The Secondary Break: Thursday’s Links

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Starting Five: College basketball coaches on the hot seat (USA Today)
Rick Barnes, whose Texas Longhorns have been a positive surprise this season, may not be considered to be on the proverbial hot seat at this point in the season but there are some coaches who are at this point in the season. That can make for an interesting stretch run, with some fan paying as much attention to possible candidates for the position as they do their own teams.

Syracuse/Duke tickets Saturday are most expensive in college basketball this season (Forbes)
Interested in going to Saturday’s game between No. 1 Syracuse and No. 5 Duke, a rematch of the most entertaining game of the season to date? Well it’ll cost you, with tickets to the game rumored to cost in excess of more than $2,000.

College basketball’s ultimate champion is almost always a conference champion first (SB Nation)
For some the importance of conference tournaments for power conference teams can be debated, with the belief being held in some circles that such games aren’t as important as the NCAA tournament. But while that particular weekend pales in comparison to the NCAA tournament, history reveals that many national champions began their run with a successful conference tournament performance.

The education of Duke freshman phenom Jabari Parker (Sports Illustrated)
With some highly-regarded freshmen, the process of educating them on the court can be a difficult one due to their being distracted by what’s next. That hasn’t been the case for Duke’s Jabari Parker, who has absorbed the lessons being taught by head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Syracuse, not Kentucky, leading college basketball in attendance this season (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Kentucky has enjoyed a long run atop college basketball in regards to attendance, holding that honor every season since 2006. But that run may come to an end this season, with Syracuse currently leading the nation in attendance. The biggest reason for the switch at the top: Syracuse’s move to the ACC, with both North Carolina and Duke visiting the Carrier Dome.

Wagner preps for final push (Staten Island Live)
For some smaller conferences home court in the conference tournament is on the line, with a team’s place in the standings determining how many games they could possibly host in the tournament. One team in that position is Wagner, which is hoping to close out NEC play well enough to finish second and thereby set itself up to host two tournament games.

The race for fifth in the MAAC (Big Apple Buckets)
With the MAAC’s expansion to 11 teams, the top five seeds in the conference tournament avoid having to play on the first day. That makes the race for the fifth seed, which is currently held by Rider, an important one with Siena and Marist also in contention for that spot.

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.