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.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: