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Illini fans should be mad about the intentional foul call, but not at the ref

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Missouri’s basketball team is slowly but surely becoming must-see TV.

Back in November, the Tigers lost to Georgetown in overtime as a last-second Chris Wright three wiped out Missouri’s 18 point comeback and three straight Jason Clark triples in the extra period won the game. Two weeks later, Marcus Denmon overcame the tragedy of his cousin’s death to take over in the second half and overtime as Mizzou knocked off Vanderbilt.

Tonight’s Braggin’ Rights matchup with Illinois, a 75-64 win for the Tigers, was just as exciting as the previous two Missouri games, but it will be remembered for the wrong reasons, especially in the eyes Illini fans.

With 44 seconds left, Michael Dixon was stripped in the back court by Mike Davis, who found DJ Richardson wide open on the left wing. Richardson buried a three to cut the Missouri lead to 62-61, but in typical Missouri fashion, the Tigers remained on the attack.

Kim English inbounded the ball to Denmon who hit a streaking Laurence Bowers, who had gotten behind the Illinois defense. Bowers went in for the layup and was pushed with two hands in the back by Mike Tisdale. Bowers made the layup and Tisdale was called for an intentional foul, meaning that Missouri then got two shots and the ball back. Bowers hit both free throws, then Denmon got himself wide open for a layup on the ensuing out of bounds play.

All told, Missouri scored six points in the span of a second on a single possession, turning a 62-61 nailbiter into a 68-61 lead and almost certain win. Essentially, the call on Tisdale ended the game.

And that call, no doubt, angered the Illini fans.

Its a tough pill to swallow, and its a terrible way to end such a terrific basketball game, but in no way did the ref make an incorrect call.

The intentional foul rule was put into place, in part, to prevent injuries that occur when one player is in the air and another player fouls him without making a play on the ball. Tisdale is trailing Bowers on the play in question, and while I truly doubt that his intention was to injure Bowers, Tisdale clearly gives him a two-handed shove in the back while he is in the air. This play is precisely the situation that the intentional foul rule was created for. Tisdale was trying to foul Bowers to prevent the layup. A two-handed shove in the back is not a play on the ball.

The foul Tisdale committed is a dangerous one. Its the reason that there is a rule that punishes that particular sort of foul more harshly.

If Illini fans are going to be mad at anyone about the way the game ended, it should be Tisdale.

Bowers had him beat. If he gives up the layup, its still a one possession game with 40 ticks left. That is far from an insurmountable lead, especially with the number of three point shooters Illinois can put on the floor.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.