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Pregame Shootaround 3.1.13: Harvard visits Princeton in key Ivy League battle

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Game of the Night: Harvard at Princeton (7:00 p.m. on ESPNU) 

Not much doubt as to which game is the best on Friday’s eight-game slate, and with a win at Jadwin Gym the Crimson would take a two-game lead in the loss column. In their 69-57 win on February 16 Harvard shot 47.9% from the field, and the stars of that game weren’t point guard Siyani Chambers or forward Wesley Saunders either.

Kenyatta Smith and Steve Moundou-Missi tallied 14 points and seven rebounds apiece, with Smith supplementing his effort with six blocked shots and Moundou-Missi dishing out four assists. With Ian Hummer and Denton Koon leading the way inside for Princeton, Smith and Moundou-Missi will need to produce if Harvard is to win at Jadwin.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Loyola (MD) at Iona (7:00 p.m. on ESPN2) 

The Gaels have lost six of their last seven games, with each of the defeats coming by three points or less. So what better time for Tim Cluess’ team to turn its late-game luck around than against a Greyhound squad that’s a win away from moving into a tie for first in the MAAC? These are two of the conference’s deeper teams, with guards Lamont Jones and Sean Armand and forward David Laury III leading the way for Iona.

Loyola forward Erik Etherly has been one of the MAAC’s best players and the same can be said for guard Dylon Cormier. Styles make fights and the saying used in boxing rings true in this matchup, as Iona wants to run while Loyola is at its best in a half-court affair. The Gaels were the more efficient team in the first meeting despite the tempo being closer to what Loyola would prefer, shooting 48.1% and averaging nearly 1.2 points/possession in their 79-71 win on January 27.

Five Things to Watch For 

1) Another contest with major implications on seeding for the MAAC tournament is Fairfield’s visit to Manhattan. The Stags (9-7) are a game ahead of the Jaspers (8-8) in sixth place, and with the bottom four teams having to play in the first round of the 10-team tournament finishing sixth is critical. In the 10-team era (since 1998) only once has a team playing in the first round gone on to win the MAAC tournament: Siena in 2002.

2) The winner of the game between Marist and Siena can finish no worse than ninth in the MAAC standings, and there’s a strong possibility that the Red Foxes and Saints will meet again in seven days in Springfield. It’s also Senior Night for Siena forward O.D. Anosike, who became the third player in school history to grab at least 1,000 rebounds.

3) Six teams are separated by just two games in the middle of the Atlantic Sun standings, and two of those teams meet tonight when USC Upstate visits East Tennessee State. Both enter the game 8-9 in conference play but the Spartans have lost six of their last seven.

4) The Ivy League race is a two-team affair but there are five other teams with hopes of finishing .500 or better in league play. Brown (4-6) visits Cornell (5-5) in one of the match-ups that will determine how the middle and lower portions of the standings shake out.

5) Looking for an Ivy spoiler? That could be Penn (4-5), who still has games against both Harvard (Saturday) and Princeton (March 12) remaining on the schedule. The Quakers host Dartmouth tonight at the Palestra.

Other Notable Games

Brown at Cornell (7:00 p.m.)
USC Upstate at East Tennessee State (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3)
Fairfield at Manhattan (9:00 p.m.; ESPNU)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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.