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Weekend Preview: Should Syracuse be on upset alert?

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Who’s getting upset?: Sat. No. 2 Syracuse @ UConn, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

I’m probably going to end up regretting this decision, but I think that the Huskies nip Syracuse on Saturday. Starting with the Syracuse loss to Notre Dame back in mid-January, the Orange have been less-than-impress offensively. In six of those nine games, the Orange have posted an efficiency of 1.032 PPP or lower, which is a long way from being the ninth best offensive team in the nation. The first UConn game isn’t included in that group, but the 85 points they scored is a bit deceiving; that game was much closer than the final score indicated.

Throw in the massive struggles that the Orange have had on the defensive glass, and all of a sudden Cuse looks like they may end up being beatable. Where the Orange have kept themselves afloat is in their ability to turn teams over in a live-ball setting — they are third in the country in steal percentage and fifth in turnover percentage — and they are absolutely devastating in the open court. So if you get a team that can attack the gaps in their zone without turning the ball over while having enough size to take advantage of second chances, Syracuse could be in trouble.

UConn certainly has the size, but do they have the pieces to avoid turnovers? That, I’m not so sure of. Who is going to play the high-post in their zone offense? Can Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright be trusted to protect the ball and take good shots? Will Jeremy Lamb continue to be as aggressive as he has been the last two weeks? For UConn to have chance, that is precisely what needs to happen. And having Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi show up and get Fab Melo in foul trouble wouldn’t hurt, either.

Who else is on upset alert?

Fri. No. 10 Marquette @ West Virginia, 9 p.m. (ESPN2): This is less about Marquette than it is about West Virginia. Frankly, I think Marquette is one of the most dangerous teams in the country. They are versatile, they can defend in the full court and they are currently playing as well as they have in Buzz Williams’ tenure. That said, West Virginia is better than they have showed of late and they are currently playing with their backs up against the wall. After the loss they suffered to Notre Dame, you can bet practice this week was equivalent to hopping in a cage with a rabid pitbull. In front of their home crowd, I expect the ‘Eers to play with some fire.

Sat. No. 12 Florida @ Georgia, 4 p.m. (ESPN3/SEC Network): Will Yeguete is done for the season, which is a massive blow to the Florida roster. He was their glue guy, the piece that did the dirty work on the glass and ran the point on their pressure defense. The last time he was injured, Florida lost their first game without him to Tennessee in the O-Dome. Tennessee is better than Georgia and the Gators have had some experience playing without him at this point, but I just don’t trust Florida on the road even after the win at Arkansas.

Sat. No. 20 Notre Dame @ St. John’s, 7 p.m. ESPN: This St. John’s roster is and always has intrigued me. They are quite athletic and a couple of those freshmen — Moe Harkless and D’angelo Harrison — have been quite thrilling to watch at times. No team in the country is playing as well as Notre Dame right now, but with the athleticism that the Johnnies have at their disposal, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a run at the Irish. These freshmen may be too naive to realize that they aren’t supposed to win this game.

Sat. No. 18 New Mexico @ TCU, 7 p.m. (MTN): I don’t think that the Lobos are going to come out as flat as they did against Colorado State on Wednesday. That loss was understandable. When, all of a sudden, you become the talk of the country while soundly beating the other two contenders in your conference and moving into a two-game lead in first place, its easy to become complacent. UNM became complacent. Hopefully, they learned their lesson. That said, TCU is not terrible this season, they’ve upset UNLV at home after coming back from 18 down in the second half and they have a kid named Hank Thorns that is one of the nation’s best kept secrets. The Lobos have to show up to win this one.

Sun. No. 15 Florida State @ Miami (FL), 6 p.m. (ESPNU): Miami will be playing for their tournament lives. They have the size to matchup with the Seminoles on the interior and a matchup nightmare in Kenny Kadji at the four. The issue is going to be their back court. You cannot beat Florida State’s perimeter defense going one-on-one, and that is what Miami’s back court tends to do.

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

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)
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
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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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.