C.J. Fair

Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Syracuse and St. John’s battle in the Garden

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 2 Syracuse vs. St. John’s, noon (Fox Sports 1)

It’s an old school Big East battle inside Madison Square Garden. Sunday won’t get much better than that. The Johnnies are looking to defeated their in-state rival for the first time since 2007, and in the process earning a huge non-conference win. It won’t be easy for the Red Storm, as the Orange enter MSG unbeaten.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? La Salle over No. 10 Villanova, 2:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

Villanova has skyrocketed up the rankings over the past few weeks since winning the Battle 4 Atlantis. In their first two Big 5 games, the Wildcats have breezed past Penn and St. Joseph’s. For the third straight game, Villanova goes head-to-head with a Philly rival. La Salle is just above .500 with a 5-4  record, but the Explorers are still a dangerous team.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Norfolk State vs. Boston University, 1 p.m.

The Terriers welcome the Spartans to Case Gym on Sunday afternoon in Boston. This game is part of a challenging portion of BU’s schedule. Since last Saturday, the Terriers have lost games to Harvard and George Washington. This afternoon BU plays host to the MEAC favorite, a team looking to add its eighth win of the year on the road against the Patriot League contender.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Jordan Clarkson has been an impact transfer for Missouri leading them to a 9-0 record — with wins over West Virginia and UCLA this month — and has the Tigers in the top 25. Clarkson and Mizzou look to remain perfect in a game against MAC opponent Western Michigan, which has a talented guard of its own in David Brown.

2) Drexel and Davidson meet in a good mid-major matchup. Davidson put together another tough out-of-conference schedule. A win would go a long way, especially with games against North Carolina and Wichita State left on the non-conference schedule.

3) The Hall of Fame coach Herb Magee and his Division II Philadelphia University, make the trip to Chestnut Hill to play Boston College, a team in that has lost three straight.

4) UC Santa Barbara has already knocked off UNLV and Cal this season, while almost leaving Pauley Pavilion with an upset win over UCLA. The Gauchos should not be overlooked as they take on the San Diego (8-3).

5) Stony Brook, the favorite in the American East, begins conference play on Sunday against New Hampshire. Vermont, another contender in the American East, gets a good test with Quinnipiac.

THE TOP 25:

  • No. 2 Syracuse vs. St. John’s, noon (Fox Sports 1)
  • La Salle vs. No. 10 Villanova, 2:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
  • Western Michigan vs. No. 24 Missouri, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

NOTABLES:

  • Philadelphia University vs. Boston College, noon
  • Manhattan vs. UNC-Wilmington, 2 p.m.
  • Stephen F. Austin vs. North Texas, 2 p.m.
  • Drexel vs. Davidson, 2 p.m.
  • Chicago State vs. DePaul, 4:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
  • UC Santa Barbara vs. San Diego, 5 p.m.
  • UC Irvine vs. Eastern Washington, 5:05 p.m.
  • Troy vs. Kansas State, 6 p.m.
  • Georgia Southern vs. UAB, 8 p.m.
  • Pepperdine vs. Washington State, 8 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
  • CSU Bakersfield vs. USC, 10 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

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
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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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.