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The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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After Syracuse falters, Florida and Wichita State jockey for No. 1 (Sports Illustrated)
With No. 1 Syracuse losing on Wednesday night many power rankings are undergoing changes, and that includes Luke Winn’s power rankings. The new team on top of the poll: Florida, which is a serious threat to run the table in the SEC. But they, like any other national title contender this season, have a flaw that can be exploited according to Winn.

On Rainier Beach (The Classical)
Rainier Beach High School in Seattle has given the game of basketball some special players over the years, including Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson. And this season they’re once again among the best teams in the nation, with Louisville signee Shaqquan Aaron being one of their talented prospects. How do they do it year in and year out? By being different.

Inside Kentucky Basketball: Why it’s now or never in 2014 (Bleacher Report)
Kentucky has one of the nation’s most visible programs, with factors such as their sustained excellence and prowess on the recruiting trail being two reasons why. John Calipari’s got a team that currently has an 18-5 record and hopes of making a run at the school’s ninth national title. And whether or not they get there will depend on the maturation of the freshmen.

Tall Firs history puts new spin on tourney (Eugene Register-Guard)
Oregon won the first national title in 1939, with a group dubbed the “Tall Firs” leading the way. Terry Frei has written a book on the first tournament entitled “March 1939,” which focuses not only on Oregon but also the NCAA and NIT tournaments with the latter seen by some as being the more prestigious at the time.

BYU, Gonzaga in their own incredible universe (Deseret News)
Late Thursday night BYU and Gonzaga played a game of high importance in Provo, with the Cougars looking to add a quality win to their resume and the Bulldogs hoping to clinch the WCC title. BYU ended up winning 73-65, and while many focused on the Duke/North Carolina tilt played earlier in the night the fans in attendance found this one to be important as well.

The “Gentle Giant” leads by example, on and off the court (The New Hampshire)
New Hampshire senior center Chris Pelcher has been a quality member of the UNH program since transferring in from Iona, and he’s been a good example both on and off the court for head coach Bill Herrion. After having missed time due to a leg injury Pelcher’s looking to find his groove during the stretch run.

Penn senior to be honored by basketball writers association (Philadelphia Daily News)
On Thursday the United States Basketball Writers Association announced its three winners of its Most Courageous Award, one of whom is Penn senior guard Dau Jok. Jok and his family, which includes a younger brother named Peter who currently plays at Iowa, fled South Sudan amidst civil unrest.

A program on the upswing (Sports on Earth)
When Larry Brown accepted the head coaching job at SMU, the question was whether or not he’d be around long enough to rebuild a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1993. Well in his second season at the school Brown has the program well-positioned to reach the NCAA tournament, and this could just be the beginning for SMU basketball.

Washington lands commitment from Mamoudou Diarra

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For the second time this summer, Washington has landed a commitment from a forward in the Class of 2017.

On Friday, it was Mamoudou Diarra that pledged his future to Lorenzo Romar. Diarra is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward that is currently unranked by Rivals but was targeted by a number high major program.

Washington landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. earlier this summer, and given Porter’s standing as the potential No. 1 player in the class, the Huskies will be in the mix for the best crop of freshmen in the country in 2017-18. Romar has also landed commitments from four-star guard Jaylen Nowell and three-star guard Blake Harris.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Diarra played his high school basketball in St. Louis.

Xavier lands second top 100 commitment in 2017

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Xavier landed a key commitment on Friday morning in Naji Marshall, one of the Musketeers’ top targets in the Class of 2017.

Marshall is a la 6-foot-5 wing from Washington D.C. that is currently ranked 62nd in the 2017 class by Rivals. He’s a scorer that has shown off a versatile offensive game, averaging better than three assists on the Under Armour Association circuit.

This is the third commitment from head coach Chris Mack in the class and the second top 100 player to pledge to the Musketeers. Marshall picked Xavier over Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia Tech, among other.

