The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Arizona claims top spot after North Carolina bounces another top five team (Sports Illustrated)
In the latest installment of Luke Winn’s power rankings, Arizona moves into the top spot after Michigan State fell at home on Wednesday night. Three Big Ten teams are in the Top 5, with one being a Wisconsin team that’s already put together a solid resume that should benefit them going forward.

Les wants more defense out of UC Davis (Sacramento Bee)
UC Davis is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, which they will attempt to end against Nevada on Saturday night. The biggest reason for the struggles: defense, and it’s important that the Aggies improve in this area with the prolific Deonte Burton running the show for the visiting Wolf Pack.

Cauley-Stein’s shot-blocking helps No. 3 Kentucky (Associated Press)
Kentucky’s freshmen have received a lot of attention thus far, but one of the big reasons why the Wildcats have played so well has been the presence of sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein. Averaging 9.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game on the season, Cauley-Stein has blocked 20 shots in the last three games. The Wildcats take on No. 20 Baylor tonight.

Weekend homework: Colorado’s chance (ESPN)
Since losing to Baylor in the season opener Colorado’s won eight straight games, but that streak will be put to the test on Saturday afternoon when No. 6 Kansas visits the Coors Events Center. The Jayhawks blew CU out of the water in last season’s meeting, which should serve as motivation, but the game also offers Colorado a chance at the signature win currently missing fro their resume.

Isaiah Austin: “Kentucky is not better than us in any way, shape or form” (Dallas Morning News)
Sophomore forward Isaiah Austin is a key player for Baylor, and he’ll need to have a big game if the Bears are to have a shot at knocking off No. 3 Kentucky tonight in Arlington, Texas. And while the focus should be on what the game means to both teams there’s also the fact that there will be plenty of NBA scouts in attendance, with many wanting to see what progress Austin’s made from a skill standpoint.

Rebels prepping for big challenge in renewed series at No. 2 Arizona (Las Vegas Sun)
UNLV’s endured its share of struggles thus far, and a good showing at No. 2 Arizona on Saturday would go a long way towards helping Dave Rice’s team turn things around ahead of the start of Mountain West play. And there is some history between the two programs, as they staged some incredible games during the 1980s and 1990s.

SDSU-USD series becoming a rarity (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Last night No. 24 San Diego State held off city rival San Diego 65-64 at Jenny Craig Pavilion. The two teams have met in each of the last 15 seasons, alternating home courts every year. And while SDSU sees the value in such series, that can’t be said for other power programs across the country who tend to avoid taking on such road tests in non-conference play.

Cowboys spend week learning from loss to Memphis (The Oklahoman)
No. 9 Oklahoma State’s loss to Memphis in the title game of the Old Spice Classic on Sunday wouldn’t be described as a stunning result, as the Tigers are a talented team that was motivated by what happened in Stillwater two weeks prior. The result, and how it occurred, provided Travis Ford’s team with some needed teaching points as they look to make a run at the Big 12 crown.

Robbins’ role takes a jump (Corvallis Gazette Times)
As a freshman, Oregon State guard Victor Robbins didn’t see too much playing time as he averaged just five minutes per game. But as a sophomore Robbins has moved into the starting lineup and he’s taken advantage of the increased opportunities, posting averages of 8.4 points and three rebounds per game.

Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.