shabazz napier buzzer beater

Thrilling finishes aside, just how good is UConn?

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You’re going to see the highlight of Shabazz Napier’s game-winning, 15-foot jumper on repeat over the course of the night and tomorrow morning.

No, it’s not on the level of Auburn’s miracle touchdown in their win over Alabama on Saturday night, but it’s the most exciting play of the college basketball season to date. It may be the wildest buzzer-beater we see this season given the amount that the ball bounced all over the place over the course of the last five seconds.

It was nuts. The UConn fans, and the UConn team, rightfully went nuts.

But, at the end of the day, the shot that Napier hit was basically a free throw.

The more impressive shot that he made was the contested 25-footer he hit on UConn’s previous possession, the one where he drew a foul and rolled his ankle on the same play. He shook off the injury long enough to hit the free throw and, 30 seconds later hit the game-winner.

(MORE: Florida lost, but that team will be good)

Napier finished the night with 26 points in the 65-64 win over No. 15 Florida. He was 9-for-15 from the floor and 5-for-8 from three, but more importantly, he was the guy that was up for the challenge every single time that UConn needed a big shot. When the Gators went on a run, he was the guy that would step up to answer the bell. He, at the very least, feigned interest in getting the rest of his team involved throughout the game.

But everyone in the building and everyone on TV knew exactly who was going to be getting the ball at the end of the game, which is why, on both of the final two possessions, you can see Florida actively trying to get the ball out of Shabazz’s hands.

This UConn team has some shades of the 2011 UConn team that won the national title on the shoulders of Kemba Walker. They’re led by a dynamic lead guard with a penchant for performing in the clutch. They have a couple of talented perimeter players to surround him with. Their 6-foot-9 power forward likes shooting threes more than he does posting up. Their big men have more promise and potential than they do ability at this point.

That doesn’t change the fact that this UConn team is tough to get a feel for. Yes, their 8-0 record is pretty and obviously those wins over Maryland, Boston College, Indiana and Florida are impressive. But those wins came by a grand total five points. I’m not one of these guys that is going to sit here and tell you that being “clutch” doesn’t exist, but I will say that the law of averages will tell you that, eventually, those game-winning shots are going to even themselves out. The comparison that I’ll make here is Butler from the 2012-2013 season. They were ranked in the top ten after beating Gonzaga on that fluky game-winner last season. It was their third buzzer-beating win of the season. They ended up being a No. 6 seed that, fittingly, lost in a fluky finish to No. 3 seed Marquette on the Round of 32.

That’s where I am on UConn right now.

Is this team really on the verge of being in the top ten? Are they really a Final Four contender with a shot at winning the national title?

Or is this a good team that has just so happened to make a few crucial plays in the final minutes?

If they have to rely on this kind of a performance from Napier every time out, it might be the latter.

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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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.