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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.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.

Incoming Gator freshman ineligible for upcoming season

Mike White
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Florida will need to wait a year before seeing 6-foot-11 recruit Gorjok Gak playing games for the Gators.

The NCAA ruled that the incoming freshman will be able to enroll at Florida this year and practice with the team, but will be ineligible for games this season, the school announced Tuesday.

Should he meet all his progress marks during his freshman year, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2017-18.

Gak’s eligibility issue centered on his playing games during his postgraduate year at Victory Rock Prep, according to his coach there.

“Following his graduate year from Australia, he was supposed to play from December to December,” Loren Jackson told the Gainesville Sun, “but instead played from December until the following May.”

Gak originally signed with Oklahoma State, but de-committed following Travis Ford’s firing in Stillwater this past spring. Gak averaged 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds last season at Victory Rock in Bradenton, Fla.

Florida went 21-15 last season under first-year coach Mike White.

Video: Coach K talks Team USA with Dan Patrick

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Team USA has blown through its competition in its first two exhibition games ahead of next month’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro with wins over Argentina and China by a combined a combined 96 points.

Tonight, they’ll have a rematch against China, which they defeated 106-57 on Sunday, but it will also serve as the unofficial debut of Kevin Durant in front of his new hometown fans with the game taking place at the home of the Golden State Warriors, Oracle Arena, in Oakland.

“Excited for Kevin tonight to make his debut in front of the Golden State fans,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday on the Dan Patrick Show. “He got a great reception (Monday) at a function. He was, as he should be, warmly welcomed.”

The team has been together since July 18 in the run-up to its first Olympic contest on Aug. 6 against China. For Krzyzewski, a couple of players have made an impression already.

“You see these guys on TV,” the Duke coach said, “but I don’t get a chance to see them in person. (Clipper) DeAndre Jordan is such a good player. A great athlete, a great guy. To see him run, defend, holy mackerel. He’ s really good.

“I haven’t seen Paul George in two years when he had that horrific (leg) injury in Las Vegas at one of our camps, and he’s so darn good. On defense, tremendous.”

It’s on the defensive side of the floor that Coach K believes his team can really make its mark even with the incredible collection of offensive talent the roster has.

“We’re very athletic so defensively we could be a very good defensive team,” he said. “We’ve shown a willingness to want to do that in the first two games.”

As usual, Team USA is the prohibitive favorite to bring back gold for the third consecutive Olympics, which will be Coach K’s last at the helm after taking over after the 2004 bronze medal debacle.

“I’m excited about the team,” he said. “It’s a short time. to see our guys working so hard and they get along so well, I’m excited about the team we might be in Rio. We’ll use tonight to get a little bit better.

“I kind of have the blinders on. You only have a short time. It’s a little over a month, and we want to win the gold medal in Rio.”

Rose’s transfer to BYU becomes official

Ge'Lawn Guyn, L.J. Rose
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His commitment came more than a month ago, but L.J. Rose’s transfer to BYU became official Tuesday.

The former Houston guard was officially announced as an immediately-eligible graduate transfer by BYU on Tuesday. He’ll bring much needed help to a Cougars backcourt that lost Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer to graduation and Jordan Chatman and Jack Toolson to transfers.

“L.J. will add great experience and talent to our guard line,” BYU coach Dave Rose said in a statement released by BYU. “We’re excited about the leadership he will bring on the court and in the locker room. He will make us a deeper and more versatile team.”

As a junior, L.J. Rose averaged 9.8 points and 5.3 assists, but a foot injury limited him to just two games last season and allowed him to receive a medical redshirt and the opportunity to be a graduate transfer for his final collegiate season. He’ll be a big part of BYU’s attempt to build on last year’s 26-11 season as a former top-100 recruit, who began his career at Baylor, on a team in need of an infusion of talent after absorbing the losses from last year’s roster.

His father, Lynden, Sr., was a teammate of BYU coach Dave Rose at Houston during the program’s Phi Slama Jama era.

UCLA loses key forward to professional ranks

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 02:  Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks steals the ball from Jonah Bolden #43 of the UCLA Bruins during a 76-68 Ducks win at Pauley Pavilion on March 2, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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UCLA announced on Tuesday afternoon that Jonah Bolden will be forgoing his college eligibility to turn professional.

“Jonah Bolden has informed the coaching staff that he has opted to play professionally this season,” the release said.

Bolden is a versatile, 6-foot-10 forward with some NBA potential. In his only season playing with the Bruins, he averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 boards while starting 11 games. His ability on the defensive end of the floor was something the UCLA staff was counting on this season.

A sophomore this past season, Bolden was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA as a freshman, meaning that he was allowed to be on scholarship and in class but could not play during the 2014-15 season.

He had two seasons of eligibility remaining. Without Bolden, T.J Leaf will likely be counted on to play more minutes at the four.