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Pregame Shootaround 12.1.12: Getting you ready for Saturday’s lineup of games

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will be posted at 2 p.m. ET and lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published at 12 p.m. ET.

Game of the Day: Baylor vs. No. 8 Kentucky (12:30 p.m. ET)

In his tenure at Kentucky, John Calipari had never lost two games in the month of November. That changed this season. The Wildcats come into their match-up with Baylor after a double-digit loss to Notre Dame on the road. They now return home to face another team that was upset in its last game, Baylor, who lost to College of Charleston last week.

This game will feature a full ensemble of talented freshman to keep an eye on. For Kentucky, Archie Goodwin needs to bounce back from a cold 1-of-7 shooting performance vs. the Fighting Irish and Alex Poythress needs more shots after just one in 23 minutes in his last outing. Baylor looks to Isaiah Austin, who has been one of the country’s best freshmen so far, averaging 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Who’s getting upset?: No. 11 Creighton against St. Joseph’s (3:00 p.m. ET)

Creighton was upset by Boise State on Wednesday and the road gets no easier for them against St. Joe’s. I picked Phil Martelli’s squad as a mid-major that could shake things up in March, and they feature one of the most underrated backcourts in the country. Carl Jones and Langston Galloway combine to average over 30 points per game and forward Ronald Roberts is averaging a double-double so far this season.

The biggest key for the Hawks, as it is with every team that faces Creighton, is to limit the impact of Doug McDermott. If St. Joe’s center C.J. Aiken is up for the task, we might have an upset brewing in Omaha Saturday afternoon.

Mid-Major Match-Up of the Day: Virginia Commonwealth vs. Belmont (7:00 p.m. ET)
Virginia Commonwealth showed in the Battle 4 Atlantis that Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense allows them to hang with anyone, but they’ll have their hands full Saturday night against a tough Belmont team. Belmont already has a win over a BCS-conference school, Stanford, and will look to the combination of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson for scoring against the Rams.

If you haven’t already acquainted yourself with VCU forward Juvonte Reddic, perhaps a 16-point, 13-rebound stat line against Duke will force an introduction. He’s averaging 15.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Don’t expect VCU to deviate from its typical gameplan: turn the opponent over and score points off their mistakes.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) Aaron Craft was just 3-of-15 from the floor in Ohio State’s loss to Duke on Wednesday. He’ll have an easier match-up Saturday against Northern Kentucky, so can he get back on track?

2) In the battle of high-level freshman between Baylor and Kentucky, who will win out? Archie Goodwin struggled against Notre Dame and how will Alex Poythress respond after getting just one shot in that game? Kentucky runs into a tough match-up with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson in the frontcourt, plus Pierre Jackson running the show.

3) Freshman Marcus Smart has been the engine behind Oklahoma State’s early-season success. He’s averaging 13.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game for the Cowboys. They take on an undefeated Virginia Tech team Saturday.

4) Now that Michael Dixon’s career at Missouri is officially over, how will Frank Haith and the Tigers reshape their team? They’ve been able to play without him and get to 5-1 so far, but does knowing that he is definitively out actually end up bringing some stability to the rotation?

5) UCLA has been one of the most heavily criticized teams in the country so far this season. Center Josh Smith left the program this week and the team responded with a blowout win over Cal State Northridge. They face a stiffer challenge Saturday against No. 23 San Diego State.

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 1 Indiana vs. Coppin State (7:30 p.m. ET)

No. 2 Duke vs. Delaware (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 3 Michigan vs. Bradley (4:00 p.m. ET)

No. 4 Ohio State vs. Northern Kentucky (4:30 p.m. ET)

No. 5 Louisville vs. Illinois State (1:00 p.m. ET)

No. 8 Kentucky vs. Baylor (12:30 p.m. ET) (See Above)

No. 9 Arizona vs. Texas Tech (8:00 p.m. ET)

No. 11 Creighton vs. St. Joseph’s (3:00 p.m. ET) (See Above)

No. 12 Gonzaga vs. Pacific (8:00 p.m. ET)

No. 13 Michigan State vs. Nicholls State (12:00 p.m. ET)

No. 14 North Carolina vs. UAB (6:00 p.m. ET)

No. 15 Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 16 Missouri vs. Appalachian State (3:00 p.m. ET)

No. 17 Cincinnati vs. Alabama (3:00 p.m. ET)

No. 19 Colorado vs. Wyoming (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 21 Minnesota vs. North Florida (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 23 San Diego State vs. UCLA (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 24 UNLV vs. Hawaii (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 New Mexico vs. Indiana State (2:05 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games:

Xavier vs. Purdue (2:15 p.m. ET)

Southern Methodist vs. Hofstra (4:00 p.m. ET)

Detroit vs. Pittsburgh (7:00 p.m. ET)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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

Ernie Kent
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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)
(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.