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Pregame Shootaround 1.19.13: Louisville-Syracuse highlights loaded Saturday slate

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Game of the Day: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 6 Syracuse (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

It all begins at the point guard spot for these two teams. Peyton Siva and Michael Carter-Williams both change the complexions of their team’s respective offense when they are on the floor. Siva is the backcourt complement to the emerging Russ Smith and the senior leader the Cardinals need, while Carter-Williams is one of the best facilitators in the country and a force with his passing skills with his long 6-6 frame.

Syracuse will be hurt by the absence of forward James Southerland, who is academically ineligible. As one of the team’s best three-point shooters, the Orange become more limited on the perimeter without him. Louisville will likely force Carter-Williams to score the basketball, as Temple did in its upset victory over the Orange earlier this season. This will set up Louisville center Gorgui Dieng on the interior, one of the better shot-blockers in the country.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 7 Arizona (-6.5) against Arizona State (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Freshman point guard Jahii Carson has reinvigorated the Arizona State offense this season and he’ll be matched up in the backcourt with the transfer who has been one of the senior leaders on an otherwise young Arizona team, Mark Lyons. Lyons will lead the young Wildcats on the road to a place where composure will be key. Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski is one of the best shot-blockers in the conference and the country, averaging 4.5 blocks per game, and he will test the young Arizona frontcourt of Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Brandon Ashley.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: UNLV vs. Colorado State (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

This might not be a “mid-major” matchup in the purest sense, but UNLV-Colorado State is without a doubt the non-BCS matchup of the day. The Mountain West is shaping up to be one of the toughest conferences in the country and the pairings on the interior in this one show why. UNLV’s Anthony Bennett has been one of the most impressive freshman all season, while transfer Khem Birch came in mid-season for the Rebels and has added depth and bulk in the paint. Add those two to already established forward Mike Moser, and the Rebels have one of the best front lines in the conference.

But Colorado State will look to counter that Saturday with some size of their own. Pierce Hornung and Colton Iverson combine to average over 19 rebounds per game and will look to give the Rams second-chance opportunities off offensive rebounds. If Colorado State can force UNLV into bad shots, as the Rebels have a tendency to do, they’ll be in a good spot for a solid conference win Saturday.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Gonzaga travels to Butler for perhaps the best non-conference matchup of Saturday’s loaded slate. The Bulldogs will miss having Rotnei Clarke in the lineup, but big man Andrew Smith will have to do all he can to limit the Zags’ versatile seven-footer Kelly Olynyk.

2) With Kentucky continuing to gather itself, it looks more and more like the SEC will come down to two teams who play Saturday, Florida and Missouri. Florida will need to battle the nation’s No. 1 rebounding team to keep it close on the backboards, but the matchup in the backcourt may be most interesting–Phil Pressey vs. Kenny Boynton. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they will be missing one of Pressey’s favorite targets, Laurence Bowers.

3) Ohio State took down the No. 2 team in the country on Sunday, but it showed one clear weakness. Deshaun Thomas is the Buckeyes’ only go-to scorer in crunch time. This team is built around defense and Ohio State needs to thrive by playing to its strength. They face Michigan State.

4) UCLA has won 10 straight games since falling to San Diego State on Dec. 1. They face an Oregon team that proved its worth with a win over then-undefeated Arizona earlier in the season.

5) Just two weeks ago, Wyoming stood as one of the nation’s undefeated teams. Now they’ve suffered losses to Fresno State and Boise State and are without the services of leading scorer Luke Martinez after his involvement in a bar fight. They face no easy task Saturday against No. 16 San Diego State.

The Top 25

No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 6 Syracuse (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 4 Kansas vs. Texas (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 7 Arizona vs. Arizona State (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 Butler (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 10 Florida vs. No. 17 Missouri (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 11 Ohio State vs. No. 18 Michigan State (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 12 Creighton vs. Wichita State (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 15  San Diego State vs. Wyoming (7:30 p.m. ET)

No. 16 Kansas State vs. Oklahoma (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 20 Notre Dame vs. Rutgers (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 21 Oregon vs. No. 24 UCLA (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth vs. Duquesne (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 Marquette vs. Cincinnati (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Other Notable Games

Maryland vs. North Carolina (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Connecticut vs. Pittsburgh (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Harvard vs. Memphis (12:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Arkansas vs. Ole Miss (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

West Virginia vs. Purdue (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Columbia vs. Cornell (3:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Florida State vs. Virginia (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Boise State vs. Air Force (4:00 p.m. ET, ROOT SPORTS)

California vs. Stanford (4:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

George Mason vs. Hofstra (5:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Georgetown vs. South Florida (6:00 p.m. ET,  ESPN3)

Texas A&M vs. Alabama (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

UNLV vs. Colorado State (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Kentucky vs. Auburn (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Saint Mary’s vs. Portland (10:30 p.m. ET, ROOT SPORTS)

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)
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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)
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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)
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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.