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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.

Big Ten releases conference schedule

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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The Big Ten released its 2016-17 conference schedule on Thursday as the conference season begins on Dec. 27 with a four-game set.

Conference play will conclude on March 5th before the 20th annual Big Ten Tournament is played at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. from March 8-12.

Some notable games include Penn State hosting Michigan State at the Palestra on Jan. 7.

You can view the full Big Ten schedule here.

Arizona’s Talbott Denny injures knee, out for season

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Arizona senior forward Talbott Denny will miss the season after tearing the ACL and medial meniscus in his left knee.

The school said Wednesday that the 6-foot-5 graduate transfer from Lipscomb will have surgery.

Denny, from Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic High School, missed all of last season at Lipscomb because of a shoulder injury.

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 public restroom 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.