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Pregame Shootaround 2.5.13: Michigan’s revenge, and Craft v. Burke Pt. II

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Game of the Day: No. 10 Ohio State at No. 3 Michigan (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Trey Burke vs. Aaron Craft. Those two might try to downplay the significance of their matchup, but that is what’s going to determine the outcome of this game.

What Ohio State wants to do against Burke is something that John Beilein refers to as “locking the rails”. They allow Craft to more-or-les guard Burke 1-on-1. They won’t help off of shooters on the perimeter, counting on the nation’s best on-ball defender to be able to make life miserable for the nation’s best point guard. It worked in the first game, as Burke struggled to 15 points and four assists in what was a 56-53 win for Ohio State.

But this matchup will be on the Wolverines home court with sole possession of second place in the Big Ten on the line. This is key for Michigan, because they’ll be visiting Wisconsin and Michigan State in their next two games.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 2 Florida at Arkansas (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Florida may be the best team in the country this season. They are certainly the most dominating team in the country right now, as they’ve rolled over every SEC opponent that they have faced in dominating fashion. But Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena is a tough place to get a win, and Mike Anderson has become notorious for being a coach that wins a lot at home and loses a lot on the road. How will the Gators handle the Razorback press?

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Evansville at Bradley (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Evansville has arguably the most dangerous scorer in the MVC this side of Doug McDermott on their roster in Colt Ryan, but the road is not a kind place to be in the Valley. He’ll be going up against Bradley’s leading scorer, guard Walt Lemon Jr.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Kentucky looks like they are starting to turn a corner. They went into Oxford and beat Ole Miss last Tuesday and followed that up with an overtime win over Texas A&M on Saturday. Can they keep heading in the right direction with a win over South Carolina tonight? (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

2) Wake Forest has been a pesky team to beat this season, as they already own an upset of NC State and nearly knocked off Duke. UNC is their next test. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

3) No. 13 Kansas State will head out on the road and take on Texas Tech, who has one non-TCU win in the Big 12 this season, which came against Iowa State. (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

4) Florida State has lost four of their last six games and fallen off of the bubble for now. Georgia Tech is coming off of a win over Virginia on Sunday. Can the Noles bounce back? (9:00 p.m. ESPN3)

5) Villanova is 2-5 in their last seven games. They’ve beaten Louisville and Syracuse and lost to everyone else. Which means that they probably will lose to DePaul tonight, right? (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Top 25

  • No. 2 Florida at Arkansas (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 10 Ohio State at No. 3 Michigan (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Boston College at No. 8 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 13 Kansas State at Texas Tech (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

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.