Justin Cobbs

Five power conferences teams that could really use a conference tourney run

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As we get closer to power conference tournaments tipping off, there are always a handful of teams that could use a couple of wins to gain entry into the field of 68. Here’s a look at five teams — actually six, we cheated — that could really use a few wins in their respective conference tournaments to bolster their NCAA Tournament hopes.

California [19-12 (10-8), RPI: 52, KenPom: 70] – The Golden Bears looked like they were in great shape after a February 1st win over then-No. 1 Arizona, but Cal has stumbled to a 4-5 finish and its only win over a NCAA Tournament-caliber opponent came in their finale against Colorado in overtime. Cal has a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament and they’ll likely face Colorado again in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. The Golden Bears should beat the Buffaloes again to feel better about their chances, but another win over No. 1 seed Arizona in the semifinals would make Cal like its chances to make the field of 68.

RELATED: Odds to win every major conference tournament

Florida State [18-12 (9-9), RPI: 58, KenPom: 39] The Seminoles don’t have a particularly strong resume or record, and they could really use a few wins in the ACC Tournament. As a No. 9 seed in the tournament, the Seminoles have to beat Maryland in a dangerous opening game before a matchup with No. 1 seed Virginia. If Florida State can win against the Cavaliers, they’d have to like its chances of getting in.

Georgetown [17-13 (8-10), RPI: 55, KenPom: 50] – The Hoyas could use a Big East Tournament run in the worst way after struggling to 17-13 regular season record. A win over DePaul in the first round is pretty much a given, but the Hoyas will likely need to knock off Creighton in the second round to feel better about their Tournament chances. Georgetown clearly outplayed Creighton on March 4th in a home win and their size and athleticism gave Doug McDermott fits. Would another win over Creighton in March get the Hoyas in?

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Minnesota [19-12 (8-10), RPI: 49, KenPom: 52] – Since starting 13-3 on the season, the Golden Gophers are 6-9, as they’ve struggled through the mighty Big Ten. Minnesota has only one win over a ranked opponent since its January 22nd home win over Wisconsin and that came over a reeling Iowa team at home. The Golden Gophers open the Big Ten Tournament with a winnable game against Penn State and then would face No. 2 seed Wisconsin in a game that Minnesota should win if they want to get in.

Providence [20-11 (10-8), RPI: 54, KenPom: 53] and St. John’s [20-11 (10-8), RPI: 57, KenPom: 37] – Okay, we cheated and profiled six teams instead of five but these two teams match up in the first round of the Big East Tournament on Thursday in what could amount to a play-in game for the field of 68. Providence couldn’t close the deal with a road win at Creighton in its final regular season game while St. John’s has played much better after an 0-5 start in the Big East, but they still could use some more quality wins. These teams split in the regular season and a win in the rubber match could vault a team into the field while a loss would surely eliminate them. To feel even safer, these teams should also try to knock off Villanova in the second round.

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)
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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.