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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

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)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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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)
(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.