Jim Baron

Pregame Shootaround 1.25.13: Atlantic Sun, MAAC battles headline light slate

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Game of the Night: Canisius at Rider (7:00 p.m.)

There are just six games on the schedule tonight but the matchup between Canisius and Rider is one of Friday’s best. After a rough start to the season Kevin Baggett’s Broncs are playing their best basketball of the season as they’ve won five straight games and sit just a game out of first place in the MAAC. Rider features four players averaging double figures with guard Anthony Myles (12.5 ppg) leading the way, and forward Daniel Stewart has been of the MAAC’s best front court players.

Jim Baron’s Golden Griffins can be a tough team to slow down given weapons such as Billy Baron and Harold Washington, and senior guard Isaac Sosa has scored 43 points in Canisius’ last two games (both wins). With first-place Niagara visiting a reeling Siena this game becomes even more important for both teams, especially Canisius (two games back).

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Stetson at Florida Gulf Coast (7:05 p.m., ESPN3) 

Belmont’s departure to the OVC led to many believing that the Atlantic Sun race would be a wide-open affair and that’s certainly  been the case. The top five teams in the standings are separated by just one game in the loss column with Stetson in a first place tie with Jacksonville. Senior center Adam Pegg leads four Hatters averaging double figures while also grabbing a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game, and his matchup with FGCU forward Chase Fieler will go a long way in determining the outcome. FGCU guard Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson combine to average nearly 29 points per game, and if the Eagles can take advantage of Stetson allowing opponents to shoot 46.9% from the field they stand a good chance of defending their home floor.

Who’s getting upset? Loyola (MD) (at Manhattan, 7:00 p.m. ESPNU) 

This season’s been a rough one for Steve Masiello’s Jaspers due in large part to the injury bug. Manhattan’s been without George Beamon for much of the season and Michael Alvarado has also missed time, and the end result has been a team that’s had to play slower than it would like. But Manhattan still has forward Rhamel Brown, who is averaging 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He’ll have his hands full with Loyola’s Erik Etherly, but don’t sell Manhattan short at home especially with Loyola’s Dylon Cormier out with food poisoning. If they can turn this into a sloppy contest Manhattan can pull off the upset.

Five Facts 

1) One of the nation’s highest scoring guard tandems will be in action as Niagara visits Siena. Juan’ya Green (16.2 ppg) and Antoine Mason (18.4) are averaging more than 34 points per game, and given how fast the Purple Eagles like to play this one could get ugly for Mitch Buonaguro’s squad.

2) The good news for Siena is that Rob Poole (flu) is expected to return to the floor after missing the Saints’ last four games, and they also regained the services of Trenity Burdine (academic suspension). But given the Saints’ luck this season, of course Imoh Silas (ankle), Rakeem Brookins (back) and Ryan Oliver (knee) will all miss tonight’s game.

3) Iona enters tonight’s game against Saint Peter’s averaging 81.5 points per game and they’ll be looking to bounce back from a poor offensive performance in their loss at Rider last Sunday. The Gaels shot 5-of-24 from three and 33.9% overall in the loss to the Broncs.

4) There’s also a Horizon League rivalry game on the docket as Green Bay visits Milwaukee. The Panthers have struggled offensively, shooting 37.6% from the field, and that’s a big reason why Rob Jeter’s team is 1-5 in league play.

5) Keifer Sykes and Alec Brown lead the way offensively for Green Bay, who is 0-8 on the road this season. Currently tied for third in the Horizon League standings, the Phoenix can’t afford to lose a game like this if they’re to grab the highest seed possible for the conference tournament.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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)
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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.

ESPN.com was the first to report White’s commitment.

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.