Ben Howland

Burning Questions: What top 25 team misses the NCAA tournament?

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Real, live college basketball games start on Friday, and with all of our glorious preseason content finally finished, this week we will be providing you with water cooler fodder as we roll through a series of Burning Question. You can read them all right here.

Next up: What team in the AP Top 25 is the most likely to miss the NCAA tournament?

No. 13 UCLA:

  • (Raphielle Johnson): This is an immensely talented team, there’s no debating that. But who are the leaders? Who are the guys that when they speak in the locker room or on the floor in between plays, everyone else stops and pays attention?
  • (Daniel Martin): The Bruins got long-awaited good news when Kyle Anderson was cleared, but that doesn’t mean Ben Howland’s team is out of the woods yet. Star freshman Shabazz Muhammad has yet to learn his fate from the NCAA’s eligibility center, when leaves a big question mark in the starting lineup.
  • (Troy Machir): UCLA has no business being ranked in the top-25 right now. There are entirely too many “what ifs” with this team. Shabazz Muhammad may never actually play. Josh Smith has not gotten in shape, no matter how many times he tells us he has. One of the Wear twins is ALWAYS INJURED. Larry Drew II is the starting point guard. If that’s not a huge red flag, then I don’t know what is. This team has a whole lot of proving to do before we should anoint them as anything other than “a possible tournament team”.

No. 23 Wisconsin (Eric Angevine): You can’t just lose your starting point guard and carry on like nothing happened. Not in the Big Ten. Then again, Bo Ryan has NEVER missed the NCAA tournament since he moved to Madison. Not once. Still, no Gasser, no go.

No. 22 Notre Dame (David Harten): The fact that the no. 22 team in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 might not make the NCAA Tournament shouldn’t be a surprise. It is the preseason and all. But there was a major drop off once Tim Abromaitis went down for his career last season. They do return Jack Cooley, but he’s strictly limited to matters under the basket, and Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, the third and fourth leading scorers on the team. Turnovers will decide if this team is better than last season’s 22-12 record. They were 335th in the nation in committing them in 2011-12.

No. 11 North Carolina (Rob Dauster): Picking a team at the end of the top 25 would have been a cop-out, and seeing as there is nothing I could have added to the UCLA conversation to top was Troy already said, I’ll go with UNC. The Tar Heels are heading into a similar situation to the 2009-2010 season. They lost four players to the first round of the NBA Draft and are left with a roster that includes a freshman point guard (Marcus Paige), a promising-but-unproved sophomore big man (James Michael McAdoo), and a slew of role players that will be expected to provide a much bigger contribution this year.

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.

UNLV transfer to finish career at Michigan State

UNLV forward Ben Carter, right, celebrates after his team defeated Oregon in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in Las Vegas. UNLV won 80-69. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Former UNLV center Ben Carter announced on Wednesday that he will be transferring to Michigan State to finish his collegiate career.

Carter, who began his career at Oregon, averaged 8.6 points and 6.0 boards in his one season with UNLV before tearing his ACL in late January. He spent two seasons with the Ducks before transferring to Vegas, which is why he’s eligible immediately for the Spartans.

And that’s the biggest reason that Tom Izzo and company targeted him.

The Spartans lost Deyonta Davis to the NBA Draft after one season, a fact that became an inevitability midway through the year but one that the Spartans didn’t necessarily plan for heading into last season. Carter isn’t going to be an instant impact kind of player, particularly not when he’s coming off of an ACL injury, but he is a big body and a veteran presence on a front line that wasn’t going have much of either.