North Carolina v Duke

Duke’s flaws are exposed as they get blown out by North Carolina

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Well, that was anti-climatic.

It only took four minutes and 29 seconds for No. 6 UNC to open up a double-digit lead against No. 4 Duke. The Tar Heels were up 17 points by the second TV timeout. By halftime, the lead had swelled all the way to 24. And while the Blue Devils were able to trim the deficit to 11 at one point in the second half, there is no denying what we saw on Saturday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium: a blowout.

All the buildup of the Duke-UNC rivalry. All the hype surrounding the rematch of what could very well be the best game of the college basketball season with the ACC regular season title on the line. The bright lights of ESPN’s Gameday in attendance. And the only thing we learned from UNC’s 88-70 win over Duke is that the Blue Devils may be the nation’s most overrated good team.

That’s not to say Duke isn’t talented. Because they are. Austin Rivers is a talented scorer. So is Seth Curry. Andre Dawkins is a lights-out shooter when he gets into a rhythm. The Plumlees are athletic freaks that can be very effective in the paint. Ryan Kelly’s ability to stretch the floor is valuable.

But never have we seen Duke’s flaws exposed so blatantly as they were tonight.

The Blue Devils are a bad defensive team. It really is that simple. Curry, Rivers and Dawkins would have trouble defending the chair that Yi Jianlian so infamously dominated in his NBA Draft workouts. They don’t have anyone capable of guarding a quality small forward, which is why 6’1″ Tyler Thornton spent the majority of the game trying to slow down 6’8″ Harrison Barnes. Is it any wonder that Duke’s run in the second half came when they finally started stringing together some stops?

Offensively, Duke can be dangerous because of how well they shoot the three-ball. Its what their offensive is predicated on. But as the saying goes, live by the three and die by the three. When they aren’t falling, you see performances like you did tonight from the Blue Devils.

Duke does not pass the eye test for a one or two seed, but the eye test doesn’t determine where a team is going to be seeded. That’s why the Blue Devils will, rightfully, end up being a one or a two seed in the tournament. They beat so many good teams in the non-conference portion of their schedule that its inevitable.

What that means that there is going to be some team sitting somewhere around a seven seed that will be licking their chops come the second round of the tournament. What happens if the Blue Devils draw a team like San Diego State (who is currently being projected as a seven seed) or Long Beach State (who is getting a ten seed in some brackets) or any other team with a quality back court?

I can already tell you who the trendiest upset pick is going to be come Selection Sunday.

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)
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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.