New Mexico v Harvard

The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Harvard Basketball: The Startup (Slam Magazine)
On Wednesday night the Harvard Crimson play their final non-conference game of the season as they visit UConn, with the Huskies coming off of two losses in Texas (Houston and SMU). Those defeats may have taken some of the luster off of this matchup, one that a Harvard program looking to build on last season’s NCAA tournament victory can use. How did Harvard reach the point where an at-large bid can be considered? It all began with a vision.

Midseason Awards: NEC (Big Apple Buckets)
With conference play underway, the first days of January are usually a good time to recap what happened in non-conference play. This piece takes a look at the Northeast Conference, with its race shaping up to be the competitive one that many predicted prior to the start of the season.

London Perrantes brings “that Cali swag” to the Cavaliers as a freshman (Washington Post)
With the graduation of Jontel Evans at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett had a hole to fill at the point guard position. Into that role slid freshman London Perrantes, a California native who grew up dreaming of playing in the ACC and on Saturday at Florida State played arguably his best game to date. He’ll be a key factor for the Cavaliers if they’re to reach the NCAA tournament.

URI pays heavy price for slow start (Providence Journal)
After winning games against Brown and LSU last week, Rhode Island entered Tuesday night’s Atlantic 10 opener against Saint Louis brimming with confidence. But the Rams saw their win streak come to an end, falling by the final score of 59-58, and their poor start to the game certainly had an impact on the result.

Kentucky basketball behaving more like a team, Calipari and players say (Louisville Courier-Journal)
The winter break, in some instances, has a knack for forcing college basketball teams to improve their chemistry. Why? Much of the student body is home for the holidays, leaving the players with few options when it comes to on-campus interactions. That was the case for a young Kentucky team working to reach the level many expected before the season began, and according to the player and head coach John Calipari the winter break certainly helped.

Comebacks nothing new for this season’s undefeated squad (Wisconsin State Journal)
After struggling for much of the game’s first 30 minutes on Sunday night, No. 4 Wisconsin found a way to come back and beat No. 22 Iowa in Madison. And while the Badgers, who are off to the best start in school history, haven’t been in too many situations like that one they knew what needed to be done.

UNC JV team: Hubert Davis takes charge (Raleigh News & Observer)
North Carolina is one of the few athletic departments that also field a JV basketball team, with players who don’t have the talent that the guys we see on TV every week living out their dream of wearing that jersey. And this is also a positive experience for the assistant who gets to coach the JV team, with Hubert Davis leading the way this season.

Point guards are key to winning 2014 Mid-American Conference title (Cleveland Post-Dispatch)
Guard play has always been important in the game of basketball, regardless of the level of play. And for the Mid-American Conference, the winner could be determined by which team gets the greatest amount of production from the position. Akron? Ohio? Toledo? Someone else? Whoever wins the automatic bid will likely have a capable floor general leading the way.

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.