UAB v Creighton

Bubble Banter: Who helped their tournament chances?

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WEDNESDAY’S BUBBLE WINNERS

Creighton: The Bluejays desperately needed to pick up a win on the road against Bradley, and they did just that, smacking the Braves by a score of 80-62. Doug McDermott, who has struggled of late, went for 32 points and 11 boards. The Bluejays had come in losing six of their last 11 games, putting a team once thought to be among the top 15 in the country back into the bubble conversation. Creighton hosts Wichita State on Saturday for the MVC regular season title and then will had to St. Louis for Arch Madness. Creighton should be OK barring two straight losses.

Kentucky: It’s tough to call a team a ‘winner’ when they beat this Mississippi State team at home, but Kentucky simply had to avoid losing to the Bulldogs to keep themselves in the NCAA tournament picture. They did just that. UK still has work to do, however: they play at Arkansas (which is one of the toughest home environments in the SEC), at Georgia and then host Florida.

Boise State: The Broncos kept their tournament hopes alive with a blowout win over Nevada at home tonight. BSU still has work to do, but they’ll have plenty of chances to play their way into a bid: the Broncos host Colorado State, play at UNLV, and then host SDSU.

Baylor: The Bears desperately needed tonight’s win over West Virginia to snap a string of six losses in eight games heading into the most important stretch of their season. Baylor hosts Kansas State and Kansas, as well as travel to Austin to take on Texas. The Bears need to win at least two games to be able to play their way into an at-large bid in the Big 12 tournament.

Ole Miss: The Rebels are in a tough spot right now. They don’t have great computer numbers, their only top 50 win is over Missouri at home, and they lost to South Carolina. That’s not good. They cannot afford to lose to anyone at the bottom of the SEC. On Wednesday, they handled Texas A&M at home. They’ll need to win out and probably pick up a few wins in the SEC tournament.

Akron: The Zips went into Ohio, erased an 18 point lead and knocked off the No. 2 team in the MAC in overtime. Akron has now won 19 straight games and is undefeated in league play. Their resume may not be strong enough to garner an at-large bid, however; they’re just 4-3 against the top 100 with Middle Tennessee State being their only top 50 win.

St. Mary’s: If the Gaels are going to get an at-large bid, they need to win out until the WCC title game and then lose to Gonzaga. That’s the only way. They could not lose to Pepperdine on Wednesday, and they didn’t. They won by 39 points.

Belmont: The Bruins won a share of the Ohio Valley regular season title tonight, but they are a bit of a longshot to earn an at-large bid that this point. Seven top 100 wins are nice, but only one of them — Middle Tennessee State — is really all that noteworthy. The Bruins also have a couple of questionable losses. Losing in the OVC title may not be enough.

NC State: The Wolfpack will be fine as long as they avoid bad losses. They beat Boston College, which would have been a bad loss. Good job.

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.