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The Secondary Break: Tuesday’s Links

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Milwaukee’s Aaron inspired by late mother (New York Post)
The NCAA tournament tends to offer up a number of highly compelling story lines, and one of those this season is that of Milwaukee guard Jordan Aaron. Aaron, whose mother passed away after a bout with cancer five years ago, was the inspiration as he helped lead the Panthers to the Horizon League’s automatic bid.

A lone voice takes a shot against March Madness (Miami Herald)
For college basketball fans this week marks the beginning of the best time of the season, with 68 teams competing to determine the national champion. But not everyone’s on board with the fact that the NCAA tournament is one of the best sporting events in sports.

Next step for NCAA-bound Buffs: Win in March (Colorado Springs Gazette)
The Colorado Buffaloes are headed to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season under head coach Tad Boyle, and their eight-seed is the highest in school history. But while this is certainly a noteworthy achievement for Colorado, the next step to be taken is to advance in the NCAA tournament with CU having a 1-2 record in their last two appearances.

Anatomy of an upset: Ingredients for unforgettable NCAA tournament games (USA Today)
Upsets are one of the most exciting aspects of the NCAA tournament, with schools many fans haven’t seen much of picking off a “brand name” school and capturing the nation’s imagination as a result. But what’s the recipe for pulling off an upset? There are some common bonds amongst schools that have pulled off the feat in the past, and those bonds are worth considering when filling out your bracket.

Dayton aims to keep “First Four” beyond 2015 (Cincinnati Enquirer)
The NCAA tournament begins Tuesday with two games in Dayton, with the city hosting two more First Four games on Wednesday night. Dayton’s embraced being the starting point of the NCAA tournament, which has been the case since the event expanded to include a 65th team in 2001. And although their current contract expires after next season’s tournament, Dayton is working hard to make sure the road to the Final Four continues to begin there.

St. Joe’s coach takes back seat to grandson (Associated Press)
Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli has his team back in the NCAA tournament, and he did so while dealing with a difficult year away from basketball. But one of the people who have helped he and his wife is their 4-year old grandson, who’s become a celebrity of sorts for his mimicking of his grandfather during Saint Joseph’s games. Look for Phillip to be in Buffalo this week when the Hawks take on seven-seed UConn.

Lobos approach NCAA tournament differently (Albuquerque Journal)
After winning the Mountain West’s regular season and tournament titles a season ago, New Mexico was a trendy pick to go deep into the NCAA tournament. But that outside noise may have been a distraction for the Lobos, who paid too much attention to the praise and ended up losing to Harvard. This season brings about a different approach, with Craig Neal and his team doing their best to avoid the outside chatter.

March Madness: Canadians set to play starring roles (Hamilton Spectator)
One of the more interesting aspects of college basketball in recent years has been the growing influence that Canada’s had on the sport. Once an afterthought with a few players making the move across the border, Canada has managed to produce some very talented players in recent years. And with stars such as Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis in this season’s field, this has the potential to be a big tournament for Canadian players.

Marshall should be pursuing D’Antoni (Charleston Daily Mail)
With Marshall relieving head coach Tom Herrion of his head coaching duties a few days ago, the program finds itself looking for a coach who can improve the Thundering Herd’s standing within Conference USA. And according to columnist Chuck Landon, one option the school needs to consider is current Los Angeles Lakers head coach and West Virginia native Mike D’Antoni.

Former Manhattan coach Gonzalez still teaching, scouting basketball (New York Post)
Ten years ago today the Manhattan Jaspers upset Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament, something the current team hopes to duplicate in its opener against Louisville later this week. The head coach of that team was Bobby Gonzalez, who hasn’t run a program since his tumultuous four-year tenure at Seton Hall came to an end in 2010. And while there have been comments about why Gonzalez hasn’t taken another job, Gonzalez says that he’s happy with what he’s doing now.

Roy Williams: ‘There’s no question’ more ACC games equal no Kentucky in non-conference

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Back in June, when the ACC officially announced that they would be expanding the league schedule to 20 games in 2019, I tried to warn you that it was going to put a dent into the non-conference schedule and the amount of quality, on-campus games that we’ll get prior to January.

Roy Williams essentially confirmed this as fact this week.

The North Carolina head coach hopped on a podcast with ESPN and more or less said that the bigger league schedule is going to lead to an end of some of UNC’s marquee home-and-home series.

“My feeling right now, and it could change by ’19, heck I could be fired by ’19, but my feeling right now is to play our conference schedule, play one exempt event where you have really good teams, and other than that play home games to help out your revenue and help out your budget,” Williams said. “We have the ACC/Big Ten and that’s not going to go away. So it’s 21 games already scheduled.”

When asked specifically if this would put an end to UNC’s series with Kentucky, Williams said, “Oh yeah, there’s no question. Why would I need to do that?”

