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The Secondary Break: Tuesday’s Links

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J.J. Mann’s journey from scholarship bubble to buzzer beater (Sports Illustrated)
Belmont’s J.J. Mann made national headlines on Sunday afternoon, as his three-pointer with 13.1 seconds remaining gave the Bruins a lead they would not relinquish at then-No. 12 North Carolina. So how did Mann wind up at Belmont? A prep year spent at Hargrave Military Academy proved to be the stop he needed in order to earn a scholarship offer, and in the end both Mann and Belmont have reaped the benefits.

Virginia’s Joe Harris has big dreams (ESPN)
Virginia senior guard Joe Harris is one of the nation’s best perimeter players, and in his final season in Charlottesville Harris aims to lead the Cavaliers back to the NCAA tournament. And, like many athletes, Harris has an affinity for inspirational quotes.

Wichita State looks to turn Final Four into a springboard (USA Today)
Like George Mason, Butler and VCU before them, Wichita State is hoping to use its appearance in the Final Four as a springboard to bigger and better things under Gregg Marshall. With Cleanthony Early leading the way, the Shockers are ranked 14th nationally and the preseason favorites to win the Missouri Valley Conference.

Fillyaw’s aggressiveness a surprise to Salukis (Carbondale Southern)
In Southern Illinois’ first three games of the season, sophomore guard Marcus Fillyaw attempted a total of nine shots from the field. In his fourth game as a Saluki, Fillyaw surprised his teammates to the tune of 17 points in a home loss to Saint Louis. And for SIU to improve its standing within the Missouri Valley, they’re going to need more aggressive offensive play from players such as Fillyaw.

Monmouth enters first season in the MAAC with one motto: “we’re no one’s day off” (Newark Star-Ledger)
King Rice’s Hawks fell at Seton Hall on Monday night, with Pirate Patrik Auda accounting for 27 points and ten rebounds. And the outcome isn’t a surprise, with little being expected of Rice’s team as they play their first season in the MAAC. Picked to finish last in the conference, Monmouth’s most basic goal is a simple one: to not be any opponent’s “day off.”

Ball State coach has high expectations for young leader (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel)
First-year Ball State head coach James Whitford will rely on a freshman to lead his team, handing the keys to the offense to rookie point guard Zavier Turner. And with that being the case there are a number of responsibilities on Turner’s plate, but the feeling is that the freshman’s capable of handling them.

Noah Vonleh quietly emerging onto the national scene (Inside the Hall)
A highly regarded freshman entering the season, Indiana forward Noah Vonleh’s flown under the radar somewhat due in large part to the Hoosiers not playing a marquee non-conference game to this point in the season. But Vonleh’s been highly productive for Indiana, posting double-doubles in each of Indiana’s first four games. And with two games in New York City later this week (including a possible matchup with UConn), Vonleh should receive some more attention nationally.

Offering equal pay to college athletes won’t work (CNN Money)
With the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit hovering over collegiate athletics, many have taken the time to ponder how the current model would change if the NCAA were to lose the case. Of course, for many this means discussing whether or not (and how) to pay college athletes, but the plan the plaintiffs have in mind may not be an effective one.

Top AAU basketball coach’s arrest shakes up New England Basketball (GoLocalProv.com)
The New England basketball community was hit hard by the arrest of Rhode Island Hawks coach Jay Elliott on child pornography charges. During his time with the Hawks Elliott has coached numerous players who have played at the Division I level, and the program is one of the region’s best grassroots programs.

Siena relying on Poole as a go-to guy (Troy Record)
After three down seasons the Siena basketball program went through a change in leadership in the spring, with Jimmy Patsos being hired to replace Mitch Buonaguro. And in Patsos’ first season at the helm junior Rob Poole is the team’s go-to scorer and he’s performed well in the role, as he ranks in the Top 10 in the MAAC in scoring.

Report: Dillon Brooks to return to Oregon

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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Dillon Brooks will be returning to Oregon for his junior season.

Brooks, a 6-foot-6 forward that averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 boards and 3.1 assists as a sophomore, went through the NBA Draft process without hiring an agent. He did not receive an invitation to the NBA Draft combine, however, and that is as good of a sign as any that he was not likely to get drafted.

According to a report from ESPN, he has heeded the advice he received and will be returning to Eugene.

Brooks is a versatile player whose role for the Ducks is similar to what Draymond Green plays for the Warriors, but he’s not the athlete that Green is. Returning to school, tightening up his shooting stroke and getting into better shape could help him play his way into a spot where he can get a guaranteed contract after next season.

The Ducks are still awaiting word on whether or not rising sophomore Tyler Dorsey will return to school as well. With both players back in the fold, Oregon is a potential top five team next season.

Malik Newman to return to school, considering transfer

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (14) dribbles past a Northern Colorado player during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/15712769/mississippi-state-malik-newman-withdraw-draft-transfer
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Malik Newman will withdraw his name from consideration and return to school for his sophomore season.

Newman was a top 10 recruit in the Class of 2015, a high-scoring combo-guard that opted to stay home and play for Mississippi State instead of enroll at one of the blue bloods that was recruiting him. He averaged 11.3 points as a freshman, but it was a largely disappointing season as he spent the year off of the national radar playing inefficient basketball.

Put another way, the fourth-leading scorer on a 14-17 SEC team isn’t exactly a lock for the lottery.

But here’s the catch: he may not be returning to Mississippi State, as Newman is considering a transfer, according to a report from ESPN. That report quotes a source close to the situation saying “unhappy with his role and how he was utilized.”

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Newman would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another Division I program, and for a kid that thought he was destined to be a one-and-done star, locking himself into a three-year college career would be an odd move.

Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft.

Whitehead announced his intention to stay in the draft last night on his Twitter account.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.