Big 12 goes from dead to top hoops conference

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Turns out the Big 12’s demise was greatly exaggerated.

Thanks to commissioner Dan Beebe’s last-minute proposal to Texas, the Big 12 isn’t disintegrating. Colorado and Nebraska may be gone, but the conference will continue, simply with 10 teams.

Rod Aydelotte/AP

Cue sighs of relief from various parts of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Texas. There. Feel better?

Now, if the Big 12 stays at 10 teams (forget naming issues for a moment), we can thank the football-driven realignment for providing us with the nation’s best college basketball conference.

That’s right, the best. Ditching deadweight like Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 with no weak links. (Well, maybe Iowa State. Though who knows? Maybe Fred Hoiberg will be a natural…)  Check this lineup:

Kansas is one of nation’s elite programs. Texas brings in elite recruits and hasn’t missed the Big Dance since ’98. Baylor and Kansas State were Elite Eight teams this season. Missouri and Oklahoma got there last season. Oklahoma State has won two NCAA titles and continues to be a March contender. Texas A&M has turned itself from laughingstock (0-16 in league play in 2004) to NCAA tournament mainstay. Texas Tech started the last decade strong and has faded a bit, but is far superior to the ‘Huskers or Buffs.

Those were the league’s worst teams the last 10 years.

Nebraska was the picture of mediocrity. It was 159-149 overall, won 37 percent of its league games and hasn’t been to the NCAA tourney since ’98. It’s average league finish? Eighth.

Colorado was worse. It wasn’t as consistently mediocre, making the Big Dance in 2003 and winning 20 games twice in the last 10 years. But it was dead last in the Big 12 three of the last four years and just lost its coach.

That leaves Texas Tech and Iowa State as the league’s two “pushovers,” though that’s’ hardly the case. Both are among the league’s best home teams – leaving Lubbock or Ames with a victory is about as easy as leaving Lawrence with one – and figure to stay that way.

The new Big 12. It’s not a MEGA conference, and it’s still football driven. But its basketball takes a backseat to no league.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops.

Cody Riley cuts list to five schools

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Cody Riley has cut his list to five schools, according to Scout.com.

A four-star four man, Riley is now considering just UConn, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC.

Ranked the No. 29 player in the Class of 2017 by Rivals, Riley is an undersized-but-powerful forward. His bread and butter is on the block, where his strength and low center of gravity make him a nightmare to deal with, but he’s also skilled enough to do damage as a face-up four.

Riley is from California and will be playing his senior season alongside Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018, at Sierra Canyon.

Auburn continues to stockpile talent, adds top 50 prospect in 2017

Bruce Pearl
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Auburn’s hire of Bruce Pearl was almost universally lauded as the first step towards the return of relevance for the Tiger basketball program.

And while the results have yet to shine through on the floor, Pearl is unequivocally stockpiling the kind of talent that will allow him to push for trips to the NCAA tournament and maybe one day contend for a league crown with Kentucky.

The latest step came on Sunday, when Pearl landed a commitment from Chuma Okeke, a top 50 wing prospect out of Georgia.

“He is a versatile wing who can handle and score,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “Coming off of a big July, Okeke could move up the national rankings and Auburn pounced on him right away.”

Okeke joins big man Austin Wiley, a top ten player in the class, and Davion Mitchell, who is likely one of the five best point guards in the country, in what is currently the nation’s best recruiting class in 2017. That’s before you consider that Pearl already has Mustapha Heron, a top 25 prospect, joining the mix this season.

“This group has the makings of a monster recruiting class for Auburn,” Phillips said.

Okeke picked the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and a number of other programs across the southeast.

VIDEO: Watch Virginia freshman Jay Huff dunk from the free throw line

Tony Bennett
AP Photo/Nell Redmond
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Jay Huff is a member of Tony Bennett’s best recruiting class to date, a 6-foot-11 top 50 recruit from North Carolina.

He also happens to be pretty athletic.

Don’t believe me?

Check out this video that McDonald’s All-American Kyle Guy tweeted out on Sunday night:

Yup, that’s Huff taking off from the foul line to dunk.

Not bad, young fella.

Seton Hall’s Derrick Gordon won’t pursue pro basketball to become a firefighter

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12:  Derrick Gordon #32 of the Seton Hall Pirates celebrates after hitting a basket against the Villanova Wildcats during the Big East Basketball Tournament Championship at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2016 in New York City. Seton Hall Pirates defeated Villanova Wildcats 69-67.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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After a successful career that included stops at Western Kentucky, UMass and Seton Hall, Derrick Gordon, Division I college basketball’s first openly gay player, will not pursue professional opportunities and will instead become a firefighter.

The 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a senior for the Pirates, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament during his graduate transfer year. By making the NCAA tournament with Seton Hall this past season, Gordon became the first college basketball player to reach the event with three different teams.

A tenacious perimeter defender who could have earned a pro contract if he stuck with basketball, Gordon will instead pursue a career as a firefighter in San Francisco.

“I’ve had an amazing basketball career and want to thank everybody who has always been there supporting me every step on the way,” Gordon said via his Instagram. “But I’m making a change in my career…I will now be working towards becoming a San Francisco Firefighter!! I’m excited about this and looking forward to having a long career!!”

While Gordon likely would have never made the NBA on talent alone, his defensive prowess would have likely given him a shot overseas or in the D League. It’s hard to say why Gordon is making this decision, but given what we saw with all of the attention surrounding Michael Sam when he tried to play in the NFL, Gordon was probably going to face a lot of scrutiny wherever he decided to play.

Hopefully Gordon finds his calling as a firefighter and brings the same energy and leadership that he brought on the floor to helping other people outside of basketball.

Washington guard Markelle Fultz pulls off sick spin and dunk at FIBA U18 Americas

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armour
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Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the premier players in the country next season as his unique game is going to be fascinating to watch.

The 6-foot-5 Fultz is currently playing with the USA U18 team in Chile for the FIBA U18 Americas as he’s second on the team in scoring and first in assists as the Americans play Canada for the title on Saturday.

Against the host country, Fultz had an electric spin move in the paint and finished with an easy dunk. If you’re not willing to stay up late to watch this dude play this year, then set your DVRs, because Fultz is going to have some fun moments during the season.

(H/t: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report)