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.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.