The Morning Mix

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I hope you all enjoyed the Tip-Off Marathon. Today is a “Rest & Recovery” day. But here’s what’s going on in today’s Morning Mix:

Wednesday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – St. Bonaventure’s @ Cornell (NBC Sports Network)
7:00 p.m. – No.22 Wisconsin @ No.10 Florida
8:00 p.m. – Santa Clara @ Saint Louis
8:00 p.m. – Toledo @ Northern Iowa
8:00 p.m. – Western Illinois @ SIU-Edwardsville
8:05 p.m. – UAB @ N0.15 Creighton

 

Top Stories:
Wichita State able to outlast VCU’s havoc, grabs hard-fought 53-51 win: In a rematch of last season’s NCAA tournament first round game, the Shockers of Wichita State were able to overcome the intense pressure of VCU’s patented “HAVOC” defense. Oregon-transfer Malcolm Armstead hit a jumper with 3.8 seconds left in the second half to give the Shockers a solid road win.

Lackluster performance against Xavier raises concerns about Butler Bulldogs: Butler’s offense struggled to click in the 62-47 loss to a  thin Xavier squad. Sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke struggled to run the offense, and big-man Andrew Smith didn’t get enough touches. Maybe we were wrong to pour on so much preseason love for the Bulldogs.

Keith Appling’ game-winning bucket proves that he can be the Spartan’s leader: Keith Appling’s last-second lay-up in heavy traffic gave the Michigan State Spartans a 67-64 in the opening game of the Champions Classic. The junior showed poise and confidence and looks to be the leading candidate to fill the void left by the graduation of Draymond Green.

Shabazz Muhammad’s family releases statement: The family of ineligible UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad released a statement to the LA Times disputing many of the NCAA’s claims. The high-profile freshman has had his eligibility status in limbo for the last three months, and it was announced last Friday that the NCAA was denying him eligibility.

Hoops Housekeeping:
– San Diego State freshman Winston Sheppard suspended three games for taking improper benefits (Eye on College Basketball)

– Kansas picked up their fifth recruit from the class of 2013 in the form of 7-footer Joel Embiid (Kansas City Star)

Observations & Analysis:
– UMass’s Sampson Carter hit a buzzer-beater to knock off Harvard as part of the Tip-Off Marathon (The Dagger)

– The Washington Huskies dropped a head-scratching loss to the Albany Danes on Tuesday, which is the first of what we imagine to be many ugly non-conference losses for pac-12 teams (Seattle Times)

– With star guard Vincent Council going down with an injury, Providence fans must be very grateful that Bryce Cotton ultimately decided against transferring (Rush The Court)

– Princeton struggled with Northeastern, but it became evident that Ian Hummer is the Ivy League’s top performer (New Jersey Hoops Haven)

Odds & Ends:
– Texas-Arlington doesn’t get many high-profile home games. So with the Oklahoma Sooners on the way into town, the atmosphere is already starting to buzz (Dallas Star-Telegram)

– UCLA’s Josh Smith struggles with lay-ups (The Mock Session)

– St. John’s Jakarr Sampson airball’d a lay-up. You just hate to see that happen. (Big East Coast Bias)

– At halftime of the Champions Classic game between Duke and Kentucky, John Calipari said that the Duke players were flopping and would be suspended if they played in the NBA. He was clearly joking, but nobody knew it. (The Dagger)

Video(s) of the Day:
The Tip-Off Marathon featured a bevy of highlight reel dunks, led by Detroit’s Doug Anderson and Kansas’ Jamari Traylor (Ballin’ is a Habit)

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)

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)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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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)
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)
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.