No. 9 Michigan State was forced to play without starting point guard Keith Appling on Thursday night, with Appling being forced to miss the game due to a right wrist injury he’s been dealing with for quite some time. The Spartans took care of Penn State without Appling, with Kenny Kaminski scoring 19 points, Denzel Valentine adding a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists) and Adreian Payne scoring 12 points in his first game in nearly a month.
But Michigan State’s trip to Wisconsin for a game with the reeling Badgers Sunday afternoon is a different matter, with the Badgers looking to get back to being an incredibly difficult team to beat at the Kohl Center. Bo Ryan’s Badgers have lost their last three games at home, with that being the first such streak during Ryan’s tenure.
Given the Badgers’ talent (and need for a win) the fact that, according to MLive.com, he’s unsure of when Appling will be able to return doesn’t help Izzo as he prepares his team for this difficult test.
“I have no idea,” Izzo said. “This has been the most frustrating. It’s beyond disgusting. I have no timeframe. I know he won’t practice tomorrow. Whether he does on Saturday or plays Sunday or whether we’re going (to Wisconsin) without him. I wish I could tell you. If I knew, I’d tell you.”
Appling, currently averaging 15.0 points and 4.9 assists per game, is a player the Spartans need to have on the floor for the stretch run if they’re to contend for a national title. And as we’ve seen with the way in which Izzo handled Payne’s (foot injury) status, it’s unlikely that the point guard returns to the court before he gets back to full strength.
Sunday’s game is an important one, as Michigan State’s tied for first place in the Big Ten with Michigan, so it would be good to have Appling available. But that will only happen if he’s healthy enough to contribute without risking further injury.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: