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Colorado continues push towards third consecutive NCAA tournament berth

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As many teams would need to do in the aftermath of a major personnel loss, Colorado had some adjustments to make once junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie went down in the first half of their loss at Washington on January 12 with a torn ACL. One of the nation’s best perimeter defenders, Dinwiddie ran the show for a team that was expected to contend for the Pac-12 title this season.

Clearly that wasn’t to be the case once he was lost, with the Buffaloes losing three of the four games they played in the immediate aftermath of that injury. But since that stretch, which included being swept on the road by the Arizona schools, Colorado’s won five of its last six games with their most recent result being a 61-52 win over Arizona State on Wednesday night. Tad Boyle’s team may not have shot particularly well from the field, making 37% of their shots, but they defended well and absolutely whipped the Sun Devils on the glass.

Arizona State shot just 31.5% from the field, with the guard tandem of Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall combining to shoot 8-for-28. And in regards to the rebounding Colorado rebounded just over 40% of its misses, converting those 15 offensive rebounds into a 12-0 edge in second-chance points. And leading the charge on the boards was none other than sophomore Josh Scott, who finished the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Scott, who’s been one of the Pac-12’s most improved players all season long, and junior guard Askia Booker have been the key pieces for Colorado as they’ve put together this current stretch of quality basketball. And in regards to Booker, who at times struggled mightily with shot selection while Dinwiddie was on the court, even with his 5-for-17 night against Arizona State he’s been a more efficient player. Booker scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, making all eight of his free throw attempts and doing a better job of making plays in the final 20 minutes.

Booker’s posted an offensive rating of 105 or better in five of Colorado’s last six games, with their win at USC being the exception. And even in the one loss, a 92-74 defeat suffered at the hands of a UCLA team that’s playing the best basketball of any team in the conference, Booker dished out 12 assists to just two turnovers. This is still a work in progress given the need for Booker to properly balance his scoring and distribution responsibilities, but he and his teammates have looked more comfortable in their roles over the last six games.

Wednesday was was big because it was a quality win for Colorado without Dinwiddie in the lineup, and it sets up the Buffaloes for what will be a major opportunity on Saturday night when No. 4 Arizona visits Boulder. The Wildcats dominated the first meeting, but that was when they had Brandon Ashley in the fold. Already in good shape to earn their third consecutive NCAA tournament berth, Tad Boyle’s team can make a significant statement in that regard with a win.

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.