Seth Curry, Jake O'Brien

Late Afternoon Snacks: Curry burns Owls; Berger released

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Saturdays are too action-packed for us to wait for Late Night Snacks. We’ll do a reset at the halfway point every Saturday, so you can catch up with the stuff you missed while you were out Christmas shopping, and prepare for the stuff you’ll watch this evening.

Usually, we try to stick to scores from the day’s big games, but when a college basketball player survives a near-death experience, we might occasionally stray from the script to celebrate a really big off-court win.

Important Results

No. 2 Duke 90, Temple 67 – This seemed like the type of game that could have tripped the Blue Devils up – a true roadie against an unbeaten A-10 team. Seth Curry hit 5-9 three-pointers on his way to 23 points, and Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly notched frontcourt double-doubles to hand the Owls their first loss, while keeping Duke’s record spotless at 9-0.

Danny Berger released from a Utah hospital – We’ve been hearing encouraging news from Berger all day long. First he declared that he expects to suit up and play for Utah State again after his heart stopped during a practice. Now we’re hearing that the big guy is headed home.

Our best to Berger, one tough, and lucky kid.

No. 3 Michigan 80, Arkansas 67 – The Wolverines got a balanced contribution, with all five starters in double figures, as they battled through Arkansas’ vaunted pressure to remain undefeated. Marshawn Powell led all scorers with 18 points, but Michigan took advantage of a 17-point day from Glenn Robinson III and a big rebounding effort from Jordan Morgan (6 offensive boards, 10 overall) to win out.

No. 19 Michigan State 73, Loyola (Chi) 61 – Loyola was picked to finish seventh in the Horizon League this year, so for the Ramblers to head into the locker room up 32-30 on the Spartans in Breslin says more about the home team’s mistakes than it does about the visitors’ talent. Freshman Gary Harris was the only MSU starter in double figures, with 20 points, but he found backup on the bench. Adreian Payne had a 14/10 double-double to help Sparty avoid the upset.

Games of the Evening

No 13 Illinois at No. 10 Gonzaga – We’ll have at least one less undefeated college hoops team when we wake up in the morning, as the Illini and Bulldogs meet with identical 9-0 records on the line. Brandon Paul (17.o ppg, 3.9 apg) leads the visitors into a hostile Kennel, where Elias Harris (16.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and his talented teammates are waiting to throw down.

Valparaiso at No. 18 New Mexico – Valpo has an impressive attack, with Ryan Broekhoff (16.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Kevin Van Wijk (14.8, 5.3) figuring to be Horizon League leaders this season. We’ve seen the Lobos wear down visitors in the Pit a few times already this season, but they’ll have to stay vigilant against this ambitious mid-major foe.

No. 8 Arizona at Clemson – A rare East Coast non-conference road game for the Wildcats. Brad Brownell likes to play slow, grind-it-out ball in Littlejohn, and his teams make a habit of playing keep away/take away ball. It could be a trap!

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.