Shabazz Napier

Pregame Shootaround 12.7.12: Light Friday as finals approach for many schools

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will be posted at 2 p.m. ET and lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: Harvard at Connecticut (7 PM) 

Tommy Amaker’s Crimson have made a habit out of beating Boston College on a consistent basis, but the same can’t be said of their recent history with UConn. The Huskies have won all three meetings during Amaker’s tenure and own a 15-2 edge in the series. The Crimson are young but talented, with sophomore forward Wesley Saunders and freshman point guard Siyani Chambers leading the way. With the loss of Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey many ruled the Crimson out of the Ivy League race, but even with just two upperclassmen in the rotation (junior Laurent Rivard and senior Christian Webster) Harvard shouldn’t be overlooked.

And that goes for UConn tonight, as the Huskies have struggled in the paint this season. Enosch Wolf did score 12 points in their loss to NC State on Tuesday night, but Kevin Ollie’s team will only go as far as guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier take them. Harvard doesn’t have much in the way of size but they’ve been the better rebounding team of the two (Harvard grabs 69.8% of opponents’ missed shots while UConn corrals just 60.3%). If the Crimson can take advantage of UConn’s issues inside while keeping Napier and Boatright in check, they have a shot.

Who’s getting upset?: Manhattan vs. Marist (7 PM) 

The light schedule means that a team with two wins (Manhattan) is the pick to be upset by another team with just two wins. Steve Masiello’s Jaspers are one of the favorites to win the MAAC, but this week has already seen both Iona and Loyola (MD) go on the road and drop league games. Devin Price leads the way for the Marist team that’s averaging just 54.1 points per game, and to be frank the Red Foxes were beaten like they stole something the last time they took the court (91-57 loss to Army). The Jaspers haven’t been much better offensively (56.8 ppg; and missing George Beamon certainly doesn’t help matters), and if they continue to struggle Marist has a shot.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: VCU at Old Dominion (9 PM; NBC Sports Network) 

Don’t consider the Rams to be a mid-major personally (especially with the move to the Atlantic 10), but they are on the road playing what should be an emotional game against Old Dominion. The Monarchs have struggled mightily in their final season before leaving the CAA for Conference USA, so maybe the sight of an old rival can fire up Blaine Taylor’s group. ODU is averaging 15.1 turnovers per game, and with VCU forcing nearly 19 turnovers per contest things could get out of hand if the Monarchs don’t take better care of the basketball. But look for ODU to come out with a little more fire and make things tough on VCU in Norfolk.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Iowa State looks to make it four straight wins over Iowa, but the home team has won seven of the last eight meetings in the series (ISU’s win in 2010 being the exception). Forward Will Clyburn leads the Cyclones in both points and rebounds, and Fred Hoiberg’s team has been one of the nation’s best teams when it comes to hitting the boards. Iowa has to keep the Cyclones off the offensive glass if they’re to defend Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

2) South Carolina made just 35.9% of their shots in losses to St. John’s and Clemson. With Jacksonville in town the hope is that the Gamecocks can get going offensively, with Brenton Williams and Bruce Ellington leading the way.

3) Siena’s looking to snap a five-game losing streak as they host Rider in the MAAC opener for both. Mitch Buonaguro’s team has won eight of the last 11 meetings in the series, and Siena’s going to need players other than O.D. Anosike to step up if they’re to make it nine of 12. Guard Nurideen Lindsey  leads four Broncs in double figures with an average of 14.3 points per game.

4) Two slumping teams meet in Milwaukee as the Panthers host Northern Illinois. The Huskies are averaging just 54.3 points per game, which is only two touchdowns more than what their MAC champion football team has averaged (40.8 ppg).

5) Ed DeChellis’ Navy Midshipmen have won three of their last four entering tonight’s game at Mount St. Mary’s, and despite not having a player averaging double figures offense may not be an issue tonight. While Mount St. Mary’s is forcing an average of 19.0 turnovers per game what happens when foes take care of the ball hasn’t been good, as teams are shooting 57.2% from the field.

Other Notable Games 

Jacksonville at South Carolina (7 PM)

Canisius at Fairfield (7 PM)

Iowa State at Iowa (8 PM)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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.