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Don’t be concerned about Duke following 83-81 loss at Maryland

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. –

Should we really be too concerned with the Duke Blue Devils after their 83-81 loss to Maryland on Saturday night?

Well, first and foremost, you should never lose a basketball game when your opposition turns the ball over 26 times. So yes, we should be concerned that the No. 2 team in the country couldn’t capitalize on 26 extra possessions. And yes, we should be concerned that Mason Plumlee scored a season-low four points and grabbed just three rebounds. And it’s true, the Blue Devils interior defense provided little resistance against dribble penetration and entry passes to the Maryland front court.

But after what we’ve seen from the rest of the “elite” teams in the country this season, it should be painfully obvious that you can have fatal flaws and still be a National Championship contender, at least in 2012-2013. Look at Louisville, or Kansas or even Michigan. Each of those teams have pretty glaring weaknesses that can, and have been exposed.

This was not a blowout loss to Boston College. This was a two-point loss to a quality team that took place in arguably one of the most intimidating venues in college basketball.

Saturday night was Maryland’s Superbowl. Every prominent Maryland alum was in the building. Scott Van Pelt, Boomer Esiason, Torrey Smith and Juan Dixon were all court side for the Terp’s biggest home game of the year. Maryland was not losing to Duke on Saturday. The fans at the Comcast Center wouldn’t allow it to happen. Every time Duke made a run, the crowd provided the Terps with the spark they needed.

Belief is a very powerful tool, and the fans belief in their team fueled to Terps to a victory. There was not a team in the country on Saturday night that was going to beat Maryland at the Comcast Center. There just wasn’t. And I say that not because Maryland played great, but because the 14 members of the team and the 17,950 fans on attendance would not allow it to happen.

But if you’re still looking for something to be concerned about, I would suggest looking at Duke’s toughness.

This is not a very tough or physical team. You can bully Mason Plumlee around. There is not much depth in the frontcourt. Josh Hairston showed some fire, but other than that, does anybody on Duke really scare you? Big, physical teams with a deep frontcourt and an athletic backcourt (See: Hurricanes, Miami) will cause the most problems for Duke and there more than a handful of different teams that have the personal and talent to expose Duke’s weakness.

But if you’re panicking because we still don’t know when Ryan Kelly will return, you might want to consider investing your energy in something else.

The Blue Devils are still one of the five best teams in the country, even if they aren’t perfect.

We’re going to have a flawed champion regardless, and Duke is still good enough to cut down the nets in April.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

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.