Syracuse v Louisville

Pregame Shootaround 2.25.13: Cuse visits Marquette, Kansas upset alert?

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Game of the Night: No. 12 Syracuse at No. 22 Marquette (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Thanks to a Syracuse loss to Georgetown and Marquette succumbing at Villanova, this game lost a bit of its luster. It’s no longer for first place in the Big East. That said, it is still a crucial game in the Big East standings. Louisville, Marquette and Syracuse are in a three-way tie for second in the league right now. A loss would drop either the Golden Eagles or the Orange into a tie with Notre Dame for fourth place. The top four teams get a double-bye in the Big East tournament.

Syracuse should have an advantage in this game. DaJuan Coleman is expected to be back in the lineup tonight, and Marquette’s weakness this season is their ability to shoot from the perimeter. Good luck trying to penetrate that Syracuse zone and finish around the basket without having the threat of the three-ball as a deterrent.

More than anything, this is a statement game that both teams need. Losing two in a row at this point in the season is concerning with March right around the corner.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 6 Kansas at Iowa State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This isn’t too difficult to figure out. Iowa State nearly knocked off Kansas in Lawrence earlier this season, and they’ll be getting their rematch in Hilton Coliseum, which is as tough a place to win as there is in the Big 12.

But there’s more to it than that. The Cyclones happen to match up really well with Kansas. Fred Hoiberg has a group of bigs that can step out on the perimeter and shoot, meaning that they are able to pull Jeff Withey away from the basket. That not only opens up lanes of penetration, but by screening actions, it creates open looks for the myriad of three-point shooters that ISU has.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Villanova is on the road against Seton Hall tonight. The Wildcats can all-but lock up a big to the NCAA tournament by knocking off the Pirates. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

2) No. 13 Kansas State will be hosting Texas Tech, a game the Wildcats should cruise in. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

3) Bryant and Sacred Heart had a league game from a month ago postponed due to Nemo. At the time the game was supposed to be played, SHU was threatening to make a run in the NEC. They’ve now lost four straight and are under .500 in conference play. (7:00 p.m. ET)

4) Grambling visits Mississippi Valley State tonight. MVSU has just four wins on the season. Grambling is still winless. This may be their best chance. (8:30 p.m. ET)

5) Central Connecticut is the only team in the country that has had two different players score 40 points in a game this season. The Blue Devils head to Quinnipiac for an intra-state battle tonight. (7:00 p.m. ET)

Top 25

  • No. 6 Kansas at Iowa State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 12 Syracuse at No. 22 Marquette (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Texas Tech at No. 13 Kansas State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

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)
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.