Pierre Jackson, Dave Sobolewski

Baylor follows up win over Kentucky with … home loss to Northwestern?

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On Saturday, Baylor went into Lexington and knocked off then No. 8 Kentucky, 64-55.

It was an impressive performance, if, for no other reason, than the fact that it ended Kentucky’s 55 game home winning streak and was the first loss that John Calipari has suffered in Rupp Arena.

But it was that loss, combined with Kentucky’s loss at Notre Dame earlier in the week, that sent the Wildcats free-falling, from No. 8 in the country to being unranked. Maybe that drop was more prescient than everyone realized, because after Tuesday night, the team that ended Kentucky’s winning streak in Rupp can now count losses to Colorado, at home to Charleston and at home to Northwestern.

The final score was 74-70, but that score doesn’t come close to telling you the entire story of the Wildcat’s win. In the first half, Baylor say back in a zone as Northwestern dissected them with the pass and — get this — abused them on the glass. But since the Wildcat’s couldn’t get their shots to drop from the perimeter, they went into the break with just a 35-32 lead.

The second half was a different story, however, as NW used a 19-4 run to jump out 54-36 lead. That’s when Baylor finally turned it on. They threw a press on the Wildcats, making Northwestern look like a team that Baylor and picked out from the local YMCA for a scrimmage. It was tough to watch. The Wildcats were barely able to get the ball over half court, and when they did, they couldn’t hit a free throw.

Northwestern gave Baylor chance after chance to come back, and the Bears did — cutting the lead all the way down to two points. But the Bears would have won if they didn’t repeatedly shoot themselves in the shoot.

There are two examples that stick out in my mind. The first is an flagrant foul that was given to freshman Rico Gathers with a little more than two minutes left. With Jared Swopshire on a runout, Gathers hit Swopshire across the arms as hard as he could with his left arm while tackling him into the row of photographers under the basket. It didn’t end up costing Baylor that much, as Swopshire missed one of the two free throws and Northwestern turned the in-bounds pass over, which allowed the second mistake to manifest.

Baylor was down four with 30 seconds left on the clock. They had the ball, and they had Northwestern on the ropes, waiting for the comeback to be finished off. Pierre Jackson brings the ball down the floor and … pulls up for a 25 foot three instead of getting to the rim. He airballed the three, which means that Northwestern got the ball back up four instead of up two.

And given how Northwestern had handled the pressure — both of the moment and from Baylor’s defense — there’s little doubt in my mind that Baylor would have gotten the ball back down just a single possession.

Instead, Northwestern simply had to inbound the ball and wait to get fouled.

Everyone has bad nights, so I’m not going to rip Baylor too much for coming out poorly one game after beating Kentucky at Kentucky.

But I will rip them for the kind of mental mistakes and poor decisions that they’ve made over and over the last couple of years when they finally do turn it on.

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.