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10 tidbits to know: Louisville’s chemistry, McCollum can shoot and more

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. Look for his Top 10 Tidbits every week.

1. For as good as Syracuse is, Louisville is the best team in the Big East right now. The chemistry on Rick Pitino’s team is off the charts and they play both ends of the floor as well as any team in the country. The two-headed attack of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith can be deadly and the 2-2-1 press, back to their match-up 2-3 zone, never allows teams to be comfortable on offense.

2. Not everyone nationally is sold on him yet but C.J. McCollum from Lehigh is the real deal. McCollum has scored over 30 four times this season — including opening the season at Baylor with a 36 point performance. McCollum is shooting 50% from the field, 53% from three point land and 84% from the free throw line.

3. Hard to get more automatic from the free throw line than Nik Cochran from Davidson. How’s shooting 95.7% from the line? The Davidson scorekeeper probably just hits the buttons on the scoreboard as soon as he gets fouled.

4. Hard to find a team that has played more games than Richmond. The Spiders are 10-5 and have a week off until they host Rhode Island. Richmond has struggled on the boards this season but have gotten by because they’ve shot the ball extremely well.

5. Many coaches preach tough non-conference scheduling but Tom Pecora from Fordham is one of the few who practices what he preaches. The Rams this season played at Pitt, at Harvard, at Lehigh, at St. John’s, at UConn and at Georgia Tech. And it’s not over — Fordham plays at Ole Miss tomorrow before A-10 play kicks into gear.

6. Jamaal Franklin and his No. 19 San Diego Aztecs are 12-2 overall and Franklin continues his terrific play. Franklin, the team’s leading scorer, went for 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks last night vs CS Bakersfield. San Diego State’s two losses are Syracuse and Arizona.

7. What a terrific job Gregg Marshall has done at Wichita State. Shockers are 13-1 after their last win at Drake. But should we really be surprised? When Marshall coached at Winthrop, his conference coaching record was 104-24.

8. You have to feel for Manhattan’s Steve Masiello. His Jaspers were picked #2 in the MAAC this year mostly because of preseason 1st team selection George Beamon. But because of injury, Beamon has only played in 4 games — and Manhattan is 3-9. The line is too fine at the mid-major level. Tough to win when your best player is not suiting up.

9. Not a good start to Big East play by DePaul. The Blue Demons lost their opener at home to Seton Hall 73-72. DePaul went 4-32 in conference play the last two seasons.

10. Even with 903 wins, I recently heard some criticism of Jim Boeheim because he’s only won one national championship at Syracuse. To criticize Boeheim makes about as much sense as standing in the cold for 6 hours on New Year’s Eve waiting for the ball to drop. Then again, a million people do it every year so what do I know.

Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports. You can catch him on NBC Sports Network’s SportsTalk – Mon-Fri. 6 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter @VinParise

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.