The Secondary Break: Thursday’s Links

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Skirting the rules (Sports on Earth)
Recruiting obviously has a major impact on college basketball, with the nation’s top recruits making their decisions on national television and a number of games at the high school/grassroots level being televised. And with the way recruiting goes these days there have been plenty of accusations, either directly or indirectly, of cheating. So why have rules regulating it?

Meet Kansas’ Joel Embiid, a Cameroon native blossoming into a top NBA prospect (Bleacher Report)
Andrew Wiggins isn’t the only productive freshman on Kansas’ roster, with Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene also factoring into the rotation. And there’s also center Joel Embiid, whose upside has turned many NBA executives into fans at this early point in the season.

“Package deal” for former Cooper star Vaughn draws scrutiny (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
When package deals are discussed these days, more often than not the conversation is about two players committing to the same school. But in the case of five-star 2014 prospect Rashad Vaughn, his move to Findlay Prep along with assistant coach/mentor Pete Kaffey has raised eyebrows in Minneapolis.

The Jumper (Slam Magazine)
We don’t discuss too much women’s basketball on here, so the name Maggie Lucas likely isn’t a familiar one. But the Penn State senior guard is one of the nation’s best players, and she’s the leader of a team that plays six freshmen and hopes to make a run at the Big Ten title.

The magic of negative motivation (Ken Pomeroy)
Southern Illinois head coach Barry Hinson made some headlines late Tuesday with his remarks following a loss at Murray State. Many laughed and even applauded the coach for making those statements. With this being the case, do we tend to give coaches the benefit of the doubt in these situations? It’s definitely something to consider.

Thoughts on the freshman hype and how it’s been covered (NBA Draft Blog)
The top freshmen have received a lot of attention this season, be it at the college level or in the professional ranks with many noting which teams may be tanking for a better shot at the top pick. But the hype may be a case of “too much, too soon,” as the cart is being put before the horse so to speak.

Jump hook proving an extremely effective weapon for Niang (Ames Tribune)
Iowa State sophomore forward Georges Niang has been highly productive this season, posting averages of 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. And he has a weapon of choice on the block as well, with the jump hook proving to be a skill few opponents have been able to stop.

Bruins’ basketball success seems like ancient pyramid history (Los Angeles Times)
Of the 11 national titles won by UCLA just one came after John Wooden’s tenure came to an end, with Jim Harrick’s 1994-95 team winning the program’s last national title. And in a program that only hangs one kind of banner, getting back to those heights is something fans demand. Enter Steve Alford, who’s looking to return the Bruins to the top of college basketball.

Chaz Williams plays for past, future (ESPN)
UMass senior point guard Chaz Williams is one of the most exciting players in college basketball, leading the way for a program that’s ranked for the first time since 1998. And he’s got two sources of inspiration as he looks to help the Minutemen return to the NCAA tournament, his late father and his young daughter.

Rick Pitino: Louisville ‘just ignored’ in top 25 due of scandal

Rick Pitino
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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Louisville beatdown Saint Louis at the Barclays Center on Sunday night, a 77-57 win that was much closer at halftime than the final score might indicate.

The win moved the Cardinals to 5-0 on the season, and that, in turn, got Louisville into the back end of both top 25 polls.

They’re 24th in the AP Poll and 22nd in the Coaches Poll, but that happened on Monday morning. On Sunday night, Pitino made sure to get a rant in about how this team is viewed and why pundits and voters should overlook the scandal currently plaguing his program.

“I think people are looking at that and they’re not really studying the team,” he said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, adding that he thinks the team is “just ignored” because of the accusations leveled by self-described madam Katina Powell in the book she published back in October.

And here’s the thing: he is 100 percent correct. Louisville was overlooked in the preseason because the scandal, when combined with the fact that the Cardinals are integrating so many new pieces into their rotation, made it tough to see how they would be able to compete at a level that we’ve come to expect out of Louisville teams.

I know that because it’s why my colleagues at NBCSports.com, against my wishes, refused to allow me to rank Louisville in the preseason top 25. In other words, I’ve had first-hand interactions with the haters. But if we’re going to be honest here, scandal or no scandal, Louisville probably wasn’t going to find their way into the preseason top 25, not when they had to replace Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell.

And scandal or no scandal, no team from outside the top 25 is going to play their way into the top 25 by beating the likes of North Florida and St. Francis (NY) without some shenanigans — like Fred VanVleet getting hurt, like Indiana collapsing, like Arizona and Cal and Notre Dame playing their way out of the top 20 — happening around the country.

So Pitino is right: the scandal probably did have an impact on how his team was viewed in the preseason.

But Pitino the scandal isn’t what kept them out of the top 25 until Monday.

That weak non-conference schedule and roster turnover was why.

And if we’re going to be honest here, it probably should have kept them out for another week.

Brooks’ big game leads No. 15 Oregon over Fresno State 78-73

Dillon Brooks, Torren Jones
AP Photo/Chris Pietsch
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks had 21 points and 10 rebounds and No. 15 Oregon staved off a late rally by Fresno State for a 78-73 victory Monday night.

Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook added 14 points each for the Ducks (6-0), who led 70-52 with 6:35 to play before Marvelle Harris scored 13 points in a 16-2 run by the Bulldogs (5-1) that cut the deficit to four.

A driving layup by Brooks put Oregon up 74-68 with 1:20 left, and the Ducks held on by making four of six free throws in the final 45 seconds.

Harris, who didn’t score until the 12:04 mark of the second half, led Fresno State with 18 points, while Paul Watson added 11 and Torren Jones had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 41-32 behind Jones and Karachi Edo, who had nine rebounds and 10 points.

Freshman Tyler Dorsey, Oregon’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, finished with 12.

The Ducks scored the game’s first 11 points, went up by as many as 14 and took a 37-25 halftime lead. The Ducks did most of the damage from inside the 3-point arc (9 of 10) and at the free throw line, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-5.

Fresno State, meanwhile, missed its first six shots from the field, shot 29.0 percent (9 of 31) and saw its top two scorers, Harris and Cezar Guerrero, held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.

The senior guards came in averaging 20.2 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.


Fresno State: Harris, the preseason choice for Mountain West Conference player of the year, needed one point to crack the Bulldog’s all-time top 10 in scoring. After going scoreless in the first half, he finished with 18 to rank 10th with 1,425, one behind Tod Bernard in ninth place, in 107 career games. . The Bulldogs fell to 2-10 all-time against Oregon. They last time they beat the Ducks, who have won the last five meetings, was in 1995. . Fresno State hasn’t beaten a Top 25 team on the road since 2000.

Oregon: The double-double was the second of the season Brooks and fourth of his career. . The Ducks are 40-2 against nonconference opponents since moving into Matthew Knight Arena five years ago. . The 6-0 start is Oregon’s second in the last nine years. The Ducks started 13-0 two seasons ago.