Chaz Williams UMass

The Secondary Break: Tuesday’s Links

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Chaz Williams appreciates UMass’ Coaches vs. Cancer effort (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
The Coaches vs. Cancer “Suits and Sneakers” initiative is one that reaches many people across the country, due primarily to the fact that the disease has impacted so many. One of those is UMass point guard Chaz Williams, who lost his father to cancer at the age of nine.

Marshall’s Thomas eager to hit his full stride (Huntington Herald-Dispatch)
The Marshall Thundering Herd haven’t performed as well as they would have liked to this point in the season, and the same can be said of their new addition Chris Thomas as well. Once one of the most talented players in his high school class, Thomas is still looking to hit his stride in his first season in Huntington.

Zags continue to bide their time until all are healthy (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga hasn’t had the best of fortune when it comes to health, with multiple rotation players missing time due to injury this season. However, even with the Bulldogs having those issues they’re still in first place in the WCC with games at Santa Clara and San Francisco next on the schedule.

Coaches hurt the most by new foul rules (Real GM)
With much being made about the strides made to improve freedom of movement, it’s always good to see what the numbers say. While there’s been more scoring and more foul calls, some coaches are being affected by the changes more than others.

Our biological clock is ticking (The Mid-Majority)
While this is the final season of The Mid-Majority, which has celebrated the achievements of mid-major programs for a decade, there are still some really good stories to be told. One is that of Fairleigh Dickinson, which is slowly finding its way under first-year head coach Greg Herenda with an assist from senior point guard Sidney Sanders.

Akron, Cleveland State are ready to grind (Cleveland Plain-Dealer)
These weeks can be tough for some college basketball programs, as we haven’t reached the stretch run but there’s still a need to remain focused on the task at hand. Results impact seeding in conference tournament, and in the case of both Akron and Cleveland State those conference tournaments are their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

Analyzing the problems and potential outcomes for five struggling teams (Sports Illustrated)
After hot starts to the season, programs such as Baylor and Ohio State find themselves in search of answers ahead of the final full month of the regular season. At least the Buckeyes ended their losing streak with a win over Illinois on Thursday night; the climb back up may be even more difficult for the Bears.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.