Jamaal Franklin

Pregame Shootaround 1.16.13: MWC action, and NC State visits Maryland

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Game of the Day: UNLV at No. 15 San Diego State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

Coming into the season, it was a consensus: UNLV and SDSU were the two teams to beat in the Mountain West. And while New Mexico has done their best to throw a wrench into those plans, it’s still a fair statement that the Rebels and the Aztecs are two of the favorites to take home a league title.

This game is quite important for the Rebels, who have had their share of struggles on the road in recents years. They already dropped a game at the Pit earlier this year and head to Ft. Collins this weekend to take on Colorado State. The biggest question I have with UNLV is that I’m not sure what they are beyond Anthony Marshall, and I’m not sure how all their pieces fit together just yet. Are they a team that thrives on their size up front? Are they a running team that thrives on the explosive-but-inconsistent scoring on the wing? Is Anthony Marshall the kind of ball-dominating point guard you want? How does Mike Moser factor in?

SDSU has significantly fewer questions from a personnel perspective, but they still have their issues. They don’t exactly have a dominating front court and their most talented player — Jamaal Franklin — may not be their best player — Chase Tapley?

The bottom line? This is a conference that is going to be so much fun to watch play out specifically because of matchups like this. Grab your popcorn, pop open a beer and buckle up for the ride.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 14 NC State at Maryland (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

NC State beat Duke on Saturday. I know this. Duke was also without Ryan Kelly — their most important player and a guy that could have taken away the CJ Leslie factor — and Seth Curry down the stretch. Maryland? They’re healthy, and they will be playing in front of a raucous crown in College Park tonight. I don’t think NC State is good enough to go on the road to a good ACC team and win.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 19 New Mexico at Boise State (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)

I know this isn’t a mid-major matchup, but it’s not a BCS conference matchup and I really wanted the chance to spew some knowledge on the topic. I’m buying New Mexico with the way that Alex Kirk has been playing of late. He’s capable of being an absolute beast, and if he can keep that up — and stay healthy — he adds a dimension to the Lobos that many didn’t think they would have heading into the season.

But the Broncos are legit. They’ve won at Creighton this season. They won at Wyoming this season. They shoot a bunch of threes and just got their leading scorer, Derrick Marks, back from a suspension. UNM better show up ready to play.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Is the WCC a two-bid conference this season? I’m not sure of that just yet, but if it is going to be, it will be either St. Mary’s or BYU. They play tonight at 11:00 p.m. ET (ESPN).

2) Carl Hall is going to be back in the lineup for Wichita State tonight after breaking his thumb in December. That’s good news for the Shockers, as he’ll be matching with Illinois State big man Jackie Carmichael. The Redbirds have been a massive disappointment in league play, but they have too much talent to be this bad.

3) In one of the sneaky-good A-10 matchups this season, Kevin Dillard and Dayton visit Ramon Galloway and La Salle.

4) Washington is the most surprising team in the Pac-12, sitting at 3-0 after a trio of road wins. Colorado? They’re 1-3 in league play and visiting the Huskies at 11:30 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network).

5) Hofstra is 2-1 in the CAA this season after seeing almost half of their roster depart due to legal issues or injuries. They’ll be taking on Northeastern, who is 4-0 in the league. At the same time, 3-1 Towson will be visiting 3-0 Delaware. Can we make some sense of the CAA race after tonight?

The Top 25

  • Richmond at No. 13 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • No. 14 NC State at Maryland (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • UNLV at No. 15 San Diego State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)
  • No. 16 Kansas State at TCU (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Georgia at No. 17 Missouri (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 18 Michigan State at Penn State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten)
  • No. 19 New Mexico at Boise State (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)
  • Seton Hall at No. 25 Marquette (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

  • Miami at Boston College (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Memphis at Rice (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Pitt at Villanova (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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)
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
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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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.