Baylor Bears guard Pierre Jackson reacts near the end of the team's loss to the Kentucky Wildcats in their men's NCAA South Regional basketball game in Atlanta

It will be tough to pick a winner in the Charleston Classic

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The Charleston Classic announced its bracket pairings on Thursday afternoon, and a quick glance reveals a field that will be tough to predict come November.

Baylor lost some key contributors in the front court, but they add Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers while guards Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson return to Waco.

There’s also a Murray State team led by Isaiah Canaan and Ed Daniel to be reckoned with, and Colorado, Dayton and host College of Charleston will likely be heard from as well.

Here’s the schedule and a few thoughts on the Charleston Classic, which will be played on November 15, 16 and 18 (non-bracketed games on November 21 (Auburn/Boston College) and 24 (College of Charleston/Baylor) as well).

Charleston Classic schedule (all times Eastern)

November 15
12:30 PM Colorado vs. Dayton (ESPN3)
3 PM Baylor vs. Boston College (ESPNU)
5 PM St. John’s vs. College of Charleston (ESPNU)
8 PM Murray State vs. Auburn (ESPN3)

November 16
12:30 PM Semifinal #1 (ESPNU)
2:30 PM Consolation #1 (ESPNU)
5:30 PM Semifinal #2 (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Consolation #2 (ESPN3)

November 18
Noon 7th place game (ESPN3)
2 PM 5th place game (ESPN3)
6 PM 3rd place game (ESPNU)
8:30 PM Championship game (ESPN2)

Best quarterfinal: Colorado vs. Dayton
Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes took full advantage of their first season in the Pac-12, grabbing the league’s automatic bid and then beating UNLV in the round of 64. What can they do for an encore, especially with Carlon Brown, Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson graduating?

Well, they could be better, with Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson all back in Boulder. Add in a good recruiting haul led by wing Xavier Johnson and big man Josh Scott, and Colorado could very well return to the NCAA tournament.

But their quarterfinal opponent has a chance to get to the Big Dance as well, with point guard Kevin Dillard leading the way in Archie Miller’s second season at the helm. Dayton will have to account for the graduation of four seniors, most notably Chris Johnson, but forwards Josh Benson and Matt Kavanaugh return as well.

Best individual match-up (that we know we’ll see): Andrew Lawrence (College of Charleston) vs. D’Angelo Harrison (St. John’s)
Lawrence is the floor general for the Cougars, and his experience this summer with Great Britain’s national team should serve Lawrence well once he returns to the States. Lawrence averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 assists per game for the Cougars last season, and he’ll be a key contributor in Doug Wojcik’s first season as head coach.

As for Harrison, he was right there with first round draft pick Maurice Harkless in what was a tough 2011-12 season for the undermanned Red Storm. Harrison averaged 17.0 points per game, and a large recruiting class should help him shoulder the load down the line. But they’re young, meaning that early on Harrison may still have to do the heavy lifting.

Best individual match-up (that we hope to see): Isaiah Canaan (Murray State) vs. Pierre Jackson (Baylor)
This needs to happen. Canaan remains one of the nation’s best point guards, and his ability to score as well as set up teammates makes him a tough match-up for anyone. And with Ivan Aska, Jewuan Long and Donte Poole graduating, Canaan may have to do a little more scoring to go along with Ed Daniel’s play inside.

But Jackson’s no slouch, as his arrival in Waco was one reason why Scott Drew’s team was able to reach the Elite 8. With Baylor losing four key contributors inside guards such as Jackson and Brady Heslip will likely have to do more in the way of scoring as the young bigs get used to college basketball.

Winner: Baylor
There are a number of teams that can win this tournament, but the pick here is Baylor due to the potential of guys such as Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers. There’s also sophomore shooting guard Deuce Bello, an electrifying leaper who will need to show improvement offensively if the Bears are to have a shot at duplicating (or exceeding) last year’s success.

It would not be a surprise if Colorado or Murray State ended up winning the event, and College of Charleston is another team folks need to keep an eye on.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

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)
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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.