Drexel Arizona Basketball

The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Death threats and denial for woman who showed college athletes struggle to read (CNN)
Mary Willingham made news earlier this week due to her discussion regarding the academic struggles of student-athletes at the Division I level, and due to her experience at North Carolina that school was prominently featured in the report. Of course there’s been some blowback, with the school issuing a denial and some fans even sending Willingham death threats.

Defense first for Aaron Gordon (ESPN)
No. 1 Arizona held on to win at UCLA on Thursday night, with freshman forward Aaron Gordon being one of the key reasons why. He may have scored just ten points, but Gordon was one of the players entrusted with the task of guarding UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and he proved to be up to the task. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise when considering how well Gordon has performed defensively this season.

San Diego State storms into the top ten (Sports Illustrated)
The biggest movers in Luke Winn’s latest power rankings? San Diego State, thanks to their win over Kansas and Boise State. Included in the most recent installment are notes on Arizona’s version of the pack-line defense and the recent turnover-free run by Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet.

UCLA’s Kyle Anderson finding success and happiness as one of college basketball’s most unique players (Newark Star-Ledger)
UCLA sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson isn’t your standard 6-foot-9 player, as his skill set has allowed head coach Steve Alford the luxury of using him at point guard. And although he struggled in UCLA’s loss to No. 1 Arizona on Thursday night, Anderson’s still one of college basketball’s top players to this point in the season.

Temple falls to 0-3, loses another player (CSN Philly)
If the Temple Owls didn’t have bad luck they’d have none, and in their home loss to South Florida the Owls lost yet another player. Will Cummings left the game in the first half with concussion symptoms and did not return, leaving the Owls with just seven players. Next up on the schedule for Fran Dunphy’s team: No. 24 Memphis.

Purdue keeps searching for the right mix (Indianapolis Star)
Given the overall youth of Matt Painter’s roster it comes as no surprise that Purdue is still looking to solidify its rotation. Prior to their three-point loss at Minnesota on Sunday the Boilermakers had gone with a different starting lineup for seven straight games in hopes of finding the right mix.

With big win and new home, SMU now focusing on NCAA tournament berth (Dallas Morning News)
SMU’s win over UConn on Saturday represented a watershed moment for the program, with the game also being the first played at the newly renovated Moody Coliseum. Armed with some talented players and a nice arena, the belief in Dallas is that the Mustange have the pieces to make a run at an NCAA tournament berth.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.