Duke v Miami

10 tidbits to know: Duke’s bad night, UCLA’s improvement and more

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. Look for his Top 10 Tidbits every week.

1. Great win for Miami but I’m still chalking it up as an awful night for Duke.  Rick Pitino has always said that one or two nights a year nothing goes right — and I agree with that view.  Remember last season when Providence beat Louisville by 31 points?  Providence finished at the bottom of the Big East and Louisville went to the Final Four.  It happens sometimes.  How many more nights this year is Duke going to shoot 29% from the field, 4 for 23 from 3 point land and Seth Curry goes 0-10?  My guess would be zero.

2. How about the Bryant Bulldogs out of the NEC.  They are in 1st place at 6-1 in league and 13-5 overall.  They had 9 total victories in the 3 prior seasons to this year.  Tim O’Shea’s rebuilding project from D-2 into D-1 is starting to take form.

3. Give credit where credit is due.  UCLA is better than we all anticipated.  In November the Bruins were overrated and Howland was on the hot seat.  A beyond big time win on the road at No. 6 Arizona this week has Bruin fans back. Howland’s team has 16 wins already and let’s take a look at their 4 losses.  Of course Cal Poly was a bad one — but the other 3 are Georgetown, San Diego State when they were  ranked 23rd and Oregon when they were ranked 21st.

4. Ole Miss is obviously No. 24 in the country but did you know they’ve only played one ranked team? No. 10 Missouri on January 12th.  Even more surprising: they’re slated as of right now to only play 2 more ranked opponents — Florida and Missouri again.  Should a team be worthy of Top 25 status if they only play two ranked programs in a year?

5. Stephen F. Austin out of the Southland Conference recently received a vote for USA Today Top 25.  Resume is impressive.  16-1 overall, 7-0 in league and wins vs Tulsa and Oklahoma.

6. It’s going to be really fun following the America East in mid to late February. Stony Brook, Albany and Vermont are in a 3-way war right now for the top of the league standings.

7.  The VCU–Richmond game this week was another example of a fascinating talking subject in the world of hoops.  Should you foul at the end of a game when you’re up 3 or play it straight up and take your chances?  What’s fascinating is that nearly every coach in the off-season or off the court will tell you that they’d foul.  Then the season begins…and so few actually do it.

8.  Northeastern was not able to score a big non-conference win early — but what a job they’ve done in conference play this year.  The Huskies are in 1st place by 2 games, all by themselves at 7-0 in the CAA.  Bill Coen’s team shoots nearly 45% from the floor.

9. I don’t know about you, but I can watch Otto Porter from Georgetown play the game of basketball all day long.

10.  Do not miss La Salle at VCU this weekend.  That is going to be some basketball game to watch if you like uptempo guard play.

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Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports. You can catch him on NBC Sports Network’s SportsTalk – Mon-Fri. 6 p.m. ET. Follow Vin on Twitter:  @VinParise

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.