The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Moton stresses defense to MEAC-leading North Carolina Central (Durham Herald-Sun)
While No. 8 Duke is well on its way to a high seed in the NCAA tournament, they aren’t the only team in Durham that could wind up in the 68-team field next month. The other? That would be Levelle Moton’s North Carolina Central Eagles, who have used a blue collar approach to take over first place in the MEAC.

Toughest part of Syracuse basketball gauntlet begins in Pittsburgh (Syracuse Post-Standard)
No. 1 Syracuse is off to a 23-0 start, winning their first ten conference games as a member of the ACC. But things will get far more difficult down the stretch for the Orange, who play five of their final eight regular season games on the road beginning with tonight’s contest at No. 25 Pittsburgh.

There is NBA talent in the Big Ten, but more at Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin than Ohio State (Cleveland Plain-Dealer)
Ohio State looked to be headed back in the right direction prior to Tuesday’s game against No. 15 Michigan. But the Wolverines left Columbus with an 80-70 victory, with the home standing Buckeyes once again struggling offensively. One of the reasons for the struggles: a lack of NBA-level talent according to this story.

Vaughn’s commitment makes future lineups very intriguing (Las Vegas Sun)
UNLV added another talented piece to its 2014 recruiting class on Tuesday night, as five-star shooting guard Rashad Vaughn verbally committed to the Mountain West school. With the players expected to return, along with that talented recruiting haul, Dave Rice won’t lack for lineup options next season.

Home crowds leave mark on college basketball games (San Francisco Chronicle)
There’s no denying the impact that fans can have on college basketball games, with the best being able to supply their team with the extra energy needed to win close games. But the impact can also be negative, and this past weekend there were examples of both.

College basketball’s preseason top 5 has been historically bad in 2013-14 (SB Nation)
It happens in most years. The preseason top five is announced, and some make the assumption that those programs will simply run through the season with few bumps in the road. Well that hasn’t happened this year, and the struggles of the 2013-14 preseason top five have been historic.

Are college basketball’s new rules helping or hurting the game? (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
The general thinking in regards to the new points of emphasis was that after an adjustment period teams and officials would adjust, ultimately resulting in better played games. Well that hasn’t happened in some cases, with conference play reverting back to the way things were. And predictably, coaches are still confused about it all.

DePaul basketball needs a complete makeover (Chicago Tribune)
Earlier this week it was announced that DePaul senior forward and leading scorer Cleveland Melvin was no longer enrolled in school, with this being the latest blow to a program that has struggled for years. The new Big East was supposed to provide a spark to programs like DePaul, but once again the Blue Demons find themselves at the bottom of the conference.

UR’s Anthony shifted into driver’s seat (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Richmond was hit hard by a personnel loss last week, with a torn meniscus in both of his knees ending Cedrick Lindsay’s senior season. The effect of this injury on the Spiders: Kendall Anthony had to take the reins as the team leader and primary scoring option.

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.