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.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.