or worse, were one of the handful of teams that everyone thought would enter the NCAA tournament as a favorite to win the national title, but it’s time for us to question whether or not that is actually the case. That’s how bad the UCLA defense has been this season, particularly of late.

Against Arizona, the Bruins were a train-wreck. They gave up 96 points on 1.315 points-per-possession, which, for those of you who aren’t into advanced stats, is atrocious. That game was the culmination of a four-game stretch where UCLA’s defense had gone from concerning-but-good-enough to a major red flag. In those four games – road trips to Colorado and Utah and home games against Arizona and Arizona State – the Bruins allowed an abysmal 1.153 PPP. For comparison’s sake, the 2015 Kentucky team that went 38-1, the best defense we’ve seen in the KenPom era, gave up 0.847 PPP. UCLA averages 75 possessions a game, which is a difference of 23 points over 40 minutes.

That’s a big deal.

And on the season, UCLA has fallen the way to 125th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric.

That’s a bigger deal.

For those that don’t know, KenPom.com is a website that ranks teams based on how many points they score and allow per possession, adjusted for schedule strength. It’s widely considered the best way to determine who the best offensive, the best defensive and the best overall teams are.

It’s been around since 2002.

And since 2002, given where UCLA’s defense is today, they would be the second-worst defensive team to ever get to a Final Four.

In 2011, VCU ranked 138th in defensive efficiency as of Selection Sunday*, and they are the only team to ever rank outside the top 80 in defensive efficiency and make it all the way to the Final Four. Only three other teams have ranked outside the top 50 and made it to the final weekend of the season: Marquette in 2003 (76th), Butler in 2011 (72nd) and Michigan in 2013 (66th). Two others ranked outside the top 40 and won at least four games in the Big Dance: Texas in 2003 (46th) and Wisconsin in 2014 (50th):

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-3-16-43-pm

*(All of this info is via KenPom.com and as of Selection Sunday in those given seasons. That’s important to note, because winning games against good teams in the tournament changes those stats.)

The precedent is there.

UCLA, unquestionably, has to get better defensively if they want to win a national title.

But all hope is not lost.

The two teams with the lowest defensive efficiency entering the NCAA tournament to win the national title – North Carolina in 2009 and Duke in 2015 – both had top three offenses nationally.

UCLA leads the nation in offensive efficiency.

AP Poll: Villanova, Kansas neck-and-neck for No. 1

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Head coach Jay Wright and Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats congratulate Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second half against the Temple Owls at The Pavilion on December 13, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 78-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova maintained a slim lead over Kansas for the No. 1 spot in this week’s AP poll, with Gonzaga being the only other program to receive any first place votes.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBCSports Top 25

After losing to Arizona at home, UCLA dropped to eighth as the Wildcats vaulted them into No. 7 in the poll.

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Things We Learned | Top 25

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1. Villanova (35 first-place votes)
2. Kansas (28)
3. Gonzaga (2)
4. Kentucky
5. Baylor
6. Florida State
7. Arizona
8. UCLA
9. North Carolina
10. Oregon
11. Butler
12. Virginia
13. Louisville
14. Notre Dame
15. Wisconsin
16. Creighton
17. Duke
18. West Virginia
19. Cincinnati
20. Purdue
21. Saint Mary’s
22. Maryland
23. South Carolina
24. Xavier
25. Florida

Coaches Poll: Kansas remains No. 1, Villanova No. 2

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 21: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks drives to the goal against Andrew Jones #1 of the Texas Longhorns in the first half at Allen Field House on January 21, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Kansas remained No. 1 in the Coaches Poll this week, getting 18 of the 32 first-place votes.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBCSports Top 25

Villanova sits at No. 2 in the poll, with Gonzaha in third, the only other team to receive a first-place vote.

After beating UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, Arizona jumped up to No. 9 but still sits two spots behind UCLA at No. 7.

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1. Kansas (18 first-place votes)
2. Villanova (11)
3. Gonzaga (3)
4. Kentucky
5. Baylor
6. North Carolina
7. UCLA
8. Florida State
9. Arizona
10. Oregon
11. Butler
12. Notre Dame
13. Virginia
14. Louisville
15. Wisconsin
16. Creighton
17. Duke
18. West Virginia
19. Cincinnati
20. Purdue
21. Sainy Mary’s
22. Xavier
23. Maryland
24. South Carolina
25. Florida

College Basketball Talk Top 25: It gets muddy after a clear-cut top four

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 03: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in front of Lamarr Kimble #0 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks in the first half at The Pavilion on December 3, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 88-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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This week’s rankings were probably more difficult to put together than any week so far this season.

The top four, frankly, seem pretty obvious. I have Villanova No. 1, but I would have no qualms with ranking any of Kentucky, Kansas or Gonzaga in that No. 1 spot. I expect those to be the four teams that get votes for No. 1 in the AP and Coaches Polls this week.

After that, however, is when it gets difficult. Are you going to rank North Carolina above Florida State? UNC beat the Seminoles when they squared off this season but that was the Seminoles lone loss in a six game run against ranked teams. I went with Carolina over them because, simply, I think UNC is a better team.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the top three teams in the Pac-12. Arizona just won at UCLA and they got Allonzo Trier back. Oregon also owns a win over the Bruins, but there’s came at home on a buzzer-beater from Dillon Brooks, who is dealing with a foot injury again. And while UCLA has consistently proven to be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the country, they are a nightmare defensively right now.

Where does West Virginia slot in after a pair of losses? What about Creighton without Mo Watson Jr.? Butler’s profile looks great but their performance on the floor has been less than stellar since their win over Villanova. Is Duke actually back?

You can find the rankings below. What did I get wrong?

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Things We Learned | Top 25

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1. Villanova (19-1, Last Week No. 1)
2. Kentucky (17-2, 2)
3. Kansas (18-1, 4)
4. Gonzaga (19-0, 5)
5. North Carolina (18-3, 5)
6. Baylor (18-1, 7)
7. Florida State (18-2, 8)
8. Arizona (18-2, 16)
9. UCLA (19-2, 3)
10. Oregon (18-2, 10)
11. Louisville (16-4, 11)
12. Wisconsin (16-3, 13)
13. Purdue (16-4, 15)
14. Notre Dame (17-3, 17)
15. Cincinnati (17-2, 18)
16. Duke (15-4, 19)
17. West Virginia (15-4, 10)
18. Butler (17-3, 14)
19. Creighton (18-2, 12)
20. Saint Mary’s (17-2, 20)
21. Virginia (16-3, 22)
22. South Carolina (15-4, 24)
23. Maryland (17-2, 25)
24. Kansas State (15-4, NR)
25. Iowa State (12-6, NR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 21 Xavier, No. 23 Florida
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 Kansas State, No. 25 Iowa State