The Secondary Break: Monday’s Links

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UConn spurred into title game by Daniels, doubt (NBC Sports)
While both finalists can point to outsiders doubting their chances of reaching Monday’s title game, only one can do so after losing its regular season finale by 33 points. That’s No. 7 UConn, and the Huskies are rolling thanks in part to the improved play of DeAndre Daniels. With Daniels playing his best basketball of the season, Kevin Ollie’s program is hoping to win a fourth national title.

Calipari limping into Final Four (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been running his program at less than full strength for much of this season, thanks to a bad hip that will likely need to be replaced after the season ends. The hope now is to take a second national title into the offseason, as he works to get back into good physical condition.

Polarizing Wildcats find their way together (New York Times)
A key aspect of Kentucky’s late-season turnaround has been the improved play of twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Aaron’s received the majority of the praise given his making of big shots in wins over Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin, but Andrew’s improvement at the point has helped as well.

Title run giving paralyzed Kentucky fan feelings of happiness (CBS Sports)
There’s no doubt that sports can serve as a source of inspiration, with a person’s favorite player or team providing an example of what can happen with hard work and a little bit of luck. That’s been the case for Kentucky fan Dick Gregory, who has been a longtime supporter of the Wildcats. Gregory’s been paralyzed since falling at Rupp Arena on November 1, and head coach John Calipari and his players have taken time to lift his spirits throughout the season.

After weeks of ridicule, Kentucky’s “ink prophet” is now one win from vindication (Yahoo Sports)
When it was learned that 22-year old Tyler Austin Black had essentially guaranteed that Kentucky would win a ninth national title by getting a tattoo stating that on March 13, he became the butt of many jokes nationally. The Wildcats looked nothing like a title contender at the time, so the artwork represented wasted money in the eyes of many. However Black may have been onto something, and should the Wildcats complete their run Monday night he’ll have the last laugh.

Even as a kid at the Roxbury Y, Shabazz was something special (Hartford Courant)
UConn senior guard Shabazz Napier’s path to prominence has been well-documented, with his going from the Roxbury, Mass. to within a win of his second national title. And according to those who knew him when he was growing up, the point guard has always been something special.

UConn men’s bond extends well beyond court (Connecticut Post)
Given the struggles they endured at certain points in the season, neither UConn nor Kentucky would be in Monday’s title game if they did not remain close. For UConn, that means seven players living in the same apartment complex and the freshmen making a seamless transition into the program. And the relationships have made this season a special one for Kevin Ollie’s Huskies.

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 (
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.

The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Selflessness from Joe Harris helped UVA reach first Sweet 16 since 1995 (Sports Illustrated)
After earning first team All-ACC honors as a junior, Virginia guard Joe Harris could have looked to continue to put up prolific numbers in his senior season. But the options around him dictated something different for Harris, and his selfless nature is one reason why the Cavaliers are ACC champions and making their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1995.

McConnell’s No. 1 fan watching him in Anaheim (Arizona Daily Star)
Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell has been a difference-maker for the Wildcats this season, with his steady influence being exactly what the top seed in the West Region needed. And with the Wildcats one win away from their first Final Four appearance in 13 years McConnell’s biggest fan, his father Tim, is in attendance in Anaheim. With the family living in western Pennsylvania, this trip is a special one since they’ve only been able to see a handful of T.J.’s games in person this year.

Michigan sees key as containing Tennessee’s Stokes (Detroit Free Press)
No. 2 Michigan may be favored to return to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season, but the Wolverines are well aware of the challenge that No. 11 Tennessee represents. Chief among Michigan’s concerns is how they’ll go about containing Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes, whose play has been a key for the Volunteers during their run to the Sweet 16.

Matchup to watch: Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane vs. UConn’s Shabazz Napier (Des Moines Register)
Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup between No. 3 Iowa State and No. 7 UConn features two of the best point guards in the country, with Iowa State being led by DeAndre Kane and Shabazz Napier leading the way for UConn. While both teams have other talented contributors, how this matchup goes will have a major impact on the outcome.

Donovan preaches personal growth as Gators head to Elite Eight (New York Post)
After beating No. 4 UCLA Thursday night, No. 1 Florida will make its fourth straight Elite Eight appearance. And with a senior class that has yet to reach the Final Four, Florida head coach Billy Donovan continues to discuss the importance of personal growth with his team in advance of Saturday’s game against No. 11 Dayton.

Pitino-Calipari a frosty friendship (Louisville Courier-Journal)
With No. 4 Louisville and No. 8 Kentucky meeting in the NCAA tournament for the second time in the last three years, one of the best rivalries in sports once again takes center stage in March. And with that comes the question of just how well the two head coaches, Rick Pitino and John Calipari, actually get along at this point in their respective careers.

