Alabama Missouri

Alabama lets chance for signature win slip away, Laurence Bowers injured in Missouri victory

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Alabama had its chance to be the bully Monday night when it dominated Notre Dame on the football field, 42-14, to win the BCS National Championship Game.

Tuesday night on the basketball court, it was the Crimson Tide playing the role of Notre Dame football, falling to No. 10 Missouri, 84-68, at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.

Alabama, fighting for a quality win in the comparably weak SEC, started the game 2-of-11 from the floor and fell behind by 10 points.

But coach Anthony Grant dialed up the pressure on Missouri’s catalyst, point guard Phil Pressey, and slowed the Tigers’ transition game. By attacking Pressey with double teams defensively, the Crimson Tide forced turnovers and used those stops to rip off a 12-0 and take the lead by three points with 7:08 remaining in the first.

Where Pressey has been Missouri’s distributor, Alabama point guard Trevor Releford led the scoring charge Tuesday night.

His 19 first-half points carried the Alabama attack, but his backcourt counterpart Trevor Lacey went scoreless in the first half.

Lacey was hot in the second half by scoring nine points, but Missouri used a 9-3 run in the middle of the half to extend the lead to double digits.

Pressey found his usual comfort zone after a shaky spell for part of the first half, getting into the lane and finishing with 11 points and 13 assists.

Jabari Brown was hot from three-point range. He finished with a career-high 22 points on 5-of-7 shooting from three. Laurence Bowers was another major beneficiary of Pressey’s dribble penetration, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-8 from the field.

On the injury front, Bowers left the game limping in the second half and coach Frank Haith reportedly announced postgame that the senior would undergo an MRI tomorrow. Haith expressed concern that Bowers could have an MCL sprain in his right knee. The senior has had a strong 2012-13 so far after recovering from major surgery on his left knee that kept him out for the entire 2011-12 season.

Looking at Alabama’s schedule, the Tide really only have two more marquee matchups in the regular season: Jan. 22 against Kentucky and March 2 against No. 11 Florida.

By missing out on a chance to notch a big road win Tuesday, any NCAA tournament hopes get dimmer for Alabama. An 8-5 non-conference schedule with losses to Tulane and Mercer, combined with a conference slate devoid of a signature win typically doesn’t translate into an NCAA tournament bid.

It’s not out of the question that only three SEC teams make the NCAA tournament. Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri should be in the field of 68, if all goes as planned, but it drops off noticeably after that.

Ole Miss could be in the mix, though their two losses came to Indiana State and Middle Tennessee. Arkansas lost all four non-conference games that could have been quality wins (Syracuse, Michigan, Arizona State, Wisconsin). LSU, Tennessee, Texas A&M.

Who else could emerge and punch a ticket to the tournament?

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)
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.