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The Secondary Break: Monday’s Links

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Michigan embarks on “boot camp” as date with Arizona looms (MLive.com)
After falling at Duke last week Michigan bounced back in a big way on Saturday afternoon as they blew out Houston Baptist. But beating the Huskies and likely No. 1 Arizona are completely different matters, and the Wolverines are approaching the point where they’ll have all players available for practices. With this being the case, the team’s Monday and Tuesday practices will be a “boot camp” of sorts.

In Season Improvement Part I (Real GM)
There are a number of good thoughts in this piece, most notably the in season improvement made by teams over the years. Dan Hanner took a look at the efficiency numbers posted by teams coached by John Calipari and John Beilein while also noting ten coaches whose teams have done a good job over the years of improving throughout the course of a season.

Boston College basketball: breaking down the defense part one (BC Interruption)
At 3-6 on the season there’s no doubt that Boston College has been one of the more disappointing teams in the country. One critical reason why: Steve Donahue’s team has made no improvements on the defensive end after struggling in 2012-13. This is a really good breakdown of just one aspect of the BC defense to date, taking a look at how they’ve done in transition defense.

St. Francis-Brooklyn awaits college basketball comforts of home (Staten Island Advance)
Glen Braica’s St. Francis-Brooklyn Terriers are off to a solid 5-4 start, which includes a win at Miami and a six-point loss at Syracuse. That record’s come despite playing just one home game this season. They’ll play their second on Tuesday when former NEC rival Monmouth (now in the MAAC) visits.

Strong second half carries Zags (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga struggled some with New Mexico State in the first half on Saturday night, as the Aggies did their best to take away guards Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos. But the Bulldogs adjusted in the second half, with Gerard Coleman and Sam Dower figuring prominently in the 80-68 victory.

Ben Mills was ready when called against Kansas (Denver Post)
With starting big man Wesley Gordon sidelined with a concussion, someone needed to step up and provide some quality minutes for Colorado in the first half of their 75-72 win over No. 6 Kansas. That someone was seldom-used center Ben Mills, who gave the Buffaloes a needed boost during his time on the floor.

IU’s Assembly Hall: Its origins and its future (Indianapolis Star)
With news of renovations for Indiana’s Assembly Hall, the Indianapolis Star provided an exclusive look into what the exact changes would be for one of the sport’s most recognizable facilities.

Iona capable of reaching another NCAA tournament (New York Post) 
On the heels of their solid win at FGCU Iona’s opened MAAC play with a 2-0 record. Guard Sean Armand and forward David Laury III have led the way for Tim Cluess’ squad, and the Gaels have the look of a team capable of making a return trip to the NCAA tournament. But they currently aren’t the top team in one writer’s rankings of the New York metropolitan area’s college basketball teams. 

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.