Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine

Pregame Shootaround 2.6.13: Another B1G battle, Arizona at risk, UNM vs. AFA

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Game of the Day: No. 18 Minnesota at No. 12 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Ho-hum, just another battle of top 20 teams taking place in the Big Ten.

The Spartans will be out for revenge in this one. Back at the start of league play, Tom Izzo’s team went into the Barn and gave the Gophers a fight, but Minnesota used a late 22-4 run to close out MSU and send them back to East Lansing with a 13 point loss. Michigan State has steadily gotten better this season while Minnesota has hit a bit of a rough stretch. They lost four in a row — which, frankly, did include single digit losses to Michigan, Indiana and at Wisconsin — and escaped Iowa at home in a game they probably should have lost.

The Gophers are at their best when they can get to the offensive glass, and that’s one thing that the Spartans are actually pretty good at preventing. With size, strength and athleticism at every position on the floor, this should be a treat for those of you that like physical, hard-nosed hoops. And Andre Hollins vs. Keith Appling won’t be too shabby, either.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Stanford at No. 7 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Stanford was a team that a lot of people thought had a chance to win the Pac-12 back in the preseason, and over the last three games, they’ve finally started to play that way. Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright have finally started hitting from three after a rough start to the season while Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell look like one of the nation’s more underrated front courts. That said, I’m not as high on Arizona as a lot of people, and it will be interesting to see how the Cardinal combat the presence of Solomon Hill.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 16 Creighton at Indiana State (7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Creighton now owns a two games lead over Wichita State and Indiana State in the Missouri Valley, but with the recent three-game slide by the Shockers, the Sycamores look like they may be the second-best team in the Valley. ISU pushed Creighton the first time these two teams met, and the Bluejays can struggle on the road at times. It should be a dandy.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Air Force and No. 15 New Mexico square off tonight for first place in the Mountain West Conference in what is one of the more intriguing matchups of the year in the league. New Mexico is perennially underrated, while Air Force is rarely even good enough to be “rated”. Andy Glockner wrote about it for SI here, so I won’t go into too much detail. Just tune in. Trust me. (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)

2) The Big 12 suddenly looks like it could end up being competitive this season, as Kansas continues to struggle to find a way to score. Tonight, the team with the most raw talent in the league (Baylor) squares off against the team that actually knocked off the Jayhawks (Oklahoma State). (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

3) Four teams are tied for first in the loss column in the A-10: VCU, Butler, St. Louis … and Charlotte? The 49ers, without Demario Mayfield, head to Philly to take on Temple and Khalif Wyatt tonight. (7:00 p.m. ET)

4) San Diego State may be digging themselves into trouble this season as they continue to try and figure out how to operate without a healthy Xavier Thames (back) and Chase Tapley (wrist). Boise State finally has Jeff Elorriaga back. The Broncos are legit. Watch out. (11:00 p.m. ET)

5) Memphis is the team that everyone talks about in Conference USA, but they are currently tied for first place in the league with Southern Miss at 7-0. The Golden Eagles will have one of their tougher road tests of the season tonight as they visit tourney ineligible Central Florida, who will be looking to play the role of spoiler. (7:00 p.m. ET)

The Top 25

  • No. 5 Kansas at TCU (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Stanford at No. 7 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 11 Louisville at Rutgers (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 18 Minnesota at No. 12 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • St. Bonaventure at No. 14 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Air Force at No. 15 New Mexico (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)
  • No. 16 Creighton at Indiana State (7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 17 Cincinnati at Providence (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Baylor at  No. 22 Oklahoma State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 24 Marquette at South Florida (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

 

Other Notable Games

  • Delaware at Towson (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Charlotte at Temple (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Southern Miss at Central Florida (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • St. Joseph’s at Dayton (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • UConn at St. John’s (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Alabama at Auburn (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • St. Louis at Fordham (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • Memphis at SMU (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Iowa at Wisconsin (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten)
  • Mississippi State at Ole Miss (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • UNLV at Fresno State (9:00 p.m. ET)
  • Colorado State at Nevada (10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • Boise State at San Diego State (11:00 p.m. ET)

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)
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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.