The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Coach starting to get heat for Red Storm’s struggles (New York Post)
St. John’s has a big game on Thursday night when the take on Seton Hall, with Steve Lavin’s team looking to pick up its first Big East victory. And those struggles have been a surprise to many, and as a result the coaching is being questioned by some. Can the Red Storm turn things around?

Burke and Hardaway gone, yet Michigan rolls on (New York Times)
Even with the departure of both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan was expected to factor into the Big Ten race. And despite the loss of Mitch McGary the Wolverines are undefeated in Big Ten play, with Nik Stauskas leading the way for a team looking to win a conference title.

Towson’s Skerry, Marshall’s Herrion team to raise autism awareness (Sports Illustrated)
Towson head coach Pat Skerry and Marshall head coach Tom Herrion are both raising children who have been diagnosed with autism, and they’re using their status to help educate people about autism while also raising money for research.

Vols’ Martin wants more consistency from Stokes (Associated Press)
Tennessee has the talent to not only reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in Cuonzo Martin’s tenure but also contend in an SEC that looks wide-open after Florida and Kentucky. But in order to do so the Volunteers will need junior forward Jarnell Stokes to be a more consistent force in the paint.

The pressure on 13th-ranked UMass doesn’t compare to the lean years (
No. 13 UMass may have escaped its fair share of close games this season, but the “pressure” to keep things rolling doesn’t compare to the pressure the program felt in lean post-John Calipari years. The program, which hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in more than a decade, is headed in the right direction under Derek Kellogg after going though some rough years.

College in Vermont signs 10-year-old cancer survivor to basketball team (WPXI Pittsburgh)
Diagnosed with leukemia when he was eight months old, 10-year-old Jimmy Giroux is now a cancer survivor whose path can serve as a source of inspiration for anyone who’s been diagnosed with the disease. And Giroux, whose growth was affected by the disease, signed a letter of intent to join the basketball team at Norwich University in Vermont.

Bryce Cotton is PC’s latest diamond in the rough (Providence Journal)
Providence has a long history of players who arrived on campus amidst little national fanfare putting together outstanding college careers, and senior guard Bryce Cotton has added his name to that list. Second in the Big East in scoring, Cotton’s rarely left the floor for a team that has now won four straight Big East games.

Big Ten atmosphere brings a certain thrill to Pitino (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Minnesota’s surprised some people under first-year head coach Richard Pitino, with the Golden Gophers having the look of a team capable of getting back to the NCAA tournament while adjusting to a style of play different from the one employed by Tubby Smith. And despite the challenges of putting his stamp on the program and facing some of the nation’s best coaches, Pitino’s embraced the opportunity.

POSTERIZED: Monmouth bench mob goes insane after huge dunk

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Monmouth has arguably been the most entertaining team in college basketball through the season’s first three weeks.

Let’s start with the obvious: They’re a mid-major outfit with a 5-foot-8 point guard that headlines a talented back court, one good enough to have notched upsets at UCLA and, this week, over No. 17 Notre Dame and USC at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.

It’s pretty incredible, to be honest. They’ve managed to amass one of college basketball’s best resume despite being a MAAC program with a grand total of four NCAA appearances in their luxurious history.

But what makes this team so much fun isn’t just that they can’t seem to stop beating high-major competition, it’s that, in the process, their bench mob has become one of college basketball’s best.

Want some proof? Watch what happens after this Deon Jones poster dunk:

And here’s the wild part: that wasn’t even close to the best thing the bench did this week.

This was:


But there’s so much more.

Like, for example, the three arrows:

The touchdown pass:

The bench poster:

The heart attack:

They … caught a fish?

And, finally, the ‘OH SHHHHHHHHHHHH’:

Wichita State’s 0-3 week makes chances for at-large bid small

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

We’ve reached the nightmare scenario for Wichita State.

Having entered the season as the overwhelming favorite in the Missouri Valley, a top 15 team and a legitimate threat to reach a Final Four, after two weeks, the Shockers are in serious danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament altogether.

That’s not hyperbole, either.

Wichita State fell to 2-4 on the year after getting mollywhopped by Iowa in the 7th-place game of the Advocare Invitational. They ended up in the 7th-place game because they lost to USC and Alabama in the opening two rounds. The Hawkeyes look like the might be able to eke out an at-large berth if things fall the right way for them, but USC and Alabama are projected to finish at or near the bottom of their respective conferences. Even Iowa would do well to finish in the top half of the Big Ten.

Individually, none of those three losses are particularly terrible, and that’s before you factor in that all-american point guard Fred VanVleet sat out the trip to Orlando with a bad hamstring. They were also without back up point guard Landry Shamet in the tournament and it’s unknown when they’ll actually get Anton Grady back to full stretch. That matters to the NCAA tournament selection committee. They’ll factor it in when they determine where the Shockers will be seeded, or if they will even get an invite.

But throw in the loss at Tulsa from the first week of the season, and the Shockers are now 2-4 on the season.

And unlike the rest of the preseason top 25 — unlike the rest of the nation’s high-major programs — Wichita State won’t have a chance to load up on quality wins during league play. The Valley is better than we probably realized (more on that in a second), but it’s not like there are going to be a myriad of top 50 wins for the taking.

Look at Georgetown, for example. They Hoyas went 1-3 in the first week of the season, a stretch that included a home loss to Radford. But they also play in a conference where they’ll get home-and-homes against the likes of Villanova, Butler and Xavier.

The Shockers need to do their damage during the non-conference. They need to get the bulk of their resume put together before Valley play starts. Assuming they do win the rest of their non-league games, we’re not exactly looking at a daunting profile, either. The Shockers still have to visit Saint Louis and Seton Hall and host UNLV, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico State. UNLV and Utah should look like quality wins on Selection Sunday, but the rest of them?

Wichita State is putting themselves in a position where they may end up needing to win the Missouri Valley tournament just to get into the Big Dance, and the problem is that the Valley looks like it is really going to be tough this season. Northern Iowa notched a win over North Carolina already this year. Illinois State gave Maryland a fight and entered the season as a favorite to upset the Shockers. Evansville has two of the league’s five best players in D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius.

They’re not waltzing through that conference by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s not exactly what VanVleet and Ron Baker had in mind when they decided to return to Wichita for one final season.