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.

Indiana hires Dayton head coach Archie Miller

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Indiana is expected to hire Dayton head coach Archie Miller, the school announced.

The deal will be for seven years, according to The Vertical. Miller had spent the last six seasons as the head coach at Dayton, getting to four straight NCAA tournaments, including the Elite 8 in 2014, while winning the last two Atlantic 10 regular season titles.

Miller had been targeted by seemingly every high major program with an opening since he reached the Elite 8, but similar to Shaka Smart when he left VCU, Miller simply waited for the right job to come long.

Indiana is the right job.

There had been some speculation that Miller wouldn’t want to take Indiana, that his dream job is Ohio State and that the idea of coaching in a fishbowl like Bloomington is not something that would be all that appealing to him. But Indiana is an elite job. It’s the kind of opening that happens once every four or five years, and if Miller had said no to the Hoosiers now, it’s very possible that an opportunity like this wouldn’t come along for years, if ever.

This hire is surprising, not because it’s the wrong hire — I think they got this right — but because Indiana actually made the right decision.

The overwhelming sentiment since Tom Crean was fired was that UCLA head coach Steve Alford would be named the next head coach at Indiana because the Hoosiers wanted an “Indiana Guy”. Alford was born in New Castle, he played at IU for Bobby Knight, he won a national title with the program. The goal was to get the Indiana fan base back, a fan base that was so estranged from the program that Indiana had to play an NIT game on the road as a higher seed because they were reportedly afraid of allowing ESPN’s cameras to see the empty seats.

But just because a hire appeases the fans doesn’t make it the right hire.

Miller was the right hire.

If they really want to get the fans back, winning is the best way to do it. Archie is as good of a bet to win at Indiana as anyone.

Elite 8 Preview: Saturday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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So Friday got good.

If Zak Showalter’s game-tying three and subsequent discount double-check wasn’t enough, we had Canyon Barry’s chasedown block and, well, this game-winner from Chris Chiozza.

And all that came after De’Aaron Fox took out what felt like a season’s worth of frustration out on Lonzo Ball.

What is on tap for tonight?

No. 1 GONZAGA (-8) vs. No. 11 XAVIER, 6:09 p.m., TBS: Someone is going to be making their way to the Final Four for the first time on Saturday night, as Xavier’s Chris Mack and Gonzaga’s Mark Few square off for the right to play on the final weekend of the season.

And in a way, this is the perfect Final Four game. Both the Zags and the Musketeers are basketball schools in basketball leagues. They come from outside the power structure and have head coaches that have spurned jobs from within the power structure to remain there. They are built for a run like this, even if they were both overlooked on the way here.

Xavier was obvious. Playing without Edmond Sumner and Myles Davis, the Musketeers just haven’t been the team that they were supposed to be this season. That’s why they lost six straight games in February, but things have turned around in March, as Trevon Bluiett has put the program on his back and willed them to the Elite 8. Gonzaga is the opposite. They went 29-0 to start the season, but they have yet to be accepted as a legitimate title contender by most of the people that watch the games.

My guess on Saturday night is that the Zags make their statement and emphatically get into the Final Four.

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-8)

No. 1 KANSAS (-7) vs.  No. 3 OREGON, 8:49 p.m., TBS: This matchup is a lot tastier on paper than it is likely going to end up being on the floor. As good as Oregon has been this season, they are, essentially, Kansas light. They play two lead guards together and they play small-ball, with a natural wing lined up at the four.

The problem?

The Kansas guys are just better. Josh Jackson is a better player than Dillon Brooks. His length and athleticism should give the Oregon star fits. Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham are better than whatever combination of Payton Pritchard, Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis the Ducks opt to use.

And, for that matter, no team is playing better right now that they Jayhawks, who beat Michigan State by 20, Purdue by 32 and became the first team to score 90 points in their first three NCAA tournament games since 1995. I think that trend continues on Saturday night.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-7)

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.