Aaron Craft

The Morning Mix

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Four spots in the Elite Eight were handed out last night. Ohio State won on yet another game-winning 3-pointer. Wichita State looked like a legitimate Final Four team against La Salle. Marquette made Miami look like, well, Miami and Syracuse roughed up Indiana worse than any team had done this season.

Four more games are on-tap today, including the return of #DunkCity.
Let’s hit the links.
 
 
Read of the Day:
Ayn Rand’s formula for NCAA success. Make sure you read this. (Bloomberg View)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Some interesting thoughts on the college coaching search from an actual headhunter. (Land-Grant Holy Land)

– Luke Winn ranks the title chances of the Sweet 16 teams. Obviously, four teams have been eliminated from this list. (Sports Illustrated)

– Bruins Nation always has a strong take on the state of the UCLA athletic department. They believe that the coaching search for the next UCLA head basketball coach will be a defining moment for Bruin basketball. (Bruins Nation)

– Projecting the field in 2014: How many ACC teams will make the NCAA tournament next year? (BC Interruption)

– A look back at the other No. 15-seeds to earn NCAA tournament victories. FGCU is the first No. 15-seed to make the Sweet 16, but five other No. 15-seeds have won tournament games. (Penn Live)
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Butler head coach Brad Stevens is believed to be one of UCLA’s key coaching targets. But then again, almost every major program that has had a coaching vacancy in the last three seasons has targeted Stevens. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Part of Shaka Smart’s new contract extension at VCU is that his entire salary will be privately funded, meaning no student fees, tuition or state money will go towards Smart’s new salary. (USA Today)

– Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole was on the Siena campus yesterday interviewing for the Saint’s head coaching vacancy. Toole’s stock has skyrocketed following the Colonials’ N.I.T. win over defending national champions Kentucky. (Albany Union-Times)

– Abdel Nader, the leading scorer for Northern Illinois, has decided to transfer following a 5-win season. (Rant Sports)

– Justin Edwards, the America East’s top scorer, has announced that he will transfer out of Maine. (Bangor Daily News)

– Could Verizon and their inflated subscriber fees be the downfall to the impending super-conference era? (VU Hoops)
 
 
Odds & Ends
– The south regional finals are being held at Cowboy Stadium, home of the world’s most unnecessarily large TV. (The Dagger)

– Reese Waters of ESPN’s “UNITE” show fills us in on how to cure “March Sadness”. (ESPN Playbook)

– A treasure trove of FGCU dunks, .GIFs and #DunkCity memorabilia. (The Dagger)

– Jahlil Okafor, the top recruit in the class of 2014, doesn’t like it when coaches mispronounce his name. Welcome to the club, pal. Have you seen my last name? (USA Today HS)

– Sports bars in Lawrence, KS are cracking down on customers who abuse March Madness privileges. (KUsports.com)

– Aaron Craft crossed-up Arizona’s Nick Johnson pretty badly in the first half their West regional semifinal. (The Big Lead)

– I saw this live. It wasn’t pretty. My face began to hurt just watching the replay. (The Big Lead)

– These are good, especially “Madison Ware Garden”. (Card Chronicle)
 
 
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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.