The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Michigan State tops Luke Winn’s power rankings (Sports Illustrated)
Luke Winn’s weekly power rankings are an entertaining and informative read, with statistical analysis of the teams proving to be quite valuable. A top his rankings this week is Michigan State, thanks to their win over Kentucky, and the Spartan’s ability to get out and run while limiting opponents’ chances of doing so is one reason why. Through two games an area that was a weakness for Tom Izzo’s team at the end of last season has been a strength.

Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin promotes Titus Rubles to captain (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Entering the 2013-14 season Cincinnati seniors Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson were the team captains, and rightfully so, given the fact that they’ve been productive members of the program for three seasons. This week Cronin made senior Titus Rubles his third captain, citing Rubles’ play in wins over North Carolina Central and NC-State as the reason why.

Should college basketball players be paid? Syracuse, ACC athletes weigh in (Syracuse Post-Standard)
This question has been debated for quite some time, and that will continue to be the case until there’s a resolution to the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit. The Syracuse Post-Standard asked the question of players at Syracuse and throughout the ACC, and there are some solid points made on both sides of the argument.

D’Angelo Harrison, Mike Rice bonded at anger management (New York Post)
With St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison  and Rutgers head coach Mike Rice having some serious issues to address during the offseason, both wound up under the wing over John Lucas in Houston. The two would form a bond that remains strong, with Rice attending the Red Storm’s second exhibition game against Humboldt State. But while Harrison has made it back to the college game, Rice’s return will be more challenging.

UC Irvine 86, Washington 72 (Big Apple Buckets)
Russell Turner’s Anteaters were dominant in the second half of their win in Seattle, and John Templon of Big Apple Buckets was there to see it all. Irvine’s interior play, featuring Will Davis II and Mamadou Ndiaye, is what stood out on Thursday night with Ndiaye setting a Big West record for blocked shots in a game (nine).

Tom Crean thinks James Blackmon Jr. will be worth the wait, drama (Indianapolis Star)
After making the decision to de-commit from Indiana this past summer, 2014 guard James Blackmon Jr. ended up re-committing to the Big Ten school. And after receiving Blackmon’s national letter of intent, Indiana head coach stated that he believes the drama will be worth it.

Observation Room: Temple/Towson (City of Basketball Love)
The Towson Tigers are 3-0 for the first time in 41 years after knocking off Temple at SECU Arena. Josh Verlin of City of Basketball Love offered up some of his observations of the game, including some thoughts regarding the Owls’ problems closing games.

Five freshmen you might want to pay attention to (Run the Floor)
For all the chatter about the freshmen who played in the Champions Classic, and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, there are other newcomers college basketball fans should be aware of. Among the five players mentioned here are a McDonald’s All-Americanand a mid major wing who originally signed with Old Dominion.

Devyn Marble following his father (ESPN)
Being a “legacy” can be difficult for young players, especially when the family member who preceded them was so successful. That’s what Iowa senior Devyn Marble struggled with at times due to the fact that his father Roy is one of the school’s all-time greats. But instead of allowing the expectations/comparisons to weigh him down, Devyn’s worked to create his own legacy at Iowa.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.