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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Thursday’s Things To Know: UConn impresses, 3-point record falls and Oregon falters

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We’re closing in on one of the more entertaining stretches of the college basketball season with Thanksgiving tournaments giving us all-day hoops and really interesting non-conference matchups. It’s still early, and the best is yet to come, but Thursday night provided some quality hoops. Oh, and one guy shooting a ton of 3s. Literally more 3s than anyone has ever shot before. Here’s what you need to know:

1. UConn asserts itself against Syracuse.

It’s been a tough few years at UConn. It’s been two really bad years, but it’s mostly been not-great for the Huskies since that 2014 national title. It’s Dan Hurley’s job to change that. His first Big East throwback game certainly looked like it’s one he’ll be up for.

UConn’s quest to change the outlook of its locker room and the culture of its program was evident in the Huskies’ 83-76 win against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden.

Changing the culture has become The Thing New Coaches Simply Have To Talk About, but there’s no doubting it needed to happen in Storrs as a program that’s used to winning national titles began to languish in a league that’s simply second tier. UConn in the AAC is a different challenge for a coach than UConn in the Big East. It’s tougher. Hurley has a long way to go, but getting a team to buy in from the outset is a positive signal.

2. Jordan Lyons goes berserk

On Wednesday night, Josh Williams of Robert Morris tied a 23-year-old NCAA record by making 15 3-pointers. It took about 24 hours for that number to be matched again.

Jordan Lyons matched Williams’ 15 makes from distance, but broke an NCAA record with 34 attempts from 3-point range in the Paladins’ win against a Division II opponent on Thursday.

As teams continue to hoist shots from 3-point range at an ever-increasing rate, these types of nights are going to become more typical, but to see two guys tie a record that’s stood for more than two decades on back-to-back nights? I mean, c’mon, that’s a little crazy.

3. Oregon goes down

Give Iowa credit. The Hawkeyes shot just 35.7 percent from the floor, but got to the line 33 times, making 29 of their attempts (87.9 percent) and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds to keep the offense afloat. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a 77-69 neutral site win against a ranked opponent, which will certainly come in handy for a team looking to get back to the NCAA tournament after a two-year drought.

Also, the Big Ten looks like it might be pretty good. Michigan stomped all over Villanova, Indiana blasted Marquette, Wisconsin handled Xavier and now the Hawkeyes bested Oregon. That’s a pretty good week for a league that has been stuck in something of a malaise the last few seasons.

The overwhelming feeling from watching the nightcap at Madison Square Garden, though, was just how underwhelming Oregon looked. There just wasn’t a lot of there there for the Ducks. That’s problematic for a top-15 team that is the heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 this season. They just lost a game to what many would pick to be a middle-of-the-pac B1G while holding them to under 40 percent shooting while only committing eight turnovers themselves. Getting 25 points from Ehab Amin is nice, but otherwise an all around uninspiring performance from Dana Altman’s group.

No More Hangdogs: Husky transformation under Hurley on display in UConn’s win over No. 15 Syracuse

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Danny Hurley knew that he had work to do to get this UConn basketball program back to where it was when the Big East was the best conference in college hoops.

He knew that he was taking over a program that was coming off their second-straight losing season. He knew that three four-star prospects — Vance Jackson, Juwan Durham and Connecticut native Steve Enoch — had transferred out of the program. He knew, going in, that the UConn fanbase wasn’t in the mood for nonsense, that they didn’t want to hear about rebuilds or patience or any of the excuses that new head coaches have at-the-ready.

The son of the most famous high school basketball coach in New Jersey, the younger brother of an All-American and two-time national champion point guard at Duke, he was ready for, even craved, expectation.

“I want to be in a place where greatness is expected,” Hurley said. “If I’m not in a place like that I don’t want to be there.”

He was ready to deal with whatever the fishbowl of UConn basketball had to throw at him.

What he couldn’t deal with was the hangdog faces.

