DeAndre Daniels

DeAndre Daniels drops 24 as UConn fights off Boston University

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Through the first three games of the season, UConn junior forward DeAndre Daniels had scored a combined 19 points. On Sunday, Daniels surpassed his season scoring total with a game-high 24 points as the Huskies stayed undefeated with a 77-60 win over Boston University at Gampel Pavilion.

Daniels scored 12 points in each half. The first dozen came early, giving UConn a hot start offensively. The second dozen — along with 12 second half points from Shabazz Napier — helped UConn put an end to the upset bid by the Patriot League favorite.

UConn started the second half with a 37-32 lead as the Terriers were attempt to comeback from a double-digit deficit. Daniels had the first five points of the half for the Huskies, but even his best game of the season to date couldn’t stop BU from getting back into the game. Three minutes into the second half, D.J. Irving gave BU its first lead of the day, but it was a short-lived one after Ryan Boatright responded with a jumper on the ensuing possession.

That started a 13-4 UConn run, with the main highlight being Daniels’ emphatic dunk that gave UConn a seven-point edge. From there, Napier, with another stat-stuffing performance (12 points, 12 rebounds, six assists). guided UConn to the win and a 4-0 start to the season.

Daniels opened up the game with 12 of UConn’s first 17 points. Boston University didn’t surpass 12 points as a team until there was 7:26 remaining in the first half. Daniels’ offensive outburst sparked a first half lead that got to as large as 19 at one point. However, in the final five minutes of the first half, the Terriers climbed back in with a 19-5 run to head into halftime. That let up by the Huskies allowed BU to briefly pull ahead in the second half.

It’s a promising performance from Daniels, who scored zero points in 18 minutes against Yale just six days ago. But there’s a difference between getting open looks against BU and having to score against teams he and the Huskies will see in the American such as Louisville and Memphis.

Another concern for the Huskies, besides blowing the big lead, is on the glass. The frontline was UConn’s big question entering this season, and will likely continue to raise concerns. The Terriers matched the Huskies in the rebound department, 36-36, and came away with six more offensive rebounds. Napier — who is listed  6-foot-1 — grabbed 1/3 of the team’s total boards.

UConn’s next game is against Boston College, a team that is also questionable on the glass, on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. After BC, the Huskies have a game against Loyola (MD) before going head-to-head with No. 11 Florida and its improving frontline after Dorian Finney-Smith joined the Gator frontcourt on Saturday alongside Patric Young and Will Yeguete.

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)
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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.