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The Morning Mix

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We had ourselves quite the weekend. While there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of high level hoops on this weekend, there was a lot of action. There was a bevy of highlights, and even more lowlights. The Morning Mix is going to get to them all.

By the way. Today is the beginning of “Exam Week”, which just so happens to be the lightest week of college hoops. If you have stuff to do at night this week, do it. You won’t be missing much.

Lets hit the links.
Monday’s Top Games: No joke, this is the entire D-I schedule for today
7:00 p.m. – Longwood @ No.15 Georgetown
7:00 p.m. – Mississippi Valley State
7:00 p.m. – Bryant @ Navy
7:30 p.m. – Alabama State @ Detroit
8:00 p.m. – Southeastern Illinois @ Louisiana-Monroe
8:00 p.m. – William Carey (NAIA) @ Southern
9:05 p.m. – Seattle @ Eastern Washington
Read of the Day:
More intriguing details about the African-American Studies classes at UNC and the participation of college basketball players. Read it. (Raleigh News & Observers)
Top Stories:
Late Night Snacks: The best recap of Sunday’s action you will find, including why UNLV’s close victory over Cal could potentially cost them a few days in March.

Hollywood Union goes on strike against the Pac-12 Network: The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, one of the largest unions in Hollywood, plans to strike against the newly formed Pac-12 Network, calling it an “unfair employer”.

Noreen breaks out as WVU hands Virginia Tech first loss: The Mountaineers’ sophomore big man had a breakout performance against Virginia Tech, in which the Hokies were handed their first loss of the season.

Appalachian State center Brian Okam shoots worst foul shot ever: This is the worst foul shot you have ever seen. I’m sure there is an explanation as to why this was so bad, but it’s not really necessary.

Illinois no longer “a feel good story”, are now a real threat: Not many believed Illinois would be able to contend this season under John Groce. But thanks to the outstanding efforts of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, the Illini are 10-0 which includes a huge road victory over Gonzaga.

Unexpected challenger emerged in the MAAC this weekend: in a conference many felt had as many as six teams capable of winning the conference, Canisius was discussed as a few in the offseason, sits atop the standings with a 2-0 conference record. Bolstered by the arrival of head coach Jim Baron and son Billy, the Golden Eagles now 6-1 on the season after their 94-82 win over Marist on Sunday afternoon.

Taylor’s “Silent Night Game” is best tradition in hoops: The small NAIA school has gained a reputation for hosting the single best tradition in college hoops, and it took place this past weekend.

Is offense a concern for the Hoyas following ugly 49-40 win over Towson? The No. 15 Georgetown Hoyas are 7-1 with the loss coming against the nation’s top team in overtime. Despite this, the Hoyas are averaging just 49-ppg in their last three games.
Hoops Housekeeping
– UNLV star Mike Moser dislocated his elbow last night in the Runnin’ Rebels 76-7 win over California. His status remains up in the air, but he could be out for the remainder of the season (Eye on College Basketball)

– A big ol’ hat-tip is in order for Kansas center Jeff Withey, who graduated early this weekend (KUsports.com)

– Indiana sophomore Austin Etherington fractured his patella against Central Connecticut State on Saturday and will miss the remainder of the season (Indianapolis Star)

– Former Murray State guard Zay Jackson will be in court today for his arraignment. If he had taken a previously offered plea deal he could have limited the amount of jail time he gets. But because he turned it down, he may be looking at a lot more (Mid-Major Madness)

– Kentucky center Nerlens Noel is battling through knee soreness (Lexington Herald-Leader)

– Norvelle Pelle has yet to be cleared by the NCAA and is unlikely to play for Iona this season (SNY.tv)
Observations & Insight:
– In its last full year as a basketball power, the Big East Conference is showing its dominance over other BCS conferences. (Cracked Sidewalks)

– Mike DeCourcy provides a thorough look at the week ahead. (Sporting News)

– Some excellent commentary on the Ohio Valley Conference and expansionocalypse (OVC Ball)

– It shouldn’t be too shocking to see that Providence is 7-2. But all things considered, it’s pretty shocking that Providence is 7-2. (Hoopville)

– Jeff Borzello thinks it’s a good thing that Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon isn’t Austin Rivers (Eye on College Basketball)

– Following the Wildcats’ Big-5 victory over Penn on Saturday, Villanova head coach Jay Wright stated he feels optimistic about the future of the Big-5 (Philly.com)

