State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kentucky

Late night snacks: Crashing after the marathon

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It took 24 hours and countless games, but the unofficial beginning to the college basketball season came and went with an overwhelming bang. Let’s recap, shall we?

Games of the Night

1.) Duke 75, Kentucky 68 – The classic matchup didn’t disappoint. Seth Curry dominated. Alex Poythress was a monster. John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski threw post-game barbs at each other. The vitriol may not be there, but the on-court product and the tension was high and it was awesome.

2.) Michigan State 67, Kansas 64Keith Appling had a coming out party and Sparty rebounded after a season-opening loss to UConn. Tom Izzo will always have the edge when it comes to big games.

3.) UMass 67, Harvard 64 – One of the first true “dagger” games of the day. A last-second basket proved to be the difference for the late-morning game. More on that later.

4.) New Mexico 86, Davidson 81 – It seemed like this outcome was impossible. The Lobos trailed for a majority of the game, Davidson was bonkers from three and New Mexico had a start that could only be eclipsed in its awfulness by the loser of the game before theirs, West Virginia. Then Tony Snell caught fire with 25 points, the big men started to show up and the Lobos escaped with a win at home.

Starred

Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso – Teams like Valparaiso don’t get a ton of, if any, national attention. So when they do, they need to take advantage. Broekhoff did with 20 points on 4-of-8 three’s in a 69-46 win over Northern Illinois. From personal experience, it was nice to hear Broekhoff’s string music on my television as I went in-and-out of sleep this morning.

Seth Curry, Duke – He came to Duke to play on this stage four years ago when he transferred from Liberty. The fifth-year senior dropped in 23 points, including 3-of-5 from three-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the win over Kentucky. Some have wondered when the youngest of the sharpshooting trio (dad Dell, older brother Steph, and him) would truly arrive. He’s showing his elite-level game now.

Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State – Hit game-winning step-back jumper in the closing seconds to lift the Shockers to a 53-51 victory at VCU. Scored 11 points total.

Sampson Carter, UMass – Carter made his only bucket of the game count, a three from the corner in the final seconds to deliver the death-blow for the victory over Harvard in the mid-morning matchup. Carter actually had more fouls (four) than points (three).

Struggled

Butler – How far has Brad Stevens‘ program fallen? The dismissal of Chrishawn Hopkins hurt, but going into a game against what everyone thought was an undermanned Xavier team, albeit on the road, the Bulldogs laid a colossal egg, losing 62-47. Only one player, reserve Kellen Dunham, finished in double-figures with 11 and prized transfer Rotnei Clarke had seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, including just 1-for-7 from three-point range. In a game that could’ve put them back on the map, they flopped. Hard.

Virginia – It’s been a tough early season for the Cavaliers already. This time it’s in the form of a 59-53 loss to Delaware at home in the NIT Tip-Off semifinals. The Blue Hens stole the Wahoos the chance at going to Madison Square Garden. Man, Tony Bennett, you got some work to do.

Ray McCallum, Jr., Detroit – The day was somewhat uncharacteristic for the consistent son of the Titans’ head coach. Yes, 23 points is the norm for the junior. But it took him 23 shots (eight makes) and he was 4-for-12 from three in a 77-74 loss at St. Johns. He’ll no doubt get his all season. But considering the stage, volume shooting wasn’t what McCallum needed.

Josh Smith, UCLA – He air-balled a lay-up. He got dominated by far-inferior talent in the post. He finished with five points, five rebounds and four steals in a win over UC-Irvine. Off the court, he seems like a great person. On the court? He seems like another Renardo Sidney.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State – The Aztecs made extremely easy work of San Diego Christian, 97-51. Franklin lived up to the preseason conference player of the year hype, pouring in 28 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out four assists. Kid’s on his way.

Fanbases that can take a breath

Kansas State – This is more of a reason for the Wildcats to laugh than to be relieved. They avoided, um, narrowly, being the next victim of the Alabama-Huntsville Pain Train, taking down the Division II squad 87-26. The Chargers beat North Texas last night.

Pittsburgh – The Panthers put in one of the more underrated performances of the night, mainly because it went toe-to-toe with the Kentucky-Duke game. Pitt took down C.J. McCollum and Lehigh impressively, 78-53 at home, scoring 43 in the second half. Travon Woodall scored 23 points and dished out eight assists, while the Mountain Hawks’ McCollum was “held” to 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Fanbases that can take a seat

West Virginia – It’s your first game of the 2012-13 season. It’s your first game as a member of the Big 12 Conference. It’s the first game of the ESPN 24 Hours of College Basketball, aka Marathon Madness. So what do you do!?…You shoot 27.3-percent, 11.5-percent (3-for-26) from three and tank the game 84-50. Mountaineers fans, blame Denniz Kilicli’s shaving of his beard. Or the loss of players like Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones. But man, your team needs a better effort to contend in the Big 12 this season, much less in non-conference.

UCLA – Oh what am I saying? We all were waiting for this. This program has a ton of individual talent, with or without Shabazz Muhammad, but we all wondered, ‘how would it all coalesce?’ Well, the Bruins avoided a near disaster against UC-Irvine in the form of a 80-79 overtime win which had a crazy ending to the extra period. It’s a long season, but those that were waiting to hate on UCLA now have their first — maybe second, if you count Muhammad’s indefinite suspension — bullet in the chamber. Let’s see how Howland manages all those stars in their first taste of adversity.

Now everyone, go get some sleep.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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)