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Trey Burke may have knocked Ohio State from the No. 1 seed line

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No. 6 Ohio State may have just cost themselves a shot at getting a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday as they dropped a 56-51 decision to No. 17 Michigan on Saturday night.

With losses in two of their last three games, the Buckeyes now find themselves at 22-5 on the season — all fivefour of those losses have come on the road, by the way — and 10-4 in the Big Ten, tied with the Wolverines a game out of first place. With Kentucky and Syracuse locking up the top two seeds, Ohio State has fallen back to the pack and now sits in a cluster with Michigan State, Kansas, Duke, UNC and Missouri, none of whom have done much of anything to stand out from the crowd.

At this point in the season, I would have a difficult time picking OSU to make the Final Four. The inconsistency of their supporting cast has made it possible for defenses to collapse on Jared Sullinger. True, Deshaun Thomas had 25 points and 13 boards on Saturday, but William Buford once again struggled, finishing 3-12 from the floor for just six points. All told, Ohio State got just 12 points on 5-22 shooting from players not named Thomas or Sullinger.

Simply put, that cannot happen.

But that was also not the biggest story coming out of this game.

Trey Burke was.

Michigan’s freshmen point guard is the biggest reason that the Wolverines are in a position to make a run at the Big Ten’s regular season title. He’s more than filled the void left by Darius Morris, and he may actually be a better player. I’m not talking potential here, either. I mean right now. Its crazy to think about, ain’t it?

What’s so impressive about Burke is his poise. Freshman point guards are supposed to get rattled. They are supposed to make some poor decisions and take some questionable shots and have some untimely turnovers. They are, frankly, supposed to play like freshman.

Burke doesn’t. He’s has a pace about him and a calmness to his game. He doesn’t rush. He not only understands what head coach John Beilein is looking for out of him, he is competent and capable enough to do it. The end of this game is a perfect example of that.

Michigan dominated this basketball game. It wasn’t a blow-out, but Michigan doesn’t necessarily have the horses to blow a team out. What they do is slowly put their opponents to sleep through offensive execution and a junky enough defensive game-plan to make them a pain to prepare for. Ohio State never led in this game, and while Michigan’s lead only reached double-figures for two fleeting moments, the Buckeyes were never able to mount a run. They chipped away slowly and got the lead to three point two in the final two minutes. But on both of those occasions, Burke was able to dribble out the clock — not an easy thing to do against an on-ball defender as good as Aaron Craft — and then beat Craft off the bounce for a bucket.

Burke finished the game with 17 points and five assists, making the game’s two defining plays down the stretch.

That had to feel great for him.

Burke is a native of Columbus, OH. He played with Sullinger — and for Sullinger’s dad — growing up. He and the biggest of the Buckeyes are best friends.

And whether it is a game of Fifa or a late-February rivalry game between two Big Ten contenders, there is nothing that feels as good as owning bragging rights over your best friend.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.

 

Report: Izundu’s San Diego State transfer ban rescinded

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Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu will be visiting San Diego State after all.

Coach Ernie Kent has rescinded his restriction on the 6-foot-10 graduate transfer from visiting the Aztecs, according to a report from the Spokesman-Review, citing an anonymous source. Izundu will also be reportedly visiting Fresno State and UNLV.

Izundu had previously been barred from considering the Aztecs by Kent because of suspcisions of tampering. Izundu vigorously denied that was the case as at the center of the dispute was a trip he made to San Diego for spring break. He publicly said he did not have any contact with the SDSU coaching staff , though he attended an Aztecs NIT game.

Kent, though, appears to have relented, as many coaches who have similarly faces public pressure in such situations before him have. In this era where so much attention is being paid to player rights and welfare, there only seems to be growing public sentiment against programs restricting transfers beyond the absolute bare minimum is rarely going to go over well. It may make things more difficult for coaches and programs, but it’s the deck is largely already stacked in their favor in most every other instance.

Ex-Michigan State player Keith Appling faces weapons charges

Keith Appling
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Authorities say former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling faces charges including carrying a concealed weapon after he was found in possession of guns and marijuana in suburban Detroit.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says 24-year-old Appling was arrested outside a Dearborn club on Sunday night. Club security called police after seeing a man pull a gun from the trunk of a car.

Prosecutors say Appling was in the driver’s seat of the car when police arrived. Officers found a handgun under the driver’s seat, a loaded weapon in the trunk and a small amount of suspected marijuana.

Weapons and marijuana possession charges were announced Wednesday.

The court says he doesn’t have a lawyer on record.

Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and plays for the NBA’s development league.