Marcus Paige, Rotnei Clarke

Butler drops No. 9 North Carolina in the Maui Invitational

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It was exactly one week ago that we all decided that we might need to hedge our bets on Butler being the best team in the Atlantic 10.

Last Tuesday, during ESPN’s Marathon Madness, the Bulldogs turned in a clunker of a performance against Xavier, going into the Cintas Center and leaving with a 62-47 loss. Keep in mind, this is a Musketeer team that is a long, long way from having the kind of talent that we’re used to seeing Chris Mack trot out there.

So imagine the collective national surprise when Butler beat the everloving Tar out of the Heels with an 82-71 win over No. 9 North Carolina in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.

What changed in the last seven days?

Could it be as simple as Butler’s threes were falling against UNC (12-25 on threes) while nothing went in against the Muskies (4-18)?

That’s part of it, but much of the credit (blame?) for Butler’s three-point shooting can be spread around. The Bulldogs got a lot of wide-open looks, and when shooters like Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham are getting wide-open looks, you are going to have a lot of nights where they end up making nine triples. It also should be noted that North Carolina defended Butler’s pick-and-roll only slightly better than the seven guys that write for CollegeBasketballTalk would have, while Xavier did a terrific job of the Bulldogs out of their rhythm. (This is something that I’m going to go back and watch some film on. Expect a more extensive post after Thanksgiving.)

Let’s put it like this: Butler is probably not as good as they looked against North Carolina and not as bad as they looked against Xavier. Split the difference; judge them based on the Marquette win?

It’s tough to take too much out of an early-season game, especially one that’s played all the way out in Maui, but I think it’s safe to say that North Carolina has some issues they need to work out. Marcus Paige isn’t bad, but he isn’t Kendall Marshall right now, and that’s hurting the Heels right now. Is James Michael McAdoo’s 10 point, four rebound, seven turnover performance indicative of what he’s going to do against quality competition? Where is UNC’s wing scoring going to come from?

I think UNC will eventually be a top 20 team come season’s end, if for no reason other than the fact that there are a lot of teams with a lot of question marks right now.

But this game is proof the Heels have a long way to grow.

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

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.