Long Beach State v Arizona

Latest Bracket: Arizona grabs No. 1 seed in West Region

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If Arizona continues its strong play during the next two months, it’ll be hard for the Selection Committee to keep the Wildcats off the top line out West.  That’s where the Wildcats reside in our latest bracket projection.  At No. 4 on the s-curve, Arizona trails Duke, Kansas, and Michigan in the chase for the overall No. 1 seed.  Fresh off a win at Louisville on Saturday and Cincinnati at home Monday, Syracuse is an eyelash behind at No. 5.  Others on the two-line: Louisville, Indiana, and Florida.  When the Gators are good, they are really good.

The bubble remains a mystery.  And an ever-changing target.  Consider that six of the ten teams just outside the bracket on Saturday morning (s-curve spots 69-78) lost.  Then we have a team like Virginia.  The up-and-down Cavaliers notched a road win at Florida State, but it’s unrealistic for a team with an RPI in the mid 120’s to garner  serious at-large consideration.  So we have to still go a bit on potential at this point.  Thus, Kentucky and Maryland are among the First Four participants.

Big Ten power paid off for Iowa this week.  The Hawkeyes represent the eighth Big Ten team in the current Field of 68 after beating Wisconsin and Northwestern.  By the time March rolls around, we’ll more likely end up with six or seven Big Ten teams in the Dance.  Much of that will depend on whether an additional SEC or ACC team steps up to grab an at-large spot.  The Mountain West remains strong with six teams in the bracket.  But as MWC teams jockey for position, it might limit the number of top five seeds. We’ll have to see how it plays out.

Note: A few teams – including the First Four winners – had to be adjusted a seed line to account for conference conflicts and bracketing principles.  This is a common occurrence during the actual bracketing process.  For example, Iowa State drops to the 12-line because of related issues with the First Four and finding a spot for Iowa which needed to avoid another Big Ten opponent until a Regional final.  While the committee attempts to avoid regular-season rematches in the first two rounds, exceptions can be made; in this case Iowa and Wichita State played but it’s the way the bracket came together.

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc). Records are for games against Division I teams only.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Maryland vs. Indiana State | Midwest Region
  • Kentucky vs. Temple | West Region
  • NORFOLK STATE vs. MERCER | Midwest Region
  • CHARLESTON-SOUTHERN vs. LONG BEACH | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTWashington, DC MIDWESTIndianapolis                    
Philadelphia Auburn Hills
1) DUKE 1) MICHIGAN
16) LONG BEACH / CHARLESTON-SO 16) MERCER / NORFOLK ST
8) Mississippi 8) Notre Dame
9) Colorado State 9) Baylor
Auburn Hills San Jose
5) Cincinnati 5) Miami-FL
12) BELMONT 12) BUCKNELL
4) Michigan State 4) Oregon
13) MID TENNESSEE ST 13) NO DAKOTA STATE
Dayton Salt Lake
6) Wichita State 6) San Diego State
11) Iowa 11) Maryland / Indiana State
3) BUTLER 3) GONZAGA
14) VALPARAISO 14) HARVARD
Lexington Lexington
7) UCLA 7) Wisconsin
10) North Carolina 10) Oklahoma State
2) FLORIDA 2) Louisville
15) SOUTHERN 15) WEBER STATE
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Dallas
San Jose Kansas City
1) ARIZONA 1) KANSAS
16) NORTHEASTERN 16) BRYANT
8) Georgetown 8) Pittsburgh
9) Illinois 9) Colorado
Salt Lake Austin
5) Missouri 5) Ohio State
12) Iowa State 12) Wyoming
4) NEW MEXICO 4) NC State
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) OHIO
Austin Kansas City
6) Kansas State 6) VCU
11) Temple / Kentucky 11) Boise State
3) Minnesota 3) CREIGHTON
14) LOUISIANA TECH 14) DAVIDSON
Philadelphia Dayton
7) UNLV 7) Marquette
10) MEMPHIS 10) Oklahoma
2) SYRACUSE 2) Indiana
15) VERMONT 15) NIAGARA

NOTES on the BRACKET: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Kansas, Michigan, and Arizona.

Last Five teams in (at large): Iowa, Temple, Indiana State, Kentucky, Maryland

First Five teams out (at large): Arizona State, Texas A&M, Saint Louis, Saint Mary’s, BYU

Next Five teams out (at large): Rutgers, Xavier, Arkansas, Alabama, Virginia

Breakdown by Conference …

Big Ten (8): Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa

Big East (7): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh

Mountain West (6): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming, Boise State, Colorado State

Big 12 (6): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa State

ACC (5): Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Miami-FL, Maryland

Pac 12 (4): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon

SEC (4): Missouri, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi

Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, VCU, Temple

Missouri Valley (3): Creighton, Wichita State, Indiana State

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Conference USA (1): Memphis

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … BELMONT (Ohio Valley), BUCKNELL (Patriot), MIDDLE TENNESSE ST (Sunbelt), NORTH DAKOTA ST (Summit), VALPARAISO (Horizon), DAVIDSON (Southern), LOUISIANA TECH (WAC), NIAGARA (MAAC), STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (Southland), OHIO (MAC), MERCER (A-Sun), HARVARD (IVY), LONG BEACH (Big West), NORTHEASTERN (Colonial), VERMONT (American East), WEBER STATE (Big Sky), NORFOLK STATE (MEAC), CHARLESTON-SOUTHERN (Big South), BRYANT (NEC), SOUTHERN (SWAC)

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)
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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.