“That’s an old cartoon,” Hurley said last month, elaborating after lamenting how The Horde, as UConn’s pack of beat writers is known, “knows everything.” The story goes like this: Early on, back before he really knew his players and his players really knew him, Hurley sent the team’s group-text a picture of that cartoon — a weathered, sad-looking old hound dog — and told the team that this is what he could not tolerate.

“I don’t want hangdog looks,” he said. “I want guys that are smiling, happy to be on the court. If you’re a real baller, when you get on the practice floor, that should be the best part of your day. You’re doing the thing you love the most.”

As Hurley told this story, Jalen Adams, UConn’s star point guard, yelled, with a smile stretching from ear-to-ear, “No hangdogs!”

Hurley, in the lobby of the Philadelphia Airport Marriott, surrounded by cameras and reporters with recorders shoved in his face, flashed a dimpled smile of his own; I’m not entirely sure he could actually see Adams.

“Yessir!”


Jalen Adams (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

A month later, and UConn is unrecognizable to anyone that watched the program play in the final years of Ollie’s tenure.

The energy and the effort level matched every drop of intensity that Hurley had on the sideline. Alterique Gilbert, finally healthy after two seasons lost to shoulder surgeries, is hawking Syracuse ball-handlers for 94-feet. So is Adams. So is Christian Vital, and Tarin Smith, and Brendan Adams. Eric Cobb, who was 40 pounds overweight and all-but off the team by the end of last season, was posting the first double-double of his career while Tyler Polley was banging home big threes.

The Huskies, playing for the right to call Madison Square Garden their own, handed No. 15 Syracuse their first loss of the season, 83-76.

They were dogs, not a hangdog in sight.

Getting this program from where it was when Hurley took over to this point was not an easy task. He was demanding. He did not look past any mistake that was made in practice, no matter how small. He created a practice environment that was chaotic, hectic and uncomfortable. He wanted intensity. He wanted stress. He wanted his guys to get used being tired, to working themselves past the point of what they thought was exhaustion. He wanted them to think game-night was the easiest night of the week.

But to do that, he also had to reinvigorate that passion.

Losing in an insidious force within a locker room. Your confidence disappears. Your enthusiasm for the game withers. Basketball stops being enjoyable. The longer the losing lasts, the most desperate and hopeless the situation seems. The comparison that Hurley made was to a pet that has lived in a shelter. All it takes to turn them back into the loving, carefree pet they were is a stable, loving home, an environment they can thrive.

That started with going back to the basics.

Hurley made everything a competition.

Win in a drill, whether it was spot-shooting or shell or 4-on-4-on-4, you get a point. Lose, and you’re on the baseline, but if you win the sprint, you get that point back. Keep a leaderboard throughout a practice, then throughout a week, then throughout the preseason. Making winning matter again.

Once that happened, the next step was turning Adams, his senior star, into the best player he could be. Becoming a more consistent shooter was key, but the priority was Adams’ leadership. He was as guilty of the hangdog mentality as anyone on the roster, a problem because of his role as the star. When things are going bad during a game, Adams needs to be the guy to lift their spirits.

He wasn’t.

“He can’t get deflated when the other team goes on a run,” Hurley said, and this is where those stressful, uncomfortable practices come into play. If his team is down in practice, fight back and find a way to win the drill. If he’s tired, stay on the floor and gut through it. If you lose, get on guys to be better. Demand more of himself so that he can demand more of the players around him.

“He’s put me in situations in practice where I’m just like, ‘Yo, I can’t do this anymore,'” Adams said. “In practice, it’s so intense. Everyone is tired. Sometimes we’ll sub off for one rep, and that’s one of the things that he challenged me on. And don’t just be out there, be out there and be active. Go hard the whole time.”

“Guys will follow his lead,” Hurley said. “If he’s more determined and grittier this year on game night, especially when teams are on runs or late in games, he’ll change the narrative of his career.”

