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The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Ryan winning despite missing piece (ESPN)
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has his team off to the best start in school history, and that’s even with their loss at Indiana on Tuesday night. But this has been a tough season for the coach as it’s his first without his father, who passed away in August. This is a really good read on the connection between father and son, and how the Ryan we see on the sidelines differs from the one that his grandkids see.

7-footers making impact again in college basketball (San Francisco Chronicle)
While guard play tends to get the majority of the attention in college basketball, especially in March, the big men are important as well. And in regards to seven-footers, there seems to be a renaissance of sorts in college basketball this season. With players such as Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski playing well, the big men are once again making an impact.

The Magic Eight: One of these teams will win the national title (Sports Illustrated)
How wide open is the national title chase? According to one article eight teams are best positioned to cut down the nets in Arlington, Texas in early April. Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse are among the teams on that list, and there are also some notes on teams omitted from the discussion.

Jim Baron, King Rice and the ties that bind (Pickin’ Splinters)
On Sunday afternoon Monmouth visited Canisius, with the Golden Griffins winning 87-67 in Buffalo. Also of note is the shared history of the two head coaches, with Monmouth’s King Rice being recruited by Canisius’ Jim Baron when Baron was an assistant at Notre Dame. Rice eventually chose to attend North Carolina, but on Sunday he had nothing but nice things to say about the way in which Baron went about the recruiting process.

Army’s Zach Spiker taking success one game at a time (Big Apple Buckets)
There are three teams in the Patriot League that are still undefeated in conference play: American, Boston University and Army, with the latter being run by 37-year old Zach Spiker. One season after leading the Black Knights to their first winning season since 1984-85, Spiker’s taking things one game at a time with a team capable of making a run at the Patriot League crown.

Want to fix college athletics’ academic crisis? Three words: major in sports (The Sporting News)
With the CNN study on the academic credentials, or lack thereof, of student-athletes revealing that many arrive on campus ill-equipped to take advantage of the education being offered, many have asked what can be done. One possible solution would be to allow student-athletes to major in their particular sport. Interesting read to say the least.

Markel Brown is the mayor of LobStilly (The Oklahoman)
Oklahoma State senior guard Markel Brown’s been a key figure for the Cowboys this season, posting averages of 16.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the nation’s ninth-ranked team. Brown’s also one of the nation’s best leapers, and as a result he’s thrown down some incredible in-game dunks for the Cowboys.

For sophomore students, Villanova and men’s basketball gradually became a lasting impression (Philly.com)
The connection between college basketball teams and the student body can be strong when it comes to your more prestigious programs, and that’s certainly the case at schools where the basketball team is the most recognizable team on campus. At Villanova some sophomores, who chose the school during a period when the basketball team was down (by Villanova standards), spoke about their experiences supporting the basketball team.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.