Doug McDermott

Weekend Preview: Baylor-Kentucky, St. Joe’s-Creighton highlight top games

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Game of the Weekend: Saturday, 3:00 p.m.: St. Joseph’s at No. 11 Creighton (ESPN3)

This matchup lost some of its luster when Creighton lost to Boise State in Omaha earlier this week, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re just three weeks into the season and we’re getting a game between the favorite in the Missouri Valley and the favorite in the Atlantic 10. St. Joe’s enters this game at 4-1 on the season, with their only loss coming at the hands of Florida State in the Coaches vs. Cancer title game.

The Hawks have a much bigger and more athletic front line than the Bluejays, as their defacto small forward is 6-foot-9 shot blocker CJ Aiken, which could end up giving the notoriously defense-deficient Creighton trouble. But Creighton’s advantage will come in their versatility and execution offensively. Creighton is surgical when they have the ball. Doug McDermott cuts and seals as well as anyone in the country. Ethan Wragge and McDermott are two of the most dangerous shooters in the country, and they will draw those bigger St. Joe’s defenders out of the paint.

Best individual matchup: Grant Gibbs vs. Langston Galloway.

Five more games that you have to watch:

  • Friday, 6:30 p.m.: Tennessee at No. 20 Georgetown (ESPN): Tennessee came into the season with more expectations than Georgetown, but thanks to an impressive performance against No. 1 Indiana at the Legends Classic two weeks ago, the Hoyas skyrocketed into the top 25. The Vols are still playing without Jeronne Maymon, which is a major loss for a team that prides themselves on their toughness, but this will still be a major test for the younger, weaker Hoyas.
  • Friday, 8:30 p.m.: No. 6 Syracuse at Arkansas (ESPN): Syracuse has put up some impressive numbers this season, but the only time that they’ve been tested this season came when they played a San Diego State team that shoots threes on a boat. Not exactly a test. Arkansas has a star in BJ Young on the wing and runs Mike Anderson’s 40 Minutes of Hell defense. How will Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche handle it?
  • Saturday, 12:30 p.m.: Baylor at No. 8 Kentucky (CBS): Baylor is one of the most disappointing teams in the country this far into the season, as they lost to both Colorado and Charleston already this season. But it’s not like Kentucky has been a world-beater; they lost to Notre Dame on Thursday after losing to Duke in the second game of the season. The good news? There will be as much athleticism in this game as in any NBA game.
  • Saturday, 7:00 p.m.: Belmont at VCU: Everyone in the country knows about VCU at this point. They press, they shoot a lot of threes and they do everything they can to push the tempo and wear out their opponent. But Belmont does the same thing as well, and they have one of the most talented and experienced back courts at the mid-major level. This should be an entertaining, high-level basketball game.
  • Sunday, 4:00 p.m.: Cal at Wisconsin (BTN): The Badgers are coming off of a home loss to Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Cal, who won the DirecTV Classic, has a terrific perimeter attack — led by Allen Crabbe — but the question is whether or not they’ll be able to handle Jared Berggren inside.

And the mid-majors?:

  • Saturday, 12:00 p.m.: Rider at Drexel
  • Saturday, 2:00 p.m.: Wagner at Temple
  • Saturday, 4:30 p.m.: Evansville at Colorado State
  • Saturday, 7:00 p.m.: Ohio at Robert Morris
  • Sunday, 4:30 p.m.: Valpo at St. Louis
  • Sunday, 5:00 p.m.: Wichita State at Air Force

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.