Duke Miami

ACC Tournament Preview

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The ACC was weird this season.

Miami won the league. Think about that. Miami. That, alone, is enough to leave you scratching your head.

But there’s more to it. Duke was the best team in the country heading into conference play and looks like they are right back in that conversation now that Ryan Kelly is back on the floor, but they still managed to lose four games in ACC play and don’t have a ton of depth if Kelly or Seth Curry happen to aggravate their nagging injuries. North Carolina went from being a bubble team to being the hottest team in the conference to being a team that got drubbed by Duke at home. NC State has been nothing but a disappointment given the amount of talent on their roster.

And after that, there’s not much of anything. Virginia can beat anyone in the league and lose to anyone in the league. Maryland knocked off Duke and has been really bad is just about every other game. Florida State would be abysmal if it wasn’t for Michael Snaer’s four game-winners this year.

Not quite what we expected heading into the season.

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The Bracket

Where: Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro)

When: March 14-17

Final: March 17th, 1:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Favorite: Duke

With all due respect to ACC regular season champ Miami, Duke was the best team in the country before Ryan Kelly was injured. They haven’t lost since Kelly came back, proving that his foot was fine with a 36 point performance in a win over Miami in his first game. Throw in the fact that the Dukies will be playing in front of a favorable crowd in Greensboro, it’s not difficult to imagine them making a run through the conference.

If there is a concern about this Duke team, it’s that they are still a bit beat up. Seth Curry doesn’t practice because of a leg injury that he’s been dealing with all season long. Kelly’s foot issues aren’t going to get any better when they have to play three games in three days. Will those nagging injuries end up costing the Blue Devils?

And if they lose?: Miami

The Hurricanes were the most dominant team in the ACC until the final two weeks of the regular season, when their defense, which was one of the best in the country, all of a sudden lost the ability to get stops. The Hurricanes have a big, veteran front line and one of the ACC’s best guard duos in Shane Larkin and Durand Scott. There’s a reason they won the league’s regulars season title, but it will be interesting to see if they can get their season turned around.

Other contenders: North Carolina has been playing much better since Roy Williams made the decision to go with a smaller lineup and play James Michael McAdoo at the center spot. It’s created mismatches for guys like Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston, and with more room to operate, Marcus Paige has suddenly found his confidence. NC State is another team to keep an eye on simply because they are insanely talented, but until they prove they can win with that talent, they are going to be a question mark.

Sleeper: Virginia

It’s difficult to trust the Cavaliers because of the number of bad teams that they’ve lost to this season. It’s also difficult to write them off because of the number of good teams that they’ve beaten this season. Joe Harris might be the nation’s best kept secret, and since UVA is playing with their tournament hopes on the line, there’s a good chance that a run can be made.

Deeper sleeper: Maryland?

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anyone outside the top five that can make a run in this event, but I’ll go with Maryland for a couple of reasons: 1) they have a lottery pick in the middle in Alex Len, and 2) they are the only team that still has bubble aspirations outside of the top five. Is that enough to make it happen?

Studs:

– Erick Green, Virginia Tech: Green was the best player in the ACC this season, so it is a shame that he was stuck playing on a Virginia Tech team that no one paid attention to all season long. He can flat out score, and given the load that he has to carry for the Hokies to be competitive, his efficiency is off the charts.

– Shane Larkin, Miami: Larkin is probably the league’s Player of the Year for teams that actually mattered in this year’s race. Just an all-around great point guard.

– Joe Harris, Virginia: Harris is a lot of fun to watch. He’s terrific using screens, he’s an excellent shooter and Tony Bennett likes to have him move around quite a bit offensively.

CBT Prediction: I think Miami will end up winning the ACC tournament, knocking off Duke in a rematch in the final where Curry and Kelly see only limited minutes.

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.