Michigan v Syracuse

Michigan needs Trey Burke to break out of his shooting funk on Monday night

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ATLANTA — Trey Burke was phenomenal for a three minute stretch against Kansas in the Sweet 16.

He scored eight points in the final minute and a half of regulation, including a 30 foot step-back three that tied the game and forced overtime. Then Burke hit the first two shots of the overtime period for the Wolverines, giving Michigan a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

All told, he scored 13 points in three minutes of game-time, which was enough to finish off Michigan’s comeback win and send them on to the Elite 8. Without it, the Wolverines would have made the Final Four and they wouldn’t be playing for the National Title on Monday night. That much should be obvious.

But what isn’t quite as obvious is that outside of those three minutes, Burke hasn’t played up to those National Player of the Year honors he’s been collecting during this tournament. He was 2-12 from the floor and had just six points against South Dakota State. He had 18 points and seven assists against VCU, but he also had seven of Michigan’s 12 turnovers and was the only member of the Wolverines that appeared to struggle with ‘Havoc’. Outside of those three minutes, Burke was 4-16 from the floor against Kansas. He was 5-16 from the floor against Florida in the Elite 8.

And believe it or not, his worst game of the tournament came in the Final Four. Burke was 1-8 from the field. He had just seven points and handed out just four assists.

For the tournament, Burke is shooting just 32.4% from the field and 25.8% from three. And Louisville isn’t exactly the kind of team that will help a point guard bust out of a slump.

“We understand that guys are going to have off-nights,” Burke said. It’s helped that guys like Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary have played some of their best basketball of the season, or that Nike Stauskas, Spike Albrecht and Caris Lavert have shown the ability to hit big shots in big moments throughout the tournament. The easiest way to relieve pressure on a superstar that isn’t playing his best is to have his teammates step up.

But here’s the thing about Burke — his shots might not have been falling, but he hasn’t exactly played bad basketball. He has 35 assists in the five games and just 15 turnovers. He’s rebounded the ball. He’s done enough that John Beilein got a bit feisty today when someone mentioned Burke having an off-night.

“I bristled a little bit last night when people say that Trey Burke had an off game,” Beilein said. “Trey Burke did so many things behind the scenes in that game that we don’t win without Trey Burke, don’t come close. What you all have to understand, it’s more than just that box score, how many points.”

“If you understand all the nuances of the game, it’s a huge difference of whether we win or lose, some of the intangibles that happen in a game that you never see in a stat.”

That’s fair, but perhaps the most valuable aspect of Burke’s play during the tournament has come on the defensive end of the floor. Michael Carter-Williams shot 1-6 from the field last night, finishing with more turnovers (five) than points and assists combined (four). Burke played a major role in that, just like he played a major role in holding Nate Wolters to 3-14 shooting in the tournament’s opening round.

There’s more to Burke’s arsenal than simply being a weapon on the offensive end, but that’s what he’s the best at. Michigan can survive without him shooting the ball well, but they aren’t going to be at their best, and if they want to beat Louisville on Monday night, they are going to have to be at their best.

That means that Burke is going to have to shoot the ball better than he did on Saturday night and better than he has over the last three weeks if the Wolverines want to win.

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.