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.

South Carolina coach suspends G Rakym Felder indefinitely

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard Rakym Felder has been suspended indefinitely and won’t attend classes this fall, another blow to a thinning Gamecock backcourt that reached the Final Four this past April.

Felder’s status was announced by coach Frank Martin on Wednesday.

Felder had been suspended since June 30 for his involvement in a fight outside a bar. He was arrested July 13 and charged with assault and battery.

“Due to some unfortunate decisions by Rakym, he has been suspended indefinitely from our program,” Martin said in a statement.

Felder’s loss further weakens a South Carolina team that was already short in the backcourt after last season’s NCAA Tournament run. Three starting guards from last year, including leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell, along with rising sophomore P.J. Dozier, are no longer with the team. Dozier entered the NBA draft and, after not getting selected, signed this month with the Dallas Mavericks.

Thornwell signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, who picked him in the second round.

Felder, from Brooklyn, New York, was supposed to slide into one of the openings created by the departing guards. He played in 36 games last season, averaging 14.6 minutes off the bench.

Like the rest of the team, Felder stepped things up in the NCAAs. He scored 15 points, including going 7-of-8 at the foul line in the final five minutes to hold off No. 2 seed Duke, 88-81, in the second round.

Felder had nine points and three assists in South Carolina’s Sweet 16 win, a 70-50 victory over No. 3 seed Baylor.

Minus Felder, the Gamecocks only guard from South Carolina’s regular rotation with experience at South Carolina is junior Hassani Gravett.

Felder took full responsibility for his actions and apologized to the school, the team and Gamecock fans in a statement through his attorney, Neal Lourie.

“I know I have let you down and I will have to work hard to regain your trust,” Felder said.

Lourie said Felder has personal issues that “he cannot fix alone and requires professional help.” Lourie did not elaborate on those problems.

This is the second time Felder has been arrested since enrolling. Last October, he was tasered by police stemming from a bar fight and charged with six counts, including assault and battery and resisting arrest.

Felder entered a pre-trial intervention program and played after missing only one game. “‘He’s a beautiful kid, not a good kid, a beautiful kid,” Martin said on Nov. 13 in defense of playing Felder against Holy Cross.

Lourie requested a jury trial on Felder’s latest charge. A trial date has not been set.

Martin said he’ll stand by Felder this time, too, and continue to “help Rakym grown as a young man even though basketball is not part of our relationship right now.”

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Top 2018 recruit R.J. Barrett names final five schools

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A top player in 2018 is down to five schools.

R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Monteverde Academy in Florida, announced Wednesday he’ll consider Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Oregon and Kentucky as his college destination.

Barrett is among those in the mix for the top spot in his class now with Marvin Bagley III reclassifying to 2017 this week and committing to Duke. He starred in Canada’s run to a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer, dropping 38 points on Team USA in a shocking semifinals win for the Canadians, who went on to defeat Italy in the finals. He averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game during the event.

The schools to make the cut for certainly are of little surprise. They’re among the biggest brands in basketball and have been among the recruiting elites for years.

Barrett was originally part of the 2019 class, but decided to reclassify earlier this summer.”Really, it’s been a thought of mine for the last year,” Barrett wrote for USA TODAY, “but I wanted to wait and see how the season would go and how school would go and when everything went well it became more and more real so I made the decision to go ahead and do it.

“I’m right on track to graduate in 2018 and academically everything is great.”

 

Big Ten reveals conference schedule with early-December games

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We knew it was coming, but seeing it in black-and-white is still plenty jarring.
The Big Ten is going to play conference games in early December.

The league announced its full conference schedule Wednesday, unveiling 14 first-week-of-December games ahead of nearly a month-long hiatus before Big Ten play picks up again in January.

It’s a move that was forced after the Big Ten decided it needed to expand its east coast presence after its expansion to Rutgers and Maryland, and will be playing its conference tournament on the eastern seaboard for the second-consecutive year, this time at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The problem with MSG is that the Big East hosts its annual conference tournament there, meaning the B1G will have to play its tournament a week early, March 1-4. That means a week less of January, February and March for the conference to play its 18 league games. Thus the early December start. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster broke down the situation in even more detail – and bite – last spring here.

Every team in the league will play both a home and a road game during that league’s first week, a soft opening if you will. Whether teams like the change or not will likely come down to circumstance  – what players they have injured or suspended, what players their opponents have injured or suspended and any other host of issues, but it’s hard to believe with all things being equal, Big Ten coaches will like this move. They’re playing extremely meaningful league games less than three weeks into the season with other conferences getting nearly 2 months of preparation before facing their toughest slate of games.

The B1G, though, will have more favorable and interesting games – even if they’re programmed against college football championship games (including their own) – that week than any other conference can boast, which likely means some nice TV ratings. Given why this change is being made, that’s probably the priority anyway.

South Carolina adds Maine grad-transfer Myers

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South Carolina is adding some immediate help in its follow-up season to a Final Four run.

Wesley Myers, a graduate transfer from Maine, is joining the Gamecocks’ program, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The 6-foot-2 guard gives Frank Martin’s team an instant infusion of scoring as they look to replace SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier. Myers 16.9 points per game last year on 43.7 percent shooting, including a 34.3 percent mark from 3-point range.

He’s the second grad-transfer Martin has picked up this offseason, joining Florida Atlantic’s Frank Booker. The pair should help ease the transition from last year’s success to a much less experienced team that returns just a pair of starters.

Myers, though, doesn’t arrive in Columbia without some notable history.

Last year, after transferring to Maine from Niagara, was suspended after an altercation with a teammate, according to reports. He and teammate Marko Pirovic argued over locker room music, and the alleged ensuing altercation left Pirovic with a broken jaw, according to reports. Three other Maine players were suspended after telling a team athletic trainer that Pirovic had injured himself in a fall in the shower. Pirovic declined to press charges.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: ‘We believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent’

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Virginia’s Tony Bennett finally spoke out on last weekend’s clash between white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and counter-protesters that resulted in the deaths of a 32-year old woman named Heather Heyer and two police officers involved in a helicopter crash:

Bennett does not exactly take a hard-line stance — the message is more about healing within the community and how much he loves his current hometown than it is about condemning what happened — but he does say “we believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent.”

Kyle Guy, a sophomore on the Virginia roster, had this to say on Sunday: