Tyler Haws, Damyean Dotson

The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Cougars get another shot at a ranked team on Thursday (Deseret News)
BYU is one of many teams looking to play their way into the NCAA tournament in these final weeks of the regular season. With that being the case they have to take advantage of the quality opportunities in front of them, with Thursday’s home game against No. 25 Gonzaga being one.

Transfers get a new school, and an extra year (The Virginian-Pilot)
While the focus this time of year is on the college game, high school programs across the country are also approaching the stretch run. And in some cases players who have moved from one school to another and reclassified, repeating a year of school in order to enhance their chances of receiving a college scholarship, are leading the charge.

Duke scary in more ways than one (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Remember when much of the country was under the assumption that No. 5 Duke wouldn’t be a threat to win the national title? Thanks to the Blue Devils’ improved play that’s no longer the case, with their win over Georgia Tech revealing some reasons why Duke can win it all.

As points pile up, Russ Smith is passing into legend (WDRB Louisville)
Louisville senior guard Russ Smith may be one of the most entertaining players to watch in college basketball, but to be fair the focus on the “extras” tends to overshadow how well he’s played this season. And the difference between Smith now and Smith as a freshman is incredible, with few expecting him to put together the career he’s enjoyed to this point.

Ex-student manager Cross living the dream as Vandy hoops player (Fox Sports Tennessee)
For some college basketball teams the task of finishing the season can become a difficult one thanks to player injuries. That’s been the case for Vanderbilt, which was down to seven scholarship players thanks to injuries and transfers/disciplinary reasons. That’s resulted in Rob Cross, who was a team manager for the last two seasons, suiting up for the team for the last ten games.

Utes eyeing NCAA tournament run (Salt Lake Tribune)
Due to a poor stretch at the start of the second half on Saturday afternoon at UCLA, Utah missed out on what would have been a valuable win for they resume. That sets up the Utes for a critical game against No. 4 Arizona on Wednesday night, with the game being the first of five to end the regular season. And thanks to their weak non-conference slate, Larry Krystkowiak’s team needs to get hot.

Boston College brings good offense, suspect defense to Syracuse rematch (Syracuse Post-Standard)
No. 1 Syracuse hosts Boston College on Wednesday night, with the Eagles looking to pull off a win that would temporarily brighten a season that has failed to meet preseason expectations. Offensively BC has some quality options, but it’s the defense that has been an issue all season long.

Rick Pitino: Louisville ‘just ignored’ in top 25 due of scandal

Rick Pitino
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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Louisville beatdown Saint Louis at the Barclays Center on Sunday night, a 77-57 win that was much closer at halftime than the final score might indicate.

The win moved the Cardinals to 5-0 on the season, and that, in turn, got Louisville into the back end of both top 25 polls.

They’re 24th in the AP Poll and 22nd in the Coaches Poll, but that happened on Monday morning. On Sunday night, Pitino made sure to get a rant in about how this team is viewed and why pundits and voters should overlook the scandal currently plaguing his program.

“I think people are looking at that and they’re not really studying the team,” he said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, adding that he thinks the team is “just ignored” because of the accusations leveled by self-described madam Katina Powell in the book she published back in October.

And here’s the thing: he is 100 percent correct. Louisville was overlooked in the preseason because the scandal, when combined with the fact that the Cardinals are integrating so many new pieces into their rotation, made it tough to see how they would be able to compete at a level that we’ve come to expect out of Louisville teams.

I know that because it’s why my colleagues at NBCSports.com, against my wishes, refused to allow me to rank Louisville in the preseason top 25. In other words, I’ve had first-hand interactions with the haters. But if we’re going to be honest here, scandal or no scandal, Louisville probably wasn’t going to find their way into the preseason top 25, not when they had to replace Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell.

And scandal or no scandal, no team from outside the top 25 is going to play their way into the top 25 by beating the likes of North Florida and St. Francis (NY) without some shenanigans — like Fred VanVleet getting hurt, like Indiana collapsing, like Arizona and Cal and Notre Dame playing their way out of the top 20 — happening around the country.

So Pitino is right: the scandal probably did have an impact on how his team was viewed in the preseason.

But Pitino the scandal isn’t what kept them out of the top 25 until Monday.

That weak non-conference schedule and roster turnover was why.

And if we’re going to be honest here, it probably should have kept them out for another week.

Brooks’ big game leads No. 15 Oregon over Fresno State 78-73

Dillon Brooks, Torren Jones
AP Photo/Chris Pietsch
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks had 21 points and 10 rebounds and No. 15 Oregon staved off a late rally by Fresno State for a 78-73 victory Monday night.

Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook added 14 points each for the Ducks (6-0), who led 70-52 with 6:35 to play before Marvelle Harris scored 13 points in a 16-2 run by the Bulldogs (5-1) that cut the deficit to four.

A driving layup by Brooks put Oregon up 74-68 with 1:20 left, and the Ducks held on by making four of six free throws in the final 45 seconds.

Harris, who didn’t score until the 12:04 mark of the second half, led Fresno State with 18 points, while Paul Watson added 11 and Torren Jones had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 41-32 behind Jones and Karachi Edo, who had nine rebounds and 10 points.

Freshman Tyler Dorsey, Oregon’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, finished with 12.

The Ducks scored the game’s first 11 points, went up by as many as 14 and took a 37-25 halftime lead. The Ducks did most of the damage from inside the 3-point arc (9 of 10) and at the free throw line, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-5.

Fresno State, meanwhile, missed its first six shots from the field, shot 29.0 percent (9 of 31) and saw its top two scorers, Harris and Cezar Guerrero, held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.

The senior guards came in averaging 20.2 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.


Fresno State: Harris, the preseason choice for Mountain West Conference player of the year, needed one point to crack the Bulldog’s all-time top 10 in scoring. After going scoreless in the first half, he finished with 18 to rank 10th with 1,425, one behind Tod Bernard in ninth place, in 107 career games. . The Bulldogs fell to 2-10 all-time against Oregon. They last time they beat the Ducks, who have won the last five meetings, was in 1995. . Fresno State hasn’t beaten a Top 25 team on the road since 2000.

Oregon: The double-double was the second of the season Brooks and fourth of his career. . The Ducks are 40-2 against nonconference opponents since moving into Matthew Knight Arena five years ago. . The 6-0 start is Oregon’s second in the last nine years. The Ducks started 13-0 two seasons ago.