Khalif Wyatt

Temple survives UMass, are tournament hopes still alive?

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AMHERST, Mass. — Nineteen seasons ago, John Chaney tried to fight then-UMass coach John Calipari in the post game press conference. In 2013, the Temple-UMass rivalry resumed with postseason implications.

Following an 83-82 road win over the Minutemen on Saturday, the Temple Owls keep NCAA tournaments hopes alive after doing its best to ruin them with a  84-83 home loss to Duquesne on Thursday night.

“It’s really important,” said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. “We did not play well at home against Duquesne, Duquesne had a lot to do with that. They’re really coming on. It wasn’t surprising they got us. We’re just inconsistent enough to not win that game at home.

Khalif Wyatt scored 17 of his game high 24 points in the second half, knocking down 5-of-8 threes in the last 20 minutes. UMass cut the lead to one twice down the stretch, including a Freddie Riley three with 1:04 to go to cut the lead to 83-82. The Minutemen had a chance to win it with a 17 seconds to go, but the ball was deflected, and UMass couldn’t get a handle on it as time expired.

“I was just think they were giving Chaz [Williams] the ball,” said Dunphy. “Everybody but Anthony Lee, we’re going to switch on Chaz and just to help as much as we can on the weak side, and hope he doesn’t have one of those floaters that buries us.”

If Williams and UMass did bury Temple on Saturday with a game-winner, it would have essentially buried their season in the NIT. The win pushes Temple (17-8, 6-5 Atlantic 10) over .500 in conference play and tied with Charlotte three games behind first-place VCU.

The Owls looked promising in non-conference play with a win over then-No. 3 Syracuse, Villanova and nearly knocking of Kansas in Lawrence.

In A10 play, the Owls have been inconsistent with losses to St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph’s and most recently to Duquesne. The bounce-back win was big for Temple, who have a difficult week coming up with games slated against La Salle and at Charlotte.

“That was a bad loss on Thursday, but the best thing about the loss was it was a quick turnaround, so we didn’t have much time to think about it or dwell on it,” said Wyatt. “We just want to make sure we’re one of those 68 teams.”

“We have to be a solid as we were in the second half on the defensive end, and we have to really be efficient on offense,” added Dunphy. “We have a tough week coming up with La Salle at home, and at Charlotte. This presents a tremendous challenge for us.”

Along with La Salle and Charlotte, Temple still has a makeup game against Detroit and a regular season finale against VCU.

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)
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.