There’s two reasons this makes sense. On the one hand, North Carolina needs to fill their home arena a certain number of times to help with the bottom line of the athletic department. They make enough off of ticket sales, merchandise sales, parking fees and food and beverage that they can afford to pay out more than $50,000 to bring a smaller opponent into their arena. More than that, playing a series of weaklings early in the year allows players to gain confidence, it allows Williams to figure out what his rotation will be and who can handle playing at this level, and it gives newcomers a chance to assimilate into his team against players that just aren’t that good.

And when a larger ACC schedule severely limits the number of non-conference games that UNC will be able to play, what’s going to get cut are the contracts that require the Tar Heels to play on the road when they don’t have to.

So buh-bye, Kentucky, it is.

John Calipari helping to raise money for Louisiana flood victims

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It’s easy to be critical of John Calipari.

You don’t have to be a Louisville fan to know all the jokes by now. He cheated at UMass. He cheated at Memphis. He’s had two Final Fours vacated. Teflon John. Yada yada yada.

I get it. Negativity comes with success, particularly for someone who is as brash about his success as Coach Cal is.

But even Cal’s harshest critics cannot begrudge the work he does — can get his players to do — for charity and how well he can harness the power of Big Blue Nation to make a tangible difference. Remember the ‘Hoops for Haiti’ telethon that raised more than $1 million to help earthquake victims back in 2010? Or the hundreds of thousands of dollars he raised for Hurricane Sandy relief? Or when his fantasy camps generated more than $1 million in charitable donations?

And should I mention the amount of times that stories of Kentucky players befriending sick kids or visiting children’s hospitals?

The cynic in me could say that all of this is for branding, helping ensure his players are image-conscious and aware of the sponsorship opportunities that come with being a likable, relatable and humble athlete. There’s probably some truth to that.

But do you think the kids that get visits from their Big Blue heroes care? Do you think it matters to the charities that get seven-figure checks to help with disaster relief?

I say all that to say this: During a press conference on Thursday morning, Cal had this to say, via SEC Country:

Calipari said former UK star Anthony Davis (currently of the New Orleans Pelicans) told Calipari, “Coach, you gotta do something” for Baton Rouge flood victims. Davis is out of the country but will try to get back for Sunday’s softball game to help. His 2012 title teammates, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, were not previously on the celeb list for Sunday but will be there.

Calipari has decided to donate all proceeds from Sunday’s alumni/celebrity softball game will go to the Baton Rouge flood-relief fund, through Red Cross. “So what I’m asking you to do is buy these tickets.” They’re $5 apiece. The previously raised funds will still go to the other designated charities, like each year.

For those so inclined, you can donate to the flooding fund by texting “GIVE” to 859-955-8173.

Vermont women cancels game in North Carolina over HB2

DURHAM, NC - MAY 10:  A unisex sign and the "We Are Not This" slogan are outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use.  (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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The University of Vermont is the latest in a ever-growing line of organizations canceling events in North Carolina due to the controversial HB2 law.

The Catamounts will not be traveling to play the Tar Heels on Dec. 28th as previously scheduled.

“We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued,” the school wrote in a statement. “It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

“This decision was made in consultation with our coaches, the women’s basketball team, and key university officials. We fully understand and sympathize with the impact that this decision may have on the North Carolina women’s basketball schedule. However, we believe this decision is consistent with our values and the conversations with our coaches and student team members. These were the most important considerations.”

Known as the “bathroom bill”, HB2 is the law that requires transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex that they were born not the sex they identify with.

Earlier this year, Albany was forced to cancel a trip to Duke due to legislation in New York regarding visits to North Carolina. The NBA has taken the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, and the NCAA is heavily considering pulling NCAA tournament games from the state.

Interestingly, ACC commissioner John Swofford was very non-committal on the subject when asked yesterday.

Derek Willis won’t be suspended for offseason citiation

Kentucky's Derek Willis (35) hits an uncontested three point shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 80-70. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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John Calipari gave a press conference on Thursday morning and, for the first time since his arrest in June, the Kentucky head coach spoke about Derek Willis.

Willis, if you’ve forgotten, was found passed out in the street outside the open driver’s side door of his car at 4:30 a.m. You can see video of the arrest here. Willis is very lucky he wasn’t killed, and that he didn’t kill anyone else trying to drive in that condition.

Cal said that Willis will not be suspended for any games, but “Derek knows he’s under a different eye now than he was.” He did not elaborate on what kind of punishment Willis will receive beyond that, saying that “I don’t throw people under the bus.”

To be honest, I’m a little surprised that Willis won’t be forced to miss any games, but if we’re being frank, sitting out an exhibition and Kentucky’s opener sounds much more appealing than the kind of, ahem, ‘conditioning drills’ that Willis has likely spent the summer doing.

PODCAST: Boeheim’s non-controversy and the coaches we don’t want to fight

Jim Boeheim
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In today’s podcast, I’m joined by Travis Hines to discuss stuff that has been in the news over the course of the last two weeks, specifically Jim Boeheim’s comments about Carmelo Anthony and why it is a total non-controversy.

We also dive into why Boeheim’s comments are forced to be taken out of context as well as Monte’ Morris, ‘Pancake’ Thomas and which college basketball coaches we would least like to fight.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.