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.

The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Sons  of playground legends finally meet (San Diego Union-Tribune)
When No. 1 Arizona and No. 4 San Diego State face off on Thursday, two of the key players on display will be Arizona’s Nick Johnson and San Diego State’s Dwanye Polee II. Both are the sons of players who were known for their exploits on the basketball, and the fathers never played each other while collegians.

Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee ignore doubters, stay course to reach Sweet 16 (USA Today)
As recently as three weeks ago there were a number of Tennessee fans who wanted to see a change made in the leadership of the basketball program. But instead of worrying about the negativity, Martin and his players continued to work hard in hopes of turning their season around. And as a result, the Volunteers are in the Sweet 16.

Miller brothers give dad a Sweet 16 twofer (Arizona Daily Star)
While Sean Miller’s Arizona squad was expected to participate in the Sweet 16, the same can’t be said for Archie Miller’s Dayton Flyers. Yet here they are, with both head coaches giving their father a gift in the form of two quality match ups with a shot at getting to the Elite 8.

No money for college players? Now that’s rich (The Chronicle-Telegram)
The exploits of college athletes in recent days has resulted in coaches and administrators receiving even more money as a result of their program coin well in the NCAA Tournament. With all of the extra money being given to those people thanks to the achievements of their players, some have wondered whether or not it’s time for those athletes to be properly compensated.

Kentucky tattoo fan hopes to have the last laugh (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Just a couple weeks ago when it was learned that a Kentucky fan got a tattoo celebrating the 2014 national champions, many laughed given the Wildcats’ play at that time. Few saw that being a possible achievement for a young team that struggled to establish consistency for much of the season. However, with UK having won two games to reach the Sweet 16, Tyler Austin Black is hopeful that he’ll have the last laugh.

Ritchie McKay is “the other head coach” for Tony Bennett and Virginia (Washington Post)
With Virginia winning the ACC, head coach Tony Bennett has been the recipient of a lot of praise and rightfully so. But there’s another trusted voice on the UVA sideline in the form of associate head coach Ritchie McKay, whose prior experiences as a college head coach have proven to be invaluable.

The Secondary Break: Tuesday’s Links


Red v. Blue: The Official Theatrical Trailer
Last week the documentary “Red V. Blue,” which chronicles the rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky, was made available for purchase on multiple websites. And it’s fitting that the film would be available now, with the two programs meeting in the Sweet 16 later this week. Above is a trailer for the film.

A few ways NCAA really could be there for student athletes (Sports Business Journal)
With the season coming to a close, some players will have to determine whether they’ll return to school for another year or decide to go pro. Unfortunately for players the NCAA’s deadline to remove their name from the draft is in mid-April, hardly enough time for a player to make an informed decision while also being prohibited from speaking with an agent. Moving its deadline to match that of the NBA is one way in which the NCAA can look out for its student-athletes.

UM basketball coach Jim Larrañaga rebuilding roster with talented newcomers (Miami Herald)
After winning the ACC a season ago the Miami Hurricanes did not qualify for postseason play, with the loss of six talented contributors proving to be too much to overcome. And Miami’s expected to be an improved team next season, with transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan becoming eligible and freshman DeAndre Burnett being healthy as well.

Saint Louis facing big changes (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
After two highly successful seasons at the helm, Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews will have his work cut out for him in 2014-15. The Billikens’ loss to No. 4 Louisville Saturday meant that five senior starters have worn the SLU uniform for the last time, meaning that there will be some major changes for the program to deal with this offseason.

A Personal Choice (Sports on Earth)
With his freshman season coming to an end Friday afternoon, Duke freshman Jabari Parker now has a decision to make: does he return to Duke for his sophomore season, or will he move on to the NBA with lottery riches in his future? While it certainly seems like an easy choice from the outside, Parker will need to do what he feels is best for himself regardless of what outsiders think.

Absence proved Embiid’s worth (Lawrence Journal-World)
No. 2 Kansas saw its season come to an end Sunday, with No. 10 Stanford eliminating the Jayhawks in the Round of 32. And with Kansas playing without center Joel Embiid, it was clear that the freshman’s being sidelined had a major impact on their hopes of winning a national title.

Sweet 16 berth means big bonus for UCLA coach Steve Alford (Los Angeles Times)
An interesting subplot during March is watching which coaches end up getting paid, be it in the form of a new position, contract extension or bonus for reaching certain benchmarks. First-year UCLA head coach Steve Alford falls into the third category, as he’s added an extra $65,000 in postseason bonuses with the possibility of earning more should the Bruins continue to advance.