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The Morning Mix

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This is your final regular season Morning Mix of the 2012-2013 season. We’ll be back next week, but man, what a regular season it has been. Here’s to hoping Saturday lives up to the hype.

Let’s hit the links.

Thursday’s Top games:
3:30 p.m. – Indiana State vs. Evansville
7 p.m. – Tennessee State vs. Belmont
8 p.m. – Stetson vs. Florida Gulf Coast
9 p.m. – Eastern Kentucky vs. Murray State
9:30 p.m. – Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa
Read of the Day:
Last night, Eagle Landing HS (GA) won the Class AAAA State title last night. MTSU recruit Eric Wortham Jr. finished with 12 points and four assists. Just a year ago, he was on the brink of death. This is his story. Read it. (Henry Daily Herald)
Top Stories:
Believe it or not, Kentucky’s tournament hopes aren’t dead yet: Kentucky lost to Georgia last night, but if they can beat Florida and not lose early in the SEC tournament, the Wildcats could still end up dancing.

Butler doesn’t look for real, not yet at least: The Bulldogs got the bounce back win they desperately needed, but didn’t look like world-beaters doing so. Butler’s three biggest wins of the season have all been won on buzzer-beaters. While entertaining, it’s not exactly how you want to make you living.

Virginia’s NCAA hopes in jeopardy as Michael Snaer hits another game-winner (VIDEO): Michael Snaer hit his sixth game-winner of his career and sent Virginia back to the wrong side of the bubble in the process.

Louisiana Tech is now autobid or bust after losing to New Mexico State: The Bulldogs entered the night hanging onto their bubble hopes by the slimmest of margins, but is now the latest in a long line of bubble teams that suffered painful losses over the last week, as New Mexico State trounced them by 18 points in Las Cruces on Thursday night.

No Roberson, no problem as Colorado blows out No. 19 Oregon: Andre Roberson sat out because of mononucleosis, but that didn’t slow down the Buffs against No. 19 Oregon. Colorado still has work to do, but a win over a ranked team certainly helps.

Wisconsin plays role of slump-buster for Michigan State’s Keith Appling: The Spartans had lost three in a row, and desperately needed a good performance against a quality opponent. That’s exactly what they got from Keith Appling and company.
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Akron suspended staring point guard Alvin Abreu after he was arrested on drug trafficking charges on Thursday. (Akron Beacon Journal)

– UConn center Tyler Olander fractured his foot on Wednesday during the Huskies loss to South Florida and will miss the final game of the season. (Hartford Courant)

– Mississippi State junior guard Jalen Steele suffered a torn ACL on Wednesday and will miss the remainder of the season. (Clarion Ledger)

– The game between San Jose State and UT-San Antonio was cancelled because of a roof leak. (ESPN)
Observations & Insight:
– Dan Wetzel on the death of the Big East Tournament. He thinks the new Big East/Catholic-7 Tournament could be just as good. (Yahoo Sports)

– A nice, quick read on Jay Bilas, the social media maven who follows nobody. (USA Today)

– Jeff Bzdelik is not very liked in Winston-Salem. Angry Wake Forest fans have now resorted to newspaper advertisements in order to voice their opinion about the Demon Deacon’s head coach. (The Dagger)

– This one of the better and easier-to-read breakdowns of NCAA tournament math I’ve seen in quite some time. (Waiting for Next Year)

– Wichita State head coach Greg Marshall was awarded MVC Coach of the Year for the effort he has put in to excelling in a year when not much was expected from the Shockers. (Peoria Journal Star)

– Rutgers and Seton Hall will play each other next year, despite being in different conferences. (New Jersey Hoops Haven)

– Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski has cut his trademark locks and is inching towards a historic block party. (

– Villanova has the best “bench mob” in the country, and I don’t think the race is all that close. (VU Hoops)
Video of the Day:
Take 15 minutes to reflect on the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry. Great stuff. (Washington Post)

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

VIDEO: Bill Simmons talks Ben Simmons on DP Show

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Ben Simmons will likely be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and possibly end up with the Celtics, making Boston sports junkie Bill Simmons very happy. Bill jokes about sharing a last name with a future NBA star.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Kris Dunn still tops a strong list

Kris Dunn, D'Angelo Harrison
AP Photo
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1. Kris Dunn, Providence: I had Kris Dunn as the Preseason Player of the Year, and while he probably hasn’t been the best player in the country through four games — he hasn’t yet had a statement game on national television — he is averaging 18.8 points, 7.8 boards, 6.8 assists and 5.3 steals.

And while his shooting splits are down from a season ago, he only has eight turnovers through four games. I’m not going to drop my guy when he does that just because he hasn’t gotten into the meat of his schedule yet. No way.

I’ve charted the four games that Dunn has played to determine how much of Providence’s offensive runs through him, a stat I’m going to call, for lack of a better word, possessions “ended”.

When he’s on the floor, how many of Providence’s possessions ended with Dunn shooting, getting to the free throw line, turning the ball over, assisting on a bucket, assisting on free throws or assisting on a missed shot.

Through four games, 62.6 percent of Providence’s offense runs through Dunn, which is an insanely high number and a reason that his efficiency, and shooting percentages, are going to be lower than ideal.

Defenses know this.

