Shane Larkin

Pregame Shootaround 1.23.13: Miami tries to knock off No. 1 Duke at home

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Game of the Day: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 25 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Both teams will be without a key piece on Wednesday, Ryan Kelly for Duke and Reggie Johnson for Miami.

Without Kelly in the lineup the past two games, Duke has gone 1-1, including a loss to NC State. The major concern continues to be the ability of the Blue Devils’ offense to spread the floor in his absence. When the Duke offense is spread, it allows more opportunities for guard Seth Curry and center Mason Plumlee.

Julian Gamble has been important for Miami in Johnson’s absence. He has averaged 8.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in eight games without Johnson. That production has helped to patch the offensive and rebounding hole, but the focus will still be on the guards Wednesday. Durand Scott and Shane Larkin must be the engines of the offensive attack against Curry, point guard Quinn Cook, and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon.

Who’s Getting Upset?: La Salle (-3) vs. No. 9 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)

It’s hard to believe that La Salle is favored against a team ranked in the nation’s Top 10, but the Bulldogs walk into a tough matchup on the road Wednesday. Butler will again be without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, who sprained his neck in a win over Dayton. His absence didn’t seem to faze coach Brad Stevens’ team against Gonzaga, though it didn’t hurt that Roosevelt Jones had some heroics in store as the buzzer sounded.

Without Clarke in the lineup, La Salle guard Ramon Galloway will be the biggest backcourt scoring threat on the floor. The senior guard has scoring in double figures in 15 of the Explorers’ 17 games, including 26 points in an overtime win over Villanova, 24 in a win over Northeastern, and 21 in a win over Iona.

Butler will likely try to work the ball into the interior Wednesday, using center Andrew Smith and exploiting the rebounding advantage.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Colorado State vs. No. 15 New Mexico

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to call the Mountain West a “mid-major,” but this non-BCS matchup Wednesday is the best of the slate. New Mexico coach Steve Alford has been in the news this week talking about the lack of respect that the conference has gotten from poll voters and Wednesday night has the potential to be his “Exhibit A”.

New Mexico is the lone Mountain West team undefeated in league play, having knocked off UNLV and grinding out an overtime win against Boise State. Tony Snell came up big in that game against Boise by scoring 22 points, but the focus Wednesday will likely be on center Alex Kirk, who was neutralized for much of that game.

His importance will be amplified Wednesday when he matches up with Colorado State’s Colton Iverson, who is averaging 14.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. The Rams will try to use their advantage on the glass to get second-chance opportunities.

Iverson and forward Pierce Hornung (9.6 points, 10.1 rebounds per game) will be centerpieces, but Greg Smith will also be looking to carry momentum from the win over UNLV when he scored 16 points.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 8 Florida has been absolute dominant in SEC play so far. Through four games, the Gators have won by an average of close to 27 points per game. There is another chance for a blowout win Wednesday vs. Georgia.

2) No. 12 Minnesota hit a rough patch in the Big Ten schedule and has lost back-to-back games against Indiana and Michigan. They have a chance to bounce back against Northwestern.

3) No. 16 Oregon sits atop the Pac-12 and is the lone remaining undefeated team in conference play at 5-0. Washington State comes in with a 1-4 record in the league, making it likely that Oregon will move to 6-0.

4) Lehigh vs. Bucknell would have a lot more luster if C.J. McCollum had been able to play, but it still features two teams who are undefeated in Patriot League play. Winner gets sole ownership of the conference for now.

5) Towson won just one game last season and finished with an overall record of 1-31. He has worked wonders for the Tigers this year and has his team at 10-10. A win tonight against George Mason would put them at second in the CAA with a 6-2 mark in the conference.

The Top 25

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 25 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 7 Indiana vs. Penn State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 8 Florida vs. Georgia (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 9 Butler vs. La Salle (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 12 Minnesota vs. Northwestern (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 15 New Mexico vs. Colorado State (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

No. 16 Oregon vs. Washington State (9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 17 Creighton vs. Drake (8:05 p.m. ET)

No. 20 Wichita State vs. Missouri State (8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

George Mason vs. Towson (7:00 p.m. ET)

Fresno State vs. Boise State (8:00 p.m. ET)

Texas A&M vs. LSU (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Iowa State vs. Texas Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

San Diego State vs. Nevada (10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Washington vs. Oregon State (11:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

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

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

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.