Darrun Hilliard

College Hoops Team of the Week: Villanova Wildcats

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Team of the Week: Villanova

For the first time since Ball State did it back in 2001 a team knocked off two top five teams in the same week. On Wednesday, the Wildcats knocked off then-No. 5 Louisville and followed that up with a win over then-No. 3 Syracuse. Darrun Hilliard was the star against the Orange, hitting for 25 points, while Ryan Arcidiacono had 15 points in the win over Louisville and his the game-tying three to force overtime against Syracuse.

The bigger news here is that Villanova, a team that had been pushed into the back of the mind of every Big East fan thanks to a couple of disappointing seasons in a row, is now firmly back into the NCAA tournament discussion, something that I doubt even the most die-hard fans thought possible. I mean, this is the same Villanova team that lost to Columbia — by 18! — earlier this season. Jay Wright’s team still has work to do, but those two wins likely mean that Villanova will make the tournament barring a dumpster fire taking place over the next month and a half.

Basketball is better when hoops in Philly is relevant, and Villanova certainly is relevant now.

Teams deserving a shout out:

La Salle: Villanova wasn’t the only team from Philly to win two games against ranked teams this past week. The Explorers did as well, beating Butler at the buzzer at home on Tuesday before going into Richmond and knocking off the Rams thanks to 31 points from Ramon Galloway. La Salle is loaded with talented guards and thrives playing small ball, but they also have enough quality size that they can battle with the big boys. Dr. Giannini’s team can also claim a win over Villanova this year.

La Salle has mostly been an afterthought in Philly over the last decade. All of a sudden, they look like they might be the best team in the city.

Georgetown: The Hoyas have now won four of their last five since Greg Whittington was suspended thanks to wins at Notre Dame and at home against Louisville this week. Otto Porter Jr. was the star, but it needs to be noted that Georgetown is a different team on the days that Markel Starks is playing and scoring at a high level.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils got drubbed at home by Arizona last week, which sent them off of the radar as a Pac-12 contender until Herb Sendek’s team when and swept the LA schools this weekend. The overtime win over USC was alright, but beating UCLA by 18 points after the Bruins trounced Arizona in the McKale Center sent a statement.

Miami: As if the win over then-No. 1 Duke wasn’t enough, the Hurricanes also managed to blow out Florida State at home this week. Miami is now 6-0 in the ACC with a two-game lead over the entire conference. Reggie Johnson is now back, and while he’s not playing his best basketball yet, Julian Gamble has made sure that no one has noticed. Miami is unquestionably the best team in the ACC so long as Ryan Kelly is out with an injury, and they may be when he returns.

Montana: The Grizzlies moved to 10-0 in the Big Sky this week, with the biggest win coming on Saturday as the knocked off a good Weber State team. WSU was 8-0 in the league heading into the weekend, but the Wildcats also dropped a game at Montana State. Will Cherry had 28 in the win.

Five more teams that deserve mention: Belmont, Kansas, Oregon, Sacred Heart, San Diego State

You can find Rob 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.