Aaron Gordon

Late Night Snacks: UK loses, Arizona survives, and Naadir Tharpe awakens

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 1 Arizona 72, Michigan 70

The Wildcats held off Michigan in a thriller in Ann Arbor to kick off Saturday afternoon’s action. Glenn Robinson III was dominant in the first half, scoring 16 of his 20 points, but he was shut down by Aaron Gordon in the final 20 minutes. Brandon Ashley led the way with 18 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 18 North Carolina held off No. 11 Kentucky 82-77, getting . It was the third win for North Carolina over the nation’s consensus top three teams in the preseason. Who saw that coming? The key for the Heels was the play of J.P. Tokoto and James Michael McAdoo, as Raphielle Johnson wrote here.

2) Naadir Tharpe finished with eight points and nine assists and Joel Embiid went off for 18 points and four blocks in one of his most impressive performances of the season as No. 13 Kansas put a thorough beating on New Mexico in the second half of an 80-63 win.

3) The biggest winner of the day may have been Notre Dame, who desperately needed the win they picked up against Indiana. The Irish have a lot of kinks they need to work out, not the least of which is Eric Atkins’ struggles. But this is a team with quite a bit of talent, one that has enough back court talent to make some noise in the ACC this season.

STARRED

1) Tekele Cotton finished with 19 points, five boards, four assists and two steals as No. 12 Wichita State beat Tennessee 70-61. One sequence where Cotton blocked a shot and finished an and-one at the other end changed the game.

2) Stephen Holt finished with 24 points and six assists to lead St. Mary’s to a win at Boise State.

3) Ryan Harrow went for 33 points as Georgia State picked up a win they badly needed over Old Dominion.

STRUGGLED

1) VCU scored just 20 first half points and shot 36.9% from the floor as they lost at Northern Iowa 77-68 on Saturday. The biggest culprit? Briante Weber, who shot 2-for-11 from the field.

2) Cincinnati got worked over by archrival Xavier despite 20 turnovers by the Muskies and just eight points and five fouls from Semaj Christon.

3) Utah beat BYU 81-64. Matt Carlino’s 3-for-15 performance without any assists wasn’t much better than the 6-for-22 that Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth combined to shoot.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith each had 18 points in a win for No. 3 Ohio State over North Dakota State.
  • No. 4 Wisconsin shot 60.5% from the field and 9-for-15 from three in a blowout win over Eastern Kentucky.
  • No. 5 Michigan State is banged up, which is why I’m not terribly concerned about their close win over Oakland on Saturday.
  • Russ Smith had 14 points and 10 assists to lead five players in double-figures as No. 6 Louisville beat Western Kentucky.
  • Le’Bryan Nash seems to be embracing his role as the No. 3 option, but he was a star on Saturday, finishing with 22 points and 10 boards in No. 7 Oklahoma State’s win over Louisiana Tech.
  • A late 11-0 run spurred No. 15 Oregon to a 71-64 win over Illinois.
  • Augustine Rubit went for 35 points, but it wasn’t enough for South Alabama to pull off the upset against No. 20 Gonzaga.
  • Cady Lalanne led five players in double-figures with 17 points in a win over Northern Illinois for No. 22 UMass.

NOTABLES

  • Jordan Adams had 18 points in a win for UCLA over Prairie View A&M.
  • Kellen Dunham stayed hot, hitting for 25 points in a win over Purdue.
  • Marshall Henderson moved into the starting lineup for Ole Miss on Saturday, finishing with 15 points (on 11 shots) and five assists without a turnover.
  • Pitt improved to 9-0 on the season with a 91-73 win over Youngstown State.
  • Richard Solomon finished with 17 points, 14 boards, three steals and two blocks in a win over Fresno State.
  • Five players scored in double-figures as Marquette put up 86 points in a win over IUPUI.
  • T.J. Warren is one of the best scorers no one is talking about. He went for 29 on Saturday.
  • Toledo is still undefeated as well, knocking off Sam Houston State.
  • Jordan Woodard scored 24 points to lead Oklahoma to a win over Tulsa and his brother, James.
  • Princeton erased an 18 point deficit in the final 6:34 of regulation to knock off Penn State in overtime.

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.

ESPN.com was the first to report White’s commitment.

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.