Nick Faust, Seth Allen, Logan Aronhalt

Team of the Week: Maryland Terrapins

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Team of the Week: Maryland Terrapins

Maryland may as well have been playing a tournament game on Saturday when they hosted No. 2 Duke. After putting together a non-conference schedule that featured Kentucky and … well … nothing else, the Terps had dug themselves a massive hole heading into ACC play. With a home win over NC State the only relevant victory on their NCAA tournament resume, Duke was the last chance for the Terps to pick up a marquee victory.

And they got it.

Now, this doesn’t ensure Maryland’s ticket to the dance. They still need to win at least five of their last six regular season games. They have to beat both North Carolina and Virginia. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but beating Duke gives them a chance to do that. Had they lost, Maryland could have conceivably won 11 ACC games and missed out on the NCAA tournament.

Teams deserving a shout out:

Georgetown: Believe it or not, the team that could barely crack 40 points back in December and that lost by 28 points at home to Pitt in early January is now tied for the lead in the Big East after beating Marquette at home and winning at Cincinnati. The Hoyas get two games against Syracuse in their final six games. The Big East title is within their reach.

Weber State: The Wildcats had a big week. Not only did they go 3-0 in the Big Sky and move to within a game of first place, they did so by beating previously-undefeated Montana 87-63 on Thursday night. The Grizzlies had owned WSU of late, and while it may not be enough to get them the league’s regular season title, having the confidence that they can actually beat Montana if important.

Colorado State: The Rams made their way one step closer to winning the Mountain West as they knocked off San Diego State on Wednesday night, following that up by surviving a 45 point performance by Michael Lyons in a win at Air Force. CSU has their biggest week of the season coming up, as they visit UNLV and host New Mexico.

Memphis: The Tigers do the same thing every season —  they struggle through the non-conference portion of their schedule and then become a completely different team in Conference USA play. This week, the Tigers blew out Central Florida at home and then went into Huntington, WV, and knocked off Marshall by a dozen.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes won at Penn State and beat Minnesota at home, extending their winning streak to three games and putting themselves into a position where they can make a run at an at-large bid. The problem? The Hawkeyes only have two potential good wins left on their schedule. They’ll like need to win four of their last five games — including No. 1 Indiana at home — if they truly want to go dancing.

They were good, too: Cal, Gonzaga, Illinois, Providence

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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)
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.

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.