AP Photo

The Secondary Break: Tuesday’s Links

Leave a comment

Frank Kaminsky big reason why Wisconsin is in Final Four (New York Daily News)
No. 2 Wisconsin will play in the Final Four for the first time since 2000 on Saturday, and one of the biggest reasons as to why is 7-foot center Frank Kaminsky. One of the nation’s most-improved players, Kaminsky scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Badgers’ win over No. 1 Arizona in the West regional final.

UConn’s Calhoun, Auriemma there for Kevin Ollie (Associated Press)
In his second season as the head coach at UConn, Kevin Ollie has his alma mater in the Final Four. And he’s got a good support system behind him as well, with former head coach Jim Calhoun and women’s head coach Geno Auriemma being important sounding boards for Ollie.

Mike Montgomery’s legacy is changing the perception of Stanford basketball (Yahoo Sports)
On Monday Cal head coach Mike Montgomery announced his decision to retire from coaching, ending what has been a highly successful career on the sidelines. Among Montgomery’s accomplishments was the job he did at Stanford, transforming that program into one of the (at the time) Pac-10’s premier programs.

Ivan McFarlin and the 2004 Cowboys left their egos at the door (The Oklahoman)
This season marks the ten-year anniversary of Oklahoma State’s last trip to the Final Four, with the Cowboys beating Saint Joseph’s in the East regional final before losing to Georgia Tech in the national semifinals. Eddie Sutton’s group may not have included a player who went on to be a star professionally, but the group was full of guys who sacrificed personal glory in order to make sure the team was successful.

At any level, Bo Ryan’s method is well-suited for March Madness (USA Today)
Much has been made about this being the first trip to the Division I Final Four for Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. However he’s been on the Final Four stage, albeit at the Division III level as he led UW-Platteville to four national titles in 15 seasons at the helm. One of his players was Saul Phillips, who’s now the head coach at North Dakota State.

Florida looks to avenge December loss to UConn in Final Four (Gainesville Sun)
No. 1 Florida is the only team in the Final Four to have played each of the other three teams this season, as they’ve defeated Kentucky three times and lost to both Wisconsin and UConn. And while their 65-64 loss to the Huskies back in early December gives Billy Donovan’s team a “reference point” of sorts, these two teams are different outfits now than they were during the regular season meeting.

Kentucky “in a great frame of mind” for Final Four (Lexington Herald-Leader)
After being seen as a disappointment for much of the regular season, No. 8 Kentucky is in the spot many expected them to occupy back in October: preparing for the Final Four. The task of beating No. 2 Wisconsin will be difficult, and the fact that head coach John Calipari doesn’t expect to have the injured Willie Cauley-Stein doesn’t help maters.

Union chief’s immediate focus on policy, not money (Chicago Sun-Times)
When news broke last week that the Chicago chapter of the NLRB granted the Northwestern football team the right to form a union, many assumed that this was about the players getting paid. However that isn’t the case, with the CAPA looking to change policy regarding concussions, medical care and transfer rules.

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
Leave a comment

Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
Leave a comment

Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.