Missouri v UCLA

UCLA knocks off Missouri at home, could this turn the season around?

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Freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad scored seven of his game-high 27 in overtime as UCLA took down No. 7 Missouri Friday night 97-94 at Pauley Pavilion.

Muhammad was clutch all night long and with a minute to go, Muhammad knocked down a 3-pointer to give UCLA a 95-93 lead, a lead they would not give back. Missouri would make it a one-possession game, however UCLA would respond from a pair of UNC transfers. Larry Drew, like he did on the Muhammad three, found Travis Wear inside as he hit a shot in the lane with 12 seconds to go to put the Bruins up 97-94.

Missouri had two looks to tie it and send it to a second overtime. Phil Pressey’s three was off the mark, Laurence Bowers grabbed the offensive board, but he couldn’t get a look at the rim.

Pressey stole the show, even in a loss, with 19 points and a career-high 19 assists.

With Pac-12 Conference play starting on Thursday for UCLA, did the Bruins become a team to be reckoned with on Friday night?

UCLA entered the season with a lot of hype based on the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class led by Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. But Muhammad was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, until he was reinstated and missed only the first three games. In that time, the Bruins struggled, including a home loss to Cal Poly. It only got uglier when Josh Smith and Tyler Lamb both elected to leave the program and transfer.

On Friday night, it was finally understood why so much hype was centered around Pauley Pavilion this season. Not only did Muhammad proved he is one of the top freshmen in the nation, he showed how clutch he was and how confident he can be in big game situations. In overtime, one of Muhammad’s threes, the ball was kicked around with several players on UCLA hesitate to put up a shot. Drew caught the ball on the baseline, drove inside, got in the paint and found Muhammad on the wing. The 6-foot-6 freshman calmly sank the 3-pointer, giving UCLA the lead.

Muhammad wasn’t the only freshman to have a big game for the Bruins. Jordan Adams, the forgotten member in the 2012 recruiting class heading into the season, made a nice jab step on Negus Webster-Chan, drove to the lane and forced the game into overtime with a lefty layup with 13 seconds to go in regulation.

Anderson has had some big games. The Wear brothers have been a strong presence inside, especially career-high 22 points. Drew has put his turnover problems at Chapel Hill behind him.

Looking back on the season, Friday night could be the turning point for Ben Howland and UCLA.

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

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)
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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
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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.