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Indiana tops our preseason NCAA tournament projections

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Make way for the Big Ten.  Led by No. 1 overall seed Indiana, four teams – including Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan – grab top three seeds in our 2013 NCAA Tournament preseason bracket projection.  Will that be true come March?  Nobody knows.  Crystal balls are always a little cloudy this time of year.

Here’s what we do anticipate:

The Big Ten should be very strong at the top.  Wisconsin and Minnesota also appear to be tournament teams.  If a seventh team emerges, it could be Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, or Purdue.  The Hawkeyes made a late push last season and make our initial bracket as a First Four participant.

source: Getty Images

Duke, NC State, and North Carolina will wage a war in the ACC.  Any of the three could win it.  Florida State could also be a Top 25 team.

With the additions of VCU and Butler, the Atlantic 10 will be a deep, competitive league. Best guess: four to six teams will be in good position for at-large consideration by season’s end. Seeding will be interesting. In our opening bracket, five A-10 teams make the field but all are seeded between lines 7-10.

Arizona and UCLA will lift the Pac-12.  Both are capable of long runs in the NCAA Tournament.  Another three or four teams will likey be in the at-large picture: Stanford, USC, California, and Washington are among those.

Staying West, how about UNLV and San Diego State?  Both are Top 20 teams.

Kentucky has reloaded with another stellar recruiting class.  Challengers include Florida and league newcomer Missouri.  Don’t overlook Tennessee, either.  The Volunteers begin at No. 21 on the s-curve.

All Kansas does is win Big 12 titles and earn high seeds in March.  No reason for that to change.  Baylor will be in the hunt, too.

And then there’s Louisville, Syracuse, and a host of Big East teams.  Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Marquette, and Pittsburgh will make life interesting for the Cardinals and Orange.

The Road to Atlanta begins Friday.  Here’s to a great season of college hoops.

Find all of our season previews here  |  The year’s burning questions  |  The Twitter must-follow list

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc). Records are for games against Division I teams only.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Northern Iowa vs. Colorado | East Region
  • Arkansas vs. Iowa | West Region
  • STONY BROOK vs. SAVANNAH STATE | South Region
  • VMI vs. PRAIRIE VIEW | Midwest

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTWashington, DC MIDWESTIndianapolis
Lexington Dayton
1) LOUISVILLE 1) INDIANA
16) MERCER 16) VMI / PRAIRIE VIEW
8. Minnesota 8. St. Joseph’s
9) Kansas State 9) Miami-FL
Salt Lake City San Jose
5) San Diego State 5) Baylor
12) No. Iowa / Colorado 12) South Florida
4) Missouri 4) UCLA
13) DREXEL 13) ORAL ROBERTS
Kansas City Austin
6) Tennessee 6) Notre Dame
11) Saint Louis 11) Colorado State
3) NC State 3) Florida
14) MONTANA 14) UTAH STATE
Auburn Hills Philadelphia
7) Pittsburgh 7) Wisconsin
10) St. Mary’s 10) West Virginia
2) Michigan State 2) DUKE
15) LIU BROOKLYN 15) MANHATTAN
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Dallas
Kansas City Dayton
1) KANSAS 1) KENTUCKY
16) PRINCETON 16) STONY BROOK / SAVANNAH ST
8. Marquette 8. Texas
9) Temple 9) Georgetown
Salt Lake City Austin
5) GONZAGA 5) MEMPHIS
12) Arkansas / Iowa 12) MURRAY STATE
4) UNLV 4) North Carolina
13) LONG BEACH 13) DAVIDSON
Auburn Hills Lexington
6) Cincinnati 6) CREIGHTON
11) Oklahoma State 11) OHIO
3) Michigan 3) Ohio State
14) VALPARAISO 14) LEHIGH
San Jose Philadelphia
7) Florida State 7) VCU
10) Butler 10) Stanford
2) ARIZONA 2) Syracuse
15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 15) NORTH TEXAS

NOTES on the BRACKET: Indiana is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Louisville, Kentucky and Kansas.

Last Five teams in (at large): South Florida, Arkansas, Colorado, Northern Iowa, Iowa

First Five teams out (at large): Massachusetts, Maryland, USC, Iowa State, BYU

Next Five teams out (at large): Marshall, New Mexico, Illinois State, Northwestern, Alabama

Also considered: California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Virginia, La Salle, UTEP, Houston, Washington, Nevada, Purdue, Delaware, St. Bonaventure, Evansville

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big East (8): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Georgetown, South Florida

Big Ten (7): Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa

Big 12 (6): Kansas, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State, West Virginia, Oklahoma State

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas

ACC (5): Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Florida State, Miami

Atlantic 10 (5): VCU, St. Joseph’s, Temple, Butler, Saint Louis

Pac 12 (3): Arizona, UCLA, Stanford

Mountain West (3): UNLV, San Diego State, Colorado State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, St. Mary’s

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Northern Iowa

Conference USA (1): Memphis

Conference leaders/champions … DREXEL (Colonial), DAVIDSON (Southern), OHIO (MAC), ORAL ROBERTS (Southland), LONG BEACH (Big West), MURRAY STATE (OVC), MANHATTAN (MAAC), MONTANA (Big Sky), UTAH STATE (WAC), SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (Summit), LEHIGH (Patriot), LIU BROOKLYN (NEC), MERCER (Atlantic Sun), PRINCETON (Ivy), VMI (Big South), SAVANNAH ST (MEAC), VALPARAISO (Horizon) STONY BROOK (America East), NORTH TEXAS (Sun Belt), PRAIRIE VIEW (SWAC)

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.

VIDEO: Jim Boeheim makes TV appearance to talk Carmelo Anthony

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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has drawn attention for some recent comments about former Orange star Carmelo Anthony.

After Anthony captured his record third gold medal with USA Basketball, his former college coach told Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard that Anthony didn’t have a great chance at winning an NBA title.

“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”

Boeheim maintains that he was speaking of Melo’s legacy being about more than an NBA title and that he’s one of the game’s greats thanks to other accomplishments like the Syracuse title and gold medals. On SportsCenter, Boeheim made sure to stress where those comments were coming from, while also making sure his kids would stop being mad at him.

It’s much easier to understand where Boeheim is coming from in this instance and it clears up something that will probably go away now.