Cory Jefferson, Hondo Webb, Stan Brown

Pregame Shootaround 12.21.12: BYU visits Baylor and Stanford looks to rebound

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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: BYU at Baylor (9 PM) 
After watching the Bears walk out of the Marriott Center with an 86-83 victory last season, BYU looks to return the favor in the best matchup of the day. The Cougars have won three straight since getting whipped by 21 at Iowa State. Since that loss Dave Rose’s club has held their opponent below 40% shooting in two of three games, but repeating that feat will be tougher against Pierre Jackson and company.

If BYU is to win they’re going to need a big night from Matt Carlino, who has to remain under control. And the battle in the paint featuring BYU’s Brandon Davies and Baylor’s Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin will be entertaining to say the least. With both teams rebounding at least 32% of their missed shots, the team that controls its defensive glass will win.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Maryland (vs. Stony Brook; 8 PM) 
The Terrapins have taken full advantage of their schedule (as good teams tend to do), winning nine straight after losing the season opener to Kentucky. But the Seawolves pose an interesting challenge despite not having a player in their rotation taller than 6-9 Anthony Mayo. Guards Anthony Jackson, Jameel Warney and David Coley lead the way offensively for Steve Pikiell’s squad, and in forward Tommy Brenton the Seawolves have one of the most versatile players in America East. If Stony Brook can harass Alex Len and Dez Wells into off nights they’ve got a puncher’s chance. But given the talent of those two, that’s far easier said than done.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Montana at Sacramento State (10:05 PM)
Both teams enter tonight’s game 1-0 in Big Sky play, with the Grizzlies’ Will Cherry playing his third game of the year after returning from a broken foot. After playing 13 minutes in a loss to South Dakota State, Cherry played 35 (12 points, three rebounds, three assists) in Montana’s 62-56 win over Northern Arizona on Wednesday night. And it will be interesting to see how Cherry responds to playing two games (both on the road) in three days. But he will have help from Kareem Jamar and Mathias Ward, and they’ll need to perform well against a Sacramento State team that has four players averaging double figures. Forward John Dickson leads the way and point guard Dylan Garrity is a solid on-court leader.

Five Things to Watch

1) Given UConn’s rebounding issues tonight’s contest against Fordham could be one to keep an eye on, especially with the Rams now having the services of All-Atlantic 10 forward Chris Gaston. The Huskies are being out-rebounded by nearly six rebounds per game, and opponents are rebounding 38.3% of their missed shots (worst in the Big East).

2) Just one undefeated team is in action tonight, as 11-0 Wyoming hosts UCSB in Laramie. The individual matchup between UCSB’s Alan Williams and Wyoming’s Leonard Washington will be fun.

3) Stanford looks to rebound from their loss at No. 25 NC State with another road game, this time taking on Northwestern in Evanston. While the loss in Raleigh was an opportunity the Cardinal failed to grasp, tonight’s game is one that neither Stanford (nor the Pac-12) can afford to lose from an NCAA tournament resume standpoint.

4) Already having beaten Ole Miss this season, Kermit Davis’ Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will look to pick up another win over an SEC opponent as they take on Vanderbilt in Nashville. Middle Tennessee has been one of the nation’s best when it comes to defending the three, as opponents are shooting just 27.7% from beyond the arc. Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller will need to be on their game for Vandy if the Commodores are to win.

5) No. 22 Notre Dame should be able to take care of Niagara in South Bend, but they’d better be careful with Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason. Green, MAAC Rookie of the Year last season, and Mason are averaging a combined 35.1 points per game with Mason’s 19.2 average currently ranking third (behind Iona’s Lamont Jones and Sean Armand) the MAAC.

The Top 25 

FIU at No. 6 Indiana (7 PM)

Niagara at No. 22 Notre Dame (7 PM)

Other Notable Games

Fordham at Connecticut (7 PM)

Stanford at Northwestern (9 PM)

Vanderbilt vs. Middle Tennessee (in Nashville; 9 PM)

SMU vs. Wagner (Cable Car Classic; 9 PM)

Cal State Northridge at Utah (10:30 PM)

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

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)
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.