The Secondary Break: Thursday’s Links

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Forget freshmen, transfers are the new prized recruits in college basketball (Sports Illustrated)
While freshmen have received much of the attention to this point in the season, transfers have proven to be just as influential to some programs. Players such as Arizona’s T.J. McConnell, George Washington’s Maurice Creek and Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane have all played pivotal roles in the success of their new teams.

UCLA-Arizona has been west coast’s top college basketball rivalry (Long Beach Press-Telegram)
On Thursday night the top-ranked Wildcats and Bruins renew acquaintances at Pauley Pavilion, with Arizona looking to reverse its fortunes after losing to UCLA three times last season. And this series is one with a history of exciting match-ups, with this story including the ten best games in the series according to the author.

College basketball arena poll: All 12 individual ballots (Athlon Sports)
The folks over at Athlon Sports compiled a list of the top 10 arenas in college basketball with some help from 12 college basketball experts, including CBT’s own Rob Dauster. Not only did Athlon reveal the list, but it also revealed the ballots of each of the 12 voters.

JV: A year in the college basketball wilderness (Dime Magazine)
As discussed in yesterday’s Break, there aren’t a high number of junior varsity teams at the college level. But they still exist, and in this story the author gives a first-hand account of his experience playing JV basketball at a small college.

Titus’ Top 12 NCAA power rankings (Grantland)
Former Ohio State basketball player Mark Titus compiles his weekly power rankings, taking a look at some of the nation’s best teams. It’s an interesting read, especially the portion in which he declares Iowa State to be a team of destiny.

Duke’s Jabari Parker: “I’m human too” (Greensboro News & Record)
In some instances this season the nation’s best freshman have been built up to near legendary status, with every game being a referendum on their skill level and chances of long-term success. After Andrew Wiggins bore the brunt of that pressure early, Duke freshman Jabari Parker’s been the latest subject thanks to his recent struggles. He’ll be OK.

Mother, coach reveal former Auburn basketball player faked kidnapping to escape pressures (ABC News)
In one of the more bizarre stories heard regarding college basketball players dealing with the pressure that comes with playing a sport and having to succeed in school, former Auburn basketball player Sierra Sims faked her kidnapping as a college freshman back in 2008. What resulted was a 24-hour search for Sims, who turned to binge drinking before running away and saying that she was kidnapped when found.

Kansas plans $17.5 million apartment complex that would house basketball players (Kansas City Star)
The business of major college athletics is alive and well, with programs doing whatever possible to put everything their athletes need within arm’s reach. At Kansas there are plans for a new apartment complex that would house the men’s and women’s basketball teams, with completion of the project expected for the 2016-17 academic year.

Michigan’s hot shooting carries them into the Elite Eight past Texas A&M

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Historically known as a team that lived and died with the three-ball, No. 3-seed Michigan had spent the first weekend of the NCAA tournament proving history wrong.

In an ugly game in their opener against Montana, the Wolverines shot 5-for-16 from three while turning the ball over 14 times and managing a measly 61 points. Against Houston in the second round, Michigan shot 8-for-30 from beyond the arc, with one of those threes coming courtesy of Jordan Poole at the buzzer, sending the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 win.

Put another way, Michigan looked the part of the defensive grinder that they turned into this season.

Against No. 7-seed Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, however, the Wolverines turned into the Golden State Warriors.

Michigan bested the number of three that they had made in the tournament to date, hitting 14-of-24 bombs while shooting 62 percent from the floor in a 99-72 win over an Aggies team that had finally, for the first time since November, looked the part of the SEC title contender that they have the talent to be.

No. 11 Loyola moves on to Elite Eight after beating No. 7 Nevada

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Loyola is in the Elite Eight.

The Ramblers’ dream run through March continued Thursday as they knocked off No. 7 Nevada, 69-68, in South Region semifinal in Atlanta.

Loyola, an 11th seed making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1985, will play the winner of Kansas State and Kentucky on Sunday for a chance to return to the Final Four for the first time since it won the 1963 national championship.

