The Morning Mix: Today is the day

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Today is the day we’ve been waiting months for. Real, live, meaningful college basketball takes place today for the first time since Kentucky cut down the nets in New Orleans. We’ll keep it brief today with the Morning Mix because there will be so much going on. Make sure to keep refreshing the College Basketball Talk homepage today.

 
 
Top Stories:
Which is the best team in “The Triangle“?: Apparently the resurgence of North Carolina State has forced a name change from “Tobacco Road” to “The Triangle”. Nonetheless, the College Basketball Talk writers discuss their thoughts.

Welcome to #NBCtheLeague: The College Basketball Talk writers are testing their fantasy wits in the college hoops realm. Take a look at the rosters and team names.

College Basketball Talk writers pick major conference winners: Indiana and Creighton were the only unanimous picks. Kansas, Drexel, Memphis, and Gonzaga received five out of six votes. Raphielle Johnson was the only writer to go “chalk”.

Preseason Wooden Award top-50 watch list released: Louisville is the only team to place three players, and the list of notable snubs is almost nonexistent

Kentucky donates $500,00 to Superstorm Sandy relief efforts: There is not a coach in the country who better utilizes his stature to benefit the university and the community than John Calipari. The Kentucky head coach held a telethon on Wednesday night in order to raise funds for the relief efforts.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin will be suspended for the Carrier Classic against Georgetown (Orlando Sentinel)

– Cleveland State has given head coach Gary Waters a seven-year extension (Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

– USC is going to need all the help they can get this season, and it seems as though they got some. 7-foot Rice-transfer Omar Oraby was cleared by the NCAA and will be able to participate right away (ESPN)

– Kansas freshman Landen Lucas will sit out the season-opener as is in the process of deciding if he wants to redshirt or not (KUsports.com)
 
 
Observations & Analysis:
– Gary Parrish looks ahead to what should be a tremendous opening weekend for college hoops (CBS Sports)

– 68 predictions for the college basketball season that are bound to come true (Yahoo Sports)

– Jeff Goodman tells us there are ten things we need to know before we head into the 2012-2013 season (CBS Sports)

– TCU has had almost no basketball success in the past two decades. But with Trent Johnson at the helm of the Horn Frogs, a new era of hoops is on the horizon (Dallas Star-Telegram)
 
 
Video of the Day:
Our pals Vin Parise and Eric Kuselias from NBC Sport Talk provide a preview of the first weekend of college hoops

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
 
 
The ten year-old brother of former-Washington Redskin Sean Taylor (R.I.P) is going to be a beast some day. (The Big Lead)


 
 
Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or wanted something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

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.