Bryant v Indiana

Your guide to the pre-marathon Monday night games

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With a matter of minutes left until the first Monday night slate of the college basketball season, here’s a list of game that you might be interested in before midnight hits and the world completely turns its collective attention to the 24-hours of Marathon Madness.

A few games will be of interest for certain players, certain matchups and certain minutiae that all hoopheads loves.

So if you need to turn the 24-hours of hoops into 29, here’s your guide. Choose wisely. And take it easy on the caffeine.

Games of Note (and why)

North Dakota State at Indiana (7 p.m., no TV listed)Why: It’s the no. 1 team in the nation, first off. But this isn’t just another cupcake for the Hoosiers. The Bison were selected to finish behind only South Dakota State in the Summit League and have leading scorer Taylor Braun and Marshall Bjorkland back from last season. Newcomer Mike Felt scored 23 in the team’s first game of the season, a blowout win over Valley City State (yea, I know, but still….).

Toledo at Minnesota (8 p.m., no T.V. listed) – Why: Trevor Mbakwe. He only played 14 minutes in the Golden Gophers’ first game of the season, a rout of American. It’s fair to believe that Tubby Smith is bringing the sixth-year senior along slowly. No reason to rush recovery of a torn ACL. But what does he do now with a game under his belt and against a Rockets’ team that just got rolled by Loyola (Ill.)? Will Tubby release the Mbakwe on the world tonight?

Morehead State at Maryland (8 p.m., ESPN3) – Why: Do the Terrapins overcome a Big Blue hangover? Alex Len led Maryland through a nail-biter against Kentucky, coming up short but showing a lot of promise for a season that was in limbo after leading scorer Terril Stoglin was suspended, then bolted. Ironically, they play an Eagles team that took the court right before them in Brooklyn on Friday night, beating a solid LIU-Brooklyn team in what essentially was a road game at the Barclays Center. So this is no buffer game for coach Mark Turgeon. How will the Terps respond?

Central Michigan at Iowa (7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) – Why: The Keno Davis era begins. Davis parlayed one dream season at Drake into three sub-par seasons at Providence. After one year away from coaching, which Davis will we see? The Drake coach that was able to develop a guard like former Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Adam Emmenecker? Or a coach who failed to get things started at Providence despite having a player like Marshon Brooks to build around? We’ll see.

Rhode Island at Virginia Tech (7 p.m., ESPN3) – Why: Dan Hurley gets his first true test. And this comes after a really bad game in a 67-55 loss to Norfolk State at home. And that Spartan team doesn’t have Kyle O’Quinn on it. Now they head to Blacksburg against a fellow first-year head man in James Johnson, who got an 80-62 victory over East Tennessee State to open his career with the Hokies. This will be the true barometer of how much work Hurley has to do to get the Rams back to respectability.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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.