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Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: MAAC showdown, two Big East games on slate

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Manhattan at Canisius, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

The preseason favorite to win the MAAC, the Manhattan Jaspers currently find themselves two games behind first-place Canisius in the race to win the regular season title. With that being the case, it’s safe to say that this one is of high importance to Steve Masiello’s squad. Individually speaking two of the best scoring guards around will be on display, with Manhattan’s George Beamon (18.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Canisius’ Billy Baron (23.7, 4.8, 4.7 apg) both having the ability to light up the scoreboard.

The same can be said of the teams, with both averaging just over 77 points per game and having an affinity for getting out and running. The key: turnovers. Manhattan’s forcing nearly 16 per game, and at times the Golden Griffins have struggled with turning the ball over. If Manhattan’s to make a run at the MAAC title, this is a game they need to win.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET: Princeton (-8) vs. Columbia, 7:00 p.m.

Yes, a team that’s 0-3 in Ivy League play is the pick here thanks to the lines makers. Princeton was at one point expected to be Harvard’s greatest threat in the Crimson’s quest to make a third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, but three losses to start the year have likely ruled the Tigers out. Tyler Bray’s leading the way offensively with an average of 17.8 points per game, but the problem for Mitch Henderson’s team has been its defense. Opponents are shooting 45.4% from the field, and this is an issue Columbia’s Alex Rosenberg (14.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and Maodo Lo (14.0, 4.1) can take advantage of.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) No. 6 Villanova hosts Seton Hall (7:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1), with the Pirates looking for their first win at Villanova since February 26, 1994. A good individual matchup to watch: Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin vs. Villanova’s James Bell.

2) No. 12 Creighton is also in action, with the Bluejays hosting DePaul (9:07 p.m., Fox Sports 1). Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge are tough match-ups for any team, and Creighton may welcome back guard Grant Gibbs (knee) back as well. Gibbs injured his knee in the first meeting between the Bluejays and Blue Demons.

3) At this point in the season Brown may be Harvard’s biggest threat in the Ivy League, and the 3-1 Bears get their shot at the 4-0 Crimson tonight in Cambridge (7:00 p.m.). Brown’s limiting opponents to 38.3% shooting, and they’ll need to defend well if they’re to beat Tommy Amaker’s talented squad.

4) Southern Miss looks to keep pace with UTEP atop the Conference USA standings, with the Golden Eagles needing a win over Marshall (9:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network) in order to do so. Guard Neil Watson leads three Southern Miss players in double figures with an average of 12.2 ppg, and they could be in line for a big night against a team allowing opponents to shoot better than 44% from the field.

5) Mercer’s looking to remain atop the Atlantic Sun standings with a win at Kennesaw State (7:00 p.m., ESPN3). The Bears are currently tied with FGCU at 9-2 in league play, and in order to move to 10-2 they can’t afford to take the 4-20 Owls lightly.

OTHER GAMES OF NOTE: 

  • Iona at Niagara, 7:00 p.m.
  • Yale at Dartmouth, 7:00 p.m.
  • Charlotte at Tulane, 8:00 p.m.
  • Detroit at Valparaiso, 9:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

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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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.