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The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Ryan winning despite missing piece (ESPN)
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has his team off to the best start in school history, and that’s even with their loss at Indiana on Tuesday night. But this has been a tough season for the coach as it’s his first without his father, who passed away in August. This is a really good read on the connection between father and son, and how the Ryan we see on the sidelines differs from the one that his grandkids see.

7-footers making impact again in college basketball (San Francisco Chronicle)
While guard play tends to get the majority of the attention in college basketball, especially in March, the big men are important as well. And in regards to seven-footers, there seems to be a renaissance of sorts in college basketball this season. With players such as Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski playing well, the big men are once again making an impact.

The Magic Eight: One of these teams will win the national title (Sports Illustrated)
How wide open is the national title chase? According to one article eight teams are best positioned to cut down the nets in Arlington, Texas in early April. Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse are among the teams on that list, and there are also some notes on teams omitted from the discussion.

Jim Baron, King Rice and the ties that bind (Pickin’ Splinters)
On Sunday afternoon Monmouth visited Canisius, with the Golden Griffins winning 87-67 in Buffalo. Also of note is the shared history of the two head coaches, with Monmouth’s King Rice being recruited by Canisius’ Jim Baron when Baron was an assistant at Notre Dame. Rice eventually chose to attend North Carolina, but on Sunday he had nothing but nice things to say about the way in which Baron went about the recruiting process.

Army’s Zach Spiker taking success one game at a time (Big Apple Buckets)
There are three teams in the Patriot League that are still undefeated in conference play: American, Boston University and Army, with the latter being run by 37-year old Zach Spiker. One season after leading the Black Knights to their first winning season since 1984-85, Spiker’s taking things one game at a time with a team capable of making a run at the Patriot League crown.

Want to fix college athletics’ academic crisis? Three words: major in sports (The Sporting News)
With the CNN study on the academic credentials, or lack thereof, of student-athletes revealing that many arrive on campus ill-equipped to take advantage of the education being offered, many have asked what can be done. One possible solution would be to allow student-athletes to major in their particular sport. Interesting read to say the least.

Markel Brown is the mayor of LobStilly (The Oklahoman)
Oklahoma State senior guard Markel Brown’s been a key figure for the Cowboys this season, posting averages of 16.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the nation’s ninth-ranked team. Brown’s also one of the nation’s best leapers, and as a result he’s thrown down some incredible in-game dunks for the Cowboys.

For sophomore students, Villanova and men’s basketball gradually became a lasting impression (Philly.com)
The connection between college basketball teams and the student body can be strong when it comes to your more prestigious programs, and that’s certainly the case at schools where the basketball team is the most recognizable team on campus. At Villanova some sophomores, who chose the school during a period when the basketball team was down (by Villanova standards), spoke about their experiences supporting the basketball team.

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.

 

 

 

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.