Kevin Ollie

Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Connecticut goes on the road for first time vs. Washington

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 10 Connecticut at Washington (3:30 p.m., ESPNU) — all times eastern

The Huskies are coming off their first loss of the season as they lost to Stanford at home this past Wednesday, 53-51. Now, in their first true road game of the season, Connecticut will face another Pac-12 team in Washington. Against Stanford, the Huskies’ ability to win close games in the final minute came to an end; they were 4-0 in games decided by one possession. Washington has really struggled this season, limping out to a 6-4 start with their best win against Montana, but a cross-country trip for UConn and playing against an ostensibly hungry team makes this a tough game.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: California at Creighton (7:00 p.m., FOX Sports 1)

If you’re looking for something to watch in between the 4:00 p.m. NFL games and Sunday night football, check this one out. While both California and Creighton have one non-conference game remaining on their respective slates following this one (California vs. Furman, Creighton vs. Chicago State), the game today is the final opportunity to pick up a quality non-conference win. The Blue Jay offense is clicking again, following a season-low 53 point output against George Washington where Doug McDermott was held to just seven points. Meanwhile, Cal has rebounded after losing at UC Santa Barbara by winning their following two games against Nevada and Fresno State.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? Brown at Northwestern (2:00 p.m.)

Chris Collins and Northwestern need to approach today’s game against Brown very seriously. If not, the Bears are good enough to upset them in Evanston, IL. Not a whole lot was expected of Northwestern in Collins’ first season at the helm, but the Wildcats have struggled perhaps more than some expected. Their best win has come against Western Michigan, and currently stand at 6-5 on the year. Brown senior guard Sean McGonagill shoots the ball as well as anyone in the country (32-76 3PT), and if JerShonn Cobb is unable to play due to an ankle injury that will make slowing McGonagill that much more difficult.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Boise State at Hawaii (1:00 a.m., ESPNU)

After beginning the season 8-0, Boise State has lost two straight against Kentucky and St. Mary’s. The Broncos look to rebound against Hawaii, but winning against the Warriors in Hawaii is never an easy task. This is the final game of Boise State’s non-conference schedule before Mountain West play begins. While they have a nice win against Utah, winning on the road at Hawaii would boost their resume, even if only marginally.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Connecticut probably isn’t as good as their No. 10 ranking suggests, and Shabazz Napier wasn’t going to continually hit game-winning shots in the final minute to propel the Huskies to close victories — to that end, UConn’s flaws were exposed by Stanford. UConn scored a mere 13 points in the second half against the Cardinal. Heading out west to play Washington, I will go as far to say that UConn needs to win this game.

2) A big opportunity at the end of the non-conference for Purdue and West Virginia today. Each team doesn’t figure to seriously factor into their respective conference races — Purdue in the Big Ten and West Virginia in the Big 12 — as neither has performed well to date. The team who walks away from today’s game with a win today, however, will at least have some good feelings and something to build upon moving into 2014.

3) I think Northwestern should be on upset alert more than Mississippi, but don’t be surprised if Mercer gives the Rebels everything they can handle. Mercer is a solid team. They nearly beat Texas in their season-opener, and own solid overtime victories against Seton Hall and Denver. At this point, Mercer has to be considered the team to beat in the Atlantic Sun. If Mississippi leaves this game victorious, it may be against a Top 100 RPI team come March — critical, considering that Mississippi may find themselves sitting on the bubble.

4) Akron has a good opportunity to pick up a victory over a BCS team for the MAC as they travel to Hawaii to face Oregon State. The Zips have won four straight with three of the wins coming against solid teams in Cleveland State, Oral Roberts, and Detroit. While Oregon State is 6-2, don’t let that record fool you. Sure, the Beavers have a road win against Maryland, but they have played one of the weakest schedules in the country. On a neutral court, Akron has a good shot at winning this game.

5) There are ten undefeated teams remaining, and three are in action today: Iowa State, St. Mary’s, and Wichita State. The team most in danger of losing today is Iowa State as they play George Mason in Hawaii.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

No 11 Wichita State vs. North Carolina Central, 8:00 p.m.

No. 12 Baylor vs. Southern University, 5:00 p.m.

No. 17 Iowa State vs. George Mason, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

No. 25 Iowa vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff , 2:00 p.m., ESPN3

NOTABLES:

Indiana vs. Kennesaw State, 12:00 p.m., Big Ten Network

Richmond vs. Ohio, 1:00 p.m.

Auburn vs. Boston College, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3

Dayton vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.

Central Florida vs. Valparaiso, 2:30 p.m., ESPN3

Miami (FL) vs. La Salle, 3:00 p.m., ESPN3

Illinois State vs. DePaul, 4:35 p.m., ESPN3

UCLA vs. Weber State, 7:00 p.m., Pac-12 Network

South Florida vs. Mississippi State, 8:00 p.m.

St. Mary’s vs. South Carolina, 11:00 p.m., ESPNU

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.