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Pregame Shootaround 12.18.12: Stanford looks to get win over Top 25 team on the road

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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. 25 NC State vs. Stanford

The Wolfpack were chosen to win the ACC in the conference’s preseason media poll, but are standing in the shadow of Duke’s dominance so far. Despite that, there is still a core of players that make NC State a Top 25 team and a threat in March. Freshman TJ Warren has been impressive so far as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points per game. C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell have been the anchors in the frontcourt, combining to average close to 27 points and 17 rebounds per game.

Stanford has been plagued by poor shooting this season, ranking 292nd in the country with a team shooting percentage of 39.8 percent. Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle cannot carry the entire load offensively, so the Cardinal will look to Josh Huestis as a third option.

Who’s Getting Upset?: South Florida vs. Youngstown State

The Penguins have already upset Georgia early this season and are in the nation’s Top 75 in scoring and rebounding. South Florida, by contrast, does not shoot well from the field, does not score a lot of points, and does not rebound particularly well. This game will depend on which style of play prevails. If Youngstown State can speed Florida up and contain PG Anthony Collins, they have a chance to pull the upset. If the game settles to USF’s pace, Stan Heath and the Bulls know what to do from there.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Western Kentucky vs. Virginia Commonwealth (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Western Kentucky is coming off a close loss to Murray State and has another tough mid-major test against Virginia Commonwealth Tuesday night. Leading scorer TJ Price has missed the last two games due to injury and it is unclear when he will return. Jamal Crook, the team’s second-leading scorer, played sparingly against Murray State and it is unclear, too, if he will play vs. VCU.

If those two are out, the Hilltoppers must account for over 30 points of production per game, which they did against Murray State with a big performance from guard Brandon Harris, who had 23 points.

For Virginia Commonwealth, it’s business as usual. Push the tempo, create “Havoc” on defense, and flip turnovers into points. The Rams forced 16 turnovers in a blowout win over BCS opponent Alabama on Saturday to spoil Anthony Grant’s VCU homecoming. In that game, four players scored in double figures, include a solid 12 points in just 16 minutes from freshman back-up Melvin Johnson.

Five Things to Watch

1. Arizona was impressive down the stretch to defeat Florida last week and move up to No. 4 in the national polls. They face Oral Roberts Tuesday, which should give them an opportunity to remain undefeated and improve to 9-0 on the year.

2. Kansas’ Ben McLemore has been one of the nation’s most impressive freshmen, averaging 16.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Tuesday’s game against Richmond (9-2) will give him a mid-major test.

3. Having Gary Harris back is important for No. 20 Michigan State, as the Spartans move closer to Big Ten play. They meet Bowling Green on Tuesday.

4. Providence welcomes Kris Dunn and Sidiki Johnson to the rotation, as Dunn debuts after surgery and Johnson is eligible after transferring from Arizona last season. The Friars haven’t had the benefit of depth yet this year, but now add two pieces to the lineup vs. Colgate.

5. UCLA was the most talked-about team in the early part of the season after some letdowns with Shabazz Muhammad in the lineup. The Bruins have won two in a row since losing to a ranked San Diego State team. They take on Long Beach State Tuesday.

Rest of the Top 25

No. 4 Arizona vs. Oral Roberts (9:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 7 Ohio State vs. Winthrop (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Networks)

No. 9 Kansas vs. Richmond (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 18 San Diego State vs. Point Loma (10:00 p.m.)

N0. 20 Michigan State vs. Bowling Green (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 25 NC State vs. Stanford (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2) (See above)

Other Notable Games

Tennessee vs. Presbyterian (7:00 p.m. ET)

Miami (FL) vs. UCF (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

UC Santa Barbara vs. California (11:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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.