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Scoring options lacking in No. 21 Colorado’s loss to No. 25 UCLA

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When it was announced on Monday that point guard Spencer Dinwiddie would be lost for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, No. 21 Colorado had to figure out a way to account for the production lost as a result. The Buffaloes’ leader and most talented player, Dinwiddie was averaging 14.7 points and 3.8 assists per game before suffering the injury late in the first half of Colorado’s 71-54 loss at Washington.

In the immediate aftermath Colorado did not look good in Seattle, but the struggles were to be expected given the sudden nature of Dinwiddie’s injury. With three days of practice in preparation for a game at No. 25 UCLA, Colorado’s adjustment to the loss of Dinwiddie would be better judged following their game against the Bruins. And outside of Askia Booker and Josh Scott, the Buffaloes struggled mightily in their 69-56 defeat.

Booker was one of the players Colorado needed to step up with Dinwiddie no longer available, and that was in regards to his shot selection as much as it was his scoring, and against UCLA the junior took quality shots for much of the night. Booker scored 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, with Scott adding 19 on 7-for-12 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. However faced with a team that has as many offensive options as UCLA, Colorado needed a third scorer to step up and that didn’t happen.

Remove Booker and Scott’s numbers and the remaining Buffaloes shot 6-for-27 from the floor, with Xavier Johnson and Jaron Hopkins shooting 1-for-6 respectively. Some credit should be given to an improved UCLA defense, with the Bruins using both zone and man-to-man looks on Thursday night. But even with that being the case players have to step up and make plays, and that simply did not happen for Colorado.

Had it happened Colorado could have picked up its first win over UCLA as a member of the Pac-12, especially when taking into account Kyle Anderson’s struggles. One of the midseason favorites to win Pac-12 Player of the Year, Anderson dealt with first half foul trouble and finished the game with six points, five rebounds and five assists. Not the best night for the 6-foot-9 sophomore, but the good news for head coach Steve Alford is that other players stepped up.

Norman Powell, coming off of an 11-point night in UCLA’s win over Arizona State, scored 19 points against Colorado and accounted for four of the Bruins’ 12 steals. Joining him in double figures were Jordan Adams, who accounted for 14 points and 13 rebounds despite shooting 4-for-15 from the field, and David Wear (11 points, seven rebounds). With their most important player not at his best UCLA found production in other areas, and that would prove to be the difference on Thursday.

That’s what Colorado will need to do if they’re to remain on track for another NCAA tournament bid sans Dinwiddie. Prior to his injury Colorado could afford off nights from a Xavier Johnson of Jaron Hopkins; that isn’t the case now.

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)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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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)
(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.