Russ Smith Peyton Siva

Pregame Shootaround 2.9.13: Peyton Siva, Russ Smith meet tough Notre Dame backcourt in South Bend

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Game of the Day: No. 11 Louisville vs. No. 25 Notre Dame (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Louisville has won three straight games after losing three in a row as part of a bad stretch in late January. In hand with that turnaround has been Peyton Siva reemerging after struggling during the Cardinals’ losing streak. Since Pitino’s team has bounced back, Siva has affected the game either by scoring or working for others, including a 10-assist game in a win over Pitt and a 14-point game in a win over Marquette.

That Siva/Russ Smith backcourt meets its match Saturday against Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, two guards who average over 20 points and 10 assists between them. On the interior, Louisville will  need to contain Big East Player of the Year candidate Jack Cooley, who has had a double-double in five of his last six games.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Dayton (-4) vs. Temple (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

Dayton has the advantage of being at home, but we the viewing audience will have the treat of a solid point guard matchup for brunch Saturday. Khalif Wyatt vs. Kevin Dillard is one of the better ones to follow not just among mid-majors, but in the country. Wyatt has had a flair for the dramatic this season, having put together stellar outings in a win over Syracuse and nearly pulling off an upset of Kansas.

Dillard, too, has had his moments. His 23 points against St. Joe’s lifted the Flyers to a key 60-54 win just this past Wednesday. Who would I take? It’s close, but I’ll take Wyatt and the Owls in the upset.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 15 New Mexico vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

The best non-BCS matchups somehow always happen to be in the Mountain West. We are gifted with another gem Saturday. The Lobos have bounced back with three straight wins after an embarrassing loss to San Diego State on Jan. 26. The three-point ball has been key in New Mexico’s last two wins and they will likely highlight that again Saturday.

For UNLV, they will need to look to Anthony Bennett, their talented Freshman of the Year candidate. If he gets into foul trouble, it could spell trouble for the Rebels. A loss to New Mexico on Jan. 9 saw Bennett score just 10 points and pick up four fouls. No Bennett likely means no key conference win for coach Dave Rice’s team.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Coming off perhaps the biggest upset loss of the season, No. 5 Kansas needs to turn things around–and fast. There are legitimate concerns about how the Jayhawks will handle their lack of a true, reliable point guard. Does that mean freshman Ben McLemore shifts it into another gear? Does it mean center Jeff Withey steps it up on both ends of the floor? We’ll see Saturday when Kansas meets Oklahoma.

2) Jim Larranaga is a real contender for National Coach of the Year. The Hurricanes are rolling and undefeated in ACC play. After North Carolina on Saturday, there is only a matchup with Duke remaining where they likely won’t be favored. Otherwise, this is beginning to look like Miami’s conference for the taking.

3) No. 19 Oregon has been without freshman point guard Dominic Artis as he sits with a foot injury. In that span, the Ducks are 1-3 and have struggled to control turnovers. There is reportedly no definitive timeline for his return, meaning he likely won’t be in the lineup when Dana Altman’s team meets Utah Saturday.

4) National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott was held to just eight points in Creighton’s loss to Indiana State on Wednesday. With that loss, the Bluejays fell to within one game of Wichita State and Indiana State in the Missouri Valley race. McDermott & Co. has a chance to get back on track Saturday vs. Illinois State.

5) Speaking of the Missouri Valley, Wichita State, a team that once climbed as high as No. 15 in the national polls, is on a bad losing skid in Missouri Valley play. The Shockers have lost three in a row and need Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early to step up as the scoring threats that they are in WSU wants to regain traction atop a crowded MVC. They take on Missouri State on Saturday.

The Top 25

No. 2 Florida vs. Mississippi State (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 3 Michigan vs. Wisconsin (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Kansas vs. Oklahoma (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 6 Gonzaga vs. Loyola Marymount (8:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

No. 8 Miami vs. North Carolina (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 11 Louisville vs. No. 25 Notre Dame (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 12 Michigan State vs. Purdue (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 13 Kansas State vs. Iowa State (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 14 Butler vs. George Washington (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 15 New Mexico vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 16 Creighton vs. Illinois State (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 17 Cincinnati vs. No. 23 Pittsburgh (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 19 Oregon vs. Utah (8:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 20 Georgetown vs. Rutgers (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 21 Missouri vs. Ole Miss (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 22 Oklahoma State vs. Texas (1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 24 Marquette vs. DePaul (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

Temple vs. Dayton (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

Akron vs. Miami (OH) (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

St. Joseph’s vs. UMass (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Auburn vs. Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Stanford vs. Arizona State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Virginia Commonwealth vs. Charlotte (7:00 p.m. ET)

Wichita State vs. Missouri State (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Wyoming vs. Boise State (8:00 p.m. ET)

Washington State vs. UCLA (10:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Saint Mary’s vs. San Diego (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

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

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)
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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)
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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)
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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.