San Diego State Aztecs' Franklin reacts after hitting a three point shot against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles during the first half in their third round NCAA tournament game in Philadelphia

San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin to enter NBA Draft (UPDATED)

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Just days after close friend Tony Snell announced that he would leave New Mexico after his junior season to enter the 2013 NBA Draft, San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin formally announced his intention to enter the 2013 NBA Draft.

The Hawthorne, Calif. native was San Diego State’s best player in each of the last two seasons, averaging 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. After winning Mountain West Player of the Year last season, Franklin was once again a first team All-Mountain West selection in 2012-13.

Franklin was the only Division I player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists (3.3 apg) and steals (1.6 spg) this season. Franklin’s departure means that the Aztecs will need to account for the loss of four starters in their preparations for the 2013-14 season.

San Diego State already has to account for the departure of guards Chase Tapley (13.5 ppg) and James Rahon (7.0 ppg) and forward DeShawn Stephens (6.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Tapley was a four-year starter for the Aztecs and played an important role in the building of Steve Fisher’s program, as this season caps the most successful four-year stretch in the history of SDSU basketball.

“Chase Tapley was a four-year starter. He’s done a phenomenal job to help lead us to the best four-year tenure in the history of the program,” said Fisher during his season-ending press conference March 28. “James Rahon had a wonderful career and I would throw Deshawn Stephens into that mix also.

“So we’re going to have change, and with change comes excitement. With some people it becomes a nervous time, but for us it’s an excitement that we look forward to.”

Freshmen will figure prominently into San Diego State’s plans on the perimeter, with redshirt freshman Matt Shrigley having the experience of guarding Franklin in many practices to fall back on and newcomers Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams both capable of earning prominent spots in the rotation (especially Allen, who is a very good perimeter defender).

Add in returnees J.J. O’Brien, Winston Shepard III, Skylar Spencer and Xavier Thames and the Aztecs won’t lack for talent (Dwayne Polee II should see more minutes as well).

But even with the optimism regarding the players due back on Montezuma Mesa, there’s no denying the fact that San Diego State will have a lot of work to do given how much production they lost with the departure of players such as Franklin and Tapley.

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

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.