North Carolina State v North Carolina

Small ball gets North Carolina their third-straight win

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When you think of this North Carolina program under Roy Williams, the first thing that is going to come to mind is the point guard.

Ray Felton. Ty Lawson. Kendall Marshall.

Perhaps the single biggest reason for Roy’s success with the Tar Heels has been his ability to find floor generals that are capable of running the show in his uptempo, fast-breaking offense. But what all of those teams had in common was a bully on the block, a first round draft pick in the post to dump the ball into.

Sean May. Tyler Hansbrough. Tyler Zeller.

North Carolina doesn’t have that presence this season. James Michael McAdoo is an athlete and a prospect, but he’s much better in the open floor and facing up than he is with his back to the basket. Brice Johnson and Desmond Hubert aren’t ready to shoulder that much responsibility. Joel James is out with a concussion, but it’s obvious he’s a freshman when he plays.

And that’s why, four games ago, Roy Williams made a change to his starting lineup. Instead of playing an overwhelmed underclassman in the middle, Williams has gone to a small lineup. McAdoo is their center. PJ Hairston plays power forward. They spread the floor, they get up and down the court, they shoot a lot of threes and they don’t play all that much defense.

But they’re winning.

On Saturday afternoon, the Tar Heels knocked off in-state rival NC State 76-65, revenge for a tail-whipping the Heels took in Raleigh last month. That came after UNC won at Georgia Tech and put up 93 points in a win over fellow bubble-dweller Virginia. And while UNC lost at Duke in their first game playing small ball, they hung with the Blue Devils, losing by five in a game they led for most of the first half.

The latest win may be the most important, however. It’s just the second win that the Heels have over a tournament team, and it also puts the Heels a game in front of the Wolfpack for third in the ACC standings.

North Carolina still doesn’t have the kind of quality wins that would make it a lock for the NCAA tournament at this point, but they are slowly creeping closer. They’re at Clemson and Florida State and host Maryland before getting a return game with Duke at the Dean Dome. It will be interesting to see whether this smaller lineup will have continued success now that there are four games worth of tape for coaches to scout, but at the very least this change, for the time being, as got the Heels going in the right direction.

You can find Rob 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.