Marcus Paige, Chris Jones

The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Paige lighting it up for North Carolina – at off-guard (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
One of the biggest keys in North Carolina’s improvement since their loss to Belmont has been the play of sophomore guard Marcus Paige. A highly regarded point guard out of high school, Paige has done the majority of his damage off the ball for a team whose best perimeter scorer (P.J. Hairston) sits on the bench in a suit. And with no one knowing when (or if) Hairston will return to the court, that may have to be the case for the Tar Heels to factor into the ACC and national conversations.

Louisville basketball’s Chris Jones described as a “living trophy” (Louisville Courier-Journal)
One of the most important pieces in the Louisville attack is junior college transfer Chris Jones, who’s averaging 14.5 points and 3.2 assists per game for the ninth-ranked Cardinals. But he may not be in the position he’s in now if not for the help of Melrose HS (Memphis) coach Jermaine Johnson.

UTEP coach Tim Floyd addresses, explains altercation with USC’s Andy Enfield (Knoxville News Sentinel)
Following the Miners’ 78-70 win over Tennessee on Thursday night UTEP head coach Tim Floyd was asked about the altercation between he and USC head coach Andy Enfield (and assistants from both programs).

College basketball teams take bigger bite of Big Apple (USA Today)
With the addition of the Barclays Center, college basketball has seen its presence within the city’s two major arenas grow in the last couple of seasons. In 2013-14, counting conference and NCAA/NIT tournament action the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden will host a total of 81 college basketball games. While this adds inventory for the facilities, New York also offers programs a stage you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else when considering factors such as media and recruiting.

Altercation with teammate during practice led to San Francisco PG Cody Doolin’s departure (San Francisco Chronicle)
Details are beginning to emerge regarding the circumstances surrounding the departure of San Francisco starting point guard Cody Doolin, and according to USF athletics director Scott Sidwell it was an altercation with an unnamed teammate that led to Doolin’s departure. Doolin will remain in school, as he’s scheduled to graduate with a degree in finance this spring.

Defense may hold key to season for No. 2 Kansas (Associated Press)
No. 2 Kansas has a number of offensive weapons to call upon, but if the Jayhawks are to win a national title they’ll have to get the job done on the defensive end as well. It certainly helps to have a freshman in Andrew Wiggins who takes pride in his ability as a defender, an area in which he feels a bit underrated.

Young Cats can’t count on intimidation, Raftery says (Lexington Herald-Leader)
The risk for many high-profile freshmen is that they step on the floor believing that their reputation and scholastic accolades will give them an edge over the opposition. Not to say that this has happened with No. 3 Kentucky, but it is something the Wildcats need to guard against according to Fox Sports color commentator Bill Raftery. Raftery will be on the call when the Wildcats take on Providence in Brooklyn on Sunday.

Friars know they need to improve on offensive end (Providence Journal)
As for Kentucky’s opponent on Sunday, Providence acknowledged that they’ve got some things to clean up on the offensive end after struggling in a loss to Maryland in the title game of the Paradise Jam. And with players such as guard Bryce Cotton and forward Kadeem Batts, the Friars have the talent needed to turn things around offensively.

Conference USA Preview: Look out for UAB this year

Georges Niang, William Lee
UAB's William Lee (AP Photo)
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Conference USA.

This version of Conference USA is not as strong as the Conference USA of old, the one that featured the likes of Marquette, Memphis, Cincinnati and Louisville, but while much of the league falls under the ‘mid-major’ label these days, there’s still enough talent at the top of the conference to throw a scare into some of the big boys.

Take, for example, UAB. The Blazers last season finished just a game above .500, but after a dreadful start to non-conference play, Jerod Haase’s group turned it on in the league. They went 12-6 in CUSA, won the league’s tournament title and knocked off Iowa State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Oh, and they return everyone from last year’s group, including leading scorer Robert Brown and William Lee, who will be one of this season’s break out stars.

A major reason for UAB’s late-season surge was Lee, who did not truly get healthy until late-January. A 6-foot-9 combo-forward, Lee can block shots, score around the rim and make plays on the perimeter. He’s got a chance to be a star this season, and he makes UAB a really dangerous mid-major.

But he may not even be the best player in the conference, as Old Dominion returns reigning CUSA Player of the Year Trey Freeman. Freeman was a major reason that the Monarchs were able to beat LSU, VCU, Richmond and Georgia State last year in addition to reaching the semifinals of the NIT. The Monarchs also return Aaron Bacote, and while they lose their starting front line, there will be some promising big bodies available. East Carolina transfer Brandon Stith could post double-double numbers while Denzell Taylor was sixth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage last season.

The consensus from those around the league is that UAB and ODU, in some order, will be the team to beat this season. But there are a number of teams that will have a shot at finishing in that No. 3 spot.

