Tray Woodall, Kris Dunn

Pregame Shootaround: 1.28.13: Can Louisville avoid a fourth straight loss?

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Game of the Day: Pittsburgh at No. 12 Louisville (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Louisville is looking to snap a three-game losing skid that has dropped them from No. 1 in the country to behind St. John’s in the Big East standings. That’s quite a tumble for the Cardinals to make, and turning it around isn’t going to be the easiest thing in the world, either. For starters, Louisville will be playing without two members of their rotation on Monday night as Wayne Blackshear is dealing with a shoulder injury and Kevin Ware has been suspended indefinitely.

But there’s more to it than that. Pittsburgh is actually one of the more underrated teams in the country. They’re sitting at 17-4 on the season and No. 7 in the current Kenpom rankings. They have a big front line that pounds the offensive glass and a pair of quality point guards that can control tempo and that don’t turn the ball over. Keeping Louisville from scoring points in transition is the best way to beat this team, especially with their most dynamic scorer (Russ Smith) being muzzled by Rick Pitino.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Jackson State (8:30 p.m. ET)

Jackson State has a kid on their team named Dundrecous Nelson. Nelson, who was forced out of Ole Miss for some issues with marijuana, was a double-digit scorer as a sophomore in the SEC. He’s averaging nearly 16 points for JSU, and he’s not even the team’s leading scorer. UAPB is currently a half-game off the pace set by Southern in the SWAC, while Jackson State needed to sweep Mississippi Valley State and Grambling last week to avoid the cellar.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Delaware at Drexel (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Net)

These were supposed to be the two best teams in the CAA this season, but after Northeastern knocked off George Mason on Sunday evening, they are both sitting tied for second place in the league a full three games behind the Huskies. Drexel has won three straight games since Damion Lee returned from injury, but the Blue Hens have as much talent on their roster as anyone in the country.

Five Things to Watch For

1) On Saturday, a bat spent the entire afternoon attacking No. 25 Marquette and Providence players. The Golden Eagles host South Florida tonight. Will he make another appearance?

2) No. 2 Kansas will make their first trip up to Morgantown to play a Big 12 game in the Big Monday nightcap. the intrigue in this one is almost nonexistent, as Bob Huggins’ club has not done much in the way of impress this year.

3) There is a terrific back court matchup in that game on NBCSports Network tonight. Drexel’s Damion Lee and Frantz Massenat taking on Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt.

4) SWACtion on ESPNU: Alabama State takes on Texas Southern.

5) Someone needs to get Rick Pitino to take the shackles off Russ Smith. He only got nine shots after coming off the bench in the loss at Georgetown. #shootmore

The Top 25

  • Pitt at No. 12 Louisville (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 2 Kansas at West Virginia (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • South Florida at No. 25 Marquette (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.