The Secondary Break: Monday’s Links

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This is true AAC basketball, at least for now (Connecticut Post)
Saturday’s game between No. 20 Memphis and No. 24 UConn was one of the best games of the weekend, with the Huskies winning 86-81. The contest between two of the American’s best teams didn’t disappoint, but the same can’t be said of the teams in the boom half of the league standings.

1974 N.C. State Wolfpack: David Thompson walked on air (Raleigh News & Observer)
With this season being the 40th anniversary of N.C. State’s first national title, fans and media alike have revisited that season. The key figure on that team was guard David Thompson, an incredible leaper who to this day remains one of the greatest players in the history of the ACC.

While Cats are still busy learning, Florida puts on a fine basketball show (Lexington Herald-Leader)
In the final 11 minutes of Saturday’s pivotal SEC matchup, No. 3 Florida made the winning plays while No. 14 Kentucky found itself “second-best” on multiple occasions. The end result was a 69-59 Gator victory, with the veterans being more sure of what needed to be done than the young Kentucky squad.

Michigan State says Nebraska simple “wanted it more” (MLive.com)
No. 9 Michigan State struggled on Sunday afternoon, making poor decisions and shooting just 5-for-24 from beyond the arc in their 60-51 home loss to Nebraska. And according to the Spartans themselves, Nebraska won the game because they wanted it more.

Miles’ marquee win sooner than expected (Lincoln Journal Star)
Nebraska’s win over No. 9 Michigan State on Sunday was a big one, not just for a team that hopes to climb into the bubble conversation but also for Tim Miles as he looks to rebuild the program. And that defining win that most programs need in order to take the next step came sooner than anticipated.

Terps need an impressive stretch of wins to be considered for NCAA tournament (Baltimore Sun)
Maryland missed out on a valuable resume-building victory on Saturday, losing 69-67 at No. 8 Duke. And as a result the Terrapins have a lot of work to do down the stretch in order to earn a ticket to the NCAA tournament.

Five takeaways from Arizona State’s win over No. 2 Arizona (AZ Central)
Arizona State picked up a critical win on Friday night as they beat No. 2 Arizona 69-66 in double overtime. Jermaine Marshall scored 29 points and Jordan Bachynski preserved the lead with a blocked shot, with Friday being the third game this season in which he’s saved the game for the Sun Devils.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.