Illinois had all five defenders in the paint trying to stop Dunn’s ball-screen actions:

(Screengrab via Synergy)
(Screengrab via Synergy)

His defender went over the screen while the man guarding the screener stayed with Dunn. The weak-side defender is in the lane helping on Ben Bentil’s role to the rim while the strong-side defender is helping on Dunn’s drive. Here’s video of the entire action:

2. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: Valentine is almost averaging a triple-double this season. Seriously. He’s at 15.3 points, 9.8 assists and 9.0 boards through four games. That won’t last, but we can celebrate it while it does. He also is the own of the most impressive performance of the young season, going for 29 points, 12 boards and 12 assists in MSU’s come-from-behind win over Kansas in the Champions Classic.

And just to put Dunn’s numbers in perspective, Valentine “ended” 60.6 percent of Michigan State’s possessions against Kansas.

3. Ben Simmons, LSU: Since we keep talking about whether or not Ben Simmons is overrated, I think this is worth mentioning: He’s currently the leading rebounder in college basketball, averaging 14.5 boards to go along with his 19.3 points, 5.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. Oh, and he has just six turnovers in four games.

I’m not going to sit here trying to convince he’s not a great player. He is. Unquestionably. But there are a few things you need to understand when analysts and scouts try to temper the comparisons to LeBron James.

MORE: Transcendent? Overhyped? The shame is if Ben Simmons is irrevelant

Simmons spends a lot of time at the five for LSU, meaning that he is quite often guarded by guys like Luke Fischer, a 7-footer that doesn’t have a prayer of trying to slow down a player that big and that skilled in transition or in a half court setting:

He’s also a terrific passer, one that is so skilled at making defenses pay when the help defenders are too focused on him. Look at Traci Carter when Simmons throws this lob:

(Image via ESPN)
(Screengrab via ESPN)

That’s a direct result of the mismatches that he gets at the college level.

There are layers to this, too. The numbers you don’t hear with Simmons: he hasn’t even attempted a three-pointer this season. Through his first three games, he only shot five jump shots and missed all five. (Synergy’s logs haven’t been updated with last night’s games yet.) He’s shooting 81 percent from the line, so the stroke is there, but it has yet to manifest itself as part of his offensive repertoire.

Put it all together: NBA teams have guys that are big enough and quick enough to guard Simmons — especially if he doesn’t become a consistent shooter from the NBA three-point line — and while his passing ability rivals LeBron’s, he’s not as quick, explosive or athletic.

In simpler terms, Simmons won’t be exploiting mismatches in the NBA the way he can in college, and defenses won’t have to sellout to slow him down. That’s why I would rather see him compared to Lamar Odom, who, by the way, averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 boards and 3.7 assists in a 15-year career that produced two NBA titles and an appearance on a U.S. Olympic team.

He was damn good.

Comparing him to Odom is a compliment.

4. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky: The latest argument that seems to be clogging by mentions is whether or not Ulis or Dunn is the best point guard in the country. My take: Dunn is the best player in the country while Ulis is the best point guard in the country. While the two technically play the same position, the role they play is entirely different. Ulis is a facilitator, a pure point guard. Dunn is the prototype new-age lead guard, a guy built in the mold of Russell Westbrook, John Wall and MVP-era Derrick Rose.

Ulis has been OK in three of Kentucky’s four games, but his performance in the win over Duke — 18 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals, no turnovers — is what got him this high on this list.

5. Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen has been unbelievable in four of the five games he’s played this season, including back-to-back 30-burgers as the Blue Devils beat VCU and Georgetown in the 2K Classic. Even with that putrid performance against Kentucky, his numbers look like this: 24.4 ppg, 4.4 rg, 3.2 apg and shooting splits of 52.2/53.6/89.7.

6. Tyrone Wallace, Cal: Only one player in college basketball averaged more than 20 points, five boards and five assists last season. This year, Wallace is averaging 20.3 points, 5.8 boards and 5.3 assists for a Cal team that could end up winning the Pac-12. He’ll climb this list if his numbers look as good when the competition gets tougher.

7. Sheldon McClellan, Miami: Picking a player on Miami for this spot was tough, but I decided to go with McClellan for a couple of reason. One: He’s Miami’s leading scorer at 17.4 points. Two: his shooting splits are outrageous (61.7/52.4/94.7) meaning his efficiency numbers are outrageous as well. Three: he’s the guy on that Miami roster that, if I was an opposing coach, I would build a game-plan around stopping.

8. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: Hield was a first-team all-american entering the season and has scored 54 points in two games this year. He went for 30 in a win at Memphis. Not bad.

9. Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga: Kyle Wiltjer was the guy that was on all the preseason all-american lists, but through two (And a half? Does Pitt still count?) games this season, Sabonis has been Gonzaga’s best player. He’s averaging 20.5 points and 10.5 boards, scoring on post-ups and offensive boards and shooting a robust 82.6 percent from the floor.

10. Evan Bradds, Belmont: There are a number of guys deserving consideration for this spot — Demetrius Jackson, Melo Trimble, Shaq Harrison, Josh Hart — but I’m going to give Bradds a little love here. Through five games, he’s averaging 21.3 points, 8.6 boards and 2.4 assists while shooting 76.2 percent from the floor. He had 24 points and nine rebounds in Belmont’s win at Marquette and, in his last two games, is averaging 29 points and 10 boards while shooting 27-for-28 from the field. A run like that can’t last, but while he’s in the middle of it, we’re going acknowledge it.