Cody Zeller

Cody Zeller, No. 3 Indiana knock off No. 1 Michigan

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It was billed as the Big Ten’s heavyweight title fight of the year and it did not disappoint.

Behind a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore forward Cody Zeller, No. 3 Indiana outmuscled No. 1 Michigan down the stretch for an 81-73 victory Saturday night at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.

Zeller and junior Victor Oladipo set the pace for Indiana on both the offensive and defensive ends. Oladipo’s energy was a catalyst and his impact was felt in more ways than just his 17 points and three rebounds.

Indiana had Assembly Hall on fire from the start, jumping out to a 28-13 lead with 10:13 to play in the first half.

The difference early was energy, with Indiana pushing the basketball and scoring with Oladipo, Zeller, and Christian Watford all contributing and getting the crowd at Assembly Hall to become a factor. Indiana coach Tom Crean was even vocal and visibly expressive in trying to rile up the fans in attendance.

But the same speed that allowed Indiana to get out to an early lead also allowed Michigan to get back into the game, once the Hoosiers sped up too much for their own good.

Indiana turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, almost negating an advantage in rebounding (+8 in 1st half) and shooting percentage (Indiana: 54 percent, Michigan: 40 percent).

While Glenn Robinson III struggled in the first half and Tim Hardaway, Jr., was relatively quiet, point guard Trey Burke carried the Wolverines in the first twenty minutes.

He was relentless in transition and pushed the pace to score 14 of his 25 points in the first half, including a key three-pointer at the close of the half to pull Michigan within four at the break. He would finish with his game-high 25 points on 9-of-24 shooting, while adding eight assists and five rebounds.

Coming out in the second half, Michigan worked to tie the game at 40 with 17:42 to play after three Nik Stauskas free throws.

But from that point, Indiana seized control.

The Hoosiers ripped off an 11-0 run over the next 3:14, capped by a Will Sheehey jumper with 14:27 to play to extend the lead to 51-40. During that stretch, Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. picked up third foul and was forced to the bench. Despite sitting out for that stretch, he finished with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting.

Michigan responded quickly with an 11-2 run of its own to pull back within two points, 53-51.

Indiana fought to take control again, never letting Michigan get within four points after the 7:13 mark. Two consecutive Zeller dunks and an Oladipo layup with a questionable “and-one” foul tacked on, extended the lead to seven and the Hoosiers never looked back.

This is the fifth time this season that the No. 1 team has fallen, following Indiana’s loss to Butler, Duke’s losses to both Miami and NC State, and Louisville’s loss to Syracuse.

Indiana now claims sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a conference mark of 8-1, 20-2 overall. Michigan falls into a tie for second at 7-2 with No. 13 Michigan State and No. 11 Ohio State.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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
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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.