Deshawn Stephens, Chase Fieler

Previewing the South Regional: Is Dunk City’s reign over?

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Favorite: Florida

Are the Gators the best team left in the South? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does. What I do know, however, is that the Gators will play their first game in the regional against a team that finished in second place in the Atlantic Sun in Florida Gulf Coast. The Gators have the ability to overwhelm opponents, and I expect nothing less from them against FGCU.

That gets Billy Donovan’s club to the Elite 8, where I think that the Gators happen to matchup well with both Kansas and Michigan. Scottie Wilbekin is the kind of ball-hawk in the back court that can give Trey Burke trouble, and I just don’t see Kansas being able to break down the Gator’s defense with Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe running the show.

But they could also win: Michigan

Scott Van Pelt has a saying that he likes to use: How good is your good? When you are playing your best basketball, how good can your team be? We’ve seen how good the Wolverines can be when they start clicking. There’s a reason that they climbed all the way up to No. 1 in the country at one point this season. There’s a reason they ran both VCU and South Dakota State out of The Palace at Auburn Hills when Trey Burke didn’t play well in either game. The key? Glenn Robinson III. He’s played his best this season when going up against mediocre competition. John Beilein needs him to play his best if they are going to advance out of the South.

(Click here to browse through all of our Sweet 16 previews)

Most Important Player: Ben McLemore, Kansas

Glenn Robinson III might fit here as well, but we’ll go with McLemore since he’s not only a guy that many believe will be a top five pick in the draft, but he hands-down the most talented player on the Jayhawk roster. He’s also played terribly through two tournament games. He’s scored 13 points and shooting just 14.3% from the floor in those two games, including an 0-9 performance last Sunday when he scored just two points in the win over North Carolina. If he doesn’t get going, Kansas isn’t going to be making the Final Four.

Story line to watch: Florida Gulf Coast, obviously. Can they keep the dream aline? I know they beat Miami, Georgetown and San Diego State this season, but they also got swept by Lipscomb and finished second in the Atlantic Sun. They also spent the entirety of this week being besieged by a media crush that couldn’t get enough of Dunk City. Two weeks ago, they were a nameless group who happened to have a coach that married a supermodel. Now FGCU is a national sensation. With the media attention comes the pressure. How will the Eagles react to it?

Rank ‘em:

1. Florida
2. Michigan
3. Kansas
4. Florida Gulf Coast

And the winner is?: Michigan

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Wolverines pull it off. I think that Burke has a huge weekend, his supporting cast hits their threes and Mitch McGary continues his outstanding play in this tournament.

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)
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.