Kenny Boynton, Ernest Ross

Pregame Shootaround 2.19.13: MSU-IU, VCU-St. Louis highlight loaded slate

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Game of the Night: No. 1 Indiana at No. 4 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

We already gave this game the full-post preview treatment. Get your popcorn ready.

Who’s Getting Upset? No. 5 Florida at Missouri (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

If you look at Kenpom’s numbers, Florida has been the best team in the country this season. But there are two factors in that equation that must be accounted for: 1) Their two best wins were blow-outs that came at home back in November; 2) Their only two notable road performances have been a 25 point win at Florida State, who isn’t a tournament team, back on December 5th and the torching they took at Arkansas earlier this month.

Now, Florida heads off to Columbia where they’ll be taking on a Missouri team that has Laurence Bowers back, is playing better basketball than they were a few weeks ago, and has proven to be a much better team at home than on the road. The Tigers desperately need a big win, not necessarily for their tournament chances but for their confidence and to keep the doomsday theorists at bay.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: No. 24 VCU at St. Louis (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

The Atlantic 10 isn’t a mid-major league, so spare me the angry comments. But this is the kind of matchup that deserves some extended discussion. You’d be hard-pressed to find two teams that play more opposing styles, but nonetheless, these two teams are essentially sitting in a tie for first place in the conference. (Technically, VCU has a one game lead in the win column.) The Rams like to press, thriving on their ability to force turnovers and turn those turnovers into layups and three-pointers. St. Louis is a is more of a halfcourt team, one that can be downright stingy defensively.

They execute in the half court and are a nightmare to try and score on when their defense gets set. VCU cannot score when forced to go against set defenses. This should be a fun battle.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Utah State heads to BYU to take on the Cougars in a game that was postponed due to the heart attack suffered by Danny Berger of USU in a practice earlier this season. This is an intense rivalry — as they all are in the state of Utah — but some of the luster as been lost as Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin’s injuries have had an effect on how good the Aggies are. (9:00 p.m. ET)

2) Wichita State and Indiana State square off in a huge battle in the Missouri Valley. ISU won at Wichita State by 13 points earlier this season and hasn’t lost at home since Dec. 1st. But the Sycamores have also struggled of late, losing their last two games and falling into a position where they are nearly out of the bubble pictures without a win over the Shockers. WSU currently leads Creighton by a game and ISU by two games in the MVC standings. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

3) San Diego State has dropped two in a row and five of their last nine in Mountain West play. They are all but out of the MWC race, but beating Wyoming at home would help keep them out of the bubble picture. (10:00 p.m. ET)

4) There are four notable bubble battles in the ACC tonight. Florida State at NC State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Maryland at Boston College (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3), UNC at Georgia Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3), and, most importantly, Virginia at No. 2 Miami (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

5) Southern Illinois has been the ultimate spoiler in the MVC race this season. The travel to Omaha to take on Creighton tonight. (8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Top 25

  • No. 1 Indiana at No. 4 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Virginia at No. 2 Miami (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Duquesne at No. 15 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • No. 17 Marquette at Seton Hall (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 24 VCU at St. Louis (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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
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.