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Breaking the bubble divide between big schools, mid-majors

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As Selection Sunday looms the ongoing discussion will get louder:

Is bubble team X more deserving of an NCAA Tournament bid than bubble team Y?

The blind résumé game is a bit played, but when it involves a mid-major and a member of a BCS-conference, the argument can get contentious (and fun to observe for some).

Teams will carry similar RPIs, records against the RPI top 100, strength of schedules, etc. They have many of the same characteristics, but peel back the curtain and if one team is from a major conference, and the other is not, favoritism usually ensues.

Either you’re a big brand guy or you subscribe to MidMajority.com. You usually never waver.

The argument when deciding whom to favor doesn’t really involve numbers, even though when you argue over one mid-major vs. a BCS-conference team, it has everything to do with numbers.

Personally, I don’t really lean either way. I think that taking a stand and picking a side is ignorant.

If you think that NC State should get in over, say, Iona 10 times out of 10, you’re probably refusing to lend any credence the personnel of the Gaels. Sure, Iona shot themselves in the foot by losing a few regular season games, but put them up against the Wolfpack on a neutral court, roll the ball out on the court and let them go at it? I guarantee you the game would be close and interesting.

The problem is you don’t get to do that. Instead, you have to establish a hierarchy of what is most important to you when weighing the information on a team’s resume sheet.

If you back the little guy, you probably refuse to think a middling team from a major conference would run away with a mid-major conference tournament

If you can’t stand the little guy, you’re convinced they would wilt at playing 18-games against “real teams”.

I understand the arguments, but what I look for in distinguishing a tournament team from a non-tournament team, regardless of their conference membership, is finding something that jumps out at me. Something that their peers did not do.

For my argument, Drexel is the perfect example. The Dragons had a 19-game winning streak this season. Regardless of who they played, that’s impressive. To weather unforeseen injuries and off-nights for two months and always pull off the “W” has to earn some level of clout among the selection committee.

They also know how to score, which is something you can’t say about fellow bubble member South Florida cannot say.

But getting back to the Wolfpack – they have done little to impress.

I understand that they stayed afloat in one of the country’s tougher conferences, going 9-7 with a few wins over Miami and a non-conference win over Texas, but they didn’t beat anybody. They had eight chances to get a victory over an RPI top 50 teams, and came up empty every time. They’re were just sort of…there.

Much like the Virginia Tech syndrome of the past few seasons, if you don’t schedule tough or you don’t do something that sticks out, you shouldn’t be in the tournament.

It’s sort of an unwritten rule.

Some of us are never going to find common ground on this argument. BCS teams and mid-majors have fan bases of two different ilks.

To eliminate the minutia, look for something that sticks out. Find a team that has done something great in the regular season. Something the team standing next to them in line did not do.

You’ll at least get the media’s attention.

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.