Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 11 Arizona at UCLA (Sat. 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Wildcats gave up 89 points in a loss to USC on Wednesday night, their first loss since plugging Kevin Parrom into the starting lineup in what was one of the ugliest defensive performances of the season by the Wildcats. Things don’t get any easier on Saturday night, as Sean Miller’s club will be heading into Pauley Pavilion to take on a UCLA Bruins team that has climbed into a first place tie in the Pac-12 with Oregon.
This is where the matchup gets interesting. The Bruins had one of their most impressive performances of the season when they went into Tucson and knocked off Arizona 84-73 back in January, but that came when the Wildcats were still using two big men the majority of the time. With Parrom at the three and Solomon Hill sliding over to the four-spot, all of a sudden the Wildcats match up much better with the Bruins small lineup. Will that be enough to allow them to go into Westwood and get a win on Gameday?
Four more teams on Upset Watch:
No. 19 Memphis at UCF (Sat. 1:00 p.m. ET, FSN): Central Florida doesn’t have much to play for right now, as their hopes of winning a league title are gone and they are banned from the postseason. What the Golden Knights do have to play for is the right to be the spoiler. Memphis is one loss in the regular season away from having a real concern about receiving an at-large bid if they don’t win CUSA’s automatic bid. Can UCF be the team that pulls off that upset?
Texas at No. 15 Oklahoma State (Sat. 4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): Texas is a different team with Myck Kabongo back. Does that mean they’re good enough to be a tournament team? Who knows, five games is a really small sample. But they have beaten Iowa State and erased a 22 point deficit in a comeback win over Oklahoma while Kabongo has put up impressive numbers. It was their press that worked magic against the Sooners. Will they use it on the Pokes on Saturday?
No. 13 Kansas State at Baylor (Sat. 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2): This might as well be a tournament game for Baylor. If they lose to Kansas State, they are probably going to have to win the Big 12’s automatic bid if they want to be in the NCAA tournament. It’s that simple. And while we can all make jokes about Scott Drew and Baylor’s disappointing finishes, the fact of the matter is that the Bears have a ton of talent on their roster. In theory, they’re good enough that they should win this game. Doesn’t always work that way, though.
Villanova at No. 23 Pitt (Sun. 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Villanova is such a weird team this season. They have wins over three of the top four teams in the Big East. They’ve also done things like get swept by Providence and lose to Seton Hall at home in a must-win game. It was the Pirate’s first-win in 33 days. Which is why it would only make sense that the Wildcats will go into the Pete and knock off the Panthers.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.