Deshaun Thomas

Pregame Shootaround 2.17.13: Big Ten steals show Sunday with Ohio State-Wisconsin

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Game of the Day: No. 13 Ohio State vs. No. 20 Wisconsin (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Big Ten has routinely made for the best matchups on Sunday over the past few weeks and does not disappoint this time, either. Deshaun Thomas and the Buckeyes meet a Wisconsin team that has finally and deservedly cracked the Top 25.

The key for Ohio State offensively is getting Thomas help and keeping him from having to score more than about 25 percent of their overall points. This means Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Sam Thompson, Aaron Craft, and the emerging LaQuinton Ross need to contribute, or else Thomas is left to shoulder too much of the load.

It won’t be that simple on the road at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin is 179-17 in the past 12 seasons in that building. Even up three points in the final seconds, the lead is not safe. Just ask Michigan.

Expect it to be another bruising Big Ten matchup as the conference jockeys for postseason position.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Minnesota (-1.5) vs. Iowa (2:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Iowa has hung around until the final minutes with a number of quality Big Ten schools, including Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. For that reason, they’re a trendy upset pick. The biggest battle for the Hawkeyes Sunday will be on the glass, where both teams rank in the nation’s Top 20. A win would add to a postseason resume.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Wichita State vs. Illinois State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Wichita State has bounced back from a three-game losing streak with two straight wins, but they have no easy task Sunday against Illinois State. The entire Missouri Valley is a threat on any given night, as evidence by Indiana State’s loss to Bradley last night and Creighton narrowly avoiding a fourth straight loss by coming back to beat Evanville.

The Shockers need to get Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall involved. During that three-game losing streak, their failure to get into the offensive flow was perhaps the biggest problem. Illinois State will be looking to future pro Jackie Carmichael, who had a dominating 27-point, 13-rebound game against Bradley his last time out.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 3 Miami remains undefeated in ACC play and should be able to keep up its winning ways Sunday against Clemson. The Hurricanes had some trouble fending off Florida State in their last game before getting the win, but expect Shane Larkin to have another strong outing to follow his 22-point performance vs. FSU.

2) No.4 Michigan ran into a perfect storm in their big loss to No. 8 Michigan State on Tuesday. Take a very good Spartans team, put Michigan on the road, and put that game at the end of a brutal four-game stretch in the Big Ten, and double-digit losses like that can happen. They should bounce back Sunday against Penn State.

3) No. 9 Arizona has lost two games in a row and dropped from first in the Pac-12 into third at the moment. In those losses to Cal and Colorado, one key problem sticks out: three-point shooting defense. That means Arizona will have to keep an eye on the Utes’ shooters, including senior Jarred DuBois, who has a tendency to be hot and cold from behind the arc.

4) No. 12 Louisville responded to a five-overtime loss to Notre Dame with a good home win over St. John’s. Big East bottom dweller USF affords the Cardinals a chance to make it two straight wins. Despite the chance for a blowout, its worth watching Louisville guard Peyton Siva match up with South Florida guard Anthony Collins.

5) California has notched two straight quality wins, coming against Arizona and UCLA. They need to avoid a trap game loss to USC Sunday before they head to face No. 23 Oregon. The Bears Bay Area foes, Stanford, lost to the Trojans and hurt their NCAA tournament hopes this week. Cal hopes to avoid the same fate.

The Top 25

No. 3 Miami vs. Clemson (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 4 Michigan vs. Penn State (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 9 Arizona vs. Utah (3:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 12 Louisville vs. South Florida (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 13 Ohio State vs. No. 20 Wisconsin (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Other Notable Games

Minnesota vs. Iowa (2:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

James Madison vs. Delaware (7:30 p.m. ET)

Illinois vs. Northwestern (7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Wichita State vs. Illinois State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

California vs. USC (10:00  p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

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

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

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.