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Joel Embiid’s health, ball-screen defense concerns after Kansas loss at Kansas State

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The final three shots and Andrew Wiggins took in regulation in Monday night’s loss to Kansas State are a pretty good representation of what this season has been like for him.

In the final minute with a chance to tie the game, Wiggins airballed a three. A couple of possessions later, he beat his man off the dribble and got into the paint, but his runner bounced off the backboard and rolled off the rim. But being the athletic freak that he is, Wiggins was able to come from the baseline outside the paint and tip in the miss, causing a turnover on the ensuing Kansas State possession that would force overtime.

That’s him right there. That’s who he is. Underwhelming performances where he has a tendency to disappear and leave your mouth agape when you see him make the plays that he is capable of.

It’d be easy to pin this 85-82 overtime loss on another one of those up-and-down performances. Wiggins was 0-for-4 from the floor in the first half, meaning that he’s now 1-for-14 from the field in the first halves of his last three road games. The ‘1’? A half court prayer that came after the first half buzzer sounded at Baylor. He finished the night 4-for-12 from the floor and 8-for-15 from the line.

So yeah, it wasn’t a good night for Wiggins.

But that’s not why Kansas lost. Not even close.

Take a look at the Kansas State’s second half shot chart, via Kansas beat writer Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal:

source:
@JesseNewell

If you can’t interpret that, it’s simply: Kansas State got 11 layups and dunks in the second half. Every other shot they hit was a three-pointer. When it comes to running efficient offense, that’s about as ideal as it gets.

Now, the reason that Kansas State got so many layups is a bit more difficult to work through. The obvious answer is that Joel Embiid was out of the game for much of the second half. He’s been dealing with a knee issue since the TCU game two weeks ago and a back issue since Saturday’s win against West Virginia. Bill Self said after the game there’s a chance he might sit out some games.

“Joel is beat up,” Self said after Embiid’s third-straight game in which he played less than 18 minutes. “I’m not going to make one excuse for him, because if you’re out there you have to perform. But certainly, he’s going to get some time off.”

Embiid is one of the nation’s best shot blockers, which would presumably make it more difficult for Kansas State’s burly-but-undersized front line to finish around the rim.

But the way that Kansas State was running their offense, there’s no guarantee he would have been around the rim to block any shots. Kansas was struggling with their ball-screen defense — on one possession, I counted Wildcat ballhandlers running off of six ball-screens — and you can be sure that if Embiid was in the game, his man would have been the one setting the screens. The goal of any coach is to get a shotblocker like that away from the basket — by forcing him to guard a shooter, involving him in screening actions, etc.

That’s besides the point, anyway.

Kansas’ defense has to be much, much better if they are going to be a national title contender.

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.

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.