Marcus Smart

Four ‘Big Monday’ appearances apiece for Kansas, Oklahoma State

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Another piece of the puzzle that is the 2013-14 college basketball schedule was added to the board Wednesday, as ESPN announced its lineup of games for “Big Monday,” which begins on January 13.

The schedule will require some adjusting from college basketball fans, with many of us used to seeing the Big East occupying the 7:00 p.m. EST time slot. The conference still exists of course, but with their television deal being with Fox the days of seeing Georgetown and Villanova (just to name two programs) in that slot are done for the time being.

Into the Big East’s spot slides the ACC, which added Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse on July 1 (and will add Louisville next July 1). We’ll get one “throwback” matchup on the schedule, as Syracuse hosts Notre Dame on February 3. The Big 12 remains in the later time slot, with Kansas and Oklahoma State making four appearances apiece this coming winter.

The full schedule can be seen at the link provided above; here are five contests on the slate that you should not miss:

1. Baylor at Kansas (January 20)

This will be a revealing road test for Baylor, which has the talent needed to contend for the Big 12 crown. The question for Scott Drew’s Bears: how will they go about accounting for the graduation of Pierre Jackson? JUCO transfer Kenny Chery is the player many have pegged as the replacement, but moving forward post-Jackson will require contributions from Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin Jr. (just to name two) as well. As for Kansas, their young big men will be tested by Baylor’s Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, with sophomore Perry Ellis expected to be a leader in the paint for the Jayhawks.

2. Duke at Pittsburgh (January 27) 

Granted Pittsburgh lost a lot of production from last year’s NCAA tournament squad. But the chance to watch one of the early favorites to win the ACC playing in front of the “Oakland Zoo” won’t lack for entertainment. With Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee all having graduated Duke will have questions to answer from a leadership standpoint, but if point guard Quinn Cook is ready to take the reins the Blue Devils will be a national title contender.

3. Kansas at Iowa State (January 13) 

The nightcap of the opening Monday of this schedule matches teams who played two classics last season. The meeting in Lawrence featured a Ben McLemore three to force overtime, with Elijah Johnson’s heroics (and, in the eyes of Cyclone fans, sketchy officiating) being the difference in the rematch in Ames. Both teams have added quality talent (this will be Andrew Wiggins’ “Big Monday” debut), and given what happened last season look for Hilton Coliseum to be buzzing.

4. Oklahoma State at Baylor (February 17) 

Who’s the biggest threat to dethrone Kansas? The second meeting of the season between the Cowboys and Bears will most likely provide the answer to that question. Marcus Smart enters the season as the nation’s best point guard, and by mid-February he could very well be looking to polish up a resume for both Big 12 and national Player of the Year honors. Baylor won last season’s meeting in Waco by ten, but lost the other two contest by a combined four points.

5. Syracuse at Maryland (February 24) 

The Orange have arrived and the Terrapins are on their way out, as they move to the Big Ten in 2014. The biggest keys for Mark Turgeon’s team this season are the point guard position and how they go about accounting for the departure of Alex Len. If Seth Allen and Roddy Peters are up to the task at the point, this will be an opportunity for the Terps to improve their NCAA tournament seeding. If not, this may be the kind of home game a bubble team needs in order to simply get into the Big Dance. Syracuse returns multiple contributors from last year’s Final Four team, but like Maryland they’ll be counting on a youngster (Tyler Ennis) to run the show.

What jumps out when looking at the “Big Monday” schedule? Besides Kansas and Oklahoma State making four appearances each, there’s the fact that Virginia (like North Carolina) will make three appearances. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers will be good, and frankly it’ll be good for more people to become familiar with All-ACC wing Joe Harris.

And there’s also two league match-ups that did not make the schedule: Kansas/Oklahoma State (neither meeting) and Duke/Syracuse (which they’re considering reconfiguring the Carrier Dome for). I wonder if those two high-quality games are being held back for something else.

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.

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.