Elias Harris, Philip Jurick

Late Night Snacks: Happy New Year!

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A few notes from the last day of college basketball in 2012. It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the day/night

Gonzaga 69, Oklahoma State 68 – Kelly Olynyk scored all 21 of his points in the second half. Marcus Smart had a chance to tie with nine seconds left, but missed both free throws. Kevin Pangos score 23 in the win and the Bulldogs got their signature win of the young season.

Games of note

Cincinnati 70, Pittsburgh 64 – The Bearcats needed this win after the home loss to New Mexico. They got it thanks to Cashmere Wright’s 18 points and holding the Panthers to 0-for-10 from the three-point arc. Solid job by Mick Cronin’s bunch.

Minnesota 76, Michigan State 63 – Minnesota just keeps doing what they need too. Trevor Mbakwe is all the way back from the torn ACL with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Andre Hollins finished with 22 points and the Golden Gophers hit 56.6-percent of their shots. That’ll get you a good win at home.

Starred

Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga – This guy was headed for the list below this one in the first half, but then got himself 21 second half points and nine rebounds, including some key plays down the stretch, in the Zags win at Okie State.

Cody Zeller, Indiana – Again, Zeller doing Zeller things. 19 points and 10 rebounds in the tight win over Iowa.

Kinu Rochford, Farleigh-Dickinson – When a kid drops 32 points and 11 rebounds, it deserves applause (so long as it is against a Division I opponent). Rochford did it in a win over Longwood. Well done, young man.

Struggled

Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut State – One the top scorers in the nation couldn’t get it done against, admittedly, a tough draw in Syracuse. He averages around 21 points per game, but Vinales finished with 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting.

Jordan Hulls, Indiana – The Hoosiers got the win, but a player that averages 11.4 points per game was held scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse – It’s almost not fair when I get a game on a night I’m on here, and it features MCW. 18 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for the sophomore in a win over CCSU.

Fanbase that can take a breath

Gonzaga – The Bulldogs were fine coming into the game at Oklahoma State. But leaving Stillwater with a win was a whole lot better than a loss, which could’ve brought up the dreaded “are they for real?” question, being that their only other true marquee game this season was a loss at home to Illinois. Great win.

Fanbase that can take a seat

New Mexico – The Lobos could’ve followed a banner win at Cincinnati with a win at St. Louis. They could’ve furthered the theory that the Mountain West Conference was more than a two-team race (and in fairness, they still can). They could’ve showed the world that this team is for real. For tonight though, they didn’t. We’ll see what 2013 brings them.

It’s been a pretty solid start to the college basketball season. Now it’s time to turn the page to 2013 and see what conference play offers us. Unless you’re the fan of an SEC team, which you would gladly take playing non-conference teams (kidding!).

Happy New Year, folks.

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.