Wayne Selden, Jr.

Pregame Shootaround: The Battle for Kansas headlines a busy Saturday slate

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 25 Kansas State at No. 18 Kansas (2 p.m., ESPN)

Saturday’s only matchup between ranked opponents is also a tremendous in-state rivalry between the Wildcats and Jayhawks. Kansas has probably played the most difficult schedule in the country, so they’ll be prepared when another ranked team visits Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Wayne Selden showed flashes of brilliance on the offensive end of the floor in Wednesday’s win over Oklahoma, scoring 24 points and knocking in five three-pointers and the Jayhawks have won seven straight home games against Kansas State. Marcus Foster is playing tremendous ball for Kansas State and the freshman guard looks mature beyond his years as the season goes on. But will Foster have enough help to topple the Jayhawks?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 10 Florida at Arkansas (1 p.m., ESPN2)

The No. 10 Gators will be missing leading scorer Casey Prather when they travel to face the Razorbacks in an SEC clash on Saturday. Florida is also dealing with an ankle injury to guard Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young missed Thursday’s practice with sore knees while Michael Frazier II was limited in that same practice with a calf injury. So will the banged-up Gators have enough firepower to stay with Arkansas? The Razorbacks won this contest at Bud Walton Arena last season and average an SEC best 87 points a game. Florida’s health is a major concern entering this contest, but they have overcome adversity at other times this season when facing injuries and suspensions.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: No. 6 Wichita State at Missouri State, (8 p.m., ESPN3)

Don’t worry, Shocker fans, I didn’t forget about you guys after previewing the matchup of Kansas’ other two ranked college basketball teams — the Wildcats and Jayhawks. Unbeaten Wichita State (16-0, 3-0) travels to Missouri State (12-3, 2-1) in a Missouri Valley Conference matchup that could serve as a solid test for the Shockers. Missouri State has an 8-0 home record on the season and does a good job limiting turnovers — 10.6 per game, second in the MVC to Wichita State. For the Shockers, can sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet go his fifth consecutive game without a turnover?

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) If you’re a fan of high-scoring basketball, be sure to tune in to see the Big 12 contest between No. 9 Iowa State and Oklahoma. Both teams average 87 points a game, good enough for sixth in the country, as the unbeaten Cyclones (14-0, 2-0) travel to visit the Sooners (12-3, 1-1). The difference in this one could come down to defense, an area that Oklahoma has struggled with. The Sooners have given up 85 or more points in three straight games.

2) Which North Carolina team will we see when they travel to No. 2 Syracuse: the Tar Heels that have beaten Michigan State, Kentucky and Louisville or the Tar Heels that own five losses to unranked opponents. Thanks to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone and North Carolina’s struggles from the perimeter, it is likely that the Orange will win the ACC contest at home, but with the way North Carolina has played against elite competition, can you really count them out?

3) Can Jabari Parker break out of his shooting slump and can Rodney Hood stay hot against one of the nation’s best defenses in Clemson (10-4, 1-1)? The Tigers host the No. 16 Blue Devils (12-3, 1-1) in an ACC battle and Clemson’s defense has allowed a Division I-low of 53.5 points per game while holding opponents to 36 percent shooting from the field.

4) Will No. 19 UMass (13-1, 1-0) look better after a sluggish opener in Atlantic 10 play? The Minutemen escaped with a 66-62 win over St. Joseph’s in a game in which they trailed by nine points with 6:23 remaining. UMass will need to play better to get past St. Bonaventure (11-4, 1-0), which will be on NBCSN at 12:30 p.m.

5) How will No. 21 Missouri (12-2, 0-1) respond from losing its SEC opener at home against Georgia? The Tigers travel to Auburn (8-4, 0-1) on Saturday and they’ll need a better offensive output than their two losses this season in which Missouri was held to 64 points.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Minnesota at No. 5 Michigan State, 2:15 p.m., BTN
  • TCU at No. 7 Baylor, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 8 Villanova at St. John’s, 1:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • No. 11 Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 14 Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m., CBS
  • No. 24 Memphis at Temple, 3:00 p.m., ESPN2

NOTABLES:

  • Saint Louis at Dayton, 11:00 a.m., ESPN2
  • Wake Forest at Pitt, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Ole Miss at Mississippi State, 4:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Virginia at North Carolina State, 5:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Central Florida at UConn, 6:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Texas A&M at Tennessee, 6:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Cal at Oregon State, 8:00 p.m., ESPNU

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.