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.

Kansas lands second commitment in the Class of 2018

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Kansas landed their second big man in the Class of 2018 on Sunday, as David McCormack, a top 50 prospect, announced that he will be a Jayhawk when he plays his college ball.

The 6-foot-10 center picked Kansas over Xavier, NC State, Oklahoma State and Duke.

A product of the famed Oak Hill Academy, McCormack averaged 15 points and 10 boards on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit this spring. He joins fellow four-star big man Silvio de Sousa in the 2018 class for Bill Self, although the Jayhawks will get three players eligible after they sit out the 2017-18 season as transfers: Dedric and K.J. Lawson, who transferred in from Memphis, as well as Charlie Moore, a point guard from California.

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.