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Pregame Shootaround 12.27.12: New Mexico’s trip to Cincinnati headlines schedule

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: New Mexico at No. 8 Cincinnati (9 PM) 

This was destined to be a matchup of ranked (and undefeated) teams…until the Lobos ran into a South Dakota State team that released those travel-related frustrations in a 70-65 win at The Pit on Saturday. The task for Steve Alford’s team is to rebound from that defeat, and in order to do so the Lobos have to keep Cincinnati off the offensive glass. The Bearcats are averaging 17.0 offensive rebounds per game, managing to grab 43% of their own misses (ranking 8th nationally). A good amount of the responsibility in that regard will fall upon the shoulders of Alex Kirk (7.5 rpg) and Cameron Bairstow (5.0 rpg), and UNM has done a solid job in this department as they’re allowing opponents to rebound just 26.5% of their missed shots.

The matchups on the perimeter should be outstanding, with UNM boasting Hugh Greenwood, Kendall Williams and Tony Snell while the Bearcats will counter with Cashmere Wright, JaQuon Parker and Sean Kilpatrick. Keep an eye on Cincinnati forward Titus Rubles (7.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg), who bounced back from a four-game slump to provide 11 points and nine rebounds in Saturday’s 68-58 win over Wright State. The better he performs as Cincinnati’s “fourth” scoring option the better the chances are of the Bearcats contending in the Big East.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Oakland at Western Illinois (8 PM) 

Western Illinois is off to a 2-0 start in Summit League play, as they picked up road victories at Kansas City and Eastern Illinois at the beginning of the month. But the return to league play brings about a significant challenge, as Greg Kampe’s Golden Grizzlies visit Macomb. Oakland may be 5-8 on the season but ten of those games have been played on the road (2-8 record) and they haven’t ducked many challenges from a scheduling standpoint either. WIU will need to slow down junior guard Travis Bader, who is averaging 20.2 points per game, but they can’t ignore Corey Petros or Duke Mondy either. Offensively the Leathernecks will counter with guard Ceola Clark III and forward Terrell Parks, and tempo will be a factor in the outcome as well (Oakland averages nine more possessions per game).

Five Things to Watch 

1) Busy night in the Sun Belt as there are three conference games on the slate. Two teams in need of a win tonight are Troy and Arkansas State, with both sitting at 0-2 in Sun Belt play. Both teams are at home tonight, with Troy hosting FAU and Arkansas State hosting Louisiana-Lafayette.

2) Texas Southern (1-11) looks to end a nine-game losing streak but the task will be a difficult one, as they visit Akron at the JAR. Omar Strong and Raymond Penn lead the way for Mike Davis’ team, but the Tigers will need to have an answer for Akron’s Zeke Marshall in the paint if they’re to win.

3) Fellow SWAC member Alcorn State plays the first of two tough games in New York tonight when they visit 8-3 Canisius. If the Braves are the end their seven-game skid one thinks they better handle it tonight, as a trip to No. 7 Syracuse on Saturday is next.

4) Saint Mary’s looks to get back on the right track (and remain undefeated at home) with Rhode Island visiting McKeon Pavilion. Matthew Dellavedova struggled in Sunday’s loss at Northern Iowa, and this week is an opportunity not only for him to get going but for the Gaels to have other offensive options step up (Jorden Page scored 26 points on Sunday) in advance of WCC play.

5) Interestingly enough the Gaels aren’t the only WCC team looking to rebound from losses last weekend, as both BYU (Northern Arizona) and Loyola Marymount (Morgan State) return to action. The Cougars would be wise to keep NAU freshman point guard DeWayne Russell under wraps, but it remains to be seen if the Lumberjacks have an answer for BYU’s Brandon Davies inside.

The Rest of the Top 25 

No games scheduled.

Other Notable Games 

Fort Wayne at IUPUI (7 PM)

Florida International at Western Kentucky (8 PM)

Northern Arizona at BYU (9 PM)

Rhode Island at Saint Mary’s (10 PM)

Stats courtesy of statsheet.com

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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)

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.