Eliminating turnovers, more Keith Appling go hand-in-hand for Michigan State

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Gary Harris scored 23 points and hit a series of big jumper for the Spartans. Adreian Payne once again boosted his NBA Draft stock with 14 points, 10 boards, five blocks and a few absurdly athletic plays for a 6-foot-11 center with three-point range. Derrick Nix chipped in with 13 points and eight boards while Denzel Valentine posted nine points, six boards and six assists while committing just a single turnover.

Put it all together, and what you get is a 70-48 win for No. 3 seed Michigan State as they advance past No. 6 Memphis and into the Sweet 16.

The Tigers made a run late in the first half, using a triangle-and-two defense to trim a 13 point Spartan lead to 32-29 at the half. Take away that 16-6 surge, and Memphis was utterly and completely dominated by Michigan State. It wasn’t much of a game, to be frank.

And the scary part?

The Spartans did it without much from starting point guard Keith Appling. Appling finished with two points on 1-4 shooting with just two assists and two turnovers in 28 minutes before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. (It’s not thought to be too serious, as he was reportedly available to return.) He was a non-factor, plain and simple, and that’s usually not a good thing for the Spartans. They survived today because their offense was clicking, their defense was overwhelming and Memphis was simply outclassed. But I’ll tell you this much — Duke, Louisville and St. Louis also inhabit the Midwest Region, and they may not be as kind to the Spartans as Memphis was.

And here’s the thing about the Spartans: it’s not necessarily the scoring that Michigan State needs out of Appling. They have other guys that can get them points, especially on the nights when their front line is in full-fledged beast mode as it was tonight. What Appling provides is a steadying — relatively — hand as a ballhandler and ability as a creator.

Michigan State had 18 turnovers on Saturday, coughing the ball up on 27.6% of their possessions. This isn’t an isolated issue, either. They rank 222nd in the country in turnover percentage. And this came on a night when their worst offender — Valentine — happened to have six assists and just a single turnover.

Appling is the only player on the Michigan State roster with an assist rate higher than his turnover rate. They need him — and they need him healthy — simply because he’s the least likely to turn the ball over.

They won’t be making the Final Four if they turn the ball over 18 times against Louisville, Duke, St. Louis or even Creighton.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.