Jabari Brown, Laurence Bowers, Mike Muscala

The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 9 Preview

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The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Wednesday.

Game of the Night:Cincinnati vs. Providence
While this match-up may not have all the makings of an epic Big East tournament classic, it pits two teams heading in opposite directions. Cincinnati has lost six of their last nine and is squarely on the bubble after spending much of the early portion of the season ranked in the top-25. Providence on the other hand, has won seven of their last nine and might actually be able to sneak into the NCAA tournament if they can pull off an impressive run in New York City. It all starts tomorrow at noon.

Player to Watch: Mike Muscala, Bucknell
Muscala is arguably the best player you’ve never hear of. The senior forward averages 19ppg and 11rpg and despite playing in the Patriot League, may earn himself an All-American nomination or two. Muscala has already scored 2,007 points in his storied career, and a win tonight in the Patriot League finals would cement his legacy as one of the top-5 best Patriot League players of all time.

Miscellaneous Madness:
Today is the final chance for Grambling to avoid a completely winless 2012-2013 campaign. The Tigers are 0-27, but because so many SWAC teams are ineligible to compete in postseason play, Grambling got the call up. They face an Alabama A&M team that beat them by 25 and 27. If we’ve learned anything from this season, it’s that Grambling can absolutely get their first win of the season today.

Wednesday Schedule:

Big East Conference Second Round
Noon – Cincinnati (9) vs. Providence (8)
2 p.m. – Seton Hall (12) vs. Syracuse (5)
7 p.m. – St. John’s (10) vs. Villanova (7)
9 p.m. – Rutgers (11) vs. Notre Dame (6)

Big 12 Conference First Round
7 p.m. – Texas Tech (9) vs. West Virginia (8)
9:30 p.m. – Texas Christian (10) vs. Texas (7)

Conference-USA First Round
4:30 p.m. – SMU (10) vs. UAB (7)
7 p.m. – Rice (11) vs. Houston (6)
9:30 p.m. – Marshall (9) vs. Tulane (8)

Mid-American Conference Second Round
6:30 p.m. – Buffalo (8) vs. Ball State (5)
9 p.m. – Miami-OH (11) vs. Eastern Michigan (7)

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
6 p.m. – Bethune-Cookman (8) vs. Norfolk State (1)
8 p.m. – North Carolina A&T (7) vs. North Carolina Central (2)

Mountain West Conference Quarterfinals
3 p.m – Air Force (6) vs. UNLV (3)
5:30 p.m. – Fresno State (7) vs. Colorado State (2)

Pac-12 Conference First Round
3 p.m. – Arizona State (9) vs. Stanford (8)
5:30 p.m. – Oregon State (12) vs. Colorado (5)
9 p.m. – Utah (10) vs. USC (7)
11:30 p.m. – Washington State (11) vs. Washington (6)

Patriot League Finals
7:30 p.m. – Lafayette (2) at Bucknell (1)

Southeastern Conference First Round
7:30 p.m. – Mississippi State (13) vs. South Carolina (12)
10 p.m. – Auburn (14) vs. Texas A&M (11)

Southland Conference First Round
6 p.m. – McNeese State (8) vs. Nicholls State (5)
8:30 p.m. – Central Arkansas (7) vs. Sam Houston State (6)

Southwestern Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
9 p.m. – Grambling (7) vs. Alabama A&M (6)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

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.

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)
(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.