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10 things you must to do prepare for Kentucky – Louisville

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source:  Sorry Ohio State and Kansas. As good as your game might be, there’s just not enough hype to go around for everyone leading up to this weekend.

Even if you don’t carry an allegiance to Kentucky or Louisville, that’s no excuse to not  fully envelop yourself in the first of two Final Four games this Saturday night, so you better get educated on all things Cats and Cards before tip-off.

On the court this one may end up a lopsided victory for Big Blue, but everything surrounding this game is what makes it so special.

Here’s 10 things to help you get prepared for the Bourbon State invading Bourbon Street.

1)  Learn everything about Russ Smith, and also be sure to follow @FakeRussSmith on Twitter. You won’t find a more lovable rascal in this year’s Final Four than the Cardinals offensive-minded guard.

2)  Set up an RSS feed in your Google Reader for www.KentuckySportsRadio.com and www.CardChronicle.com. They’re the two best UK/UL for-the-fan blogs, and they’re run by two mildly famous people who double as “get it guys”.

3)  Follow this link, then explore. The Pitino – Calipari passive-aggressive relationship/rivalry goes way back, beginning in New England and now spreading its roots in the Bluegrass State. The more you know about these two, the better off you are at 6:09pm on Saturday night.

4)  Watch videos from The Rivalry, which was produced by WHAS in Louisville.

5)  Remind yourself just how little this rivalry means to most of the players, as the six 2011 McDonalds All-Americans threw light jabs and laughs at each other exactly one year ago this week. “They’re still going to be our boys for life,” Anthony Davis said when the discussion turned to their regular season match-up at Rupp Arena. That’s right, no venom here between these talented 18-year old kids.  Also please note how hot Michael Kidd-Gilchrist comes in and takes control of the conversation. Just like on the court, MKG does random YouTube videos with ferocity.

6)  Watch this Gorgui Dieng GIF….a lot. It is a quintessential example that GIFs are funny almost solely because of the element of repetition. I love this GIF so much.

7)  We would not be here today if it weren’t for this. While it looked bizarre and problematic for the Wildcats at the time, the firing of Billy Gillispie set into motion the start of a new regime in Lexington.

8)  But we must be bipartisan here: Louisville, although it was short-lived, recently had to deal with their own shameful moment.

9)  Understand that it’s completely normal for no fan of either of these two proud fan-bases to ever graduate.

10) Find a Kentucky– or Louisville-centric viewing party in your city and immerse yourself to fully appreciate one of college basketball’s best rivalries.

Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN

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
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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.