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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.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

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.