Sean Miller

Sean Miller: ‘we may not be that good’

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Expectations are higher than they have ever been for Sean Miller at Arizona. Fresh off of a run to the Sweet 16 and with a dynamite 2013 recruiting class consisting of Aaron Gordon and Rondae Jefferson, the Wildcats will most likely open the season as a Top 5 team.

And, why shouldn’t they be ranked that high?

With the preceding two players entering the program and being immediate difference makers in conjunction with T.J. McConnell, who is one of the top point guards in the country, now eligible, Arizona has the pieces to make an even deeper run in the NCAA Tournament come March. Sure they’re young, but the talent is there, and Sean Miller is one of the best young basketball minds in the game.

Even still, Miller has his concerns.

He told AZ Central last week on his team’s high praise and preseason ranking: “It’s just the way it goes but I do believe with where we’re rated, how good we’re supposed to be, we may not be that good. I don’t know yet. We have a lot of interchangeable players but from a pure body perspective we may be one man down on the front line.”

At the time, the eligibility of forward Zach Peters, who transferred from Kansas due to be closer to his family after suffering multiple concussions last year, was in flux. It frustrated Miller, and only complicated matters of what his rotation would look like if Peters wasn’t ruled immediately eligible.

Fortunately for Miller, he can now breathe a little easier as Peters was finally ruled eligible by the NCAA.

Okay, so Miller now has that extra body he needed on the front line. But, what about his team’s ability to shoot the basketball, a department they were so strong in last season? Miller said in late August: “I don’t think there’s a college basketball program of the 347 that have shot more basketballs than we have this summer.”

A month later, his concerns about scoring from the perimeter are still there: “And shooting in particular, although I don’t know if I’d say we’re not going to be a good shooting team, we have a number of guys we’re going to count on that haven’t done it or are going to have to do it better so that remains to be seen as well.”

The three point shot was a big part of Arizona’s offense last season as they attempted 675 threes (56th in the country), and connected on 37.1% of their attempted (45th in the country). With graduation claiming Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, and Kevin Parrom, plus Grant Jerrett leaving for the NBA after his freshman year, Arizona is without four of their top perimeter threats.

One of the major storylines to follow in the season’s opening weeks is what role Aaron Gordon plays within the offense. If he demonstrates the ability to play the three and knock down a jump shot at a high clip, that will certainly go a long way in putting Miller at ease.

Arizona, like every other team, has problem areas entering the year. Yet, even with Miller’s concerns which aren’t unfounded by any stretch, Arizona is still one of the top teams in the country. I will posit that that the Wildcats will indeed be “good,” rather than “not that good” as Miller claimed — chalk that statement up by Miller as nothing more than preseason jitters.

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.