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Are the Pac-12’s scheduling practices hurting the league’s rivalries?

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With conference realignment occurring frequently over the last few years, we’re finally starting to see conference movement settle down a bit as it pertains to the major college basketball conferences of America.

It’ll take some time getting used to seeing Syracuse in the ACC or Creighton in the Big East, but one of the things that college basketball fans will also have to adapt to is the changing of conference schedules and how it will change inter-conference rivalries.

I’m not talking about Syracuse and Georgetown being in different leagues, or any other splits like that, but this is more about current rivalries that are staying in the same conference and being affected by scheduling changes due to realignment.

One league this could really be hurting down the road because of imbalanced scheduling is the Pac-12. If you enjoyed this past weekend’s matchup with Washington and Arizona, well, you won’t see them play in the regular season again this season unless they meet in the Pac-12 Tournament. That’s a shame.

As this article from Javier Morales of the Tuscon Citizen explains, this is a problem Arizona faces with a couple of key rivals in the Pac-12 over the next few seasons.

The Pac-12’s two perennial powers of UCLA and Arizona also face each other only once this season and Arizona won’t get their return trip to Washington this season to give the Huskies a chance at revenge.

This can’t be good to uphold good basketball rivalries and draw nationwide attention to the Pac-12’s marquee matchups. Games like UCLA and Arizona draw national interest and by having those games only once a year in some seasons, it hurts national interest to the Pac-12 from casual fans.

Morales notes in the article that the ACC made sure to uphold rivalries like Duke and North Carolina by giving each team designated primary partners that each team in the league would play twice a year. The Big East — pre-conference realignment — also adopted a similar scheduling policy to uphold rivalries before the league went down to 10 teams again.

Morales made a few suggestions on ways around the current Pac-12 basketball scheduling model:

Possible solutions:

1. Follow the ACC format

2. Schedule a non-conference game between UCLA and Arizona when the programs are scheduled to meet only once in the Pac-12 season, as will be the case this season and next.

3. Structure the Pac-12 into North and South divisions similar to football.

It would be hard to watch non-conference games between conference opponents when the stakes aren’t nearly as high, so the Pac-12 should clearly look into Morales’ option 1 or 3 if they want to protect Pac-12 basketball rivalries.

Watching Arizona only face Washington and UCLA once this season when they’re in the midst of a potentially special year is cheating fans of Pac-12 basketball — and college basketball — of some additional great games. Let’s hope the Pac-12 can come up with some sort of solution for this problem going forward and give the fans the matchups that they want.

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)
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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)
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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)
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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.