Davante Gardner

Marquette gets 26 from Gardner in victory over Syracuse

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Marquette’s Davante Gardner must’ve taken something from Otto Porter’s performance on Saturday.

Two days after Georgetown’s leading man hung 33 on Syracuse in a win, Gardner put up his own big game with 26 points and eight rebounds in a 74-71 home win over the Orange.

Gardner mixed in few mid-range jumpers — he hit all seven of his attempts on the night — along with his work around the basket and got to the free throw line often, hitting 12-of-13 from there.

He paced the Golden Eagles, who hit 29-of-35 free throws (82.9 percent) on the night. On the other side of the free throw spectrum, Syracuse was only 5-of-7 from the free throw line on the night.

Jamil Wilson and Junior Cadougan chipped in 12 points each as no. 22 Marquette (20-7, 11-4 Big East Conference) had 16 assists on 20 baskets and shot 42.6-percent from the field. C.J. Fair led no. 12 Syracuse (22-6, 10-5) with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Michael Carter-Williams scored 14 with five assists and committed four turnovers. James Southerland dropped in 15 points, including 4-of-11 threes.

With the win, Marquette moves into sole-possession of second place behind Georgetown in the Big East. The loss drops the Orange into a tie with Notre Dame for fourth place.

It was a breakout game for Gardner, a 6-8, 290-pound junior, who is averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds this season.

The game was also indicative of the type of season Gardner has had and how Marquette’s run almost parallel with his performance. Gardner has failed to score in double-figures in seven games this season. The Golden Eagles have lost five of those games. The two Marquette did win? Both wins over South Florida (eight in one game, four in the other), with a two-point effort in a loss to Louisville sandwiched in-between.

Gardner is also coming off a two-point, 1-for-4 effort in 11 minutes in a 60-56 loss at Villanova on Saturday.

An equally impressive stat is that with all of his consistency in scoring this season, Monday night’s effort was his first outing of 20+ points. It’s also his fourth game of 10+ free throws on the year and his second perfect shooting night, adding on to a 6-for-6 night in a 74-67 overtime win at Pittsburgh.

The big man is a necessary cog for Buzz Williams’ team, which virtually locked up an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament with the win on Monday night, if it hadn’t already. Marquette had an RPI of 16 headed into the game.

Gardner’s scoring numbers essentially pacing Marquette’s outcomes is staggering. And it’s something to watch as we get closer to conference tournament time. Gardner is the Golden Eagles’ primary low-post threat and has proven to have the type of game that allows him to the go-to guy they need. That could carry Marquette to an extent in the Big East Tournament, when the seeding fate will be decided.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

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.