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Colonial Athletic conference tournament preview

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Unless you have a dog in this fight, here is your homework: root for Drexel and VCU to make it to the CAA title game.

Root as hard as you can.

Because if you are one of those people — like me — that would rather see a quality mid-major basketball team that has put together a stirring run late in the season get a bid over a team like UConn or Mississippi State, a talented group that clearly is not enjoying the season and would get just as much out of a trip to the NIT as they would a spot in the Big Dance, than you need VCU and Drexel in the title game.

Because both of those teams have a very really shot at getting an at-large bid if that were to happen.

Look, the CAA did not do a lot of good things in the non-conference portion of their schedule. They don’t have many stirring non-conference wins. But this is also a league that, on the whole, is young this season. They’ve grown. They’ve gotten better. And now there are (at least) two teams that are deserving of a spot in the NCAA Tournament but, for what ever reason, just don’t have a powerful enough resume to command lock-status.

The Bracket

Where: Richmond, VA

When: March 2nd-March 5th

Final: March 5th, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2

Favorite: Drexel

Drexel started out the season 2-4, but that came as they were getting freshman Damion Lee adjusted to playing basketball at this level and while working Chris Fouch back from an offseason injury. Two of those losses came with Fouch in street clothes. Two more of them came in Fouch’s first two games back. Now he’s healthy and Lee is playing great, which is why Drexel has won 17 straight games and 23 of their last 24. They have one — just one — loss since Dec. 3rd.

And if they lose?: VCU

The Rams are on a similar run. They’ve won 14 of their last 15 games. The one loss? At George Mason, when Mason caught fire over the last minute. VCU went 5-6 from the free throw line and didn’t commit a turnover while blowing a five point lead in the final 50 seconds. Brad Burgess has not exactly had the season we all imagined he would have, but VCU has gotten some impressive play out of big man Juvonte Reddic and point guard Dareus Theus. This group still loves to press, they still force turnovers and they still shoot threes.

Sleepers: I don’t know if you can call George Mason a sleeper, but they ended up finishing the league in third place and have the best front line in the conference. Old Dominion has been rebuilding this year, but they still play as hard as anyone in the league and have a kid by the name of Kent Bazemore. He went for 37 in a loss to Drexel last week. Keep an eye on Georgia State as well, as they have put together a very nice season in Ron Hunter’s first year in Atlanta.

Studs:

Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion: Bazemore is a delight to watch play basketball. He’s 6’5″ and a terrific athlete. He defends as hard as anyone in the country and, this season, he’s scoring the ball very well.

Ryan Pearson, George Mason: Pearson is like the anti-Bazemore. He’s a slow-footed, bearded, 6’7″ power forward with “Old Man” game. But he’s a double-double waiting to happen and a threat to hit a three as well.

Mike Moore, Hofstra: He’s not Charles Jenkins and he hasn’t led Hofstra to 20 wins, but Moore is averaging 20.0 ppg on the season. He can light it up.

Devon Saddler, Delaware: Just a sophomore, Saddler has a chance to be a very good player by the time his career is done.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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

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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)

POSTERIZED: Class of 2016 forward Chris Seeley has a massive dunk on defender

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The Las Vegas AAU events are all going on this week and it’s the final event for rising seniors.

At the Las Vegas Fab 48, forward Chris Seeley of the Splash City 17U team put down one of the best poster dunks of the summer as he skied over a defender for an emphatic finish.

The Class of 2016 forward attends Central High School in Fresno, California as he’s receiving plenty of buzz for his recent play.

 

 

 

Five-star forward Jarred Vanderbilt cuts list to nine

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Five-star Class of 2017 forward Jarred Vanderbilt has been one of the most sought-after recruits in the country since he was a freshman in high school.

The 6-foot-8 native of Houston is beginning to wind things down in the recruiting process as he cut his list to nine schools on Friday. Vanderbilt’s list includes some of the most storied programs in college basketball and plenty of schools from his home state of Texas.

“I just followed my heart. Went with the schools I liked the most and who I have the best relationships with. Thear were the schools I could see myself playing for,” Vanderbilt told NBCSports.com.

Regarded as the No. 13 overall prospect in the Rivals.com national rankings, Vanderbilt is currently recovering from a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot.

Vanderbilt will see a doctor in three-to-four weeks as he’s currently in a boot to help his foot heal.

Report: Michigan State and Penn State will play at the Palestra

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Head coach Patrick Chambers of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has previously expressed a desire to coach a game at the legendary Palestra in Philadelphia and it appears he’ll get his chance in a Big Ten game this season.

According to a report from Brendan F. Quinn of MLive, Penn State will use the Palestra as its home gym for the Jan. 7, 2017 Big Ten game against Michigan State. It is the only time the two teams are scheduled to play during Big Ten season and Penn’s home gym will offer a unique setting for the game.

Since the capacity of the Palestra is 8,722, it should make for a fun atmosphere for both programs since this will be a game both fan bases will likely want to attend.

With Nittany Lions head coach Pat Chambers making Philadelphia a major recruiting priority for his program, a game like this in Philadelphia makes sense while Michigan State has always been open to playing games in unique settings such as aircraft carriers.

The Palestra has been a college basketball mainstay since it was built in 1927 as it hosts all Penn home games and, in the past, hosted a lot of Big 5 Philadelphia college games between La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova.

Overall, a fun idea that should make for an interesting experience for both programs. It’s not often that a team will change its home venue for a conference game, but it could be the start of something we see other schools look to do.