Kevin Ollie, DeAndre Daniels, Tyler Olander

The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Illinois seemed headed for glory in ’89, but Michigan prevailed (Chicago Sun Times)
While the 1989 Final Four ended up being remembered for Michigan’s winning the national title, one of the two teams the Wolverines beat was an Illinois squad some felt was the favorite to win it all. But they fell two points short, and it’s a missed opportunity that still weighs on the minds of some of the members of the “Flying Illini.”

Look who’s talking: Ollie tells Daniels to be more vocal (Hartford Courant)
Guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are the leaders for No. 7 UConn, and with that comes a lot of attention nationally. But junior forward DeAndre Daniels is also an important piece, and if anything there are times when head coach Kevin Ollie needs the Los Angeles native to be more assertive. And that goes for the verbal aspect of the game just as much as it does Daniels’ skill.

Gators heed advice of Billy Donovan, put aside Final Four distractions (Bradenton Herald)
One key for the teams in this weekend’s Final Four is to manage the distractions that come off the court. That means taking care of ticket requests and anything else that can get in the way of the players keeping their focus on the task at hand. For No. 1 Florida, head coach Billy Donovan gave his players Sunday and Monday to handle those areas, and his experience coaching in the Final Four is something the players will look to draw from.

Saints hope to rock the old house (Albany Times Union)
Siena hosts Game 2 of the CBI championship series on Wednesday, with the Saints looking to close things out after beating Fresno State on the road in Game 1. And they’ll be doing so on campus, with the Times Union Center unavailable due to events that have been scheduled for the facility.

The Northwestern Decision: An Explainer (Grantland)
With Northwestern football players winning the right to form a union, there’s been confusion as to what the development means for college sports as a whole. Here’s a solid breakdown of the situation, what it all means now and what it could mean down the line for Northwestern and collegiate athletics as a whole.

Ten most important players in the Final Four (USA Today)
Here’s a look at ten of the most important players in this weekend’s Final Four, led by Wisconsin junior Frank Kaminsky.

Calipari reminds Kentucky players: “we ain’t dead yet” (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Earlier this season Kentucky head coach John Calipari was forced to spend a lot of his time teaching things such as effort and body language, which stunted the growth of his young team. Once that changed in the latter portion of the season so did the Wildcats’ fortunes, and they’re in the Final Four as a result. And Calipari has made sure to remind his players that they aren’t done yet.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.