Jim Boeheim

Syracuse survives upset bid from Boston College

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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — For much of the game, it looked like Boston College, a team that has disappointed thus far, was ready to have the court rushed in what would have been a huge upset win over No. 2 Syracuse on Monday night at Conte Forum.

Instead the 3-point shots stopped falling for the Eagles and the second-chance opportunities began to pile up for the Orange, as Syracuse overcame an eight-point second half deficit to escapeChestnut Hill with a 69-59 win to remain perfect on the season.

“We’ve been down in the second half a number of times this year,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “And when we’ve been in that situation, guys made players. It’s been C.J. a lot, but tonight I think it was Tyler with a couple big plays and Trevor. Then C.J. got a couple.”

The Orange led by two at halftime, and then quickly lost the lead in the second half as Boston College continued its hot shooting (5-of-12 from three in the first half) in the early stages of the half when Lonnie Jackson and Joe Rahon drilled back-to-back threes.

“Our offensive was the problem tonight,” Boeheim said. “If we lost it would have had nothing to do with out defense.”

Syracuse used its length to trap in its 2-3 zone defense at times on Monday night, and on several occasions, Rahon made some difficult passes out of that trap to find open teammates: one was a cross-court pass to Jackson (18 points) for three and another was to Ryan Anderson for a dunk, giving the Eagles its largest lead of the night at 45-37.

The Orange came back by attacking the glass to spark its sluggish. Trailing by five, Jerami Grant (playing with for fouls) and Trevor Cooney scored six straight Syracuse points off offensive rebounds. Cooney would later add a 3-pointer to stretch Cuse’s lead to 60-51 with six minutes to go. If that wasn’t dagger, Grant’s putback slam was moments later.

Still for most of the game the offense looked bad. Boston College was energized in front of a sold out crowd, and played well defensively, but the Syracuse offense didn’t help itself with unforced turnovers on the night. One of the bright spots was Cooney, who ended with a game-high 21 points.

Cooney had shot the ball poorly in his last game (2-of-12 from three). On Monday night he made an effort to attack the basket in the halfcourt set (his offensive rebound and putback cut the lead to one with 8:47 left) and in transition (three first half dunks).

“I wasn’t shooting that well from three earlier in the season,” Cooney said. “Today I really wanted to be more aggressive and get me going.”

Syracuse remains among the unbeatens, and got a good road test from Boston College in the process. The Orange are back at home on Saturday to host No. 22 Pitt as BC heads to North Carolina.

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.