Jerami Grant, Michael Young

College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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Last week, the thing I got the most heat about in these rankings were where I had Syracuse situated: sitting at No. 3, sitting directly behind a Michigan State team that has a loss to a North Carolina team that the Orange have already beaten.

So I figured this week I would explain my reasoning why.

Michigan State has not been at full strength in a long, long time this season. Even now, the Spartans are playing without Adreian Payne, who sprained a foot on top of his planter fasciitis. Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Matt Costello, Branden Dawson and Travis Trice have all dealt with various ailments and nagging injuries this season. The loss to UNC? The Spartans essentially were playing with four of their five starters limited in that game.

But when Michigan State is at full strength? Watch out.

The Spartans top four players are as talented as any team’s top four: Appling, Harris, Payne and Dawson. They’re also veterans, with as much experience as anyone, and they’re coached by Tom Izzo, a guy who deserves the reputation he has for game-planning.

That’s not a knock on Syracuse, mind you. There’s a reason I have the Orange ranked above Florida and Kansas and Villanova and Wichita State. Their zone is a nightmare to prepare for, Jerami Grant is starting to come into his own and Tyler Ennis proves he’s one of the best point guards in the country on a nightly basis.

But all things considered, at full strength, Michigan State might be the most dangerous team in the country.

THE TOP 25

1. Arizona (18-0, LW: No. 1): The Wildcats played one game this week and absolutely pasted in-state rival Arizona State. In the last two games T.J. McConnell is now 7-for-10 from three. The scouting report coming in was to let him shoot.

2. Michigan State (17-1, LW: No. 2): The Spartans won a pair of road games this week, taking down Northwestern and Illinois. They’ll get Indiana and Michigan at home this week.

source:  3. Syracuse (18-0, LW: No. 3): The Orange notched a come-from-behind win over Boston College on Tuesday and followed that up by beating Pitt at home, 59-54. Tyler Ennis once again made huge plays down the stretch.

4. Florida (15-2, LW: No. 5): At this point, the Gators are what they are. They still could end up getting Chris Walker this season, but just how much of an impact is Walker going to have? He’s a pure-bred athlete, yes, but will he be able to break into the front court rotation at this point? Who knows.

5. Kansas (13-4, LW: No. 9): The Jayhawks are peaking. Joel Embiid is starting to dominate and Naadir Tharpe is playing out of his mind of late. The problem? In the last two games, those two combined for 21 turnovers.

6. Villanova (15-1, LW: No. 6): The Wildcats keep on rolling, but they’ll get a nice test tonight as they host Creighton and Doug McDermott. Jayvaughn Pinkston has quietly had a sensational season.

7. Wichita State (17-0, LW: No. 7): The Shockers just keep winning games, and their bid for an undefeated regular season got just that much more serious this weekend, as they blew out Indiana State by 22 points in Wichita. They’ll head on the road for a pair of games this week.

8. San Diego State (16-1, LW: No. 8): San Diego State put together and impressive win on Saturday, knocking off a UNLV team that bounced back from a slow start to the season with a win over New Mexico on Wednesday.

9. Iowa (15-3, LW: No. 10): Minnesota is one of the most surprising teams in the country, and the Hawkeyes beat them by 21 points on Sunday afternoon. Iowa is legit.

10. Wisconsin (16-2, LW: No. 4): The Badgers got bounced twice this week, losing at Indiana and at home to Michigan. Leaving them in the top ten still may be overrating them, especially if their perimeter defense doesn’t improve, but it’s hard to ignore everything they have done this season.

11. Kentucky (13-4, LW: No. 12)
12. Oklahoma State (15-3, LW: No. 13)
13. Cincinnati (17-2, LW: No. 17)
14. Iowa State (14-3, LW: No. 14)
15. Pitt (16-2, LW: No. 20)
16. Louisville (16-3, LW: No. 22)
17. Saint Louis (17-2, LW: No. 24)
18. Michigan (13-4, LW: UR)
19. Duke (14-4, LW: No. 23)
20. Ohio State (15-3, LW: No. 11)
21. UMass (16-1, LW: No. 19)
22. UConn (14-4, LW: UR)
23. Memphis (13-4, LW: No. 18)
24. Creighton (15-3, LW: No. 16)
25. Cal (14-4, LW: UR)

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

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.