– Mississippi State will travel to Loyola (Ill.) this weekend to face the Ramblers in a rematch of the historic 1963 “Game of Change”. This will be the first time the two programs have faced off since then. (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

– After yet another loss, this time to in-state rivals Marquette, is it time for the Wisconsin Badgers to panic? (Bucky’s 5th Quarter)

– Younger fans are starting to board the Oklahoma State bandwagon, but it’s the older generation that needs to show support (The Oklahoman)
Odds & Ends:
– Gonzaga bench “Air Guitar” is the new “Hammer of Dill” (Backyard Sports)

– Texas and UCLA played at Reliant Stadium on Saturday. Only 3,000 people showed up. The following video needs to get burried and this game should never get discussed ever again. (Deadspin)

– It needs reiterating. The game between UCLA and Texas was a comedy of errors (Los Angeles Times)

– Mantaque Gill-Cesear: Future #AllNameTeam member (NBE Basketball Report)

– Northern Arizona commit Ako Koluna shatters another backboard. I saw another because he has a history of this (Big Sky Basketball)
Picture of the Day:
This is what “the worst foul shot ever” looks like prior to launch. (Backyard Sports)
Dunk(s) of the Day:
Indiana’s Victor Oladipo is you clubhouse leader for “Poster Dunk of the Year”. (Ballin’ is a Habit)


Dunk(s) of the Day:
Archie Goodwin is in a close second place (Ballin’ is a Habit)

Video(s) of the Day:
Worst. Free throw. Ever.

Video(s) of the Day:
Rick Pitino gives one of the better press conferences in the country. Here he is answering a reporters phone during a presser. Improvisation at it’s finest.
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Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or wanted something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

Pregame Shootaround 12.8.12: Loaded Saturday features 21 ranked teams in action

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will be posted at 2 p.m. ET and lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: No. 13 Illinois vs. No. 10 Gonzaga (10 p.m. ET)

This is Saturday’s only match-up between ranked teams and also happens to be one of only two match-ups between undefeated teams. Much of the focus will likely be on the contrast between coaches, with Mark Few leading his Gonzaga team to another strong start and continuing the program’s mid-major legacy, and John Groce in his first year at Illinois with a team he inherited from now-Kansas State coach Bruce Weber.

Statistically Gonzaga has been one of the most impressive teams in the nation. The Bulldogs are ninth in the country in scoring (83.7 ppg), first in field goal percentage (53.1 percent), 26th in rebounding (41.1 rpg), and 19th in assists (17.0 apg). Prior to their two-point win over Washington State this week, they had won their first eight contests by an average of nearly 28 points per game.

Elias Harris leads the attack, but Gonzaga has benefited greatly from the return of seven-footer Kelly Olynyk, who returned from suspension Nov. 22. He is averaging 13.8 points and 7.0 rebounds.

For Illinois, early season success goes back to the player who led the team in scoring last season, Brandon Paul. He has upped his scoring average by three points per game year-to-year, and is the centerpiece of the Illini’s high-powered scoring front. Expect a high-scoring game in this one.

Who’s getting upset?: No. 18 New Mexico against Valparaiso

There aren’t many evenly matched Top 25 games on Saturday, so it looks like Valpo is one of the few schools with a decent shot at pulling an upset. If the Crusaders are going to do it, it will be in large part due to senior Ryan Broekhoff. The 6-7 Australian is averaging 16.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, including a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Northern Illinois during the 24-hour Tip-off Marathon.

Valpo doesn’t score a lot of points, but typically doesn’t give up many either, meaning they’ll be keying in on New Mexico’s Kendall Williams and Tony Snell. Those two together average just over 26 points per game.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Northern Iowa vs. George Mason (6:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

George Mason came within one point of beating New Mexico earlier this season and within seven points of beating Maryland this week. They match up Saturday with a Northern Iowa team that had to face a string of high-major competition in Atlantis and is likely better off for it.

The Panthers, led by sophomore Deon Mitchell, lost by just five points to Louisville in a grind-it-out game, then had to come right back to face Stanford and Memphis.

Sherrod Wright and Erik Copes will be key, as usual, for George Mason. Also keep an eye on freshman Patrick Holloway, who went off for 17 points against Maryland, but struggled in the Patriots’ latest game against UMBC.

