The Secondary Break: Thursday’s Links

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Critics should lay off Scott Drew with Baylor one win from third Elite Eight since 2010 (Yahoo Sports)
Baylor head coach Scott Drew has been on the receiving end of a solid amount of criticism in recent years, primarily from those outside of the program. However entering Thursday’s game against No. 2 Wisconsin the head coach is 17-4 in postseason play since 2010, and a win over the Badgers would mean his third Elite Eight in five seasons. It’s beyond time for folks to drop the “he can’t coach” drivel.

Calhoun built UConn with force of will (ESPN New York)
No. 7 UConn will return to Madison Square Garden, site of many great moments in the school’s basketball history, this weekend for the NCAA tournament’s East Regional. And the man responsible for many of those moments, Jim Calhoun, will be there watching as the program he led to three national titles looks to win a fourth.

Running UCLA’s offense, Kyle Anderson thriving at the point (New York Post)
After being a one-and-done team in last season’s NCAA tournament the UCLA Bruins are in the Sweet 16, and one big reason why has been versatile point guard Kyle Anderson. Standing 6-foot-9, Anderson leads the team in both assists and rebounds and poses a serious matchup issue for many opponents.

Madison Square Garden sees return of NCAA tournament, which has long history in New York City (New York Daily News)
With the East Regional being played at Madison Square Garden, this is the first time in more than 50 years that “The World’s Most Famous Arena” has hosted the Big Dance. But even with that being the case, MSG has a long history not only with the NCAA tournament but college basketball as a whole.

College basketball fans aplenty embrace Josh Huestis (Great Falls Tribune)
Stanford’s trip to the Sweet 16 is something few people expected on Selection Sunday. But the Cardinal managed to pick up wins over New Mexico and Kansas, with senior forward Josh Huestis being one of their key contributors. One of the nation’s best defenders, the Montana native doesn’t lack for fans either.

Brady Heslip has been a force forever for Baylor (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
One of the key players in Baylor’s current run of 12 wins in its last 14 games has been senior guard Brady Heslip, who provides spacing in the form of his ability to knock down perimeter shots. And despite teams knowing what he’s on the floor to do, Heslip’s averaging nearly 12 points per game and making just over three three-pointers per game.

Billy Donovan, Steve Alford almost faced each other in 1987 Final Four (Florida Times-Union)
Now head coaches and Florida and UCLA, respectively, Billy Donovan and Steve Alford were both participants in the 1987 Final Four in New Orleans. Alford’s Indiana team won the national title that season, defeating a Syracuse that that eliminated Donovan’s Providence Friars in the national semifinals. 27 years later they’ll meet in Memphis, with two other guards (UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin) being the most important figures on the floor.

Kentucky’s Julius Randle learned the hard way from mom (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Kentucky freshman forward Julius Randle has been one of the nation’s best freshmen this season, and his play is one reason why the Wildcats are in the Sweet 16. As for the skill level that has made him such a highly regarded prospect, that came from his mother as she was a standout at UT-Arlington. And the combination of a strong mother and a good mentor has helped Randle get to where he is today.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?

North Carolina’s Luke Maye declaring for NBA draft without hiring agent

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina junior Luke Maye has declared for the NBA draft but isn’t hiring an agent.

The 6-foot-8 forward was a third-team Associated Press All-American after averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most improved player after increasing his scoring average by 11.4 points from his sophomore to junior seasons.

Coach Roy Williams says in a statement that it’s ”a great opportunity” for Maye to work out for NBA teams and get feedback on what to improve in his game.

The deadline for college players to declare early for the draft was Sunday night. Players who don’t hire an agent can maintain their college eligibility as long as they withdraw by May 30, which is 10 days after the NBA draft combine.