Illinois v Miami

The Morning Mix

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Good news everyone. We’re only 36 hours away from another installment of meaningful postseason basketball. There’s some half-decent N.I.T. games tonight if you’re really scratching at the itch tonight.

Let’s hit the links.
 
 
Read of the Day:
Here’s an interesting stat: Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski is the only top-10 recruit in this season’s freshman class that hasn’t been eliminated from March Madness. For the most part, the 2013 NCAA tournament has belonged to guys who were not highly sought after coming out of high school. Read this. (Yahoo Sports)
 
 
Top Stories:
Breaking Down the Sweet 16: The X-factor in each game: College Basketball Talk predicts the x-factor for every Sweet Sixteen. Can Florida stop #DunkCity? What lineup adjustments will be made between Ohio State and Arizona?

Ranking the Watchability of the Sweet Sixteen matchups: There are four games on Thursday and four games on Friday. We rank them in terms of watchabillity. No. 1 shouldn’t be hard to figure out. #DunkCity.

Soon-to-be-renamed Big East signs basketball rights deal with CBS Sports: The remaining members of the Big East, along with the programs on their way in, have agreed to media rights deal with CBS. The deal allows for up to 12 games to be broadcast by CBS annually. Of those twelve, six will be conference games.
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Aaron Craft is being compared to Tim Tebow. Of course. (Fox Sports Ohio)

– With Miami’s dominance, Florida’s longevity and FGCU’s cinderella story, the state of Florida is controlling the college hoops world. (Dallas Star-Telegram)

– Ron Baker was the hero of Wichita State’s upset win over Gonzaga in the third round. But Ken Pomeroy wants to know why Wichita State Baker, who missed 21 games this season due to injury, didn’t get the same treatment as Oregon and Dominic Artis, who missed nine games this season. (KenPom Blog)

– Evansville’s Colt Ryan became the all-time leading scorer in Evansville history last night, scoring 39 points against Canisius in the C.I.T. Quarterfinals. (Mid-Major Madness)

– Seth Greenberg examines the different “match-up nightmares” facing each team in the Sweet Sixteen. (ESPN Insider)

– How exactly do you stop #DunkCity? College ChalkTalk gets a coach’s perspective on controlling the Eagles’ up-tempo offense. (College ChalkTalk)

– Kansas and Louisville remain as the only substantial threats to denying a potential all Big-Ten Final Four. (The Dagger)

– According to statistics, the 2013 edition of March Madness has been of of the most maddening of all time. (Harvard Sports Analysis Collective)

– NC-State fans come to the defense of the often-criticized Wolfpack forward C.J. Leslie, who is expected to declare for the NBA draft. (State Fans Nation)

– Shaka Smart is going to be a top candidate for all the major openings across the country. UCLA could make a splash if they hired Smart away from VCU. But would “HAVOC” be a good fit out in Westwood? John Gasaway examines. (ESPN Insider)

– A look at who will stay in school and who will go pro out of the Pac-12. (Pacific Takes)

– Iowa State’s off-season will be filled with “what ifs” following a year plagued by heartbreaking losses. (Ames Tribune)

– An excellent breakdown of the five most indispensable players in the Sweet Sixteen. (ESPN)

– James Madison is looking to make a move. In other words, the CAA is on its way to becoming the new WAC. (JMU Sports Blog)
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Tulsa is moving out of the old Conference-USA and in to the new/old Big East, a.k.a. Conference-USA.(Examiner.com)

– Eamonn Brennan has been on top of the on-going turmoil at Wake Forest better than anybody in the country. The Deacons are going to stick with Bzdelik, much to the chagrin of the disgruntled fan base. (ESPN)

– Josh Pastner has agreed in principle to a contract extension to remain the head coach at Memphis. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)

– Northwestern has zeroed in on Duke assistant Chris Collins as the man to replace Bill Carmody as head coach of the Wildcats. An announcement could come within the next 12 hours or so. (CSN Chicago)

– Buffalo has hired Duke-great Bobby Hurley as their new head coach. He spent this past season as an assistant coach under his brother Danny at Rhode Island. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Ole Miss is expecting Marshall Henderson to return for his senior year. But as is the case with Henderson himself, expect the unexpected. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Mark Gottfried to UCLA? Think about it. Shaka is staying at VCU. Brad Stevens is staying at Butler. Richard Howell and Scott Wood are graduating. C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown are going pro. Gottfried was an assistant there for the 1995 National Championship. It all makes sense. (SNY.tv)

– Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell has declared for the NBA Draft, and did so on Twitter. (Arkansas Online)

– According to head coach Roy Williams, no North Carolina players are definitely leaving early yet. (ESPN)

– Virginia Tech sophomore Robert Brown has announced his intentions to transfer out of Blacksburg. It’s shocking to think about what Tech’s roster could have looked like this season: Erick Green, Robert Brown, Jarell Eddie, Cadarian Raines along with Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Tyrone Garland (La Salle), Dorian Finney-Smith (Florida) and Allen Chaney (High Point). That team would have made the field of 68 this year. (Washington Post)

– It looks like Austin Peay is losing the services of three players, all of whom have decided to transfer out of the program. (OVC Ball)

– An excellent who’s-who Twitter list for all Sweet Sixteen. (Run The Floor)

– A Q&A with Seth Curry’s mom. No, seriously. A Q&A with Seth Curry’s mom. (Lost Letterman)
 
 
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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.

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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):

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*(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.

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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?

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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