Indiana v Ohio State

Pregame Shootaround 3.5.13: Bubble battles, and IU’s Senior Night

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Game of the Night: No. 14 Ohio State at No. 2 Indiana (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

I’m still of the mindset that Indiana is the best team in the country, regardless of where they are ranked in relationship to Gonzaga. Why? Well, because they currently hold a two-game lead in the toughest league in the country with two games to play. Winning the Big Ten is quite impressive. Doing so while leading the four teams tied for second-place by two games is a very difficult thing to do.

Tonight, the Hoosiers host Ohio State, who is one of those four teams currently sitting in second place in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes made a statement last Sunday when they knocked off Michigan State at home despite getting a 4-16 shooting performance out of Deshaun Thomas. To be Indiana, however, OSU is going to need Thomas to play much better while having guys like Craft and Lenzelle Smith step up the way they have in recent games.

Winning in Bloomington is a tough thing to do on any given night. Tonight is senior night for the class that put Indiana basketball back on the map. There is going to be a lot of emotion in that building. I have a feeling the Buckeyes are going to be running into a buzzsaw.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Boise State at UNLV (10:00 p.m. ET)

This isn’t technically a mid-major matchup, but work with me here. Boise State, for now, seems to have strengthened their at-large profile enough that they should feel pretty good about getting a bid. One surefire way to lock that bid up, however, is winning in the Thomas & Mack Center, where UNLV is a completely different team. One thing to watch for: Anthony Bennett’s injury status. He’s played just 21 minutes the last two games and shot 0-5 from the floor while dealing with a shoulder problem.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 25 Memphis at UTEP (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Ranked teams on the road. It’s always a problem. Ask Memphis what happened when they went to Xavier last Tuesday. That said, UTEP, while talented, isn’t quite as good as Xavier. And their head coach apparently is already talking publicly about the interviews he’s accepting for other jobs.

Five Things

1) The Big South tournament kicked off this afternoon. Here’s our preview of it. The Horizon holds their three first round games tonight as well. Here’s our preview for that tournament.

2) Two games in the MAC to make not of. Ohio will be visiting Buffalo, who handed Akron their first loss of league play on Saturday. And the Zips will be hosting Miami OH. An Akron loss and an Ohio win will mean that there is a tie atop the MAC standings.

3) Alabama visits Ole Miss in what could be a play-out game for the two SEC teams, which is, frankly, amazing. Ole Miss has lost to South Carolina and Mississippi State in the last two weeks, while the Crimson Tide have losses to Tulane, Mercer, Dayton, Auburn and LSU. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

4) Mike Anderson will be making his first visit to Missouri since leaving the Tiger program to take over at Arkansas. The Razorbacks might have a shot at an NCAA tournament bid if they can win on the road, although that’s easier said than done for them. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

5) Iowa’s chances for an at-large bid are gone, but beating Illinois and heading into the Big Ten tournament with some positive momentum would be a good thing.

Top 25

  • Virginia Tech at No. 3 Duke (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • TCU at No. 9 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 14 Ohio State at No. 2 Indiana (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 15 Marquette at Rutgers (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • St. John’s at No. 24 Pitt (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 25 Memphis at UTEP (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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

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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.