Kenny Boynton

Pregame Shootaround 12.15.12: Two top-10 teams square off

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will 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: No. 5 Florida vs. No. 8 Arizona (10 PM)

Finals ended this week in the classroom. On the basketball court…Florida and Arizona each have their biggest test of the year in tonight’s late game.

Both the Gators and Wildcats enter tonight with identical 7-0 records. Two of the top teams in the country go head-to-head with talented guards on the perimeter and big bodies down low. Arizona is led by the guard play of Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons. The Arizona backcourt is going up against one of the toughest perimeter defenses in the country. Florida has forced teams to struggle from behind the arc, while the Gators have held four opponents to under 50 points this season.

Florida will be looking to it’s all-around efforts from guards Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Scottie Wilbekin. On the frontline, the Gators are facing a very versatile group of Arizona bigs. Kaleb Tarczewski, at 7-feet, is a load inside to go along with fellow-freshman, Grant Jerrett’s ability to step out and hit from behind the arc and Brandon Ashley’s athleticism. The Gator will counter with Patric Young and Erik Murphy inside. Murphy will be also be a tough matchup for the Arizona freshmen trio, as well as Solomon Hill, with his ability to play the pick-and-pop so well.

Two storied programs, two great coaches, and one exciting environment makes for a good game tonight

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: La Salle vs. Bucknell (7 PM)

Both teams are to its best start since the 2005-2006 season when La Salle started 7-0 and Bucknell began the year 9-1. The Explorers (6-1) have won five straight including a pair of wins over in-state foes, Villanova and Penn State. The Bison (8-1) have won three consecutive after a three-point loss to Penn State back on Nov. 23. Less than a month before conference play begins, Bucknell’s record is up there with Lehigh’s (8-2).

For La Salle, it’s going to be difficult to hold down Bucknell’s Mike Muscala. The 6-foot-11 senior center is averaging 18.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. The Explorers don’t have great size inside, so Steve Zack, La Salle’s 6-foot-11 big, will need to avoid foul troube. La Salle does add Tyrone Garland to today’s game. Garland makes his debut for the Explorers after spending a year and a half at Virginia Tech.

Four Things to Watch

1. Following one of the more odd suspensions in college basketball, the nation’s No. 1 team, Indiana, goes full strength. Freshmen Peter Jurkin and  Hanner Mosquera-Perea are eligible today against Butler, following a nine-game suspension. The two freshmen impermissible benefits, according to the NCAA, from an IU booster. The booster was the two players’ AAU coach, who donated $185 over a six-year period. Regardless of the ridiculous suspension, the Hoosiers add more size to a frontcourt that features, Cody Zeller. The nation’s best team has gotten considerably better today against Butler.

3. Kentucky can continue to get back on track. The Wildcats have won two straight, after dropping two straight and falling out of the rankings. Kentucky takes on Lipscomb – only two games before a Dec. 29 meeting with rival, Louisville.

2. Jim Boeheim can inch closer to that milestone 900th victory today against Canisius. The Orange are 8-0 and if they win today, set up Boeheim for his 900th victory on Monday night against Detroit. Today’s game won’t be as easy as it looks. Canisius is one of the early surprises this season under first-year head coach Jim Baron. The Golden Griffins are 6-1, led by 17.7 points per game by Baron’s son, Billy, who transferred from Rhode Island last season.

4. Creighton has another chance to knock off a big-conference opponent, when the Bluejays meet California today. Creighton has bounced back from a loss to Boise State on Nov. 28 with three convincing victories. The Bears on the other hand, were blown out by Wisconsin and lost by one to UNLV. It’s another talk order for Cal, having to stop preseason All-American, Doug McDermott, who is averaging 26.7 points per game during the three-game winning streak.

Other Notable Games 

West Virginia vs. No. 3 Michigan (8 PM)

No. 6 Louisville vs. Memphis (2:30 PM)

Belmont vs. No. 9 Kansas (7 PM)

Kansas State vs. No. 14 Gonzaga (9 PM)

Purdue vs. No. 22 Notre Dame (4:30)

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

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)
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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.