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Summit League Conference Tournament Preview

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The Summit League was one of the more exciting conference races to follow throughout the season.

South Dakota State entered the new year as the favorite to win the conference in large part due to the fact that a) they won the automatic bid last season and b) they have a kid by the name of Nate Wolters that everybody was in love with. But the Jackrabbits came out and lost two of their first three games in conference play, digging themselves a hole that needed 12 wins over the course of the next 13 games to get out of.

Western Illinois finished tied with SDSU atop the league, but since SDSU swept WIU this season, the Leathernecks were forced into being the No. 2 seed. North Dakota State looked like they might be the best team in the conference early in the season, but a broken foot sidelined Taylor Braun for a long time, costing them valuable league games. Braun scored 22 in the regular season finale, just his second game back from injury.

Of note: Wolters (53 points) and Oakland’s Travis Bader (47 points) have the two highest scoring totals for one player in any games this season.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Sioux Falls, SD (Sioux Falls Arena)

When: March 9-12

Final: March 12th, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Favorite: South Dakota State

Not only are the Jackrabbits the No. 1 seed, but the tournament is being hosted in Sioux Falls, SD, which is just a quick drive down I-29 from Brookings, where SDSU is located. Throw in that the Jackrabbits are the league champs, they have the league’s Player of the Year and went to the tournament a season ago, I think it’s fair to call them the favorite.

And if they lose?: Here’s the thing to remember about North Dakota State: they went 2-4 against the top four teams in the Summit League they beat SDSU and Oakland in their only games with Braun, a 6-foot-7 wing and their leading scorer, in the lineup and 0-4 without him. They were the best team in the conference before he got injured, and Kenpom likes them to win the tournament with Braun back in the lineup.

Western Illinois is good as well, but they are one of the most boring teams in the country to watch. Think Wisconsin, but without the dunking from Jared Berggren and Sam Dekker. Winning is winning, but I want to see wins with points.

Sleepers: Oakland is a dangerous team. They don’t defend all that much, but they have a talented roster — Travis Bader is as good of a shooter as you’ll find in the country when he gets hot and Duke Mondy is a transfer from Providence — that can put up points in a hurry.

Studs: 

– Travis Bader, Oakland: He scored 47 points in a game and averaged 22.0 points on the season. Do. Not. Let. Him. Get. Hot.

– Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright, North Dakota State: Braun is the guy that gets all the attention for the Bison, but Bjorklund and Wright kept them relevant while he was injured.

– Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Duh.

CBT Prediction: I’m taking North Dakota State. Braun scored 22 in his second game back. He looks healthy, and when he’s healthy, NDSU is the best team in the league.

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.