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Marshall’s absence raises the question: Who is Stilman White?

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OK, so the odds of North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall playing vs. Ohio are roughly the same as you posting a perfect bracket. Without him running the show, the Midwest’s No. 1 seed should be OK against the 13th-seeded Bobcats, even with Stilman White likely getting the start.

Which raises the question: Who the heck is Stilman White?

Here’s how UNC coach Roy Williams described him on Thursday.

“He’s really a nice kid,” Williams said. “I mean, he’s a little wacko now. … I mean, no, he’s a lot wacko. But he’s really a good kid. And we have enjoyed the dickens out of him.

“Stilman is like a little colt running around out there. Kendall thinks three plays ahead. Stilman’s still trying to think [whether] he’s got both shoes tied. … But Stilman’s got a little toughness to him. I mean, he really does. Like I say, he’s wacko and maybe it’s the wacko to the extent that he doesn’t realize it, but I like the toughness. He’s willing to try to make plays. I don’t worry any more about Stilman tomorrow than I would if he was going to play two minutes. Because he’s still wacko. …

“We have thrown him out there a couple of minutes in some big games and he’s done fine. And he comes back over to the bench and just sort of sits down and he’s got this little grin on his face, and somebody will say, ‘Good job.’ And he will say, ‘What did I do?’ ”

Ah. Sounds like the perfect player to throw out there with a trip to the regional finals on the line.

Williams was undoubtedly keeping things light, trying to take some of the spotlight off Marshall, the Heels who plays more minutes than anyone else on the roster and is second in the nation in assists. He’s also trying to ease expectations on White, a 6-foot 160-pound true freshman from Wilmington, N.C., who rarely steps on the court. White’s played 136 minutes in 32 games this season, which is what Marshall totals in four games.

But he’s been preparing for this possibility ever since junior Dexter Strickland tore his ACL in January and became Marshall’s only real backup.

“It’s something in practice you’ve got to prepare for, always prepare as if I’m going to be playing a lot of minutes,” White said. “It definitely helps to go through the ACC season, playing in that competition. … Also, in practice, I’ve gotten to go up against the best point guard in the country.”

White will get the start, but don’t expect him to play a ton of minutes. Senior Justin Watts isn’t a natural point guard, but he’s a much better defender than White, which’ll come in handy against guard-heavy Ohio. If either D.J. Cooper or Walter Offutt heat up, Watts will be the guy guarding them.

Besides, no matter who’s running the offense, the goal remains the same: get it to the big guys. Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes – all future lottery picks – should have huge games.

“Whether I’m playing or not, it’s not going to matter. Carolina basketball is still going to go on,” Marshall said. “They can be successful without me.”

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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.