michigan state indiana

Indiana natives Harris and Dawson lead No. 5 Michigan State past Indiana

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Michigan State is winning games with different players carrying them at different times.

Depending on the game, it might be seniors Adreian Payne and Keith Appling that take control; or talented sophomore guard Gary Harris.

But on Saturday it two players that left Indiana for college that got the best of Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers in their return home as Indiana natives Branden Dawson and Harris helped pace the No. 5 Spartans to a 73-56 win over Indiana in a Big Ten road win.

In restoring Indiana Hoosier basketball back to Sweet 16 appearances and a Big Ten title, Indiana head coach Tom Crean has done a great job keeping in-state talent home and building around local talent. But Crean and Indiana can’t keep every great player to come out of basketball-crazy Indiana home and on Saturday the Hoosiers fell victim to a great performance by two of its native sons that got away.

Despite a mediocre effort from Adreian Payne — who was limited to six points and saddled with foul trouble — the Spartans showed why they might be the best team in the country as Dawson and Harris stepped up in a big way on the road in front of a hostile crowd.

Booed during pre-game introductions, Harris scored 17 first-half points, but in the second half, it was the sophomore’s five-point play after being fouled on a made three-pointer — and an ensuing technical foul — that put Michigan State comfortably ahead for good with a 55-41 lead with 8:17 remaining.

The five-point play capped off a ridiculous nine-point run for Harris that started with a steal from Indiana guard Jonny Marlin that resulted in a thunderous dunk. Harris finished with 26 points for the contest.

Also stepping up was junior forward Branden Dawson. Dawson was a step above his usual mega glue guy role, going 6-for-7 from the field to finish with 13 points, while also going for three steals, two blocks and wrecking havoc on the defensive end.

Between Harris and Dawson, the two combined for eight steals and played with a tremendous amount of energy on both ends of the floor.

With senior point guard Keith Appling (14 points) also having a great second half, Michigan State was clearly the superior team in nearly every facet of the game against a young Indiana team.

The win on Saturday showed that even when Adreian Payne has an off-night — and he is prone to inconsistent play at times — Michigan State can still roll on all cylinders because so many different players can step up and make plays for them.

On a day where No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 Syracuse both received scares from inferior teams at home, Michigan State took care of business on the road with a comfortable win.

The Spartans are finally getting healthy and right now they look like the best team in the country.

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)
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.