Middle Tennessee State returns the majority of their roster from a season ago. The team’s leading returning scorer is power forward Reggie Upshaw, but the name to watch out for is Perrin Buford. Buford, a JuCo transfer, scored in double-figures in 10 of his last 12 games and averaged 14.1 points over his final eight.

UTEP returns just one healthy player from their top six from last season — Earvin Morris — but it’s who they add that keeps Tim Floyd’s club in the mix for the top five. Oregon transfer Dominic Artis will likely take over point guard while top 100 freshman Brodericks Jones and JuCo addition Lee Moore will be counted on for big years.

If Aaron Cosby can return to being the player he was as a sophomore at Seton Hall, Western Kentucky should have a chance to finish in the top six. But that was three years and two teams ago. Louisiana Tech not only lost ‘Speedy’ Smith and Raheem Appleby, but head coach Mike White left for Florida as well. New head coach Eric Konkol will be relying heavily on Alex Hamilton this year.

The two x-factors will be Marshall and Rice. The Owls returns a veteran back court and adds a key transfer in Egor Koulechov as they will look to build on the momentum from a strong close to the season. Head coach Mike Rhoades is a Shaka Smart disciple.

The same can be said for the Thundering Herd, who started the year 2-15 against Division I opponents but, in league play, won seven out of ten at one point. Dan D’antoni, Mike’s brother, plays an uptempo, gun-slinging style, adds a number of shooters and brings back Ryan Taylor.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “Most will say UAB because they’re coming off of that tournament win, but I like Old Dominion, too. They have best guard group in the conference. Defensively, they’re really hard to score on and physically tough. Trey Freeman is the best point guard and leader in the league. It will come down to whether [Brandon Stith] can replace what they lost up front.”
  • Sleeper: “Rice. I think they have a chance to finish in the top couple spots. Marcus Jackson and Max Guercy are a veteran back court, and with the addition of Egor Koulechov from Arizona State, if he’s really good they’ve got a chance to be really good. Mike Rhoades has done a really good job, and last year they got better as the year went on. If they continue that momentum, look out.”
  • Star to watch: “UAB’s William Lee. He’s the best NBA prospect. The last month of the year, he was as good as anyone in the league. He’s a 6-foot-9 combo-forward that’s athletic and has three-point range. Given his versatility and his talent level, he could have a breakout year.”


Freeman was the best player in the conference last season, and after a full offseason of improvement, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be anything other than the same this year. Freeman is a scoring point guard that can breakdown a defense, but he’s also capable of making plays for his teammates. He’s the reason ODU has a real shot at unseating UAB at the top of the league.


  • William Lee, UAB: Lee, a 6-foot-9 combo-forward, averaged 11.9 points, 8.1 boards and 2.3 blocks while shooting 44.4 percent from three over the last 12 games. He wasn’t healthy until February, either.
  • Robert Brown, UAB: Brown was UAB’s star in March, averaging 18.2 points in five postseason games. The fifth-year senior is the engine that makes their offense run.
  • Alex Hamilton, Louisiana Tech: The lone returnee from last season’s dynamic back court, Hamilton should see an uptick in his total numbers this year.
  • Ryan Taylor, Marshall: Taylor averaged 14.1 points, 8.6 boards and 2.8 assists for the Thundering Herd last season playing the Draymond Green role in their uptempo offense.



1. UAB
2. Old Dominion
3. Middle Tennessee State
5. Western Kentucky
6. Louisiana Tech
7. Rice
8. Marshall
9. Florida Atlantic
10. Florida International
11. Charlotte
12. North Texas
13. UTSA
14. Southern Miss

Iowa State lands three-star SG Jakolby Long

Steve Prohm
Associated Press
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Iowa State received its fourth verbal commitment in the Class of 2016 Friday morning, as 6-foot-4 shooting guard Jakolby Long made his pledge to Steve Prohm’s program. A native of Mustang, Oklahoma, Long attends Mustang HS and played for the Athletes First grassroots program this summer.

In Nike EYBL play for Athletes First, Long averaged 16.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.

According to Cyclone Fanatic, Long was also considering Georgia, Texas and Utah before deciding that he’ll play his college basketball at Iowa State. Long will join junior Matt Thomas, sophomore Hallice Cooke and transfer Nick Babb in the competition for minutes off the ball when he arrives on campus next year. According to Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune, Long could be a in a position where he sees solid playing time immediately.

Long joins junior college products Donovan Jackson and Emmanuel Malou, and 2016 forward Solomon Young in Iowa State’s 2016 class to date. And the Cyclones, who won’t use all 13 scholarships this season, still have room for a couple more additions for next season.

Iowa State has four seniors (Naz Long, Abdel Nader, Georges Niang and Jameel McKay), and junior point guard Monte’ Morris is considered by some to be a candidate to enter the 2016 NBA Draft.