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The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Michigan State tops Luke Winn’s power rankings (Sports Illustrated)
Luke Winn’s weekly power rankings are an entertaining and informative read, with statistical analysis of the teams proving to be quite valuable. A top his rankings this week is Michigan State, thanks to their win over Kentucky, and the Spartan’s ability to get out and run while limiting opponents’ chances of doing so is one reason why. Through two games an area that was a weakness for Tom Izzo’s team at the end of last season has been a strength.

Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin promotes Titus Rubles to captain (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Entering the 2013-14 season Cincinnati seniors Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson were the team captains, and rightfully so, given the fact that they’ve been productive members of the program for three seasons. This week Cronin made senior Titus Rubles his third captain, citing Rubles’ play in wins over North Carolina Central and NC-State as the reason why.

Should college basketball players be paid? Syracuse, ACC athletes weigh in (Syracuse Post-Standard)
This question has been debated for quite some time, and that will continue to be the case until there’s a resolution to the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit. The Syracuse Post-Standard asked the question of players at Syracuse and throughout the ACC, and there are some solid points made on both sides of the argument.

D’Angelo Harrison, Mike Rice bonded at anger management (New York Post)
With St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison  and Rutgers head coach Mike Rice having some serious issues to address during the offseason, both wound up under the wing over John Lucas in Houston. The two would form a bond that remains strong, with Rice attending the Red Storm’s second exhibition game against Humboldt State. But while Harrison has made it back to the college game, Rice’s return will be more challenging.

UC Irvine 86, Washington 72 (Big Apple Buckets)
Russell Turner’s Anteaters were dominant in the second half of their win in Seattle, and John Templon of Big Apple Buckets was there to see it all. Irvine’s interior play, featuring Will Davis II and Mamadou Ndiaye, is what stood out on Thursday night with Ndiaye setting a Big West record for blocked shots in a game (nine).

Tom Crean thinks James Blackmon Jr. will be worth the wait, drama (Indianapolis Star)
After making the decision to de-commit from Indiana this past summer, 2014 guard James Blackmon Jr. ended up re-committing to the Big Ten school. And after receiving Blackmon’s national letter of intent, Indiana head coach stated that he believes the drama will be worth it.

Observation Room: Temple/Towson (City of Basketball Love)
The Towson Tigers are 3-0 for the first time in 41 years after knocking off Temple at SECU Arena. Josh Verlin of City of Basketball Love offered up some of his observations of the game, including some thoughts regarding the Owls’ problems closing games.

Five freshmen you might want to pay attention to (Run the Floor)
For all the chatter about the freshmen who played in the Champions Classic, and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, there are other newcomers college basketball fans should be aware of. Among the five players mentioned here are a McDonald’s All-Americanand a mid major wing who originally signed with Old Dominion.

Devyn Marble following his father (ESPN)
Being a “legacy” can be difficult for young players, especially when the family member who preceded them was so successful. That’s what Iowa senior Devyn Marble struggled with at times due to the fact that his father Roy is one of the school’s all-time greats. But instead of allowing the expectations/comparisons to weigh him down, Devyn’s worked to create his own legacy at Iowa.

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)
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
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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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.