After rolling through the regular season unblemished No. 2 Wichita State began its next quest: to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the first time since 1987, back before the event was dubbed “Arch Madness.” The first challenge came in the form of the Evansville Purple Aces, who went 6-12 in conference play but possess a star in the making in sophomore guard D.J. Balentine.
Balentine would perform well, scoring 31 points on 10-for-21 shooting, but the Shockers proved to be entirely too much for the Purple Aces. Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early scored 17 points apiece and two other Wichita State players scored in double figures as the Shockers moved to 32-0 with an 80-58 victory. Next up for Wichita State is the winner of Missouri State/Illinois State in Saturday’s semifinals.
The problem for Evansville was a simple one: they didn’t have enough horses to compete with one of the nation’s best teams. Egidiju Mockevicius added 11 points and 11 rebounds, but Aces other than Balentine combined to shoot 11-for-36 (30.6%) from the field. The Shockers are one of the nation’s best defensive teams and against Evansville Gregg Marshall’s team did little to dispel that notion, blocking 11 shots and converting 12 Evansville turnovers into 17 points.
And offensively Wichita State was efficient, shooting 50.9% from the field and 10-for-21 from deep and committing just nine turnovers. The only issue was their foul shooting, as the Shockers shot 14-for-25 from the charity stripe. This is a group with multiple options, from Baker and Early to MVC Player of the Year Fred VanVleet and MVC Defensive Player of the Year Tekele Cotton, and this combined with their rarely taking bad shots makes them a difficult team to defend.
The biggest question mark may be their interior scoring, but the Shockers have done a very good job of accounting for the graduation of Carl Hall all season long. Wichita State’s attacked this by committee and against Evansville that was once again the case, with Chadrack Lufile contributing 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench and Kadeem Coleby adding six points, four rebounds and six blocked shots.
Neither player has to produce offensively at the level that Hall, who averaged 12.6 points per game as a senior, did a season ago but they’ve found ways in which to contribute. And if Coleby and Lufile can continue to do so, Wichita State’s destined to be a very tough out as the month progresses.
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 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)
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.
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.
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.