Marques Townes hit a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds to play to put the Ramblers up four and put the game all but out of reach for Nevada. Townes finished with 18 points while Clayton Custer had 15.  Loyola shot 55.8 percent from the floor for the game.

The Wolf Pack’s Caleb Martin had 21 points while Jordan Caroline had 19. Nevada shot 41.4 percent from the floor.

Nevada looked like it may overwhelm Loyola early as it built a 12-point lead less than seven minutes into the game. The Ramblers, though, struck back by keeping the Wolf Pack off the board for nearly the last 8 minutes of the first half to take a four-point lead into the break.

The strong play considered on the other side of halftime for Loyola, which astonishingly made its first 13 shots of the second half. Still, despite the perfect start, the Ramblers only briefly took a double-digit lead before Nevada sliced it back down below 10.

Loyola’s inability to build a substantial lead came back to bite it as Nevada, the comeback kids of this tournament, mounted its attack on the deficit and had it erased before the under-four timeout, setting up the final frantic minutes of a battle for a spot in the Elite Eight that the Ramblers claimed thanks to Townes’ late triple.

2018 March Madness: Fans in Times Square pick fake teams in Sweet 16 predictions

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NBC Sports went into Times Square this week to ask basketball fans for their Sweet 16 picks.

The only problem?

The teams in the games are not actually playing in the NCAA Tournament.

They aren’t even actually teams.

Hilarity ensued.

Miami’s Bruce Brown declares for draft without an agent

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Bruce Brown wants to hear what the NBA has to say.

The Miami sophomore has declared for the draft but will not hire an agent, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game during his second season with the Hurricanes. He did, though, see his shooting numbers take a tumble compared to his freshman season with his field goal percentage down from 45.9 to 41.5 percent and his 3-point shoot go from 34.7 to 26.7 percent. There’s also the matter of a foot injury that required surgery and kept him off the floor for the ‘Canes’ last 12 games.

By declaring for the draft, Brown can get in front of NBA teams, who will likely take a very close look at his shooting mechanics after that sophomore season downturn. It will also be an opportunity for him to build up his reputation in the professional ranks after spending much of his sophomore season injured.

Big East makes its rules recommendations in wake of FBI probe

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The Big East has ideas.

The conference on Thursday unveiled its recommendations to change college basketball in the wake of the federal investigation of corruption that resulted in 10 initial arrests and general tumult across the sport.

Among the recommendations are allowing players to go pro out of high school but requiring those who go to college to stay there at least two seasons.  They also posit increased regulation of agents, shoe companies and its own members as well as a changed recruiting calendar and more coordination with USA Basketball.

These all seem well-intentioned, but probably not destined for implementation or success.

First off, the age limit that creates one-and-dones is an NBA rule, and no matter what lobbying the NCAA does, they’re not likely to change it on college’s behalf. Any change there will come at the behest of the National Basketball Players Association. The only real leverage the NCAA has on this front would be to declare freshmen ineligible as they once were, but that seems incredibly unlikely. The idea was floated a few years back, but felt entirely like a bluff.

Even if the NCAA somehow mandated players spend at least two seasons on campus, that seems incredibly anti-player. Trae Young probably wouldn’t have left Norman North High School after his senior year, but it would be silly to make him stay another season at Oklahoma if he didn’t want to after the year he just had. Going to college helped Young’s draft stock, but staying there would almost certainly hurt him.

Players that play their way into a multi-million future being made to stick around and play for free for an extra year doesn’t seem to be a viable solution in 2018. Beyond being anti-player on its face, it could fuel even more negative consequences for players who feel they are fringe candidates. Instead of just going to school for a year and proving themselves, some players may just decide they don’t want to risk being there for two years and declare, essentially, a year early.

It also is worth noting that the same document that calls for shoe company influence to be curtailed while also bringing in USA Basketball, which is very intertwined with Nike, is…interesting.

At the end of the day, these recommendations address symptoms – and probably not that well – rather than the root cause, which is amateurism. As long as players, who clearly, literally and inarguably have value beyond their scholarship, are unable to cash in on their skills, there will be people willing to pay them surreptitiously.

It’s hard to “clean up the game” when the “dirty money” isn’t going anywhere.