The Secondary Break: Monday’s Links

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For Ollie and his mom, a trip to Texas together (Connecticut Post)
No. 7 UConn wasn’t expected by many to reach the Final Four, yet they’re on their way to Texas after beating No. 4 Michigan State in the East regional final Sunday. For head coach Kevin Ollie that means a return to the Metroplex, as he was born in Dallas. And the trip’s a special one for his mother, who is six days removed from undergoing surgery for stage two breast cancer.

Why Travis Ford’s contract has been a burden for him and Oklahoma State (The Oklahoman)
Rarely does a college basketball coach receive a ten-year contract, and in the few cases in which that does happen the coach in question has put together quite the resume. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State and head coach Travis Ford that hasn’t been the case in Stillwater, and the natives are beyond restless. But with that deal, there really isn’t much that can be done.

Basketball academy’s empty promises (The Chronicle for Higher Education)
In recent years multiple prep schools have popped up across the country, with the goals being to provide students with an elite basketball environment while also making sure they qualify to receive a Division I scholarship. But a key for parents when considering the option is to make sure the school is reputable, as a bad decision can lead the child and his family down a winding path that ultimately reaches a dead end.

NCAA tournament should return to NYC as frequently as possible (CBS Sports)
The feedback from those who attended the NCAA tournament games at Madison Square Garden was overwhelmingly positive, with the combination of the return of the sport’s biggest event in more than 50 years and the big game atmosphere resulting in a  special weekend. And with that being the case, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make sure that MSG is home to more NCAA tournament games in the future.

Deal with it, America- Kentucky back in the Final Four, younger than ever (The Sporting News)
Just three weeks ago there were many who declared this season to be a lost one for the Kentucky Wildcats. With the guards struggling and the team as a whole not playing to the level expected, few saw a trip to the Final Four in their future. Yet here the young Wildcats are, as John Calipari’s program will make its third Final Four appearance in the last four years this week.

Final Four tickets up 27% in last three days behind underdogs UConn and Kentucky (Forbes)
Whether it’s gambling or ticket sales, money plays an important role in March Madness. And with regards to ticket sales for the Final Four, sellers received a nice boost thanks to the presence of Kentucky and UConn. According to Forbes Magazine there’s been a 27% increase in the price of tickets to the event thanks to the Wildcats and Huskies punching their respective tickets to Arlington, Texas.

Aaron Harrison feeling his shot (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Kentucky freshman guard Aaron Harrison struggled mightily down the stretch for the Wildcats, and his shot-making ability was something the Wildcats would need if they were to reach the Final Four. Sure enough Harrison’s gotten going of late, with his three-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining clinching Kentucky’s 75-72 win over No. 2 Michigan.

Shabazz Napier, Connecticut knock out Michigan State (USA Today)
Shabazz Napier has been the leader all season long for No. 7 UConn, which has reached the Final Four after beating Michigan State on Sunday. The Huskies, who ended the regular season with an 81-48 loss at Louisville, faced long odds to get here and that goes for Napier as well. But a special relationship with his mother has buoyed Napier, and as a result he’s been able to lead his team.

Keith Appling finds final Michigan State moments difficult to put into words (MLive.com)
Michigan State point guard Keith Appling has been dealing with a bad right wrist for quite some time, and while the senior put on a brave front it was clear by his play that the issue was still bothering him. In what would turn out to be the final game of his college career Appling struggled once again in a loss to UConn, and afterward he struggled to find the words to explain what happened.

Diallo withdrawing from draft, returning to Kentucky

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It took plenty of time for the news to make its way public, but it was a wait that proved welcome for Kentucky fans.

Wildcat freshman Hamidou Diallo will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Kentucky, the school announced

Diallo’s situation was one of the more interesting in college basketball as he became an incredibly intriguing pro prospect despite being on a college roster and never playing a minute.

The five-star recruit enrolled at Kentucky in January after attending a semester of prep school with the plan to redshirt the season and then play for the Wildcats in 2017-18. There were rumblings and rumors about Diallo potentially playing for John Calipari’s group last year, but ultimately they stuck to the plan to keep him on the bench and preserve his eligibility. Throughout it all, there was always the specter that Diallo could just decide to go the professional route anyway.

That possibility moved fully into the forefront earlier this month when Diallo showed off a 44.5-inch vertical leap at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. The 6-foot-5 guard also recorded a wingspan that nearly measured 7-feet. With those types of physical traits, he makes for an awfully interesting professional prospect, regardless of refinement or experience.

Given Diallo’s lack of high-level experience, though, there was no guarantee he’d be a first-round selection as teams would be wary of drafting solely on potential, rather than the mostly they typically do.

“I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season,” Diallo said in a statement. “Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title.

“I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”

Going back to Lexington to play college basketball gives Diallo a chance to showcase his skills against competition the NBA will be able to evaluate him against. It also makes Kentucky – surprise, surprise – extremely formidable this season as they, once again, restock the roster with potential lottery- and first-round picks. With Diallo officially in the fold, Kentucky is a no-doubt top-five team that will be among the favorites to cut down the nets in April 2018.

“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a statement. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship.
“I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know.  He’s a special player and a special person.”

LaVar Ball selling “Stay In Yo Lane” shirts

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Create controversy. Profit from controversy.

It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.

The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.

Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.

Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.

It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.

This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

A post shared by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (@sviat_10) on

The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Caleb Swanigan to stay in NBA draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.