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Cardinal rule: Peyton Siva leads Louisville past Michigan for national title

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ATLANTA — Louisville’s 82-76 win over Michigan in the 2013 National Title game turned into a classic, one of the best finals that we’ve seen in a long time.

But it started out as a sideshow, chock-full of the kind of performance that you should always expect to see in a national title game simply because it’s so unexpected.

Michigan’s Spike Albrecht, the 5-foot-11 back-up point guard who looks more like a manager than a baller and scored 24 points during the Big Ten season, lit up the Cardinals with 17 first half points. Michigan took a 33-21 lead despite having to play with National Player of the Year Trey Burke glued to the bench with two fouls. Luke Hancock, a transfer from George Mason that struggled with shoulder problems all season long, answered with four threes in the span of two minutes, erasing the Louisville deficit in the amount of time it takes microwave a bag of popcorn.

It was thrilling.

Unless you were Peyton Siva.

“At halftime, [Pitino] kept asking me, ‘Do you know the plays?'” Siva said after the game. “You keep looking over at me and asking me what plays to run.”

That wasn’t all he was saying, either.

MORE: Photos from Monday night

“You got to dig in, man,” Pitino screamed at his point guard. “You’re not in shape. I thought you were.” I’m sure it was no where near that PG.

But it worked. Pitino gave Siva the reins in the second half. He let him call the offense. He let him make the decisions and make the reads, and Siva took control, playing arguably his best half of the season. He scored 14 in the final 20 minutes, including a stretch where he netted three straight layups, to turn the tide when Michigan looked like they were getting ready to take control of the game once again.

All told, Siva finished with 18 points, six boards, five assists and three steals.

And in the end, it’s exactly the kind of performance that we should have expected out of Siva.

MORE: Now this was a game for the ages

Here’s the thing about Siva: throughout his entire career, all anyone has ever talked about is what Peyton Siva isn’t. He’s not a great shooter. He’s not big enough to be a superstar in the NBA. He makes dumb decisions and he gets into too much foul trouble and he turns the ball over too much.

But he’s a leader. He’s a winner. He’s everything that a coach could dream about at the point guard spot. “The two greatest people I coached in my life,” Pitino said last month, “were Billy Donovan and Peyton Siva.”

That’s what makes seeing Siva win a national title to end his collegiate career so special, because he’s the epitome of what makes college basketball so special. He’s the face of one of the most popular college basketball programs in the country, but he’s not above babysitting the grandchildren of his head coach. He’s the leader of a team that just one the national title, and after the buzzer sounds in the most important game of his life, he makes a point to seek out Trey Burke and congratulate him after the game. When asked what this win means for the rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville, siva sidesteps the question and says that this wasn’t about anything other than his team.

His brothers.

“We don’t look at it as who won it last year. We’re living in the present,” Siva said. “We got this win for our team.”

“This is really what a team is. This is really what college basketball is about, a group of guys who are like family. With Kevin Ware going down like that, everybody rallying around him, it showed how much we love each other, that we are a family.”

MORE: Rick Pitino had the best week ever

Is it any wonder that he’s the leader of this group?

If anything, that’s the best part about this title.

If anyone deserved to have their college career validated with a national title, it was Peyton Siva.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Cody Riley cuts list to five schools

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Cody Riley has cut his list to five schools, according to Scout.com.

A four-star four man, Riley is now considering just UConn, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC.

Ranked the No. 29 player in the Class of 2017 by Rivals, Riley is an undersized-but-powerful forward. His bread and butter is on the block, where his strength and low center of gravity make him a nightmare to deal with, but he’s also skilled enough to do damage as a face-up four.

Riley is from California and will be playing his senior season alongside Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018, at Sierra Canyon.

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)