Allen Crabbe

Pregame Shootaround 2.21.13: Slow night, but big chance for Cal, Cincy

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Game of the Night: Cal at No. 23 Oregon (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Ducks will once again be without Dominic Artis tonight, which puts Cal into a wonderful position — the Bears, who have won five of their last six games to put themselves firmly into the bubble conversation, can grab their second marquee road win in the span of two weeks if they can beat the Dukes. To be perfectly fair, Johnathan Loyd has been playing some good basketball of late in Artis’ stead, but he’s not the same kind of talent. Oregon currently leads Arizona in the Pac-12 standings by a game in the loss column.

The Other Game of the Night: BYU at St. Mary’s (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Neither BYU not St. Mary’s looks like they are for the NCAA tournament without locking down the automatic bid from the WCC, but that doesn’t mean that these two teams are boring to watch. The Cougars are one of the fastest paced teams in the country, and St. Mary’s is one of the top ten most efficient teams in the country. Matthew Dellavedova is as good as any point guard that you’ll find nationally, while Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies are as good as any 1-2 punch as you’ll find. Expect a lot of scoring.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: South Alabama at Middle Tennessee State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Middle Tennessee State may be the best mid-major team in the country, one of the few teams outside the major conferences with a chance (albeit it slim) to receive an at-large bid. South Alabama has already gone through a coaching change this season, but they are currently sitting in second place in the Sun Belt. MTSU will win clinch the Sun Belt outright tonight with a win.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Erick Green may be stuck playing for one of the bottom-feeders in the ACC, but he’s a first-team all-american talent. He’ll be hosting Duke with the Hokies tonight. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) UConn may not be eligible for the NCAA tournament, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a quality road win in the making. Cincinnati needs one of those. Should be interesting to see two teams that rely almost entirely on their talented back court. (7:00 p.m. ESPN)

3) Drexel and Delaware are two of the more disappointing teams in the CAA, but they are also two of the most talented teams. (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

4) La Salle looks like they are in position to be the fourth team from the Atlantic 10 to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, but they still have some work left to do. Winning at Temple in a Big 5 showdown would be a good way to start. (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

5) Colorado and Illinois host Utah and Penn State, respectively. Neither can afford a loss.

Top 25

  • No. 6 Duke at Virginia Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Cal at No. 23 Oregon (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Other Notable Games

  • Drexel at Delaware (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
  • Cincinnati at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • La Salle at Temple (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • South Alabama at Middle Tennessee State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Penn State at Illinois (8:15 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • Utah at Colorado (10:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
  • BYU at St. Mary’s (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

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
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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.