Ben McLemore

Pregame Shootaround 1.22.13: Sunflower Showdown highlights a solid Tuesday

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Game of the Day: No. 3 Kansas at No. 11 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

As frustrating as it may be for some folks that live outside the state of Kansas, the Sunflower Showdown may end up only being available to some of you on an online stream. Frankly, that would be unfortunate, as the Jayhawks are looking to strengthen their in-state rivalry with the Wildcats, replacing what was lost when Missouri headed off to the SEC.

Everything about this matchup should be awesome. This is arguably the best Kansas State team since Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente were manning the back court for Frank Martin, and that group had the Octagon of Doom — also known as Bramlage Coliseum — rocking for every home game. KU has won 44 of the last 47 meeting between the two schools, but this is a different Kansas State program than it was two decades ago.

The best part about this matchup? The best player on both teams — Ben McLemore and Rodney McGruder — play the same position. They’ll likely spend the majority of the game guarding each other. I ain’t complaining.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 13 Michigan State at Wisconsin (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

We already know that the Badgers are capable of beating anyone in the country this season, as evidenced by their win at Indiana last week. And we also know that they can go out and lay an egg against anyone in the country, with the proof being the 30-10 hole their dug themselves against Iowa in the very next game. The Badgers don’t commit turnovers, they rebound the ball very well on the defensive end of the floor and they are always going to be a tough out at the Kohl Center. The Spartans have a nice record and a couple of quality wins, but they’ve yet to do anything that would make an observer think they are a dominant force this season.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Tulane at Memphis (8:00 p.m. ET)

This isn’t really a mid-major matchup, but there aren’t really any mid-major matchups today. Memphis is once again dealing with a moody Tarik Black, and they are going to have to figure out a way to control Tulane’s 1-2 punch of Josh Davis and Ricky Tarrant.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Kentucky is far from a lock for the NCAA tournament right now. If they are going to avoid the embarrassment of following up a national title and preceding the 2013’s ridiculous recruiting class with a trip to the NIT, than the Wildcats are going to have to do things like go into Tuscaloosa and knock off a tough, physical Alabama team. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) Iowa is coming off of a win over Wisconsin, but it came at home. Can the Hawkeyes pull off an upset and truly thrust themselves into the NCAA tournament conversation at No. 14 Ohio State? (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten)

3) This may make things difficult for No. 22 Missouri tonight:

[tweet https://twitter.com/MizzouHoops/status/293418638621425664 align=’center’]

4) Both Illinois and Pitt have been up and down this season, and both head on the road to take on teams at the bottom of their respective conference. Illinois heads to Nebraska (8:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten) while Pitt visits Providence (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

5) The perfect recipe for Maryand’s offensive struggles: Boston College’s 212th ranked defense. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

The Top 25

  • No. 3 Kansas at No. 11 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 5 Louisville at Villanova (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 13 Michigan State at Wisconsin (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Iowa at No. 14 Ohio State (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten)
  • No. 18 NC State at Wake Forest (7:00 p.m. ESPN3)
  • South Carolina at No. 22 Missouri (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.