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The Secondary Break: Monday’s Links

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Former BC coach Al Skinner still hurt over the way he was fired (Boston Globe)
Much is made of players who wish to leave the game of basketball on their own terms, and the same can be said for coaches. Al Skinner, now an assistant at Bryant after spending three seasons out of the game, saw his 13-year run at Boston College come to an end in 2010. And the way in which he was let go still doesn’t sit well with the coach, whose former assistants truly believe should be in charge of his own program.

Baylor women’s 69-game home win streak on the line vs. UConn (Associated Press)
Virginia/Duke and Kansas/Iowa State may have the attention of many college basketball fans but Monday also features a Top 10 matchup in the women’s game. No. 7 Baylor will put its 69-game home win streak on the line when No. 1 UConn visits Waco in what should be an entertaining affair.

Duke, North Carolina learning along with their players (USA Today)
Saturday marked the first time since the 1996 ACC quarterfinals that all three Triangle schools lost on the same day, with Duke, N.C. State and North Carolina all falling. In the case of the Blue Devils and Tar Heels, they’re still learning more about their respective pieces and that’s led to struggles that many did not anticipate before the season began.

Story Time: Wilt Chamberlain feared death by soda poisoning, and other stories (The 700 Level)
No. 24 Memphis’ trip to Philadelphia to play Temple Saturday afternoon may not have been an eventful one outcome-wise (Memphis won 79-69), but Memphis head coach Josh Pastner treated the media to some good stories regarding his links to the Philadelphia area. One statement: his father has a recording of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point guard with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Spartans legend Draymond Green agrees: Michigan State has “great” potential (Detroit Free Press)
Thanks to the NBA schedule-makers former Michigan State player Draymond Green, now a member of the Golden State Warriors, was able to attend his old team’s overtime win over Minnesota on Saturday. And he’s of the opinion that the Spartans have the pieces needed to win a national title, but they’ve yet to “scratch the surface” of their full potential.

Cougars regain their swagger but a four-game road swing awaits (Salt Lake Tribune)
BYU took a step in the right direction on Saturday night, beating Loyola Marymount 91-68 in Provo. Having regained some of the confidence lost in their run of four losses in five game, the Cougars are now looking forward to a four-game road swing that will undoubtedly impact their chances of contending in the WCC.

Yes, your basketball team is good (The Mid-Majority)
The Harvard Crimson were one of the big stories at the mid-major level at the start of the season, due to their performance last season and the many key contributors back on campus. With that being the case expectations are high for Tommy Amaker’s team, even if there are some on campus who are unaware of how good their basketball team is.

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.