Zeke Marshall, Chauncey Gilliam

2013 Mid-American Conference tournament preview: Are you ready for some MACtion?

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The MAC tournament has one of the ugliest brackets you’ll ever see. Explaining the twisted branches of that tree would be pointless and boring, so just look at it and know that you don’t have to care until the first round – played at campus sites – is mercifully completed and we get to the more carefully pruned portion of the postseason.

Thanks to the A-10 and Mountain West, the MAC has flown largely under the radar this season. Sleep on this league no longer, my friends, because it’s loaded at the top. The Akron Zips tore through the league schedule, seeming unbeatable during an epic 19-game win streak. If all goes as planned, they’ll face the Ohio Bobcats in the final game. It’s a shame both teams can’t go to the Dance, but we’re likely looking at a last-team-standing kind of situation here. The No. 1 seeded Zips and No. 2 seeded Bobcats get double-byes and don’t have to play until Friday.

The Bracket

Where: QuickenLoans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio

When: March 11-16

Final: March 16, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2

Favorite: Akron

It’s no wonder the Zips handled the MAC so easily this year. Man-mountain Zeke Marshall seems like he’s been around forever, and he turned in a stellar senior year, averaging 13 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game as Akron romped. To make things tougher on opponents, 6’7″ Demetrius Treadwell has played sidekick to perfection, kicking in 11.2 points and 7.7 boards per game as well. They had the backcourt locked down as well until… well, read on.

And if they lose?:

If they lose, it will be because Alex Abreu (allegedly) did a bad, bad thing. The junior point guard, who was averaging six assists per game, recently pleaded not guilty to marijuana trafficking, but he’s suspended until further notice. Without him, the Zips have looked very beatable, losing rather badly at Buffalo and then dropping their final game of the season at home to the always-dangerous Kent State Golden Flashes.

Sleepers: Ohio is probably more than a sleeper at this point, since they’ll likely be facing an Abreu-less Akron for the first time this season if the two meet in the final. The Bobcats are loaded with talented upperclassmen, led by the triumvirate of D.J. Cooper, Walter Offutt and Reggie Keely. Kent State never goes down without a fight, either.

Studs:

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: You may remember him from such films as “Triple-Double”, “Upsetting Michigan” and “Sweet Sixteen!”, the latter two released in late March, 2012. This year, he starred in the critically-acclaimed but little-watched “I’m really good at everything a guy can do on a basketball court“. There’s absolutely no reason the sweet-passing Cooper can’t get his team back to the second weekend, though he has to lead them to the auto-bid first.

Zeke Marshall, Akron: Marshall can score, grab the loose ball for a putback, and start his team’s break with a defensive board or two. The thing that makes him even more meaningful to the Zips is his ability to block shots.

– Shayne Whittington, Western Michigan  : The 6’10” junior from the delightfully-named Paw Paw, Michigan is a double-double waiting to happen. He came on strong at the end of the regular season, sharing Player of the Week honors with Cooper in the final week.

CBT Prediction: Sans Abreu, Akron isn’t the team we saw dominate the MAC all season long. Ohio, with a solid core of experienced players who have seen the second weekend of the Big Dance, will prevail.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.