This was not something that made Adams comfortable. As he put it, “I don’t want to be ‘that guy.'” He didn’t want to be the player that teammates thought was annoying, or the guy everyone thinks is showing off for the coach. There’s a fine line between ‘my teammate cares about me, and the team, and winning’ and ‘yo, this dude cares too much.’ That was the balancing act Adams had to master, and it’s something that is still a work in progress.

But he did have 16 points and four assists against the Orange on Thursday night.

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

And he did make critical plays throughout the second half to stem the tide of an Orange run. There was the loose ball he grabbed, which ignited a fast break and ended with Adams finding Smith for a layup to push UConn’s lead back to seven points. There was the pass he made to Gilbert, using his eyes and a ball-fake to move the Cuse zone, for a three-pointer that pushed the lead to ten. There were the seven defensive rebounds he grabbed playing, at times, as the third-biggest guy on the floor.

Most importantly, there was the three he hit with 1:24 left on the clock, a dagger that put the Huskies up 76-66 and sent all of the Orange in the building scurrying for the exits.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Adams made a bee line for his head coach.

Two chest-bumps, a slap to the face and some very loud, very-inappropriate-for-this-setting words later, it was clear that these Huskies, at least on this night, were not hangdogs.

VIDEO: Furman’s Jordan Lyons shoots record 34 3-pointers, ties record with 15 makes

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Where were you for the historic Furman-North Greenville game?

Well, the game wasn’t historic so much as the performance of the Paladins’ Jordan Lyons.

The 5-foot-11 junior tied an NCAA record with 15 made 3-pointers and broke the record for 3-point attempts in the game with 34 as he poured in 54 points in Furman’s 107-67 victory Thursday over their Division II opponents.

Lyons’ 15 made 3s matches the number Keith Veney of Marshall made in 1995. That record was unmatched until, surprisingly enough, it was tied the day prior by Robert Morris’  Josh Williams, who was 15 of 25 against Mt. Aloysius, a D3 school.

The 34 attempts is the most-ever, besting the 27 launched by Manhattan’s Bruce Seals in 2000. He made nine of those.

Lyons is a career 32.7 percent 3-point shooter, and the 15 triples he canned Thursday increased his career total by 15 percent. In a single game.

It’ll be interesting to see how long these types of records stand as teams continue to push the envelope on the 3-point line. Team records are surely set to fall pretty consistently in the near future. Maybe guys shooting 20-plus 3s in a game is going to become relatively commonplace?

Either way, save your ticket stubs if you were in Greenville, S.C. tonight.

Buddy Boeheim’s name misspelled on Syracuse jersey

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As the son of the Hall of Fame coach, Buddy Boeheim can count on a lot of things. He’ll get tons of attention. He’ll be talked about time and again on national television. He’ll be under quite a bit of scrutiny. That’s part of the deal when you’re playing for your dad, a legend in Jim Boeheim.

You’d also think the equipment guys would spell your name right.

The Syracuse freshman was missing an “e” on his jersey in the Orange’s loss Thursday to UConn, leaving maybe the most famous last name in Syracuse, N.Y. misspelled as” Boheim.”

 

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Jim has been a part of the Syracuse program since 1962. Maybe it’ll take a second national title to make sure his kid’s name is spelled right on the jersey.

Or maybe Buddy has to earn that “e” on his own?

Cal, San Francisco cancel games due to smoke from wildfires

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Cal’s men’s basketball program cancelled Thursday night’s game against Detroit due to poor air quality stemming from the wildfires still raging in the area.

The release announcing the cancellation cited air quality that had reached “very unhealthy” levels in the Berkeley area, and that “a significant amount of smoke” had managed to works its way into Haas Pavilion, Cal’s home arena.

According to Cal, the Air Quality Index reached 200, and the teams that play outdoors had practices moved indoors. The Cal-Stanford football game is also in jeopardy of being postponed.

The two programs are working on a possible date to reschedule the game.

San Francisco also cancelled their game against Arizona State on Friday night, a source told NBC Sports, as the Sun Devils are concerned about the air quality in the area. The Dons are looking into ways to charter into Tempe to play Arizona State on the road, although as of this posting it is unclear is that will happen.