Harvard v Arizona

Sweet 16 Resets: The West Region

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On Thursday evening, the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 play will begin, meaning we’ll be four days away from finding out who the four teams are that will be playing for the national title in Atlanta. And in case you spent the past four days living under a rock or on a really, really long flight that didn’t have WiFi, here’s what you missed in the West Region.

Click here to browse through all of our Sweet 16 previews:

WHERE: Staples Center, Los Angeles

WHEN: Thursday

WHAT HAPPENED?: Madness. No. 1 Gonzaga lost to No. 9 Wichita State. No. 3 New Mexico lost to No. 14 Harvard. No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Wisconsin lost to No. 13 La Salle and No. 12 Ole Miss, respectively. When La Salle beat Ole Miss on Sunday, they became just the fifth No. 13 seed to make the Sweet 16, a fact that has been completely ignored thanks to that team from Dunk City, Florida. No. 2 Ohio State (barely) managed to survive No. 10 Iowa State, and will take on No. 6 Arizona on Thursday.

FAVORITE: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State, at this point, has to be considered the favorite to win the West Region as every other contender in the region has been knocked off. There hasn’t been a hotter team in the country over the last month and a half, and OSU will be looking to ride that wave all the way to the Final Four. The key? LaQuinton Ross. He’s probably the best NBA prospect on the Buckeye roster, and he’s shown flashes of that ability during the tournament. Can he keep that up?

KEY PLAYER: Mark Lyons, Arizona

Sean Miller made the comparison over the weekend that Lyons is like a running quarterback on a football, and I think that’s a fair opinion. He’s not a standard issue point guard, but he’s talented, he’s gutty and he’s a veteran that has made big plays in big situations throughout his career. Arizona’s offense runs through him, but he’ll have his work cut out for him going up against Aaron Craft in the Sweet 16.

WHY AN UNDERDOG WILL WIN: I think both Wichita State and La Salle have a real chance to win this region, but for very different reasons.

– The Shockers are a relatively new team in that many of the pieces on the roster were either elsewhere last season or weren’t contributors. But thanks to some mid-season injuries to key players Carl Hall and Ron Baker, the Shockers are balanced and they are deep. You can’t go into a game thinking that you’re going to stop Carl Hall and win, because then Cleanthony Early, Baker and Fred VanVleet will light you up.

– La Salle is very talented. Ramon Galloway, Tyrone Garland and Tyreek Duren — their three-headed back court — could all be playing in the ACC or the Big East if they wanted to be. But they are at La Salle, and they give the Explorers an incredibly dangerous lineup because they force you to play their style. La Salle runs four guards out there, and they dare you to try and cover one of them with a big man. It’s risky, but La Salle creates the mismatches. That makes them dangerous, especially on the nights their big three ar playing well.

THE TEAMS:

No. 2 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
How they got here: Beat No. 15 Iona 95-70 and No. 10 Iowa State 78-75.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2012
Next up: No. 6 Arizona, 7:47 p.m. ET, TBS
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No. 6 ARIZONA WILDCATS
How they got here: Beat No. 11 Belmont 81-64 and No. 14 Harvard 74-51.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 2 Ohio State, 7:47 p.m. ET, TBS
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No. 9 WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS
How they got here: Beat No. 8 Pitt 73-55 and No. 1 Gonzaga 76-70.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2006
Next up: No. 13 La Salle, 10:17 p.m. ET, TBS
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No. 13 LA SALLE EXPLORERS
How they got here: Beat No. 13 Boise State 80-71, No. 4 Kansas State 63-61, and No. 12 Ole Miss 76-74.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 1955
Next up: No. 9 Wichita State, 10:17 p.m. ET, TBS

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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)
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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.

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.