110129_spt-marquette-odom_320w

Being ranked doesn’t guarantee a win

Leave a comment

If you love upsets, you loved Saturday.

No. 5 UConn lost to No. 19 Louisville at home. No. 7 Villanova fell to No. 20 Georgetown in Philly. No. 23 Florida lost their second SEC game on the season to Mississippi State. And, of course, the No. 9 BYU Fighting Fredettes lost to New Mexico at the Pit.

Busy day, right?

Well, that is far from it.

Penn State 56, No. 15 Wisconsin 52: The Bryce Jordan Center might be the toughest place to play in the Big Ten this season. Don’t believe me? Ask Michigan State, Illinois, and now Wisconsin. All three have lost to the Nittany Lions there. Today, Talor Battle scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half as the Nits overcame an 29-20 halftime deficit. Jeff Brooks added 12 points and Andrew Jones had 14 rebounds.

But Battle was the star. He was the guy that made all the big plays for Penn State. He capped off a 12-2 run midway through the second half that made the score 38-35, Penn State’s first lead of the game. He hit another three with five minutes left that put Penn State up for good 43-42. He also hit 5-6 from the line down the stretch to ice the game.

Marquette 76, No. 10 Syracuse 70: This may not have actually been an upset, but based on the rankings of both teams, we’ll go with it. If you remember, last season Marquette knocked off UConn on January 29th on a Jimmy Butler bucket on the road that turned around their season. Up until that point in the year, they had lost seemingly every close game they had played. From then on, the Golden Eagles won their close games and proceeded to earn a six seed in the NCAA Tournament.

This season, Marquette again hasn’t able to close out their close games. They have eight losses on the year, but none have been by more than eight points. Things went differently this afternoon, as Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom both hit big threes in the last two minutes that sealed the win. While this could be a turning point for Marquette, it is the fourth straight loss for Syracuse, who have apparently forgotten how to defend in their 2-3 zone. Could Syracuse be headed for a Texas-like collapse? (We’ll get to that later this weekend.)

Nebraska 57, No. 11 Texas A&M 48: Nebraska came into this game 13-0 at home, and thanks to a late 10-1 run, the Cornhuskers remained undefeated at home. Jorge Brian Diaz, who hopped on a plane back to his native Puerto Rico to attend a funeral after the game, had 16 points to lead the way while Lance Jeter and Brandon Richardson both added 10 points. But it was a three point play from Eshaunte Jones with a minute left in the game, making the score 49-43, that sealed it for Nebraska.

Arkansas 89, No. 22 Vanderbilt 78: Rotnei Clarke caught fire, going for 36 points on 12-16 shooting, and Michael Sanchez added 20 points on the bench as the Razorbacks jumped out to an early lead and knocked off Vanderbilt in Nashville. The Commodores didn’t play poorly on the offensive end of the floor, but they simply could not string together the stops they needed to come back.

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)
Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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
Bart Young/USA Basketball
Leave a comment

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.