Maryland Kentucky Basketball

A Viewer’s Guide to Marathon Madness

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First and foremost, Tuesday’s schedule (all times ET):

12:00 AM: West Virginia at No. 19 Gonzaga (ESPN)
2:00 AM: Davidson at New Mexico (ESPN)
4:00 AM: Houston Baptist at Hawaii (ESPN)
6:00 AM: Stony Brook at Rider (ESPN)
8:00 AM: Northern Illinois at Valparaiso (ESPN)
10:00 AM: Harvard at Massachusetts (ESPN)
12:00 PM: Temple at Kent State (ESPN)
2:00 PM: Detroit at St. John’s (ESPN)
4:00 PM: Butler at Xavier (ESPN)
6:00 PM: No. 6 Kentucky at No. 1 Baylor (Women’s) (ESPN2)
7:00 PM: No. 22 Michigan St vs. No. 7 Kansas (ESPN)
7:00 PM: Wichita State at VCU (ESPNU)
8:00 PM: Cleveland State/Bowling Green at No. 5 Michigan (NIT) (ESPN2)
9:00 PM: Lehigh/Robert Morris at Pittsburgh (ESPNU)
9:00 PM: No. 9 Duke vs No. 3 Kentucky (ESPN)
10:00 PM: UNT/Alabama-Huntsville at Kansas State (ESPN2)

We’ll have quite a bit of content up throughout the marathon, but in an effort to help you manage your time (and your naps), here is a Viewer’s Guide for which games to watch, which games to TiVo and when you can grab a few minutes of shuteye:

Only miss these games to see the birth of your FIRST child:

No. 9 Duke vs. No. 3 Kentucky: The intrigue of this matchup goes well beyond the fact that it features two top ten teams. Duke may be despised nationally, but it’s because they have the reputation for being a squeaky-clean program that can do no wrong and consistently produces overrated college players. Kentucky is despised nationally as well, but that’s because they are coached by college basketball’s version of Bain, make a mockery of the idea of “student-athletes” with their approach to the one-and-done rule, and have no problem flaunting their strength on the recruiting trail. Good vs. evil, if you will. And thanks to guys like Christian Laettner and the bosses at UPS, there is no love lost between these two fan bases.

It should be quite entertaining on the court as well. Kentucky once again brings in a loaded recruiting class, but just how good that group is going to end up being is still unclear, especially if Ryan Harrow isn’t 100%. Duke, on the other hand, is coming off of a year where they lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament and returns a number of key pieces from that team. But there has been a movement promoting the idea that these Blue Devils are actually better than last year’s team. Is this group truly a title contender?

No. 22 Michigan State vs. No. 7 Kansas: Just how good is Michigan State? That’s the question that everyone has after the Spartans lost to a UConn team that was decimated by transfers, early-entry and coaching changes during the offseason. The Spartans are big and physical along their front line, but are yet to know if this is a team that has enough scoring prowess on their perimeter to be a real threat this year. Kansas, on the other hand, is a bit of a wildcard this season. They have the potential to be one of the nation’s most complete teams this year, but that will only be true if Ben McLemore and Perry Ellis can develop into legitimate scoring threats. How much will we learn from Tuesday night?

You can miss these for a hot date, but they have to be at least a nine and NOT already your significant other:

West Virginia at No. 19 Gonzaga: The Mountaineers are one of the sleepers in the Big 12 this season, buoyed by transfers Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray. But this may end up being the best Gonzaga team in recent memory, especially if Polish import Prmezek Karnowski is as good as he looked in the opener.

Davidson at New Mexico: Davidson made the NCAA tournament last season and beat Kansas in Kansas City, and they returned EVERYONE. The Wildcats could end up being the best mid-major team in the country this side of Creighton. But New Mexico brings back quite a bit from last season, as well, and has spent the entire offseason hearing about how they don’t have a chance in the MWC this year. The only shame is the 2:00 AM east coast tip for Davidson; we may not see their best performance.

Wichita State at VCU: This is not the same Wichita State team that took the court last season, but the Shockers are still one of the top three teams in the MVC, especially with the addition of Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead. Armstead’s addition will be valuable, as WSU is going to have a serious test on their hands with VCU’s ‘Havoc’ system and 40 minutes worth of full-court pressure.

Butler at Xavier: This is actually a intra-conference game now, although it won’t count in the Atlantic 10 standings. Xavier went off for 117 points in their opener against a depleted Farleigh Dickinson, but they’ll have their hands full with the Bulldogs, who look like one of the best teams in the league. Keep an eye on Roosevelt Jones, who will be playing a similar role to that of Draymond Green for Michigan State last season.

Harvard at UMass: This game got a lot less intriguing when Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry were forced to miss this season. That said, the Crimson still have quite a bit of talent, albeit youthful talent, at their disposal this year, while UMass is a sleeper in the A-10. Keep an eye on Chaz Williams, the point guard for the Minutemen. He may be the nation’s best kept secret.

North Texas/UA-Huntsville at Kansas State: Here’s top hoping that North Texas wins tonight against Huntsville. I’d love to see Tony Mitchell taking on the Wildcats in Manhattan.

Lehigh/Robert Morris at Pitt: Ditto for Lehigh and Pitt. CJ McCollum is fresh off of a 36 point performance at Baylor.

You can play bridge with your Grandmother, just make sure you have the game on in the back ground:

Temple at Kent State: Kent State is looking to go 2-0 against the city of Philadelphia this season, as they are coming off of an overtime win against Drexel. Temple’s Khalif Wyatt is the real deal, however.

Detroit at St. John’s: It’s unclear whether or not St. John’s will have a pair of still-ineligible JuCo transfers this season, and without them they could be in trouble. Detroit is led by the talented-Ray McCallum Jr.

Cleveland State/Bowling Green at No. 5 Michigan: Michigan should be able to knock off either of these teams, but the Wolverines have been labeled as overrated by most of the computer rankings. This will be their first game against a Division I opponent.

You know what? Go ahead. Get some sleep. I ain’t even mad:

Houston Baptist at Hawaii: Root for HBU coach Steven Key. He’s one of the good guys in the business.

Stony Brook at Rider: Stony Brook is the favorite in the America East, but Rider just whipped up on Robert Morris thanks to 26 points from St. John’s-transfer Nurideen Lindsay.

Northern Illinois at Valparaiso: Valpo is the favorite in the Horizon this year.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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.