Ryan Boatright, Brandon Triche

Should Syracuse be concerned after loss to UConn?

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Getting James Southerland back was suppose to be a lift for the No. 6 Syracuse Orange. He did with 4-for-9 shooting from behind the arc for 14 points.

However the rest of the Orange shot a 0-for-14 from three, en route to 35 percent shooting night from the field. In the last game against UConn as Big East opponents, Syracuse lost 66-58 — the team’s third loss in five games.

UConn took away a lot of the Syracuse offensive. Ryan Boatright applied pressure on Michael Carter Williams, who had only one assist and four turnovers. The Huskies also held Brandon Triche, the Orange’s leading scorer with only nine points.

“Good players have bad nights,” said Jim Boeheim. “He’ll bounce back.”

Triche shot 3-of-15 from the field, thanks in large part to Napier and the UConn help defense.

“I was just trying to do as much as I can,” said Shabazz Napier on guarding Triche. “I wanted to play him with as much respect as possible, but at the same time try to stop him from doing as much as he can.”

Syracuse didn’t get many of the lob passes inside and the fastbreak was held to a screeching halt with only four transition points.

“They got a lob the first minute and I was like, ‘Oh boy,'” said Kevin Ollie. “But I don’t think they got anymore.

“To hold a team with this much talent to 35 percent, that’s big time.”

Syracuse  corralled 20 offensive rebounds, forced 18 turnovers and still lost. Granted the Huskies had a great shooting night. But the shots were created by Napier and Boatright driving the lane and finding open shooters.

“Our defense was good,” said Boeheim. “It broke down at the last second. They got the ball to the open shooters and knocked them down.

“They got a couple of good looks in the run and I thought that was the difference.”

Napier had four turnovers, while Boatright had three, however they combined for 11 assists. Defensively the duo held Carter-Williams and Triche in check, which was the key to the game.

For Syracuse, who holds a one game lead atop the Big East standings, the upcoming schedule is favorable, but only for a little bit. Following back-to-back games against Seton Hall and Providence, the Orange play No. 15 Georgetown, on the road at No. 18 Marquette and a rematch against No. 12 Louisville. Syracuse ends the season with four of the last five games against ranked opponents.

People in upstate New York may not be concerned yet with the Big East leading Orange, but they have reason to start.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

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.