It should be a low-scoring game Saturday evening, but is the best mid-major match-up on the slate.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Temple upset Duke last season in Philadelphia, so the No. 2 Blue Devils get another shot Saturday in New Jersey. Both teams are undefeated, adding to the depth of this one. Mason Plumlee has transformed himself into a threat on a nightly basis, aided by Seth Curry becoming a legitimate scoring threat after the departure of Austin Rivers. Scootie Randall has been Temple’s biggest asset after returning from injury, and he, along with Khalif Wyatt, should work to counter the Curry/Quinn Cook Duke backcourt.

2) Arkansas might be 4-3, but you know that they’re going to push the basketball and score a lot of points. No. 3 Michigan, with its trio of stars, needs to be ready for that. The Wolverines do a good job of holding on to the basketball for the most part, but if point guard Trey Burke has a bout with turnovers, the Razorbacks could capitalize.

3) Colorado has been a pleasant surprise in the Pac-12 so far this season, and they face their toughest test Saturday. They already beat then-No. 16 Baylor, but the Bears have been plagued by inconsistency this season. Kansas, on the other hand, has been Kansas. It will be interesting to see how the Buffs try to work their offense with center Jeff Withey in the paint for the Jayhawks.

4) No. 11 Cincinnati, as seems to be the case so often, has flown under the radar once again this season and is creeping toward the Top 10. They should win handily over an 0-8 Maryland-Eastern Shore team Saturday, but keep an eye on Mick Cronin’s Bearcats going forward.

5) Clemson will get a chance to see exactly where they are when they take on No. 8 Arizona Saturday. The high-powered Wildcats have now become the clubhouse favorite to win the Pac-12, and the Tigers will be able to see if they are NCAA tournament-worthy against top-tier opponents.

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 1 Indiana vs. Central Connecticut State (6:00 p.m. ET)

No. 2 Duke vs. Temple (3:15 p.m. ET)

No. 3 Michigan vs. Arkansas (12:00 p.m. ET)

No. 4 Syracuse vs. Monmouth (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 5 Louisville vs. UMKC (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 7 Ohio State vs. Long Beach State (12:00 p.m.)

No. 8 Arizona vs. Clemson (8:00 p.m. ET)

No. 9 Kansas vs. Colorado (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 10 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 Illinois (10:00 p.m. ET, See Above)

No. 11 Cincinnati vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 12 Missouri vs. Tennessee State (3:00 p.m. ET)

No. 14 Minnesota vs. USC (10:30 p.m. ET)

No. 15 Georgetown vs. Towson (12:00 p.m. ET)

No. 18 New Mexico vs. Valparaiso (9:00 p.m. ET)

No. 19 Michigan State vs. Loyola (Ill.) (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 20 North Carolina vs. East Tennessee State (7:30 p.m. ET)

No. 22 Notre Dame vs. Brown (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 23 Oklahoma State vs. Missouri State (4:00 p.m. ET)

No. 24 Wichita State vs. Northern Colorado (8:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 NC State vs. Cleveland State (1:00 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games 

Kentucky vs. Portland (12:00 p.m. ET)

Memphis vs. Austin Peay (1:00 p.m. ET)

Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia (4:00 p.m. ET)

UCLA vs. Texas (5:15 p.m. ET)

Wisconsin vs. Marquette (6:00 p.m. ET)

Villanova vs. Penn (8:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Nevada vs. Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Kentucky out of Top 25 for first time under Calipari

John Calipari, Ryan Harrow

Yes, Big Blue Nation, it finally happened. A Calipari-coached Kentucky team will play their next game without a ranking next to their name.

For the first time since Cal took over prior to the 2009-10 season, the Wildcats aren’t ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. It’s a product of back-to-back losses to Notre Dame on the road and Baylor at home, a loss that was also Cal’s first at home since taking over at Kentucky.

Now breathe. It’s going to be ok.

This team is not anywhere near the caliber of last season’s national champions that steam-rolled essentially everyone (sans Indiana and Vanderbilt) on it’s way to one of the greatest seasons in college basketball history. You probably knew that already.

But first of all, polls are dumb. They are meaningless, really. Especially this early. They factor a little bit into opinions for at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. The end.

But mainly, this team has a huge deficiency in leadership and that’s due to the fact that for the first season under Cal, the team lacks the senior leader that has been through the pre-Calipari Domination years. There’s no Patrick Patterson, Perry Stevenson or Ramon Harris. No Jorts, DeAndre Liggins or Darius Miller. No big brother figure that can lead the team mentally and emotionally when they’re tired of hearing it from Calipari. No, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson don’t count.

It’s a newsworthy item because of Kentucky’s recent dominance. But nothing that should send Wildcats fans into a panic. There’s still four months to play until Selection Sunday.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.