Tony Wroten, Mike Ladd

Pac-12 conference tournament preview

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There’s not need to even dance around the subject: the only thing that anybody is going to be paying attention to heading into the Pac-12 tournament is whether or not this league is capable of sending more than just their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. So in lieu of actually writing something worth while in this space, who wants some bubble watch goodness?!?

– Cal: They have a strong RPI and a decent strength of schedule. They’ve gone 3-0 against Washington and Oregon. But their loss to archrival Stanford on the last day of the regular season could end up being a killer is they lose in the quarterfinals to Stanford again? What about to Oregon in the semifinals? They might want to make the finals to be safe.

– Washington: Watching Washington play, this team is certainly talented enough to make the Sweet 16. But they backed into the outright league title when Cal lost on Sunday, went just 4-8 against the top 100 and have wins over Oregon and Arizona. And that’s it. They probably want to make the finals to be safe.

– Oregon: The Ducks are the most interesting team in the Pac-12. Their resume is ‘meh’, but they have been the hottest team in the conference down the stretch — they won six of their last seven, including a 25 point win over Washington — and finished tied for second in the regular season. They are also a much different team with Devoe Joseph in the mix. How will the committee judge that?

– Arizona: Yeah, no. Win the auto-bid or make NIT plans.

The Bracket

Where: Los Angeles

When: March 7th-March 10th

Final: March 10th, 6 p.m. CBS

Favorite: Washington

The Huskies may not be the most consistent team in the conference, but they are the regular season champions and the most talented team in the league. And Lorenzo Romar always gets his teams peaking late in the season. It feels like each of the last four or five years, Washington has been underwhelming during the regular season before making a run in both the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments. Without fact-checking I can tell you that’s probably false, but that just goes to show you the reputation that Romar has developed with his program. I think they live up to it again.

And if they lose?: Cal

Jorge Gutierrez is the league’s Player of the Year, Allen Crabbe is one of the league’s most dangerous scorers and Justin Cobbs has turned out to be a pretty good option at the point. The only issue for Cal has been interior play. Harper Kamp is banged up and Richard Solomon is out for the year because of academics.

Other contenders?: Oregon has been a completely different team with Devoe Joseph in the mix. He’s averaging 16.9 ppg and the Ducks are 18-6 with him in the lineup. Over the last seven games, they are 6-1 and Joseph is playing as well as he has all season long. He’s not alone, either. EJ Singler and Garrett Sim both had good years and Olu Ashaolu and Carlos Emory have been big inside.

Sleeper: Arizona

The Wildcats are just a young group right now, and its cost them some games. That said, they are a talented group, and while they are probably still a year or two away from really being a factor nationally, they are good enough that stringing together a run in March isn’t out of the question.

Deeper sleepers: I picked Oregon State to win the conference at the midseason break. So I’ll pick Oregon State as the deeper sleeper in the conference tournament. See what I did there?

Studs:

Jared Cunningham, Oregon State: Aggressive driver, terrific defender, convicted posterizer.

Jorge Gutierrez, Cal: The best compliment you can give a player is that he is miserable to play against. Gutierrez is miserable to play against. He’s a leader, a defensive presence and the toughest kid in the country.

Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, Washigton: Wroten has been putting up the biggest numbers for the Huskies, but Ross is probably their most talented player.

Devoe Joseph, Oregon: He’s been the difference-maker for the Ducks this year.

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.