Stephan McCarty, Zach McCabe, Matt Gatens, Melsahn Basabe

Thursday’s slate and what to watch: three league titles on the line?

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All times ET. Television guide via here.

Game of the Night: No. 5 Duke @ No. 15 Florida State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Do I really need to explain to you how important this game is in the ACC standings? Three teams are tied for first place in league play with four games left on the schedule. Duke and Florida State are two of those teams. The Seminoles already have wins at Duke and against UNC in their only meeting, which means that a win tonight puts them in the driver’s seat. In other words, if Florida State wins their last four games, they’ll be the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. Raise your hand if you thought that was even a possibility back in November.

(I’ll wait.)

There will be a couple of interesting personnel matchups in this one. In the paint, the Plumlee have played better basketball of late, but from a physicality perspective, they will be at a disadvantage against FSU’s massive front line. On the perimeter, the Seminoles have some terrific on-ball defenders and should make life difficult for a Duke team that already has issues penetrating off the bounce. If you’ve forgotten, the last time these two teams played, this happened. The Blue Devils have been waiting for a month to run it back. In other words, this should be fun.

Who’s getting upset?: No. 16 Wisconsin @ Iowa, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Hawkeyes have been one of the most pesky teams in the country this season. They’ve beaten No. 11 Michigan at home. They’ve beaten No. 23 Indiana at home. And they’ve gone into the Kohl Center and knocked off Wisconsin already this season. Matt Gatens is coming off of a 30 point performance in Sunday’s upset win over the Hoosiers. Can he keep the streak going?

Also on upset alert:

No. 14 Murray State @ Tennessee State, 8 p.m. (ESPNU): Murray State doesn’t have an undefeated season to worry about anymore, which takes a bit of luster off of their remaining schedule. I’ll watch this team play simply because I enjoy Isaiah Canaan and what he is capable of doing on the court, but most other people are not addicted to this game like I am. Who is the reason that Murray State blemish on their record? Tennessee State. Like Duke, the Racers have probably been waiting to run this back.

No. 17 Louisville @ Cincinnati, 9 p.m. (ESPN): I’m not sure you can even technically justify this as an upset if Cincy were to win, but I’ll go with it because a) Louisville has that number to the left of their name which signifies that the top 25 polls that you should all-but disregard are think the Cardinals are better and b) NBC gave me the power to do so and you better believe I’m going to take advantage of that authority. Was I rambling? Sorry. Winner moves into a three-way tie with USF and Georgetown for the fourth double-bye in the Big East Tournament.

St. Mary’s @ Portland, 10 p.m. (ESPNU): This is going to be a game that you will want to keep a very close eye on. The Gaels are in the midst of another late-season swoon, having lost three of their last four. They were given a gift when Gonzaga lost to San Francisco and opened the door for the Gaels to win the WCC regular season title, but for that to happen St. Mary’s has to win their last two games. On the road in league play from a team that’s struggling? Portland is just the appetizer to Saturday’s trip to San Francisco.

Mid-major matchup of the night: Bucknell @ American, 7 p.m. (CCS)

After losing to Lehigh at the buzzer last week, the Bison stumbled at Holy Cross, meaning that both the Mountain Hawks and the Eagles, who are one game behind Bucknell, will have their shot at getting even in league play with two games left. In all likelihood this is the last chance that they will have. Bucknell’s final game of the year is against Navy, who is 0-13 this season.

Bubblicious:

Alabama @ Arkansas, 7 p.m. (ESPN2): The Crimson Tide, who are still without JaMychal Green after Tony Mitchell was booted from the team, are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives against an Arkansas team that is very, very tough to beat at home. That’s a rough combination.

BYU @ Gonzaga, 11 p.m. (ESPN2): This isn’t quite a bubble game, but it does become important with the way the WCC standings look like they are going to shake out. Both BYU and Gonzaga at 11-3 in the league, a game behind St. Mary’s. But the Gaels are playing some poor basketball right now and have two road games left this season. The winner tonight will have the best chance of beating out St. Mary’s for the league title.

Be sure to keep an eye on:

Elon @ Davidson, 7 p.m.: The Wildcats will win the SoCon’s regular season title with a victory.

Belmont @ Kennesaw State, 7 p.m.: Ditto, Bruins in the Atlantic Sun.

Middle Tennessee State @ Louisiana-Monroe, 8 p.m.: MTSU has already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Tournament, but a win tonight gives them the outright league title.

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

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

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.