UConn Maryland Basketball

Monday’s Pregame Shootaround: Florida-UConn square off

Leave a comment

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 15 Florida at No. 13 UConn, 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The Gators picked up a nice win over Florida State over the weekend, the first big win they’ve had this season. But Florida is still not at full strength right now, with Kasey Hill dealing with an ankle injury, Eli Carter still coming back from his broken leg and Damontre Harris seemingly never returning from his suspension. This UConn games kicks off a three-week stretch where the Gators lock horns with three top 15 teams, including Kansas and Memphis.

UConn, on the other hand, is playing really well right now, with Shabazz Napier tossing his name into the National Player of the Year conversation as the Huskies sit at 7-0 with a win over Indiana in Madison Square Garden. This matchup is made all the more intriguing by the fact that UConn has a terrific back court while Florida’s front line should overpower the Huskies.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Mercer at Oklahoma, 9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Oklahoma has played well early on this season and looks like they could end up being the fifth-best team in the Big 12 this season, but Mercer is a good team. Led by Langston Hall, the Bears are actually the favorite to repeat as champs of the Atlantic Sun over Florida-Gulf Coast.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Boston U. at Quinnipiac, 7:00 p.m.

The Terriers back court, led by Mo Watson and D.J. Irving, is quite talented, but Quinnipiac has a couple of talented pieces on their roster as well. Ike Azotam and Zaid Hearst make up one of the nation’s best mid-major 1-2 punches.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Cal better come ready to play against UC-Irvine tonight. Irvine already has a double-digit win at Washington on their resume and counts 7-foot-6 Mamadou N’Diaye on their roster.

2) No. 17 Iowa State puts their perfect record on the line at home against Auburn. The Cyclones better hope Auburn’s magic wore off on Jordan Hare Field on Saturday night.

3) West Virginia hosts Loyola (MD), who has one of the nation’s best scorers on their roster in Dylon Cormier.

4) Vanderbilt squares off against one of the more surprising teams in the country in Texas.

5) Georgia is currently sitting at 2-4 on the season. They host Chattanooga in a game that Mark Fox really, really needs to win.

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
Leave a comment

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
3 Comments

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)
Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.