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Final Four Preview: No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky

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Today we will be breaking down Saturday’s Final Four matchups. Here is our look at No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky:

WHEN: Saturday, 8:49 p.m. ET (TBS)

WHERE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Midwest Region)

MAJOR STORY LINES: Bo Ryan has been the most consistent coach in college basketball this side of Bill Self. In the 13 seasons that he has been at Wisconsin, he’s never finished worse than a tie for fourth place in the Big Ten’s regular season standing. That’s impressive. But until this year, Ryan had never made a Final Four, and he did it this season just eight months after his father, Butch, passed away. Butch and Bo were mainstays at the Final Four every year.

Kentucky’s story lines are as obvious as they are intriguing. This is a team that struggled for the first four months of the season before finally finding a way to play up to their potential in the NCAA tournament. There is a reason that this team was ranked No. 1 in the preseason, and we are starting to see why. And if this group does manage to win a national title, it will be the second for John Calipari in the last three years. He’s now been to three Final Fours in the last four seasons as well. I guess his one-and-done strategy actually works, doesn’t it?

KEY STATS: Kentucky is the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country. Wisconsin is the No. 12 defensive rebounding team in the country. That’s a matchup of strength on strength, but the key stat on Saturday night is going to end up being how Kentucky shoots from three. The Harrison twins and James Young combined to shoot right around 31% from beyond the arc during the regular season. In the NCAA tournament, they are hitting 44.9% from deep (22-49). The game-winning shots against Louisville, Wichita State and Michigan were all threes from either Aaron Harrison or James Young.

KEY PLAYERS: Shabazz Napier is the biggest star in the Final Four, and he is probably the best collegiate player that we will have in Dallas, but the most important player left in the tournament is Frank Kaminsky. Not only is the big fella the biggest matchup nightmare — he’s a seven-footer with a refined post game and the ability to bury threes and drive by slower defenders — but he’ll be the biggest deterrent that the Badgers have against Kentucky’s horde of big, physical athletes that want to attack the offensive glass.

POINT SPREAD: Kentucky (-1.5)

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes: I have a feeling that Wisconsin is going to spend a lot of time playing with a bigger lineup given the size and athleticism that Kentucky has, which means that the heavy-lifting when it comes to hitting the defensive glass is going to be done by these two. I also would not be surprised to see Kentucky play some zone, and given their ability to make plays in the paint, these two and Kaminsky will be the key to beating that zone from the inside.

2. Who adjusts their lineup first?: Will Wisconsin force Kentucky to play small or will the Wildcats make Wisconsin use their bigger lineup? I’d predict the latter, given how Kentucky’s size can be physically overwhelming.

3. Foul trouble: If there is a weakness on this Kentucky team, it is that they simply do not have much in the way of depth on their perimeter. If the Harrisons or James Young have to sit, the options are either Alex Poythress, who is more of a power forward than he is a small forward at this point, or one of Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins.

CBT PREDICTION: Kentucky

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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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.