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Weekend Preview: Saturday’s slate is thrilling from noon until midnight

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado, 11:30 p.m. Sat. (all times eastern)

A pair of former Big 12 rivals square off out in Las Vegas as Marcus Smart will lead his Cowboys into battle with Tad Boyle’s impressive Colorado squad. The Buffaloes have already split with the other two Big 12 favorites, beating Kansas at the buzzer at home and losing to Colorado on the season’s opening night. The key for them will be slowing down Marcus Smart, who will likely match up against Spencer Dinwiddie as the nation’s two biggest point guards will square off.

That’s not the only game of the night in Sin City, however. The undercard pits Marquette and New Mexico, two teams that have been a bit disappointing early on this season and that desperately need a win with league play right around the corner. The Lobos will reportedly be without starting guard Hugh Greenwood, and the Golden Eagles have the size up front with Chris Otule and Davante Gardner to matchup with Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: BYU at No. 13 Oregon, 10:30 p.m. Sat.

I’m not quite sure just how good either of these teams are yet. With BYU, I tend to lean towards the negative. They can’t defend well enough and Matt Carlino is not Jimmer Fredette no matter how badly he wants to be him. It’s the opposite with Oregon, who is undefeated on the season despite playing the first nine games without Dominic Artis and Ben Carter. They’re getting better.

So why is this a game of the weekend? Because there are going to be a ton of points scored as both teams love to get up and down the floor and shoot plenty of three-balls.

FIVE MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON:

  • Georgetown at No. 18 Kansas, 12:00 p.m. Sat.: The Hoyas head to Lawrence where they will get a first-hand  look at Bill Self’s star duo of Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. It will be interesting to see how Embiid functions getting bodied by Georgetown’s Joshua Smith. The Hoyas have not yet played their best basketball this season.
  • Belmont at No. 19 Kentucky, 12:00 p.m. Sat.: When North Carolina was going through some things, Belmont was the team that made it cool for people to beat them. Right now Kentucky is going through some things. Will Belmont be the trend setters again?
  • Illinois vs. No. 23 Missouri, 5:30 p.m. Sat.: One of the best non-conference rivalries in the country, and it just so happens that both teams really, really need the win. Should I mention both teams have a strong perimeter attack? This should be fun.
  • Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. Sat.: Notre Dame’s got a really strong perimeter, even if they haven’t exactly played that way yet this season. But Ohio State’s perimeter is simply tenacious defensively. Not even the Irish are good enough to break that down.
  • Stanford vs. Michigan, 8:30 p.m. Sat.:

WHO’S ON UPSET ALERT?

  • No. 22 UMass vs. Florida State, 2:00 p.m. Sat.: Florida State, when they want to, can really defend. They’re playing at home. They’ve beaten VCU and Georgetown this season. The Seminoles aren’t bad, and this will be a road test (it’s a “neutral site” game in Florida) for UMass.
  • No. 21 Gonzaga at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m. Sat.: I honestly don’t think Kansas State is all that good this season, but Gonzaga can be beaten by teams with tough defenders in the back court if Sam Dower and Przemerk Karnowski get into foul trouble.
  • No. 5 Michigan State at Texas, 4:00 p.m. Sat.: Is Texas for real? They are 10-1 on the season and coming off of a win at North Carolina this week. The real test, however, will be taking on this Michigan State team at home. The Spartans are banged up right now. These are the games that Big 12 contenders win.
  • Davidson at No. 14 North Carolina, 4:30 p.m. Sat.: North Carolina playing another unranked team? Gotta be a loss, right?
  • No. 10 UConn at Washington, 3:30 p.m. Sun.: Washington will actually matchup well with UConn. Washington doesn’t have any size up front, and neither does UConn. If they can stop Shabazz, UConn is very beatable.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) The Gorverner’s Cup, which features Hampton and James Madison in the opening game and Virginia Tech taking on VCU in the nightcap, will be aired on NBC Sports Network and the NBC Sports Live Extra App on Saturday. Festivities kick off at 3:00 p.m.

2) The Diamond Head Classic launches on Sunday night out in Hawaii. The most interesting first round matchup is the first game of the day: No. 17 Iowa State vs. George Mason at 5:30 p.m.

3) UAB heads to Baton Rouge to take on LSU on Saturday afternoon. This will be a good gauge game for both teams, as the Blazers are looking to build on the North Carolina win while LSU is a sleeper in the SEC.

4) Cal heads to Omaha to take on Creighton at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. Both teams really need the win.

5) Two good under-the-radar games: Utah State hosts UC-Santa Barbara at 10:30 Friday, while Buffalo heads to Manhattan for a 3:00 p.m. tip Saturday.

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)
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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

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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.