Four-star 2018 guard Coby White commits to North Carolina

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, center, reacts with his team behind him after a play during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. North Carolina won 88-71. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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With guards Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek having committed in their 2017 recruiting class, North Carolina received a commitment from one of the better guards in the Class of 2018 Thursday night. Four-star guard Coby White, who’s ranked 61st in his class by Rivals.com, made his pledge to Roy Williams’ program. News of White’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com.

The 6-foot-4 White is a native of Wilson, North Carolina, where he attends Greenfield HS, and he played his grassroots basketball for the CP3 16U basketball program this summer. His commitment to UNC comes just a couple days after the ACC school offered him a scholarship.

White took an unofficial visit to UNC in June, and his play in July ultimately led to the program making the aforementioned scholarship offer. By the time White enrolls in Chapel Hill, current veterans such as Joel Berry II and Nate Britt will be out of eligibility. Among the perimeter would could potentially be on campus in 2018 are freshmen Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson, and sophomore Kenny Williams.

White is the second commit in the 2018 class for the Tar Heels, with 6-foot-7 guard Rechon Black being the first.

Point guard Small to transfer from Oregon

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18:  Kendall Small #21 of the Oregon Ducks shoots over Derek Mountain #40 of the Holy Cross Crusaders in the second half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After navigating a lack of depth at the point to win the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles and earn the program’s first-ever one seed in the NCAA tournament, Oregon will have no such issues in 2016-17. Dylan Ennis, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, is back for another season as is returning starter Casey Benson. Add in freshman Payton Pritchard, whose shooting ability can help a team that struggled from three a season ago, and Dana Altman has multiple players to call upon at that spot.

That left Kendall Small, who played just under eight minutes per game as a freshman, in a spot where it would have been tough to earn more playing time as a sophomore. As a result he’s decided to transfer, with the news first being reported by Scout.com.

In addition to the three guards mentioned above, sophomore Tyler Dorsey also has the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. Small will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at whichever school he chooses to transfer to, and he’ll have to sit out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules.

A 6-foot guard from Anaheim, Small’s best outing came in Oregon’s 77-59 win over Savannah State on November 23. In that game Small accounted for nine points, four assists and three rebounds in 23 minutes of action. But he played double-digit minutes in just four games after the Ducks began Pac-12 play in early January, the last of which being Oregon’s win over Holy Cross in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

LIU Brooklyn loses second-leading scorer Hermannsson to pro ranks

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Bryan Sekunda #22 of the Stony Brook Seawolves attempts a pass around Martin Hermannsson #24 of the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds in the first half at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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After finishing tied for sixth place in the Northeast Conference last season, LIU Brooklyn will look to make the climb up the conference standings under head coach Jack Perri in 2016-17. However that climb got a bit tougher Thursday, as it was announced that guard Martin Hermannsson has decided to forego his final two years of eligibility and turn pro.

Hermannsson, a native of Iceland, has signed with French Pro B division team Etoile de Charleville-Mézières Ardennes.

Hermannsson was one of two first team All-NEC honorees for the Blackbirds last season, with redshirt junior forward Jerome Frink being the other. Hermannsson, a 6-foot-3 guard, finished the season with averages of 16.2 points and 4.7 assists per game, shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 36.0 percent from three. Originally on track to return the highest scoring tandem in the NEC, LIU Brooklyn has to account for the loss of their starting point guard and second-leading scorer without much time to do so before classes begin.

With Hermannsson moving on, the Blackbirds will call upon veterans such as seniors Joel Hernandez and Iverson Fleming to carry the load on the perimeter. LIU Brooklyn will also have to account for the loss of guard Aakim Saintil, who averaged 12.6 points and 4.7 assists in his lone season of eligibility. LIU Brooklyn will add two freshmen to its backcourt in Julian Batts and Ashtyn Bradley, and they’ll have an even greater opportunity to earn minutes than anticipated.

h/t Blackbirds Hoops Journal