Wayne Selden, Jr.

Pregame Shootaround: The Battle for Kansas headlines a busy Saturday slate

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 25 Kansas State at No. 18 Kansas (2 p.m., ESPN)

Saturday’s only matchup between ranked opponents is also a tremendous in-state rivalry between the Wildcats and Jayhawks. Kansas has probably played the most difficult schedule in the country, so they’ll be prepared when another ranked team visits Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Wayne Selden showed flashes of brilliance on the offensive end of the floor in Wednesday’s win over Oklahoma, scoring 24 points and knocking in five three-pointers and the Jayhawks have won seven straight home games against Kansas State. Marcus Foster is playing tremendous ball for Kansas State and the freshman guard looks mature beyond his years as the season goes on. But will Foster have enough help to topple the Jayhawks?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 10 Florida at Arkansas (1 p.m., ESPN2)

The No. 10 Gators will be missing leading scorer Casey Prather when they travel to face the Razorbacks in an SEC clash on Saturday. Florida is also dealing with an ankle injury to guard Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young missed Thursday’s practice with sore knees while Michael Frazier II was limited in that same practice with a calf injury. So will the banged-up Gators have enough firepower to stay with Arkansas? The Razorbacks won this contest at Bud Walton Arena last season and average an SEC best 87 points a game. Florida’s health is a major concern entering this contest, but they have overcome adversity at other times this season when facing injuries and suspensions.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: No. 6 Wichita State at Missouri State, (8 p.m., ESPN3)

Don’t worry, Shocker fans, I didn’t forget about you guys after previewing the matchup of Kansas’ other two ranked college basketball teams — the Wildcats and Jayhawks. Unbeaten Wichita State (16-0, 3-0) travels to Missouri State (12-3, 2-1) in a Missouri Valley Conference matchup that could serve as a solid test for the Shockers. Missouri State has an 8-0 home record on the season and does a good job limiting turnovers — 10.6 per game, second in the MVC to Wichita State. For the Shockers, can sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet go his fifth consecutive game without a turnover?

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) If you’re a fan of high-scoring basketball, be sure to tune in to see the Big 12 contest between No. 9 Iowa State and Oklahoma. Both teams average 87 points a game, good enough for sixth in the country, as the unbeaten Cyclones (14-0, 2-0) travel to visit the Sooners (12-3, 1-1). The difference in this one could come down to defense, an area that Oklahoma has struggled with. The Sooners have given up 85 or more points in three straight games.

2) Which North Carolina team will we see when they travel to No. 2 Syracuse: the Tar Heels that have beaten Michigan State, Kentucky and Louisville or the Tar Heels that own five losses to unranked opponents. Thanks to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone and North Carolina’s struggles from the perimeter, it is likely that the Orange will win the ACC contest at home, but with the way North Carolina has played against elite competition, can you really count them out?

3) Can Jabari Parker break out of his shooting slump and can Rodney Hood stay hot against one of the nation’s best defenses in Clemson (10-4, 1-1)? The Tigers host the No. 16 Blue Devils (12-3, 1-1) in an ACC battle and Clemson’s defense has allowed a Division I-low of 53.5 points per game while holding opponents to 36 percent shooting from the field.

4) Will No. 19 UMass (13-1, 1-0) look better after a sluggish opener in Atlantic 10 play? The Minutemen escaped with a 66-62 win over St. Joseph’s in a game in which they trailed by nine points with 6:23 remaining. UMass will need to play better to get past St. Bonaventure (11-4, 1-0), which will be on NBCSN at 12:30 p.m.

5) How will No. 21 Missouri (12-2, 0-1) respond from losing its SEC opener at home against Georgia? The Tigers travel to Auburn (8-4, 0-1) on Saturday and they’ll need a better offensive output than their two losses this season in which Missouri was held to 64 points.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Minnesota at No. 5 Michigan State, 2:15 p.m., BTN
  • TCU at No. 7 Baylor, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 8 Villanova at St. John’s, 1:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • No. 11 Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 14 Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m., CBS
  • No. 24 Memphis at Temple, 3:00 p.m., ESPN2

NOTABLES:

  • Saint Louis at Dayton, 11:00 a.m., ESPN2
  • Wake Forest at Pitt, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Ole Miss at Mississippi State, 4:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Virginia at North Carolina State, 5:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Central Florida at UConn, 6:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Texas A&M at Tennessee, 6:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Cal at Oregon State, 8:00 p.m., ESPNU

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.